[although the days have lengthened imperceptibly the scene remains the same. We return to it, or rather we are still here observing it. Maybe now we will take a part (take apart, see?).] Is that you bent down at the side of the excavation? What can you see there? Excuse me, can I move a little closer? Well, it looks human to me. [The human remains…in the excavation are most strange. They seem to be of a male but have outward-facing needles filling the orbits of the eyes. This needle-eyed man will have encountered great spells of acuity yet one can’t help thinking that between the needles much fell and was lost. The experience will have been one of extremes, great extremes, splitting and tearing apart. We must ask why these figures, these beings lived out here in such upland areas. We ask this question now when the climate is less amenable but we must understand that once, in the distant past, the conditions will have been much more munificent and certainly will have encouraged a good living. It may even have been enjoyable.]
I’ve come up here today to look out across (and through) this langscape. I look with a certain sense of pride but also an unhealthy dose of discomfiture. Will we ever really be able to pull together all these traces and make some sort of sense of them? Even though I’m alone here today I brought you with me in a sense and will use this artificial “you” as a sounding board I suppose. I think I know what they meant by the image of the needle-eyed man. This knowing has come about through a tried and tested process of failing to remember things.
Running (and walking) is an important part of this research and frequently ideas will occur whilst running—words, phrases and even whole sentences can take shape (or maybe existing ones will be shaped a little more) yet they disappear on re-entry to the orbit of the writing desk. How can it be that this well rehearsed routine of running and thinking and then immediately forgetting can still be going on? You would have thought I would have learned by now. But the forgetting is not one of complete absence for an imprint of the idea remains. This imprint is enough to irritate but not enough to summon again the full thought. A similar thing sometimes happens at night; within that time at which the body has relaxed towards sleep and the mind is closing down. An exciting notion emerges, suddenly…but by morning, even if it is remembered, it seems comparatively dull. The volume of the idea has thinned out and a mere husk remains, one that seems pathetic in the cold light of day.
[looking away from the excavation, the land slopes gently downwards to some form of watercourse before rising gently back up again and then merging into the monochrome sky through a series of relatively featureless gently fading skylines.]1
1. I dedicate the pointed imagery found in this post to the pins and needles sensations that I am currently experiencing in my feet and hands.
[The sky is a monochrome bright grey. There is a wind from the north which finds its way in through the gaps in clothing and deters standing still. The land is relatively featureless and made up of drab ochres and browns. As we look the land tilts up slightly towards the horizon. There is little vegetation beyond a few balding remnants of heather. There is some activity in the distance—against the skyline. A sound of an individual digging in the soil with a shovel or spade, arhythmically punctuated by the sound of a pickaxe or mattock reaches down. From the right, a heavy, solid object is being slid across hard, frozen, gravelly ground. Preparations are taking place for an event of some kind. It is uncertain from this distance if the event is celebratory or one of mourning. In fact, it could be deduced that an event has already occurred and debris is being cleared away. A third figure is now just about apparent crouched down beside the excavator. But wait, the figure digging has found something…or somebody. Some body. A closer view will be needed to understand further.]
[feigning surprise] well, well, well, we meet here. [tired] Again. We keep going over the same ground. [idly kicking a vessel shard] What is it we do here in this non-most of places? I sometimes feel like Pooh (and you Piglet) as we repeatedly circle the same patch of ground and get increasingly excited by our own multiplying tracks. We meet. Wait a moment; I never come here alone…do you? If you are here without me you must let me know; tell me now. Ok, it is always we. [mumbling aside] we put the ‘us’ into ‘use’. We meet, we ruminate on the ground we create, pick at bits and throw them back down. Sometimes they are changed…altered. Mostly they are altered. Inevitably they are altered. They must be altered. But this is a nonsense anyway, we are chasing up the wrong tree, these things which are not things, in as much as this place is very much non-, become thingy when we consider them. We are far from gods though, investing power into these…things, we are as much thingless things to them are we not? [much looking at the ground ensues. A simple whistled refrain is attempted. It falters and fails] Come over here a moment. This piece caught my I. Obviously part of a fragile vessel but let us take it further.
How much further matters little, it is the furthering of it that is important. First we must loosen it from its matrix, most carefully now. Do you see how some of the surrounding deposits have fallen back into the hole created by the removal of the fragment? We must take note of them too for they will become as important as the fragment itself. In a way the fragment formed them, it certainly gave them an other form. Pressed into use. Anyway, back to the fragment. Where did you put it? No, no, I did not take it from you. I guided you in its removal, we then became sidetracked by the surrounding deposits. You must have retained it while we spoke. [a mumbled excuse] How can it just disappear like that? A perfectly, obviously, materially there thing bristling with thingness…gone…pfffff. Tell me, why do you come here? Can you leave me just for a moment please.
[short musical interlude]
Ok, ok, come back if you must. [a mumbled apology. Changing the subject] I feel like we are in a Craigie Aitchison painting, that one with the dog. Oh, a lot of them have dogs do they. Well the one with the horizon then…will that do? I’m feeling quite archaeological today, all this talk of matrices, deposits, horizons and digging of course. It’s the digging that I enjoy and I think that you know that. All that washing things…[second thought arrives]…actually I don’t mind the washing bit…or the putting into bags. I can even turn my mind to the writing on things although my writing is far from neat. It is all the process beyond that. The dirt has gone. Disinfected horizons. I don’t want these things to be burdened with a use. The ground that they were in was enough. Maybe I should stop digging these things out in the first place…I certainly should not keep passing them on to the, the, the…what are they called? Oh, let’s call them the disinfectors. Look, there’s another fragment.
Hmmm, this also looks very fragile; friable even. I’ve only just started working with this sort of material. I’m perfecting a technique for analysing the most delicate remains. The trick is not to remove it entirely from its matrix but to loosen it a little, let it rock slightly but do not detach it entirely. If need be, scrape away a little more of the matrix (but do retain any scrapings for these will need to be reported). I hadn’t realised that we had dug so deeply. This trench will need some shorings.
[oh, so obviously, (too obviously?) the walls of the trench collapse in on the excavators]