At The Edge of The World (BC)

The Walk: It was my third time there, four miles past the edge of the world...

My First Time
Although I'd visited many times, even taking DART journeys solely for the sensory pleasure of those moments when to one side of the train, the sea opens up to a horizonless sky, I'd never ventured past the shoreline.

It was one of those gloriously sunny days in late May. We'd been walking for a few hours, time evaporating in the gentle heat, when we decided to go farther, into a world past Sandymount Strand. In a scrubby nature reserve, which my imagination rendered into a thrilling exotic jungle, I picked wild fennel, ate some, and received far less chiding than I deserved. We emerged from the scrub into a clearing and and saw the wall, with it's distant lighthouse a tiny speck of red. 



'Let's come back another day,' she said, 
'We'll bring our bikes, we'll spend the day and have a picnic'...

'The Wall'
At the start of The Great South Wall, there's a sign telling its history. Constructed by hand in the mid eighteenth century, the wall stretches all the way out from the 
Grand Canal Dock, for 4 miles into the sea. It was built to provide better access to the City quays, which at that time were often obstructed by shifting sandbanks and silting. Today, much of it is hidden inaccessible to the public inside Dublin Port and the Poolbeg generating complex.

It's neither getting there, nor getting there...
The second trip was late at nightaccompanied by a friend. We'd skipped the trek out from the seashore and instead driven to where the public access starts. We reached the lighthouse and walked back to the car. I knew I had to go for it, to ask for that walk with that girl, to share my everything and journey past the edge of my known world...

'The Walk'
In one way it's a distillation of the sea-smoothed lichen speckled rocks of deep purple and pewter, the uneven granite slabs, the mist-cloaked promontories of Howth and Dun Laoghaire, the striking red lighthouse, and that all-pervasive expanse of Dublin Bay blue. 

But hidden deeper is a secret story. I did something I'd never braved before... 

A year later I walked the wall, on the brink of falling in love. I remembered an earlier work documenting a two-fold journey, the real and the relational, in which I'd followed an ancient Chinese tradition where craftsmen hide stories in their patterns... On this walk, I could see all those surfaces reduce themselves in my mind into woven structures and coloured thread, but I couldn't uncleave those elements from the secret parts of the story without losing them, and so I wove it all. In the same very threads as the surfaces of sea and stone were her pale white freckled skin, her green-blue-brown eyes… her potent poppy-red lips...

Both lighthouse and lips merge in 37 threads of red at each end of 'The Walk'.

Just 37 threads out of 5,750 make this scarf red. It's a beautiful piece of work that I was proud of, but I never fell past that brink, and as that relationship unravelled, all that remained was what had existed before it began... 

'Let's come back another day, We'll bring our bikes, we'll spend the day and have a picnic'...

'I wish I had been braver' 
'The Walk' was still true, but it flowed out of just one moment. I needed to go deeper in my art, to the unresolved and unknown, and to weave that storythe wholly uncharted, a distillation of my soul. 

I found myself back at the edge of the scrubland, alone, realising I had never moved past it. Out of this came 'Dark Hedges', a woven symphony, composed in six pieces on a single warp, without knowing anything past the the warp.

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The Warp
When you weave, you first need to draw these threads through the loom, tying them at the back of the loom, winding them onto a beam, threading one thread through each of the 1,000+ heddles on 32 harnesses, which will later be lifted and lowered to create a tunnel through which the other set of threads are individually placed.

I'd waited in vain for the day to come when we would go on that walk, and then I'd given up and tried to take the trip we'd planned with a different girl, but in my heart I'd never stepped beyond the clearing. I didn't come to the loom knowing what I was about to weave, I had sketched and drawn my own designs, but as I prayed and surrendered the truth to God, something else came to me, and I destroyed the designs that had come before, replacing them with the new, unnamed, and unknown. But once they were woven, I knew their names, they came first in Latin but I realised that they had to be in English, clear and plain for all to see - 'Quies' and 'I Wish I had Been Braver' (Utinam Fortior) - Two strands of one journey, a pilgrimage to the walk we'd planned, and a pilgrimage past it...

II. Quies

On 'The Walk' that I distilled into the scarf of that name, while we explored the rocks at the end of the wall with the sea crashing against and in the gaps between the stones, I found two pieces of driftwood which I used to hang the 'Dark Hedges' scarves from when they were exhibited at the RDS National Craft Awards and at The Hunt Museum in Limerick.

NEXT: Read 'Dark Hedges'