Outdoor Learning – “Lost like my name…”

The poem by Fuller I cite in one of the research diary posts on Looking for Ludchurch is there to underline how important this project is – and how when we invest something with credibility or significance, we give it power to make or mar us. I am still in the process of digesting it all. The entries for the Wild Spaces, Wild Magic visit days take me through a process I am clear I have not yet finished:

The First is a poem I am still unsure of, although colleagues and friends have been kind.

The Second was the visit to Thursbitch, so unlike what had come before (blogged in detail here) it almost – almost – was not the same place. Except Mat and I sat in Thoon.

The Third is the account of the first visit as people better prepared to the Green Chapel. I remain wary of identification of the place, but with Ralph Elliott’s book, with Garner in our ears, with the Google project to do, this was another different experience.

The pace and tone changes in the Fourth, for Friday afternoon, when Debbie arrives, Mat comes back from Ludchurch, Roger and Jane arrive and with as little commentary as possible we take our new visitors up to the Green Chapel. Then that evening read together the stanzas of the Gawain poet.

Saturday morning, grey skies and a last whole-group visit to Ludchurch: this is my Fifth diary entry, the one I have most difficulty with. Not that it was bad, in any way – but I needed to set the order of event out clearly.

Entry Six is my attempt to recount the visit that stays with me, my walk alone up through the evening wood to say goodbye to the Green Knight, and to reflect on how challenging that- and the writing and thinking of the day – had all seemed.

Why “a language learned but nothing understood/Lost like my name within the magic wood”? Because Caliban’s despair at his lot echoes my own impatience: I want to write weighty, interesting pieces, to communicate my utter love for this valley in the autumn, for the myths that run through it (and other places such as along the Ridgeway) or for the people I worked with this weekend in Gradbach – and yet I see that so often my image of myself gets knocked when I try, and I end up somewhere as intellectually or spiritually or emotionally magical as writing about literature and landscape but feel disempowered. Like Gawain I have  “groned for gref and grame” (line 2502); all the tricks of academia are at my disposal, just like all the trappings of knighthood are for Gawain – but we both return with a simpler lesson. I read the message to be to stop posing and get on. 

So I’m back, and now the work starts: turning this – all this – into papers, into projects for students, into return trips.  This is, after all, what we went out into the wilderness to do.


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