Filed under: Posts by Sam
My friend Jamie who is an avid mountaineer sent me a link to the film below which he saw at the last Mountain Film Festival. It made me think about peoples need to do increasingly wild and crazy adventures (and document them). I have recently heard about friends of friends cycling across Africa, rowing the atlantic and swimming the Bairing straights (usually men in their twenties). It seems to be as much about the need to push oneself to extremes as raising money for charity.
I don’t think this is a particularly modern phenomena. What is modern is the change of context. Religion and spirituality used to be the reason for making intense voyages of self discovery instead of charity. Now people can travel the globe to do find their adventures, and are often motivated by a desire to do something more extreme, more head line grabbing than anyone else. But perhaps this is not that new either. There have always been adventurers and explorers
An artist who came to visit me in the spring suggested that this project was like a pilgrimage and it’s an interesting thought. I’m not sure I would want to elevate it to the level of a spiritual journey, (even though filming each day does have it’s meditative qualities), but it is definitely a journey of self exploration.
Unlike mountain climbers and atlantic swimmers the test of endurance is all in my own head. There is no glory. The struggle is private within my own mind. Even writing this feels melodramatic and overblown. How can I possibly complain? My journey is from the comfort of my own home, the restrictions on my freedom are self imposed.
But the last month has been particularly hard. The weather has been horrible and it is easy to feel trapped here when it is like this at the best of times. The boats are cancelled and you don’t feel like leaving the house. (Hearing reports of the sunshine down south has not helped). There are fewer visitors and there is a sense of darkness approaching. The set up of my life here as it is now also means I spend a large proportion of time on my own.
Some of this time has been incredibly positive, my work has become more focussed and I have begun to address some issues I have been avoiding for a long time. But there has also been quite a lot of self doubt.
The project itself is about aging and my relationship to this place and for a while now my friends and family have expressed genuine concern about my choice to live here at this point in my life. There is a clock ticking quite loudly and it’s impossible not to think about it. There is no doubt that in the short term I am reducing the possibility of meeting someone and starting a family by restricting my movements for a year. What I don’t know, is whether this project will open new possibilities in the future.
The challenge, as always, is to keep returning to the positives, the small joys and triumphs, the moments of surprise, connection and humour. The ridiculous situation of searching for ones own glasses at dusk by feeling around on a cold riverbed (after tripping and loosing them).
When things get hard, I now have a routine. I remember the things I am grateful for and the reasons I came here in the first place and I write them down. Ironically being given the funding to make this film is top of the greatful list, second is the view from my desk. If anything my love for this place has grown and not diminished as a result of making this film.
I imagine this sense of pulling oneself upwards and onwards as something we all have to do. It just becomes more polarised at certain points in your life, maybe particularly so as you get older and you come to terms with the limitations of time.
I keep making comparisons to climbing a mountain and I wonder whether it is more or less challenging to stay in one place. Testing ones physical strength feels empowering. Testing ones own mental health just seems daft. I have joked about this a lot, but how embarrassing would it be if I were to actually lose it as a result of my own self imposed rules for the sake of a short film? It feels like it would be worse than having to turn back from a summit. I don’t really think there is a chance that this will actually happen, but in my my moments of doubt (and sometimes mild panic) in the middle of the night, reminding myself I can actually stop point helps (as does thinking about how embarrassing it would be!).
Talking of which I have started to sleep properly for the first time since this project began, so maybe, despite what seems like months of darkness looming ahead, just maybe, I am over the worst and have finally come to terms with the nature of this thing and how it fits in with the scheme of things. I had just better make it a good film!
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