Field Trip Happenstance Observation Psychogeography

At the Heron House

It is a place within easy walking distance from the front door and yet it is unlikely that anyone would stumble across it. It is not on any well-trodden path. However, nor could it be described as a remote location as would be evident if you managed to locate the area on a map. It is almost as if it has slipped through a crack in time and topographic space.

There are certain landscapes where the walker quickly becomes self-conscious that they are an intruder. Where every footfall announces to the non-human world that there is a potential threat moving in the landscape. A cracked twig underfoot that  ricochets through the calm stillness, creating unseen rustlings of unease and the nervous flexing of wings. No matter how quiet you may whisper there is a strong feeling that you are being closely observed and monitored by unseen eyes. It is you who is perceived as the danger in this quiet world.

For convenience we will refer to this place as the Heron House on account of the siege of herons that appear to have colonised this world. It is not unusual to see upwards of ten of them roosting in the trees that surround this body of water or swirling silently overhead. As if each wing movement slows down time incrementally, evoking a sky filled gathering of ancient pterodactyl. Until we discovered this place, we had always associated herons as zen-like, solitary stalkers of the shoreline, so it was a surprise to see so many of them in the high branches of this wooded setting. Their presence transforming this place into something that feels forgotten and ancient. Almost a ‘Land that Time Forgot’.

This feeling of being steeped in accretions of time is heightened by diverse morphologies of lichen on many trees.

It is easy to lose yourself in the afternoon colours and textures of stillness.

Bizarrely, we come across a huddle of Giant Redwood trees, having no idea of how or why they are growing here in Fife. We stop to feel the aged textures of the deceptively soft bark which looks more like dripping lava

… and in contrast, ephemeral cascades of snowdrops flower close-by exotic looking fungi which resemble some imaginary, animated wood spirits from a Miyazaki film. Organic antenna, as if alert, listening, sensing …

This uncanny world is further transformed by the still body of water which creates a mirror world with only a thin liquid membrane appearing to prevent both of these worlds from collapsing into each other. Herons soar in the sky and amongst the watery depths.

The Heron House is not a place to outstay your welcome. We are the strangers and eavesdroppers here and can sense that our presence has disturbed some fragile equilibrium.

We return to pass through an opening in stone, sodden and marbled by weather and the colours of time.

Within minutes of walking we begin to hear familiar sounds start to puncture the stillness that we still carry.

The distant hum of traffic, a tractor turning over fresh clods of earth in a field. Tending the ground, ready for a new planting, a new cycle.


As long as the earth keeps turning


Now playing: Heitor Alvelos – ‘The Other’ from Faith

Thanks to @EdinDrift for joining us on this journey. February 2017.

Field Trip Happenstance Observation Poetry Psychogeography Some Questions of the Drift

The Desire Line of Water



from source to sea:

the desire line

of water

rarely follows

a straight path




Flux -> Flow -> Gravity -> Time:

all combine

with light, to reveal

the sounds and colours

of falling water




All of the utterances.

From a babble of words,

a line of desire

occasionally emerges




Images from a walk between Kincardine and Culross and from St Fillans Churchyard Aberdour.

Now playing: Philip Jeck and Jacob Kirkegaard – Soaked

Encounters Happenstance Observation Poetry Quote Signs and Signifiers Symbol

Plants, potters, webs: On forms, usefulness and emptiness

With the clocks about to go back this weekend, autumnal hues cloak the body and seep into the skin. The piercing light of summer is almost emptied out. Weak threads of sunlight dissolve amongst russet, ochre and blanket skies of grey.

Here then, some small cups of blue:




……………upon the sky





in a breath


The potter makes the earthen pitcher out of earth selected and prepared specifically for it.  The potter … shapes the clay.  No – he shapes the emptiness.

Martin Heidegger

When posting the above image on twitter, I received, by return, a digital echo from Andrew Male, (@AndrewMaleMojo). A fragile image, of the same unknown plant, etched in glaze and fire; ‘cupped’ and bleeding into blue.

(c) Andrew Male

The bowl  was made by the potter Beresford Pealing who ran a studio-pottery at Harnham Mill, West Harnham, Salisbury, Wiltshire from 1966-1972. Pealing created hand-thrown domestic stoneware оf а type pioneered by Bernard Leach working іn аn Arts & Crafts tradition.

Beresford Pealing
Beresford Pealing’s studio-pottery at Harnham Mill. (c) Wiltshire Museums

The image of Pealing’s bowl resonated with the image of that flower cupping light, sky and time and somehow reminded me of Martin Heidegger’s late thought, particularly his Bremen Lecture of 1949, Insight into That Which Is:  

When we fill the pitcher, the liquid flows into the empty pitcher … The thingness of the container in no way rests in the material that it is made of, but in the emptiness that [it?] contains. 

I’m not sure if Heidegger ever acknowledged it, but it seems too much of a coincidence if this passage was not influenced by the arguably more poetic rendering in the Tao Te Ching:

Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.

(Tao Te Ching: Chapter 11, translated by Stephen Mitchell, 1988)

or in an alternative translation:

Hollowed out,
clay makes a pot.
Where the pot’s not
is where it’s useful.

(Tao Te Ching: Chapter 11, translated by Ursula K. Le Guin, 1998)

A random moment this week threaded together that plant inked against the sky and Beresford Pealing’s bowl. Opening the front door, an empty form cupping the autumn light:


Overnight, a dweller on the threshold had constructed possibly the perfect form of useful emptiness. A filigree construction allowing the world to pass through and bring whatever bounty may stick on the way…

And of the unknown plant?

When the photograph was taken, I had no idea what it was, although A, who is the gardener, told me that it would soon ‘explode’. She didn’t know the name either.

Fraser MacDonald @JAFMacDonald kindly identified it as Agapanthus and sent a link to this stunning time-lapse film. Enjoy the white stars exploding in all their glory. All within fifteen seconds:


But there is one final act of synchronicity. Re-watching the film clip today and revisiting Heidegger’s lecture, I come across his thinking on the emerging technologies of 1949 (for example film) and specifically, their ability to collapse time and space. An example that he gives is:

the sprouting and flourishing of plants which remained hidden throughout the seasons is now openly displayed on film within a minute…

We can only imagine what his response may have been to the webs spun by modern technologies. Lots of un-useful emptiness? Perhaps we can learn from the spider. Spin the web, shape the emptiness and see what sticks.

Many thanks go to Andrew Male and Fraser MacDonald for their invaluable contributions to this post.

Now playing: Brian Lavelle – Empty Transmissions.


Martin Heidegger, Insight into That Which Is, Bremen Lecture, 1949 (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2012)

Lao Tzu. The Tao Te Ching, various translations.