Off The Map


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I like to think there is a certain amount of rhyme in my reason, although it appears that despite that belief I’m often still sat here staring into space.

Others make far more sense of it than me.

Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society, in a TED talk entitled Cloudy with a Chance of Joy, justifies the pastime (perhaps unsurprisingly in specific respect of the appreciation of cloud-forms), particularly as an antidote to the modern world.

“You’re not going to change the world by lying on your back and gazing up at the sky, are you? It’s pointless. It’s a pointless activity, which is precisely why it’s so important. The digital world conspires to make us feel perpetually busy. Sometimes we need excuses to do nothing. We need to be reminded by these patron goddesses of idle fellows that slowing down and being in the present, not thinking about what you’ve got to do and what you should have done, but just being here, letting your imagination lift from the everyday concerns down here and just being in the present, it’s good for you, and it’s good for the way you feel.”

However it’s Patrick Barkham in his excellent book Coastlines The Story of Our Shore, who when talking about his response to the landscape at Scolt Head on the North Norfolk coast, explains how I feel even more clearly.

“As I floated in the North Sea, I considered Caspar Henderson’s idea that Scolt was a site for hypnagogia. I guess it is obvious that we can reach such a fluid and imaginative state of consciousness in a liminal landscape like Scolt, a small coastal island that flexes like a living thing and grows like a child. It becomes easier to see how we might be affected more than we realise by our surroundings if we are lucky enough to spend time in one of the last wildernesses of southern Britain. Here it is possible to return to a childlike state alone with the sea and sand and silence, completely absorbed in the present moment.”

Whilst it’s rare that I inhabit a world quite as distant as the landscape Patrick describes (albeit that it’s not actually that far from where I call home) I think it’s clear that I get the same sense of hypnagogia from the simple act of staring out to sea, or up to the skies.

Which is just as well in times like these.

2 Responses to “Off The Map”

  1. 1 Ben

    Lovely post, and has me hankering for our annual trip to North Norfolk. Only four more months to wait.

    • Thank you, and in the mean time I’ll ask that the good people of North Norfolk make suitable preparations for your arrival. DWx

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