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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Deep in the Heart of Dorset

I call myself a psychogeographer, as I plod across the fields of Wessex or, more frequently nowadays, the Caminos of the Iberian peninsula, I often feel I'm in danger of breaching the Trades Description Act. Sure, there's plenty of psycho, probably more than is healthy for a woman of my background and breeding, and girt, humungeous dollops of my beloved geography but if you're looking to radical derives through urban edgelands a la Ian Sinclair then I'm definitely not a good example of the genre. 
Every which way but loose ...
Take last weekend, for example. Not for me forty-eight hours exploring the nitty-gritty in nearby Bristol. Rather, I jumped in my car and set off for the familiar, comforting hills of rural Dorset. I'm safe here, aren't I? Sure, I get my kicks from trudging up volcanoes and hiking hundreds of kilometres of mountain and meseta but here, in my safe Wessex homeland, nothing can happen, right? 
Desire lines, striations across my soul
If you scratch the surface the landscape will bleed. Profusely, excessively, like the non-stop sobbing of tears, speaking to me of loves lost. The earth beneath my feet laced with memories like a minefield, every step an encounter with the past, stirring yearning and a deep desire. I am the land, the land is me, carved from clay, chiselled from chalk, and laid down to rest. 
Deep, down below, someone is stoking the fires of hell
Something isn't right. Something is very, very wrong, even though the sun's out, spreading warm tentacles across my naked forearms and raising a moist sweat. Am I, Sian Lacey Taylder, out of kilter with the land or is the land out of kilter with me? It happens, sometimes; on a hot summer's day back in 1988, lost in the labyrinthine folds of West Dorset the landscape hounded me out and more or less expelled me. What I'd done for it to take umbrage so I really don't know, perhaps I'd become complacent, a bit of a braggart: 'oh, me and the land, we go back such a long way, nothing can tear us apart'. But now I never take it for granted, even though it appears to be my destiny - or fate- to walk the paths and the tracks alone and into eternity, a sort of Kubla Khan de nos jours
How green are my valleys?
It occurs to me, as I move seamlessly from my Cretaceous to my Jurassic, unable to move forward in time, that I'm turning into a long-playing record, wearing myself into a deeper and deeper groove at fewer revolutions per minute, from 45 to thirty-three-and-a-third. Well, not so much a groove as a canyon, whose walls are steep and slippery, not that I have any desire to escape. I tread the paths from day to day, year to year with weary eyes red-embered like burnt out stars. This is all I need: to walk and to walk and to walk ... because I can't do anything else.

Get into my groove
If there were an English shire to which you could trust your soul you'd put your money on Dorset, a supinecreature with come-to-bed eyes. You wander lazily through its scarp and vales on a sultry summer's day and all is right with the world. Tell me, then. What happens when the earth beneath your feet rises up and goes for your jugular? The day drags on, I slip deeper into Dorset, deep into my subconscious, deep into my own private uber-gothic. Deep in the heart of Dorset, here be dragons.

The roof of Dorset, the roof of heaven
Cut loose for the myths of the borderland, it's between the scenes I ramble: faster, faster, faster until my lungs are fit to burst. But can I out-pace my past? Can I hell! I comes creeping up behind me, dragging me down with its overbearing, overpowering gravity. But still I walk, because that's all I know and it's all I can do.

The night is a wire 
Deep in the heart of Dorset is my Faust. One night, deep in the heart of the nineteen-eighties we sat down together in the woods and hatched out our plan, raising a glass of Pernod-and-black to seal the deal. Oh what bliss it was, to be alive back then, in a landscape full of possibilities. I sold my soul; not for rock 'n' roll, worst luck, but to the earth beneath my feet. From thereon in, for the rest of my life, everything and - more importantly, everyone - would take second place to my pursuit of landscape and the incessant need to keep on moving, to never, ever stop. Love and life and happiness? To the back of the queue with hope and prosperity. And stability. Obviously stability. especially stability. I am the land, it unhinges me.
This way lies madness. And all the joyous treasures of human existence
You think that Deep in the heart of Dorset is all patchwork pastoral and Laura Ashley landscape twee. You think it's all Enid Blyton Famous Five or Thomas Hardy costume drama, Poldark without the porn. You think it's all fifty organic shades of pastel green, bland and anodyne. If I tell you
Deep in the heart of Dorset is all prelapsarian nature red-in-tooth-and-claw you'll snigger and gently - and very politely - mock my neo-romantic leanings and get back to your Deleuze and Guattari. This is what happens, you'll say, when the subjective is given its head. Give them the facts, Sian Lacey Taylder! Give them the effing facts!

The Dorsetshire Gap: Everything that Dorset now is, everything it ever has been and always will be flows through this void
I lasted thirty-six hours, dear reader, and then I had to head for home. Deep in the Heart of Dorset I lost my heart and my soul as well as any remaining vestiges of perspective. And somewhere up there, in the roof of Dorset, I said farewell to love and humanity. From now until the end of my days there is only the path and the lie of the land, everything else is beyond me.

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