August 27th, 2013

A week in August. The weather changeable. Three Feral Theatre directors journey slowly, with their families, to the foot of Ben Nevis, then up the hill on the opposite side of the glen to the larch forest and Outlandia.

We came here to meditate on our work. Who is it for? Where is it heading? How can a theatre company whose three directors live in different countries prosper? Where and what is the way of love for our company and ourselves? And what obstacles lie in our path?

Our meditation took the form of three solo one-day vision quests or medicine walks.

“The Vision Quest is an ancient ceremony to mark and move on from one life transition to another. The ancients knew that by crossing these thresholds in wild places, we face our fears, see our life pass through and gather our medicine, in order to move into the next phase of life.” Pip Bondy

“A medicine walk, a day’s journey upon the face of the earth. A microcosmic form of the threshold trial, the walk is a mirror that reflects the signs and symbols of your inward quest. It will serve as an allegorical guide…”
Steven Foster

From dawn to dusk, in the treehouse, with only water and a notebook and pen.
Each day began with a silent walk to a nearby waterfall, a cleansing ritual, a circle made of flowers, stones, ferns, from which the quester stepped out to begin their journey up to the treehouse. On their return they were greeted and fed in loving silence, candles lit, a welcome made.

At the end of the week we sat in council to share our experiences.

“Council is a way of holding a meeting that empowers people to speak from their hearts. . . supporting us in accessing and expressing our deepest truths, not only by making it safe to do so but also by creating a social lens that reveals our own unknown depths to ourselves.”
Bill Plotkin

Below are some of our writings from our medicine walks.

So I sat to meditate on our intentions.
I performed a short ceremony, gave thanks, expressed gratitude for all I have.
Then I was strongly compelled to leave the hut.
The way of love will not be found being safe and static.
I allowed my feet to determine the way, alert for signs and symbols.  The first I saw was a multi-dimensional spider’s web shining with raindrops in the early morning light. It was beautiful and so like what I envisage during that part of our show Treestory. I looked at it for a long time. Moving on I was drawn to shards of bark and wood which I collected. I saw a young rowan tree twisting skyward among the spruces, bent out of shape in its search for light. Was this symbolic of Feral Theatre, I thought? I came out onto the main path and heard the stream rushing; I ploughed through wet grass and trees to see it. It was lovely but a distraction.
When I rejoined the path the light changed, there were blue patches of sky showing through, a dim sunlight filtering down. A little further and I turned to that bright patch of clouds and they parted and the sun came out full and strong. In front of me countless ferns and blades of grass all weighed down with raindrops sparkled – no, blazed – with light and the trees beyond, it was incredible, I could hardly look it was so dazzling. And then the sun went in, the diamonds faded. I was reminded of the high of performance – dazzling but brief, a brief moment on the way but an important one. Acknowledge.
I walked on and came to the edge of the forest. There was a long straight fence and beyond it (the path was gated) moorland with a few sheep. I stood there for a while thinking of edges and liminal spaces, that this is where Feral is located and maybe I should return here and spend some time. There was a nice flattish rock to sit on.
The path went on through the gate and over the moorland. It looked boring but I wondered what was around the corner. I opened the gate and followed the path. Around the corner was the most beautiful vista. Two lochs cradled between mountains, white clouds rising off them. Like two mirrors they reflected the sky with its turbulence of white and blue. The sun was out again. The path followed on before me endlessly into this landscape of majesty and beauty. I felt like I had arrived. This was love. The other things I had seen were distractions, intellectual, too literal. The way of love was simple – be intuitive, let your feet do the walking, be open, be curious. The distractions were part of the way but there was a very clear feeling of knowing that I had arrived.

Pheasant, unaware, quiet
Blackbird, still, looking
Circular webs on ground, dew covered
Four buttercups
The blood orange of the pines’ flesh,
Cut open and splintered,
I thought this was the path we walked before?
The path,
Another each time,
Each moment
And so I look for the first time,
My breath is shorter
with the climb,
I am alone,
Opened up, poured out,
Parts of me buried in this soft soft ground.
On the last meandering walkway
of the fairy kind,
A cloud of miniature moths
(dotted sometimes with white butterflies)
flies away to the mosses clearing my passage.
I am here,
Space cleared,
Made my own,
Boxed and framed,
I sit in the direct sunlight,
The crown of the great mountain,
A tunnel of warmth shines through my body,
Everything in my mind yellowed,
The all,
The everything,
My above,
My below,
Eyes open to see mist rising,
White clouds moving up through the light,
Thinning as it elevates to create a veil between me and the world beyond this place.