Books for lyrical journeys of pilgrimage in landscape, the sea and ice and the true north. A list in progress.

January 14, 2013 § Leave a comment


Winter Count – Barry Lopez
The Last Imaginary Place: A Human History of the Arctic World – Robert McGhee
The Island Within – Richard Nelson
The Norton Book of Nature Writing – ed. John Elder and Robert Finch
This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland – Gretel Ehrlich
A Woman in the Polar Night – Christiane Ritter
Sea Ice: An Introduction to its Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Geology – David N. Thomas
The Magnetic North: Notes From the Arctic Circle – Sara Wheeler
True North: Travels in Arctic Europe – Gavin Francis
Iceland Imagined: Nature, Culture, and Storytelling in the North Atlantic – Karen Oslund
The Arctic: An Anthology – Elizabeth Kolbert
The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule – Joanna Kavenna


Atlantic: A Vast Ocean of a Million Stories: The Biography of an Ocean – Simon Winchester
Hard Water – Jean Sprackland
Plainwater – Anne Carson
The Last Great Sea: A voyage through the human and natural history of the north pacific ocean – Terry Glavin
Passage To Juneau: A Sea and Its Meaning – Jonathan Raban
Islands: A trip through time and space – Peter Conrad


The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot – Robert Macfarlane
Sightlines – Kathleen Jamie
Nightwalk: A journey to the heart of nature – Chris Yates
To the River – Olivia Laing
Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland – Sarah Moss
A Field Guide to Getting Lost – Rebecca Solnit
Mazes and Labyrinths – W.H. Starr Matthews
The Labyrinth: Symbol of Fear, Rebirth and Liberation – Helmut Jaskolski


Shallow Water Dictionary – John Stilgoe
Hard Water – Jean Sprackland
The Poetics of Space – Gaston Bachelard
Atlas of Remote Islands – Judith Schalansky
On Being Blue: a Philosophical Inquiry (colour blue) – William H. Gass
You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination – Katharine Harmon
From Here to There: A Curious Collection from the Hand Drawn Map Association – Kris Harzinski
Everything Sings. Maps for a Narrative Atlas – Denis Wood
The Dictionary of Imaginary Places – A. Manguel
A Dictionary of Northern Mythology – Rudolf Simek

Suggestions welcome


What is the obstacle? What is the warning?

January 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

1. I don’t know if I can imagine three months alone in a strange land, carting sand from one end to the other. Shuffling a pathway (pilgrimage) through the snow, casting it, and then recreating it, that journey, that path, for others to follow. A map which can be laid on any floor. A portable hole.

2. Standing at the edge. I was at Bondi Beach in Sydney once and I walked out into the waves when I felt the sea floor below me give way and plunge into the beginning of the great deep. No more solid land to make you feel safe, land that can be walked back to shore, back across the sand, back across the road and then as far as you need to go before you reach home.

3. In a strange car at night on an unfamiliar road the kind where the bitumen rounds off on to grass, rocks and then trees. No houses about, headlights. A black cat crosses the highway and someone else in the car says ‘was that a cat’ and you say ‘yes’.

4. Hiding places. For physical things, for thoughts, for secrets.

5. A stream that is small enough to cross. A river that is too big.

6. The creek was cool and running fast. We laid our drinks and milk in the creek to cool them down. Further up the creek the water rushes over a crevice of rocks and you can shimmy up them, sit and wedge yourself in and the water flows over the rock to your lap.

7. A stranger who opens your window. Noises outside.

8. 25840 tonne icebreaker forging a path through sheer brute force. The sea flows where it shouldn’t. But we made it through.


January 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Snake Island path

This is a picture of a path on what I think is Snake Island in Lake Ontario from 2010.

I don’t understand myself lately. My head is a void. Things are piling up around me, ideas and more physical things, like the clothes and books in my room and files on my desk.If it is in disorder I have an excuse not to look for anything. It is too hard to find. I ache for simpler things/time/ideas. Some people should not live in cities. Today I read about barefoot running. I remember one summer when my friend Becci and I wore bare feet a lot, and the soles of our feet were black. I felt everything then. Maybe the piles and towers of stuff are just cushions that stop me feeling. I bought a video camera month ago and have not taken it out of the box. I don’t want to make anything in case I fail. I think of things to make and it never fails, inside my head.

When you follow a path that someone made you don’t need to think about where to take the next step. Once on holiday I decided to walk through some marshy woods to the sea, which seemed only a few kilometers away. The woods had no paths, and I spent so much time crawling or scaling brambles, brushing webs from my face. I got all turned around, panic, darker and dirtier the further I went. I had to make my way out. I found myself on the edge of a small road and I saw I had made it maybe 100 metres. So slow without the path. Every small decision becomes big. Stuff piles up like cushions.

Memories of an installation I once knew

January 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Imagine now a house, run down, on its way to ruin. There are holes in the roof, and some walls have been torn open. Doorways are without doors, and many of the floorboards have rotted well away. The windows are frames only, glass shards, worn down now with rain and wind.

What is recognisable then is the frame of the house, tha basic shape, like a child’s drawing of house – three of four rooms, a hallway, living space out the back. The walls are fibro, not brick, there is some graffiti, the house is known to some. A base, a refuge.

The floors, where the boards are rot through, are alive. There is greenery, encouraged by water and light coming through the patchy roof, called in from out through holes and trails. Windows have vines growing through, daisy plants and thick stemmed weeds grows strong and tall in the middle of rooms and grasses, some short and soft – some tall and browning sweep the floor and crest the walls.

The garden is inside now, the house which once had all the potential of a home is beautiful again, years after the people have left. The green frames each room in possibility, cascades, living breathing, turing the air clean.

Imagine now, having found this house, wild at the edges, framed and tall – a suburban ghost – that someone has built a walkway through. Salvaged wood and nails, kept close for movement, the walkway cuts a path from room to room, over all the rot and holes you walk, through windows and doorways, viewing and pondering, a modern walk, in a space made beautiful in relentless time and courage of the terrain.

Along this built path, bridges into this rustic chamber, there have been placed candles. They light your way. Shadows are thrown, clusters of light filter through the grass, fade dark edges of rooms in a glow which is warm, in a glow that fills you fit to burst with love.

Now imagine you stand again on the outside, a person beside you. Take their hand and lead them through. This is what you must do.

Memory of an installation made by a university friend from Sydney College of the Arts, Ned Sevil, who sadly passed.

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