Below is an unpublished sample section from As Above, Part 2
OLD St John’s Church
Grid Square: OS 7665
Location: OSGB 36 SP 764 656 (100m precision)
WGS84: 52:16.9945N 0:52.8883W
Buchedone, Bochetone (xi cent.);
Boketon, Buketone, Buckton (xii–xv cent.).
May 2012 – January 2013
Big ideas have most often been expressed in straightforward language (naturally I mean the direct intensity of Shakespeare, for example, not the gibberish of a lawyer or a government). But as oceans, trees and skies die in front of us, and the world and all its strange wonders are desanctified, our mission is to seek out the overfamiliar and disregarded, the rejected, marginalized and faceless even, and to load these obscure players in life with larger significance…
Field Notes from the author , 2012.
It has been almost three years since I started writing the words that became “As Above”, a set of field notes, historical anecdotes, photographs & poems that reflected upon one year’s worth of excursions into the sanctum of the church grounds of Old St Johns,Boughton Green.
I have only visited the church a handful of times since, and with winter now making its presence felt; longer, darker, colder evenings, falling leaves, marcescant foliage, a change of light; my thoughts returned once again to the old church, sequestered at the margins of Boughton and Moulton. Having reviewed my writings from two years ago, and cross-referencing against my original notes from the field, it appears I was very much pre-occupied with the church as a powerful invocation of the transformative, the transient, a place of change, and endless fluidity. Although these thoughts have not subsided, time and distance have tempered my initial musings, and I felt that the place now deserved further analysis, a different reading perhaps…
It is in the process of standing still, absorbing, sense-mapping a place, that it slowly begins to resonate. Sounds, smells, eerie silences, the whisper of the breeze, the rustling of leaves began to converge, murmur, cohere.
Every step around the site fuelled my imagination, and now upon my return, I am still drawn to this place. Hemmed in on all sides by crumbling walls, the old church sits suspended amidst the bustle of the rural landscape, untouched, hermetic, secretive; a trove of memories.
As I made more visits, spent more time here, I became more attuned to this old church site, and elements of the place began to unfold. My first visits, crude excursions, were like stepping into a becalmed millpond, creating ripples and ruptures in its surface. Only over time did the ripples settle, the images resolve, and the old church site began to speak…
What I now seek and sense, almost eludes description. How to be here without clouding the mirror, without distorting the image once again? In the twilight, all seems frail, evanescent, as if the merest intervention might wipe it clean. It is an unusually mild midwinter evening, and the sun arcs below the treelines, and through the mesh of foliage, light is filtered, distilled to its essence..
Standing in silent contemplation, letting sense immerse itself in the sensory.
The walls are liquid, vaporous, gently succumbing to the forces of weather, their dissolution retarded by the wave of common ivy that superimposes itself upon these crumbling remnants. Yet the ivy simultaneously appears to hold the walls in balance, shielding them, preserving what remains with a verdant cloak that affords the crumbling masonry some form of protection from the elements, and the prying eyes of man.
English Ivy, generic name: Hedera Helix, is one of a family of invasive creepers, known in Old English as “Bindwood”, or “Lovestone”. Yet the common name for Ivy, Hedera Helix resonates.
Helix, a form of spiral, coiled like the double helix of DNA. This spiral is also present in the symbolic caduceus, consisting of two coiled serpents around a wand or staff.
“As a symbolic object, it represents Hermes (or the Roman Mercury). In later antiquity, the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury. Thus, through its use in astrology and alchemy, it has come to denote the elemental metal of the same name. It is said the wand would wake the sleeping, and send the awake to sleep. If applied to the dying, their death was gentle; if applied to the dead, they returned to life. “
“Symbolically, the ivy has always been closely identified with death and immortality. Because it is forever green, it is a symbol of fidelity and immortal life..”
from Signs and Symbols in Christian Art, George Ferguson, Oxford University Press, 1954
The complex, reticulated form of Ivy stems echoes the form of wires, cables, conveyors of biologic information that well up from the earth, permeating, suffusing the walls.
Stand still for an hour or more, listen. Become a receiver. Tune yourself in to their frequency. Listen to their story, their song, their music; glistening in the waves of light, hovering at the threshold of perception, (is this how the dead speak? ) then lost, swept away, engulfed by the night’s air
These vestigial traces seem to reverberate through the very substance of the walls, etched into crumbling masonry, filaments, tendrils encapsulated in the webwork of rotting ivy, decaying plant detritus, the whistle of wind through fallen brickwork, all of these components tell the story of those long dead souls, speaking the language of the unspoken..lost in time.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: this is an exploratory first draft sample of a larger body of text that will be subject to further revision and editing. It does not represent a completed work as such, but serves to give a flavour of work yet to be published.
BG Nichols 2016