It’s taken about 10 hours, door to door, to get from Edinburgh to the Chateau de Grillemont. As the last one to arrive, I’m a little anxious about being too late to fit in, to find a seat in the awkward musical chairs of first encounters. But when I do, it feels immediately comfortable, safe. Laughter, food, and drink constitute a simple, yet delightful sofreh over a long, wooden table in a rustic kitchen. This first dinner at the residency is already pregnant with promise.
At the discussion later that evening for the first of the check-in readings, ‘4 Poems’ by Abbas Kiarostami, I’m struck by how the poems connect art and life, a glimpse of a liminal space where reality may reside, discernible but ungraspable. The third poem, ‘I’m the hero of a story/which has neither a story/nor a hero’ was a reminder of our individual lives, just as they are. Often absent of drama or hold or interest to anyone other than ourselves. And yet that ordinariness did not necessarily mean that it was not of worth. Rather, as the fourth poem ‘The wild flowers / no one smelled them / no one picked them / no one sold them / no one bought them’ suggested, that lack of attention did not take away from the flowers’ central purpose — to bloom, regardless. Perhaps art (and artifice) is one of few frames through which we can examine, appreciate and be awed by a reality so large, that it otherwise — and often — appears banal, and we remain, to our detriment, oblivious to its power, magic, and mystery.
The second reading, Heinrich Boll’s ‘Anecdote Concerning the Lowering of Productivity’ was a relatable tale of the balance between doing and being, of mentalities of scarcity and abundance. The central question here was, ‘What is of real value?’ And how do we balance individual freedom and choice (and even pleasure) with a responsibility to the wider communities and societies of which we are a part? We’d all like to be the fisherman, knowing when the work was done, was enough; and then doze, or just be, when our needs were met. But can all of us be fishermen? All the time? And should we?