The Clearing is a vision of the future in the grounds of Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park

Caretaker report

19 November 2017

Michelle Madsen

Join Me

13th - 18th November 2017

Day one - arrive
Day two - supplies
Day three - inspired
Day four - thrive
Dat five - retire

Inventory: Two bottles of cool delicious freshly pressed apple juice and a lot of jars of honey. Vats of mead which are not to be touched. An oar with a tag around its neck saying ‘RIP”. A chessboard made of screws and whittled twigs. A sleeping bag. A hidden blanket. A basket of logs, the woodburner starting to crackle into life. A filing cabinet filled with tins, pulses, other things. A drawer with two cereal bars and a bag of marshmallows. A shelf filled with experiments - copper wire star mobiles, feather quills, postcards, poems, momentos.

And I can hear the roar of traffic less than a hundred metres away but aside from the headlights strobing the bricks around the fire there is nothing here to suggest other bodies. just me and the lights shimmering on the lake. I build fire upon fire, I cook onions. i think about painting the hexagons inside the dome, i think about painting a poem into them. i think this would be a dickish thing to do unless the poem really belonged here. Earlier today I meet a woman called Sarah who helps me check the chicken for lice, one is losing feathers around her neck. I am unsure what to do about it but Sarah seems confident. She holds the bird upside down and says that the psychology and physiognomy of a chicken is wholly rooted to their willingness to squat for a rooster. ‘You feed them, they think you are their rooster’ she says, scraping around the chicken’s all purpose vent for signs of insect life. No signs. She concludes Beyonce must be trying to jam her head out of the bars of her cage.

The chickens stalked me today, their dinosaur eyes wheeling in their heads as they hummed and clucked in circles, pecking at the cooking pot, my legs, then running off with the bread. They eat the sausage meat from the knife when my back is turned. I wonder if they would eat me if they had the chance. They are curious and roam around in the house, They shit everywhere. I almost tread in it.

The skies are heaving tonight, no stars. I read Ursula Le Guin and wonder how I should leave my mark. it is half past six and i think of going to bed because it is dark and it takes a lot of effort keep the fire going but it is not cold tonight, it is quite warm and i have eaten enough to keep myself going for a while. For a long while. the dome gets warmer and i watch the bars of energy on the computer diminish. I think about painting by candlelight, i have ink, what would i make? I would trace the lines of the damp stains on the wood lining the walls of the dome. I like the shapes they make, like fingers reaching out from the lake under the dome. I do not think we should ignore these shifts between wet and dry. The future seems to be a lot to do with maintaining states, wet and dry, warm and cold, clean, dirty, fed, not fed.

I think about how much easier it is to live if you can divide up the tasks, and what the optimum number for a community might be. I think about how being one is wasteful - I make enough food for four people because that is the minimum i can make without leaving half tins of things which would spoil. So I make too much food and eat too much of it and wonder what it would have been like to have shared it with someone. I think about longing and wanting and desiring. I drink red wine and want a cigarette. The 12 volt lights give an eerie glow, as if the future comes in candlelight near blind warm burning glow or bleak stark blue light which may disappear at any moment. I wonder about taking this time away and what means to disappear from social media and to be thinking. Will it come to anything? Does it need to? My bones will be burned, or buried, same as anyone else. The trees will not laud me for the poems i have written. tonight i will read and tomorrow i will paint and make bread and write those things. now to save electric.

Bacon fat crackling in the pan and a fresh egg, bubbling at the whites. This morning i wake up late, i have spent more than 10 hours in bed, i guess. I think about anythings, I write them down when i wake up. i wash. i eat, i paint a panel of the wall blue, following the lines i drew on it the first night i got here. Tonight, i am using up the last of the power on my laptop to write by the fire. i feel full and fat and sated. It is easy to eat lots when there isn’t anyone to share the food with. i wonder what to do next, i have read and eaten and it is not quite 7pm. the next village is half an hour’s walk away but the road is fast and it is dark and i am unsure how long my torch will last. The nights in the future are dark. The nights in the future (in November) are long. I contemplate waking the chickens up. i decide not to. i think about writing and working but i decide not to. i am full and fat. there is nothing to do, nothing to be done, apart from all of the many things to do and be done. The room is filled with acrostics.

Frost, shooting stars, all the constellations i have never met, smoked pizza and buns, painting, Barthes, meeting the groundsman, a lift to Kineton, cooping the chickens, the folly looking at the other folly, the blue walls, the writing on the walls, the dark things that go bump in the night, the things i don’t need to write right now.

Cool but not cold, definitely not cold and definitely not cold for November. My breath barely mists in front of me, the fires feel slightly unnecessary. The weather tells us how far we have already come

Long are the nights, and the reflections of the cypress tree on the still surface of the lake. Losing focus, back on social media, losing focus, tapping onto the keys of a keyboard. Losing focus.

Early mornings grey and quiet after billowing nights, dark, rich adventures into the deep.

Always the dawn, red rippling on the lake and a brightness in the frost and a tramp across the field to the small wood to hunt for fungi in the leaf mulch.

Ripe stems, delicate uprights with brown velvety caps bruising as I pack them into the bag in triumph

Indigestion. Was it the mushrooms, or the sooty dough, or the unwashed cup or, or, or...

No, I don’t live here. No I don’t work here. No, I am just here for a week. Yes you can look around, be my guest. Have a cup of tea, sit down, join me. Join me.

Grenading the wood, the weight of the axe in my arms, the cycling of the head through the air and the ringing of steel upon steel as it hits the grenade into the wood. The fleshy white of the log pulling apart like cheese strings. The next log. Again. Again.