Sale Fell lies at the westerly edge of the English Lake District, looking out towards the Solway coast and the Scottish hills that lie over the water, whilst guarding the fringe of the north west fells that so dramatically margin this rugged landscape. It is a modest beauty combining lovely walks, views, splendid birds (of which pied flycatcher and green woodpecker are good examples) and wonderful opportunities for picnics and breathers.It has an interesting geology with outcrops of pure white rock marking the top like sheep biologically washed in the latest washing powder. It has been the location of films, murders, passionate love embraces and probably much much more. May it long watch over us.
I had a favourite tree to play on as a young boy. In fact I had more than one. They became great friends – faithful and places of refuge . My first packet of cigarettes (5 Park Drive!) was concealed under a bush there in a hole dug out with the precise purpose of being my “fag den”. I couldn’t help wondering why it took so long to light the blasted things, not appreciating that they were damp and sodden of course. I explored these tress like foreign lands – mapping my course round and up them as I ventured forth. Their contours were tactile and living proof of growth and experience. Jumping off the thickest branches onto the heads of imaginary passing badmen in true Robin Hood or Lone Ranger style. Always there, rooted solid and dependable. In later days I loved songs about trees – Mike Heron from the Incredible String Band’s own “The Tree” and Michael Chapman’s elegaic “Among the Trees”. And now – how beautiful they are on their lonely fellside outposts or cosy moorings in household gardens. Just to appreciate them is enough. There is a tree in Setmurphy woods just outside Cockermouth that I call my meditation tree. It has a special vibe – and its where I can go for spiritual nourishment. In many ways they are easy to draw or paint, because they don’t move too quickly, but actually capturing the spirit of tree through art isn’t easy, possibly because they are so aesthetic and solidly real in themselve standing like nature’s own sculptures. Who needs a picture of a tree – when you can go and see the tree itself. Anyway this year there’s an opportunity for me to try and draw/paint more. As Mike Heron says “Oh lord – how happy I am!”
charcoal sketch by keith fitton
I’m a bit of a conservative when it comes to books.Three of my most loved reads are Jack Keroauc’s epic “On The Road”, Tolkein’s “Lord of The Rings”, and without any shadow of doubt, Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”. The latter caught me off guard. I read it whilst at university secretly hoping it would be crap – simply (and stupidly in a crass radical way), because it was so heavily touted as being a great novel. Well, it certainly is. I quickly became immersed in the canvas that Tolstoy paints of life in Russia in the early nineteenth century as experienced by a cast of characters that Tolstoy depicts with immense humanity and colossal artistic breadth. This is an immensely satisfying and moving read – on all counts. Tolstoy himself was/is a fascinating man. Born into wealth, he became a foremost political philosopher, a Christian anarchist, a social reformer, an influential educationalist, an environmentalist and a passionate lover, along with being a writer without peers.
So I’m thinking of Leo Tolstoy and maybe its time to read another of his books…..