Stay the Same

Is this an endurance test?
25 October 2011, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Diary entries

I am a third of the way through the project and the challenges of this project are now far more apparent even if the nature of the final film isn’t!

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!


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Keep going, Sam. I’m fascinated by your project and can’t wait to see the final film.

Comment by jospiller

This is really interesting Sam, the challenge of being still, staying in one place when everyone around you seems to be moving forward, or in a direction anyway. My life seems so busy, so full and fast, I wish for some stillness to savour it, nightfeeds give me that, a temporary calmness until I’m back in the mad rush of get them dressed get them fed get them out get them washed get them going in a direction any direction to avoid a tired bored tantrum and suddenly my boy’s already in preschool and my girl’s passed nine months in a blink. Really enjoying your writing and the prompt to slow down xx

Comment by Pippa

Hey Pip,
It is messages like this that keep me going! (And which partly inspired the next post about creating a living notebook!). I’ve said the film is about our relationship with time so many times that I had stopped thinking about implications and of course this means pace of life (hence the Koyansqaatsi clip too) . . which the process is also about and I guess my decision to come here in the first place was about even if I never quite managed to slow down. All very thought provoking . . . looking forward to coming to visit next summer. Samxx

Comment by samfirthknoydart

Easy Sam,

First up, I cant wait to see the finished film. Well done for getting a 3rd of the way through. Jellious of what you are doing, in both the sence of doing it and having the focus to do realise it what what you need to do.

Comparing it to mountain climbing or rowing the seas is a fair comparison. Its no less valid. The challenge is in your head space. The chioce of doing or not doing.

Time, yeah we are only a slave to it when we dont live in the moment. Other than understanding cause and effect I see little point in point worry about the future. I feel your work is a string of photos of the moment, when you chose to start the project you started a journey that could only ever reach one place. Its not about destiny or fait but more envitabilty.


Comment by .

Hi there whoever you are!
Thanks for your comment! All helps and is very interesting to get people’s thoughts. I hope the film lives up expectations . . we shall see! And yes nearly 5 months through now so not doing badly even though it is turning out to be more of challenge then I expected!

Comment by samfirthknoydart

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