July In The Saloon: Trail Mix

For this post I’ve been looking at trails, pathways: journeys begun, journeys repeated. Some we don’t see until we’re upon them.

These trails are from the Mizen, Sheep’s Head and Beara Peninsulas walked during June and July. Some are currently dried stream beds, but we use them when we can. Some, over time, have become roads. We’re hardwired for movement, for finding a way.

Looking down from Healy Pass.

Looking across towards Sugarloaf Mountain and the zig-zag of the Beara-Briefne Way.

Defined by a strimmer.

Almost hidden heading through the heather.

The understated beauty and profound subtlety of a trail.

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My own shelter as the rain lashed down, a brief encounter over the past couple of months.

Stan Mills takes us on the trails of Yellowstone Park. A solo hiker walking through bear and wolf country following well worn trails and when they’re gone following game trails. There’s profound simplicity here.

Yesterday I was out kayaking with a friend, Denis, a sculptor and avid cyclist. After the 7km loop he showed me how he’d used an app to plot our journey. This and similar apps are frequently used by runners and cyclists to plot, record, share routes which leads to others validating and / or adopting these routes. Artists have used these apps to walk, run or cycle routes that draw and image picked out from city streets. The same apps revealed secret US military bases as soldiers went on their downtime runs. In the early days of consumer available GPS (Global Positioning System) one of Denis’ students created art using data points. Tracking and mapping movements has long been utilised as a tool of creation and place by artists.

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Just watched these two episodes, parts 1 & 2, from Second Chance Hiker on the PCT – Pacific Crest Trail, trails are fun.

May In The Saloon: Above The Fold

May In The Saloon: Above The Fold

Landscape: A picture representing a view of natural inland scenery or the art of depicting such scenery. Or the view from one place at one time. An orientation or an area of activity.

Above The Fold: The upper half of a newspaper’s front page and features the day’s most important story often with a photograph, or with what the editors feel will attract the most buyers. The fold changes the paper’s layout from portrait to landscape for display purposes and are designed with this in mind.

What do we see when we say we see a beautiful landscape? What are we seeing, really? What are we photographing, as landscape photographers? What are we painting as landscape painters? What are we visualising when we use landscape to describe where we are at? What are we telling ourselves? What is the landscape?

Landscape, the word and it’s implications and meanings has been one of the constants for Based On Real Events. One of the trigger points for thoughts and observations since the early days making paintings where I questioned what exactly I was seeing around me, what visitors were describing, ‘it’s so beautiful‘, as we toured through West Cork and up through Kerry. What were we really seeing? When is a landscape not a landscape and when is it one? What do you paint? What am I painting?

It is beautiful and at times we stand in awe of it. But little, if any of it, is natural. All routes from here go through farm-scapes, town-scapes, city-scapes, back into and through more farm-scapes. Centuries of working the land, divided in to walled fields and properties, dotted with fenced in nature reserves, as far as the eye can see. Nature-not-nature. We tell ourselves, we tell each other of this beautiful landscape, but what is it?

Above the fold, a priority.

I spent Good Friday walking the next ridgeline north of my studio. A scouting trip for Based On Real Event locations. The photos inis post are from this walk. A route I hadn’t walked before, but see it every day. A friend dropped me off on the pass to the north, north-east of me and I followed it west until I reached the road that would bring me back home. If I crossed the road and contiued west for another kilometer I’d have reached the peak of Mount Corrin, a trail section I’ve walked before.

Above the fold, I walked and I sat in the sun on the hill tops.

The route; road, farm track through fields up to the first peak the west following a way marked trail, down to forestry road, the up to Sitka forest, from here there was a trail which is now closed due to fallen storm damaged trees, the section closed, before joining the last section through more fields, sheep grazing land. I took note of the trail closed signs but continued anyway.

Mary Cowell describes this landcape as: A forestry boom is turning Ireland into an ecological dead zone.

“Dense blocks of these non-native coniferous trees smother the landscape, driving out wonderful and endangered wildlife such as hen harriers and curlews, birds that could be extinct in Ireland within the decade.”

I saw sheep, small birds, crows, pidgeons, pheasants and game-trails possibly made by badgers and / or foxes. I saw rot and the life that thrives on rot. When I sat for on the damp mossy ground for a break, in the Sitka forest swarms of midges rose up around me. Luckily they weren’t biting. Stagnant pools and boggy patches. These would or will be perfect breeding grounds for mosquitos to mature and grow. In Singapore, where I grew up, there was a constant battle against stagnant pools, breeding grounds for mosquitos and mosquito borne diseases, dengue fever and malaria. Pest control teams would visit to check and spray. Do we have the climate to support these diseases? Will we have the climate? We have the landscape.

As I write, the groundsmen for the church across the road are spraying weed killer. A cat walks along the sprayed path. I recently posted, on Twitter, a photo of small birds feeding from the wall and weeds. Over the next few days their snack is going, going, gone. Last night a fox walked this way stopping to sniff the wall where all the morning dogs also stop to sniff and scent. Pee-mails. They’ve sprayed the whole street, my doorstep and church grounds.

Above the fold, what are our priorities?

Navigating the fallen trees away from any path, I headed further away from where I wanted to be with the hour of sunlight left, I thought about setting up camp for the night. Going forward was slow, at times it to a few minutes to find a way through the lattice of branches. Each time, go back, go up, go down, the path was low, a trail would appear. Follow the animals, they know. This for two hours or so. Eventually there was more sky ahead than tree line. Eventually there was a field and a fence.

I hopped the fence, headed up to the ridge, the way marked path for the final kilometer to the road home. A crow squawked from the fence hopping ahead along as I neared, keeping the same distance between us. It’s here in the next photo, follow the fence.

The crow took off as I reached the final slope down to the road. Now two hours from home. As I passed the first of the houses, tired, watching the road beneath my feet, I stopped suddenly. In my periphery I saw the crow. Perched on a shed roof. I couldn’t believe it. I stopped and looked over. It didn’t move.

The crow didn’t budge. This crow was plastic. A plastic crow on a shed roof in the countryside.

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Jason.

01 May 2019