In the company of writers... a time of learning

Waiting outside the station for the taxi I watch for anyone else who might also be making their way up to the house that used to belong to the poet, Ted Hughes, for a writing course centred around nature.  When my wife read the description of the course to me so many months ago I felt I had to go; that this would be an integral part of the next phase of my life.  Two women come separately past me, looking every inch writers; confident, assured, knowing where they were going.  I begin to formulate the question, but they are gone, over the narrow bridge that spans the loquaciously enthusiastic shallow water.  I realise then that I am apprehensive, that I am experiencing a nervousness born from past hesitance and antipathy to groups, heightened by the sense of being exposed.  Can I write after all?

I arrive at the house, a grey stone impressive monument, slotted into the steep hill; the meadows below give way to young woods that dip to the river then rise towards the horizon.  The colours will change during the week, but the mists, early morning light and evening gloom will create an ever changing connection in the mind.  I am shown to the Log Shed with its own grey plaque detailing its grand opening some years ago by a Baroness, no less.  I am honoured indeed and relieved to find the Log Shed has its own bathroom, cause for relaxation at the thought of private nocturnal wanderings. 

I am the first, but it is not long before others join me on the lawn that overlooks the valley.  We talk in tones that acknowledge our reasons for being there and it dawns on me that it is our love of the natural world that has brought us here and that many of us will be quite tentative in our approach to writing.  Apprehension continues, not like a debilitating affliction, more as an uncomfortable memory seeking to take hold.  This would carry on to an extent into the next day in its symptoms of a tightening of the throat; a turbulence in the chest and a tendency not to seek out interactions. All the time there is a magic in process, unseen, unknown and arising from my fellow writers with their unassuming abilities and care for the world; the tutors, so different, but with intelligence that reveals itself in their conversations and a genuine concern to explore humanity’s relationship to nature and how that can be expressed in writing.

On the third day there is a change of perception.  No longer do I question my writing ability – it is irrelevant.  What is clear is that I need to work on the project, to give it serious attention and to see where it leads me.  I am no longer apprehensive, as the walks through the woods, the sound of the river and the watching from the garden have mingled with the conviviality and communication to bring about an intense feeling of learning.

And this is my project: to explore what is learning and what is our relationship to nature. This exploration is set against the background of the work of J Krishnamurti, with which I have been familiar for over forty years; I am currently teaching in a school founded by him.  This will give the exploration context in a global sense and provide opportunities for further conversations in India and the UK in particular.  There is no attempt to create an authority or to adhere to orthodoxy, but the opportunity to examine questions and statements that have been alive for a long time.  This approach sits harmoniously with the direction the week has taken, in the sense of engagement with the world crisis through nature and the fundamental understanding that humanity is inseparable from the natural world.

I am not alone when I return to the station, with a grateful acceptance of the road ahead.  I have said my farewells to the two women who, at the beginning of the week emerged from the station; they are no longer strangers. I have been helped both in practicalities, and in understanding.  The road stretches out.