I have been thinking a lot about my place in this world. This line of thought could be down to my gender, my age, the career change that I am experiencing, or my sense of displacement that comes when a parent is dying.
Belonging is a kind of a collective we. It is about how we feel about where we fit into a community or a place and not just about where we are born and as I walk, I find myself wondering if I am thinking my thoughts, or if my thoughts are thinking me. Existential thinking is a common occurrence whilst I walk alone…
We each of us have the capacity to create a safe space. It requires dedication, intention and humility; plus a willingness to listen and to be open to new experiences. Sharing the space at Caladar Arts and being part of a non-hierarchical artist residency, I have felt supported by my peers and this has given me my safe space.
Exploring themes around belonging, I have realised that I owe my existence to two contradictory impulses: a border and a bridge. Newcastle born with Scottish ancestry, I am betwixt and between any sense of belonging; too long in the Highlands of Scotland to feel like a true Geordie any more, but not long enough in Scotland to feel part of the fabric of place.
This day however, I am met by a local couple tending their garden. Part of the very fabric of this place, Jean and Sandy Ford are a welcome sight and Jean offers to take me on a guided tour of Cawdor.
Jean is a quiet, knowledgeable lady with a gracious manner. I spend some considerable time with her and listen with great interest as she reveals the complexities, the values and an amazing array of stories that it would take an outsider years to unravel. The tour ends with a gift of delicious home-made biscuits and a small pot of Basil, grown from seed. This is what belonging looks like.
Meeting locals, Jean and Sandy, has given me an insight into what community and belonging means: extending the proverbial hand of friendship to a stranger and enabling that stranger to feel welcome.
This process of defining borders, testing them and then allowing them to be crossed, holds the challenge and the intrigue for my future investigations. The Caladar Arts residency has facilitated in my growth and development, allowing me breathing space to expand my art practice. What a gift I have been given.