The wood I gather from many different places. I find it in forests, on hills and beaches. There are no prerequisites for what makes a piece of wood suitable; it might be its texture, shape, or the contours of its extremities. Some, for example, curve out and away, like a curl of hair, or an unanswered question, while others are quite finite, contained within their shape. Some have charring on them that speaks of a long extinguished fire, or indentations where a woodpecker once drummed away.
With feathers it’s different. I like to collect them from my favourite ancient places, knowing that the birds that shed them flew over haunted landscapes, landed on ancient temples, built nests in precious marble, like they have done for thousands of years; or I collect them on Antikythera, the island of travelling birds.
Sometimes the boundaries blur; I look at my hands, my body, and imagine that under all that skin and flesh my skeleton is an intricate construction made of wood, my phalanges delicate twigs, my tibiae and humeri long smooth branches, my sacrum and cranium water-sculpted driftwood, my patellae tree knots.
The Ancient Greek word for wood was also the word for primordial matter, ‘hyle’, so perhaps the boundaries are not blurring, but clarifying. Perhaps my imagining my frame as wooden is a sign that I am learning who I am and what I am made of, am returning to my nature.
I like to imagine that one day, out of the gathered wood and bones and feathers, I will create an artefact/creature motley and flamboyant, part bird, part human, part animal and will name it ‘hyle’, or ‘so this is me, then’.