I found this poem by Walt Whitman, and it touched me, especially after my recent thoughts about "Vigil". So I thought I'd share it:
Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night
VIGIL strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return'd with a look I shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach'd up as you lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
Till late in the night reliev'd to the place at last again I made my way,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of
responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the moderate night-wind,
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battlefield spreading,
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night,
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed,
Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest comrade - not a tear, not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole,
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall surely meet again,)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear'd,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and carefully under feet,
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim,
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day brighten'd,
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.
Today was an amazing experience. Although intended as a 'slow' start to the project, i.e. a quiet day without additional workshops, press calls, or 'official' duties, I had not counted on the sheer number of people passing by - dog owners, parents with young children, and walkers. The chance to talk to and connect with so many people individually - over 100 - was a great way for me to introduce the project, and I learnt a thing or too, as well.
Originally, the sculpture was called "I will leave a light burning", but after today, and comments from people, I have decided to rename it "Vigil" - and because the concept of waiting intrigues me, and I'm sure there will be more work around 'Vigils' in future, this is "Vigil I". The writing on the glass is a letter from World War II, written by a soldier, Fred, to his wife - although I do have a lot of letters from him, she is never addressed as anything other than 'darling', so I don't know her name. The letters I have span several years - this one is from 1941 - and one thing I noticed is that his letters to his wife are not always only loving - he chides her for decisions she makes in his absence, accuses her of not caring, since she hasn't managed to get him released from duty, and calls her a liar, since he isn't receiving as many letters from her as she says she wrote. And yet, he writes that he adores her, and talks of their dream of starting a new life as soon as he returns home. Although I know neither him nor her, I picture a relationship complicated by the war, bringing out personality traits through circumstances and despair. And yet, since the letters I have continue all the way into the late 50s, I know that she waited for him, waited for Fred to come home.
Today, I would say that a large number of people walking past had experience of waiting, some of them dating right back to World War II, too. But the concept of waiting, and fearing, and holding vigil, with a mixture of hope and dread, will never change, whether we're waiting for a soldier to return, or to hear news from a sick friend, knowing whether a loved one made it home okay, the result of the first pregnancy scan...by the time we're adults, most of us have waited.
Interestingly, most people thought that is should be unbearable for me to sit there for 11 hours, waiting for the camera to take a shot every two minutes. But it wasn't. Cold though it was, it was good to spend time just...waiting.
This folly comes in several parts, and this is just Part 1. I will be back on location in March, June, and September/October, to cover the other seasons. In June, the length of time needed to cover 'dark 'till dark' will be 21 hours. Maybe then, I'll feel like I'm 'holding vigil'.
For more photos of today, please visit the Folly page. There will be a 'making of' video at some point, too, but for now, please meet "Vigil I".
Thank you to everybody who helped with this folly, supplied tea, cake and sausage sandwiches, and company on the day, but above all, thank you to my husband, who helped build the framework, attach the sculpture, and is the brains behind the programmable stop motion wizardry!!
Here is a little teaser from a quick photo session with the folly that will go on site tomorrow. Yes, the actual picture is larger - but where would be the fun in that??? If you want to be the first to see the whole thing, meet me at dawn at Cannon Hall, tomorrow. (And seriously, if you are planning to visit, please check the Follies Facebook page - no news means I'm there!
Not that I'm nervous or anything, but with three days to go, I'm looking at the weather. Right now, it's blowy and gusty outside - we have one of those metal chimney thingies with a twirly cap on, and since it is not 100% calibrated to run smoothly, I listen to it going 'clankclankclankCLANKclank'...and I wonder what Wednesday will hold. The Cannon Hall sculpture will be free-standing, and although I can try to weigh it down from the back, I hope that the weather won't be too horrible...if it all ended early in a pile of shards, I think I would be rather disillusioned. However, something nice may happen on Tuesday at Wentworth, so I'm sure what goes round will come round...again, an open invitation to come visit the huddling, cold and quite possibly wet artist at Cannon Hall on Wednesday, any time, at the top of the Fairy Gardens.
Yesterday, I went back to Wentworth Castle for a meeting with Pete Clegg, and another walk up 'my' tower. I feel truly privileged to gain access where others don't, starting right from being at the castle when the gardens were officially closed to the public. Also, I am one of very, very few people who trundle up the disused castle tower (in the Follies for Follies banner, it's - rather obviously - the one on the left). While the other one is open to everybody (during opening hours), I feel like a little explorer, climbing up 'mine'. And just to prove that the trip is worth it (and to make you all jealous), I thought I'd share a picture of the view Rapunzel has out of the window - isn't it stunning??
I did have an official reason to be there, although I would have happily sat there and just admired the view - instead, I was busily employing my tape measure, getting exact measurements of the window, ledges, wall thicknesses, the layout of mortar bits and pieces, etc., to plan the rig which will suspend Rapunzel's hair.
Being of a slightly masochistic nature, I couldn't resist taking another a picture from a different angle...see right. Yes, that's the view Rapunzel would have if she chose to look down...and while Rapunzel might have had the opportunity to avoid that view (just close your eyes and think of...Germany, I guess!) with her prince climbing up her hair (ouch!), I won't have that luxury, at the latest when the whole structure will come up the outside of the castle, so I figured I'd get some practice at 'looking down'. It's definitely not close to the ground, lol....but then, where would be the fun in that?
Yes!! We have lift off! Today, I met the lovely people at Cannon Hall. They are happy for me to 'follify' the Fairy Garden, and we got started talking about public engagement, workshops, etc. Those will take place later during the year, as part of my four one-day visits to Cannon Hall, which are part of this very special 'follification'. The first of these will be in 'secret' - so secret, that I'm posting it here, lol! It is secret as in there are no organised activities, it is, in fact, a trial run...but I'll be there, literally all day, dawn 'till dusk! If you do fancy a little trip out, and would like to be part of the absolute very first follification of the project, come and say 'hi', on Wednesday, 25th of January, on site in the Fairy Gardens at Cannon Hall (top end, not bottom end where the pond is). I will be there, in my little camping chair, and visitors may be asked to look after the folly for a few minutes so that I can go answer nature's call! If you don't know Cannon Hall, let the photos be a little incentive! It is a beautiful space, with a working farm and a cafe and deli right next door. See you there?
One thing I love about projects is that they challenge me to learn about new facets - of glass art, of design, of execution, of technology. Thankfully, as far as the latter is concerned, I happen to have in-house support. My lovely husband spent the week-end evenings building me a gadget, which will become very, very important over the course of this year, in particular. No, it's not dangerous. But what is it? It is for one specific folly, but it could be used any time, for pretty much anything. Right now, it is on my bedroom windowsill, for a test run. And it needs something else to work. Answers in the comment section, if you fancy, and all will be revealed....hopefully, before the end of the month.