Saturday, 11 May 2013

Revisiting









Revisiting a place, tracing its echoes, proves fruitful material for novelists. Brideshead Revisited opens with Charles unwittingly sent back to the stately home whose inhabitants provided wine, strawberries and complicated relationships.  To the Lighthouse is a novel broken in half by WWI and Mrs Ramsay’s death, a changed cast of characters returning to the island home after the interlude. In Great Expectations the marshes become the weight that Pip wants to ignore as he flees from his upbringing. Miss Havisham’s house, however, never changes, remaining fixed and stagnant from visit to visit. All demonstrate the importance of place. Settings wrap around characters, extending only as far as the eye of the author.

There are locations formed in the imagination of the writer, and then those that have been condensed from experience. The two often overlap. Laurie Lee, in his utterly extraordinary essay ‘Writing Autobiography’ talks of the process of “compression”, with years of living squeezed down into pages and paragraphs. Writing about memories is a means of revisiting and re-examining the past. Lee says:  “A day unremembered is like a soul unborn, worse than if it had never been. What indeed was that summer if not recalled? That journey? That act of love? To whom did it happen if it has left you with nothing? Certainly not to you. So any bits of warm life preserved by the pen are trophies snatched from the dark, are branches of leaves fished out from the flood, are tiny arrests of mortality.”

Revisiting can also be physical. A pilgrimage to a previously known place is a way of getting nearer to the past. My mum sometimes mentions wanting to take my brother and me to see one of her childhood homes, while I nurture a vague longing to go and stand on the street of the hospital where my surgery took place. It’s a very natural desire. We feel that these places hold a resonance waiting to be accessed.

Resonance is a word that crops up a lot when I’m writing. I’m not sure whether it’s the sound, with round vowels and sharp s’s, or the multifunctional use. It suggests meaning, quality, importance, echoes. But perhaps it’s easy to get caught in talk of echoes; the thrall of words enveloping thought. Easy to yoke the tenses together, cleverly forging a relationship between past and present when typing. But then our lives are composed of what we have experienced so far.  

Revisiting doesn’t have to be profound either. It might simply be habit: holidaying in the same place, or even just finding and then regularly going back to a favourite spot. This wood is one that my family visit each year. There is a brief seasonal window when it’s accessible. Our first excursion usually coincides with bluebell season, but this year’s staggered winter means that they are yet to flower. There is a comfort in its familiarity. The wood’s continuity seems to work as an anchor. Plants may be newly grown but that view is both reliable and recognizable. It is at its best when the sunlight slants through trees only just in leaf, leaving shadows like ink across shoots that crackle underfoot. It is even better with a sweep of blue topping the green. But I still have that to look forward to. 

We revisit clothes too. Some, like this charity shop bought skirt, are pulled out of the wardrobe over and over again. It has been worn with jumpers, pink shirts, shawls, loafers, heels, hats, crop-tops, gloves, pearls. Longevity can often mean versatility. But no matter how it is styled, it retains the absolute joy of airy fabric swishing against my legs - whether they are clad in thick tights during winter or left bare in summer. It's an item I've worn in all weathers and it has appeared on this blog several times in the last couple of years. Here it is accompanied by a Ben Sherman second hand shirt, £2 striped heels from a charity shop, vintage jewellery and a length of fabric that I hacked off the bottom of a skirt when it was being shortened - worn as a head scarf. The usual 'non-edited' images approach has been lifted temporarily, as my dad is currently enjoying the wonders of photoshop. 

18 comments:

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

Oh I love Brideshead Revisited!
And what a gorgeous outfit you're wearing! It's so lovely! The blue suits you really well :)

Anupriya DG said...

Until the bluebells come out, you are painting the woods a pretty hue of blue!!! :))
And I LOVE revisiting....places, memories, clothes, books et all....

The Thrifty Detective said...

You've mentioned some excellent books and your outfit is beautiful the colour looks very pretty on you. I can't believe the way you write its so fluent and perfect you are very articulate oh i envy you !! : D

Emalina said...

