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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008
    It is not lost. It is wherever it is
    An unexpected invasion of high emotion for me, during Karen Smith's talk at TRIP. She re-engaged me with the work of David Nash and the 25-year journey he took following a wooden boulder which he'd sculpted in woodland above Blaenau Ffestiniog, on its river route downstream. From 1978 Nash documented the boulder’s slow, unpredictable trajectory and changing environment until it reached the sea in 2004.

    When I first discovered what he'd been doing [blog, June 2004] I was greatly moved by Nash's fidelity to the boulder, his dedication to the task of visiting and revisiting and recording the wooden sphere's gradually shifting resting places (as illustrated here).

    Karen quoted Nash writing about the final months of his time with the boulder, his impressions on realising that it had given itself up to the sea:
    Then in November 2002 it was gone. The ‘goneness’ was palpable. The storm propelled the boulder 5 kilometres, stopping on a sandbank in the Dwryd estuary. Now tidal, it became very mobile. The high tides around full moon and the new moon moved it every 12 hours to a new place, each placement unique to the consequence of the tide, wind, rain and depth of water.

    In January 2003 it disappeared from the estuary but was found again in a marsh. An incoming tide had taken it up a creek, where it stayed for five weeks. The equinox tide of March 19 2003 was high enough to float it back to the estuary where it continued its movement back and forth 3 or 4 kilometres each move.

    The wooden boulder was last seen in June 2003 on a sandbank near Ynys Giftan. All creeks and marshes have been searched so it can only be assumed it has made its way to the sea. It is not lost. It is wherever it is. [source]
    It was that last couplet which struck me deeply, unexpectedly, in a Manchester lecture room last weekend. It is not lost. It is wherever it is. Nash's statement of farewell to that object which had been his companion for a quarter of a century does not permit a sense of loss. Rather, the sculptor, the treader of river banks and wader along estuary shores in regular searches for his boulder, is willing to let his creation go, to give it up to its new life, 'wherever it is'. I reckon it must have taken some doing, embracing that attitude after all that effort over all those years. And I'm moved by the generosity in that.
    Pic: David Nash, Wooden Boulder, from Nash's pages on the Annely Juda Fine Art website