Feeling hemmed in.
When I was a little boy I often felt hemmed in. I was living in a small northern town I call Brunlea in North West England in a bowl surrounded by hills. No I didn’t live in an enamel bowl, but I did wash in one before bed. The clouds would lift up over the hills and drop their payload in the basin, most of it on my head it seemed at the time. Often we weren’t able to go out in the street & fields to play. If we did we would get saturated and drying facilities were sparse. Woollen jumpers would smell foul when you had to put them back on damp. So we stayed indoors. Once outside there was still a feeling we couldn’t venture across the main road as it might prove fatal if we were careless. Eventually once we passed 11 year old we could cross and play football in the field on the other side but we rarely adventured into anyone else’s fields or towns until we got to 15 or 16 when we dared go into nearby towns to find girls who may go out with us. The local girls suffered from a disease called familiarity breeds contempt. They’d seen our snotty noses thru junior school and remembered my long underpants showing beneath my short shorts. They too looked outside our streets for their new boyfriends. Then we hitch-hiked to the new outdoor pool at Skipton, then to London then to Woolacombe but we always came back to Brunlea.Once me and John arrived back from London about 4am and were so pleased to be back on home soil we laid down in the middle of the road outside the hallowed Turf Moor Footbal ground, worshipping the cobbled street.
Then I got to college in Exeter, hitchhiked there too. Became (quite) good at art, became a teacher, retired hurt near 40 years later and at last became a real artis. Got an MA and had my first article published. But I still felt hemmed in. I was doing Ashtanga Yoga today and my mind gently pondered between the puffs and grunts and groans (mine) on my Hemmed-in-ness. On breakfast tv I had seen an old woman playing genga a game with little wooded blocks. I thought, ‘What I’m doing is pushing blocks of wood away. I’m ‘hemmed in’ metaphorically by blocks, mind blocks? My own blockages…I felt hemmed in when after 20 years of trying to be good at ‘art’ I found no buyers, takers etc. I felt hemmed in in my teaching job as it seemed to prevent me being ‘an artist’ but when I became an artis for 4 years I got hemmed in by the lack of finance and my apparent lack of success. Surely after 30 years with all this skill I should get recognised etc. Stuck again in my street not daring to go across that big main road into the field of opportunity. Then I crossed the road and I found it was no easier in the field as there were hundreds of others like me; talented, hard-working, striving etc. Now and then one would seem to break away, get some invite, get some momentum, get ‘nominated’, win a prize, sell some works etc. So I said I must leave this field I need a vehicle, I’ll try to get an MA which will give me passage. I gained my MA and met new people and I still went to Ashtanga Yoga feeling hemmed in. Why? well once you get one article published, once you sell a picture (thanks Anna) you want to sell another. And the list goes on. Then they say that’s it no more articles sling yer hook, leave the nest go elsewhere but there is no elsewhere. Is there?
But there is. I was reading an article about my new favourite working methods, artist’s books, and the bloke mentioned another journal and I thought let’s look and I did and it was good. Now I had hope on the horizon, something new to set my sights on. I was finding my own two feet , I didn’t feel so hemmed in, there are other fields, towns cities countries but of course there’s no place like home. Home is where I write draw paint print blog makes books etc. It’s where I gather my thoughts it’s where I perform my magic, so don’t bring me down (says home).Don’t say you’re hemmed in at home. In fact don’t say you’re hemmed in by your human frailty gerrup and gerrat em. Maybe someone will eventually be daft enough to say yes we’ll have one…an art-tickle a picture an art-e-fact or just one of my less-tooth smiles. So now am no longer hemmed in, in fact am turned out. Not hemmed in by (self) doubt, by other’s critique, by being ignored being lauded being damned being praised.
I see myself running across the fields and over the mountains. I’m running alongside Mr Salinger, I’m looking over the mountain Mr Luther King, I’m seeing what’s on the other side(s).They are there waiting; Steve H., Clive, Little Christopher, my uncle John, my Auntie Madge, my Geordie Mam, My Swansea Taff, Roy the Moose and Don (Doreen) his wife obliverate. I know they are already there with Gram Parsons burning hickory wood and now smiling at my un-hemmed-in-ness. So are all my mystic friends in G Batch except the Dalai Lama but he’s been there loads of times with all the past Rinpoches. I’m on my merry way chasing…chasing lacewings, winter butterflies, dragonflies. Sea-horses and of course dolphins. Chasing my own sweet dreams.