A struggle against elements and expectations
Our founder and curator, Tim, reviews our conversation with the creatives behind Waymaking, and his success at avoiding ‘mansplaining’.
It was all going so well until I invented a gendered noun for poets!
November’s author interview was a little different to the norm, given there are a total of 57 different creatives behind the wonderful Waymaking anthology of adventure writing, poetry and art.
And all of them women.
So yes, to answer the question posed by Karen on Zoom before we launched the Facebook Live stream, I did feel a little outnumbered!
But there is a huge amount that men can learn from Waymaking, both about the adventure experience and the power relations that those of us with mismatched chromosomes are all too blind to.
So it was great to see a scattering of blokes, and some families (hello to the Knill’s in Wetherby!) amongst the record audience, over 1 in 10 of our subscribers, joining us in the Zoom room.
The conversation was structured to match the book: an introductory discussion with editor Heather Dawe and designer Jane Beagley, followed by the 4 chapters, Vicinity, Heart & Soul, Water and Union, with the contributors contributing as we went along.
Our opening discussion sought to understand why this book was necessary. A topic which covered expectations, beliefs, projections, stories, social mores and cultures but was perhaps summed up most eloquently by what we couldn’t discuss. It was telling that, when put on the spot, Heather struggled to think of any positive female role models in the adventure world. An inditement of a situation the book will no doubt help remedy.
The highly evocative chapter titles proved an easy gateway into each stage of conversation: ‘Vicinity’ invoked a discussion about our place in the landscape and how the environment we’re exposed to as children nurtures our life experiences. We paused together to marvel at nature’s spectacle, brought magically to life by Judy Kendall’s visual poem, in which a Starling murmuration literally swoops across the page.
Heart and Soul alluded to searching and discovering something, or even someone. Herself in Solana Joy’s case, as she spoke eloquently of her Lake District encounter with her true self, a person she had lost along life’s way until she took herself away from ‘high heeled humanity’.
“I felt more myself than I have in ages”
It is the many moments such as these that the book captures that give it such life and meaning, for both men and women. Men may not conjure up the same images of the society they wish to leave behind when they enter the wilds, but we share sufficient in common to understand we are all looking for, and trying to escape, much the same thing.
Jen Benson placed her piece ‘Counterflow’ into a frame that wasn’t immediately apparent from reading the ‘Water’ chapter, revealing that the river scramble she documented was a real life allegory for her own life, which was taking a tough turn. The symbolism of her walking upstream, bare legs raw against the flow, meant so much more when viewed in the context our conversation uncovered.
Themes of solidarity echoed throughout our discussion of the final chapter ‘Union’, finding particular resonance with Ruth Wiggins poetic description of female adventurers
“All of them out there in the sun and wind, making their way under the tremendous”.
As we discussed this phrase, Ruth shared a secret which revealed the peculiar wiring of the poet’s brain, which creates new reverberations by simple effect of replacing nouns with verbs.
It was downhill all the way from there, as I put my big size 11’s in it by referring to Ruth a ‘poetess’. Then proving unable to recite the final lines of the book for fear of being overcome by the emotion of it all. Genuinely! Luckily, Judy was on hand to step in and deliver Anna McNuff’s lines perfectly to end our time together.
I really found this an incredibly enjoyable evening together. it stayed with me throughout the weekend: the next morning I paused during my weekly run in the woods, and experienced a moment of awareness and connection much as Solana, and so many other authors, had described. Perhaps I would have noticed and appreciated this just much had we not had this conversation the night before. But I doubt it.
As ever it wouldn't be the same without our community joining us, so it was great to hear this went down well.
We're not quite done with Waymaking yet, as award winning artist Tessa Lyons, who contributed the artwork for each chapter heading, will be joining us in conversation on Friday 27th as we launch the Brocken Spectre art exhibition.
Buy her print 'Women who run with wolves'