In 2001 I began to investigate the various ways in which stones move around the world. Inspired by a dream dreamed shortly after my grandmother's death, this project has evolved from an acorn of an idea conceived on the slopes of Cader Idris into an international public art adventure.
This adventure has so far involved the creation anad siting of three stones in public places with the words 'And stones moved silently across the world' carved into them by Alec Peever. The first stone is in Bristol, U.K., the second (a 13kg piece of white limestone that I carried in my suitcase) is in a retreat centre, U.S.A., and the third (a 12kg piece of grey limestone which I also carried in my suitcase) is in a park at Kanahooka Point, Australia. The 4th stone is sited on the Isle of Iona, Scotland.
Alyson has recently given talks about her work at UWE and at the Geology Society in London.
Click here to view Migrating Stones
The idea for the project came just days after my paternal grandmother's funeral. As I lay dozing in bed I remembered a voice that had spoken to me in my dreams. "It’s time to go and climb Cader Idris," the voice said. How curious, I thought, thinking there was nothing else to it. But the idea of climbing the mountain insisted itself into every waking moment and so I cancelled work appointments, hired a car, packed a tent, some food, good walking boots and set off for North Wales.
I had never climbed a mountain before and was uncertain why a dream might be directing me to do so now. It didn’t take long to find out. Half-way up the slopes of Cader Idris I came across a large boulder that looked completely out of place. As I stood there wondering why it looked so different a man happened to pass by. He also happened to be a geologist. He told me the stone was an erratic that had broken away from its motherbed centuries ago, lodged in ice and then set off on a very long, slow journey. The carriage of ice carved canyons and gorges as it moved along and when the sun next shone strongly enough the ice melted and the erratic stone was deposited in a new and unfamiliar landscape.
I was fascinated by this. Gripped. Bewitched. I felt as if a door had opened onto a different way of seeing the world. Instead of being eternally fixed in place, stones were suddenly fellow travellers and movement was an essential part of their natures. I thought not only of erratics but also of the stones we place on graves, the pebbles that we bring home after a day at the beach. Was it possible, I wondered, for that pebble to want to be picked up and taken away as much as I wanted to pick it up and take it with me?
Stones are considered sacred in nearly all cultures. In addition to this virtually everyone I meet has a special stone or a story to tell about a stone. Why is our connection to stones so strong? These were just a few of the ideas and questions buzzing around my mind when I applied to the Arts Council for funding. To my astonishment they granted it and my project, The Migration Habits Of Stones, was born.
So far I have created three public works of art for the project. Each one is a piece of stone that has the opening line of one of my poems carved into it. The line says,
And stones moved silently across the world
The first stone is a large piece of slate from North Wales. I approached the wardens of Leigh Woods in Bristol and asked them if they’d like to give a home to a travelling stone. Their response was enthusiastic and positive: they generously offered a space just off the purple path that runs through the wood and helped me plan and organise an public event to mark the arrival of the stone. Lois Rose invited the second stone to take up residence in the grounds of her retreat centre in Massachusetts, U.S.A. I flew with this stone, a piece of limestone that weighs 23 kg, into New York on September 11th 2004 and wheeled it through the streets of the city in my suitcase. I wanted to be there on that date remembering not only the terrorist attack on the twin towers but also Pinochet’s coup in Chile on September 11th 1973. I wanted the journey to be a small gesture of peace in some way.
Whilst staying at the retreat centre I dreamed the name of the location for stone number three: Koonawarra. I returned to England and typed this word into google. It is a bay just south of Sydney in Australia. More than that though, in the Aboriginal language the word means high point of land with smooth white stones.
You can read more about the journey of Migrating Stone number three on the blog that I have created at migratingstonenumber3.blogspot.com.
In all, I imagine making seven stones in my life-time.
Click here to view Migrating Stones
Migrating glass continues my conversation with the land through the medium of glass. This aspect of the project focuses more upon memory; how people remember places and how places in turn remember people. I have etched a short poem into a block of cast lead-crystal glass. I carry this block to different places around the country and photograph it in different locations, at different times and in different weathers. It is becoming a visual diary of movement, light and memory.
Click here to view Migrating Glass
This library has evolved from my work in public art. As a poet who likes to lift words from the page and enshrine them in stone or glass this project allows me to develop and deepen my own practice of seeing how light, language and space interact.
As author of The Stone Library I credit and offer special thanks to all the artists I have collaborated with: Alec Peever (stone carver), Susan Nixon (glass artist), Opus Glass Design, Sean Malyon (photographer), Neil Jenkins (web-site designer). Thanks also to the stones themselves and to the people who are coming forward to share and participate in my vision by offering homes to the erratic poem-stones I am creating.