Thank you for reminding me of some of my very favourite novels! I love what you've said about the different layers of resonance that the memory of a place can evoke - when I look back over my life it is as if I chart an emotional map, the felt sense and the thought memory combine. You've written about this so beautifully, dear Roz.

That gorgeous skirt seems to echo your description of what it is to remember, the floating quality of it, as it moves towards us and sways away with the lightness of that fabric. The blue suits you so well.

Orange Cat said...

Love the powder blue.And I am an eternal lover of the A-line skirt.AND I love Miss Havisham. Too many loveses in one post. :)

Lydia said...

This post makes me want to take a picnic into the woods and romp around for a while.

Willow said...

The combination of that beautiful wood, you, that lovely swishy skirt and your dad's excellent photoshop edits makes me have to keep looking back at these gorgeous fairytale photos. You look like a bluebell yourself, the "sweep of blue topping the green" is you in that skirt!

I love revisiting places that I went when I was really young and the feelings they bring to mind. As well as reading favourite childhood stories (particularly 'The Enchanted Wood' by Enid Blyton) or listening to songs like 'Yesterday' by The Beatles because my dad used to sing it me at bedtime. These photos have a similar effect, reminding me of some the fairytales that were read to me.

I really love what your dad did with the first and fourth image, in the fourth it really looks like there's light shining onto your back. I keep meaning to try out photoshop on some of my photos (recently downloaded some smoke brushes that I want to play with) but never get round to it.

Sacramento Amate said...

Pure poetry in blue.
Love and admiration ALWAYS.
XXXXXXXXX

Megan said...

Beautiful outfit and gorgeous shoes. What a great find.

A N D Y S T Y L E said...

You look beautiful,love you hair too! Xx

shipshapeandbristolfashion said...

I find smell and sound - a particular song or even radio jingle - can transport me back to various snapshots or periods of my life. Your outfit is a wonderful colour - that and your poses remind me of Alice in Wonderland.

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

Beautiful color on you! I also enjoyed the images that have been tinkered with, and thank you for the explanation. It makes them that much more fun. As someone who has lived many "lives" with abrupt endings, I've had the dream-like experience of going back to the town or house that was left behind years ago, when I was a different person, living a different life. It's taken a long time to sew some of the ragged edges together to make the cloth whole and of one piece.

I like the sound of a forest with bluebells. XXOO

FASHION TALES said...

I enjoyed reading Brideshead Revisited, and also loved the film interpretation (most recent version). Loved your description regarding revisiting memories. Certain clothes that I wear often reminds me of special moments places that I've visited. Also, great article on the Guardian! :-) xo

Linda Wyrill said...

“A day unremembered is like a soul unborn” … beautiful! Thanks for posting that. Resonance is something I experience when I visit your blog. I always enjoy the quality and tone of the writing and images you share – love the first photograph in this post! The smoothness of your complexion and dress against the earthy woods, lovely.

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Beautiful post. This is what old souls do -- remember. I see you etch every experience and sensation into memory, then revisit and relive it. "Echo" so aptly captures this circular stroll through life. What's curious is that, like an echo, it is never exactly the same as the first time. At least, that's how I've experienced it. Every new visit colors the memory in a different way. And looking back itself filters the image -- like happy memories tinged with gold.

The flicker of light off the camera frame in your first image looks so enchanted. You seem to be communing with faerie spirits in the forest! Is that through the magic of Photoshop? -- J xxx

CatharineKariana said...

Your writing is lovely!!!

Also, as a photographer, I felt like I should say that there is nothing wrong with editing photos... a camera doesn't have the ability to capture everything we see with our eyes so editing to more accurately show what we saw and felt at the time of taking the photo is really necessary. Even in the film days a lot of interpretation happened in the dark room while developing the photo. So it's nice to see your dad experimenting with Photoshop! :) The photos look really good!

Love your blog! xoxo

JiJJys Maison said...

Really enjoyed reading Revisted,
Love the woods where your photos are taken, i love nature and try to go out into the country everyother weekend :)- and i write my experiences in my blog, so therapeutic, also love the ensemble (skirt, top and the strippy shoes)- Really pretty.. xxx

Alex said...

you are so lovely, it's great to read your blog