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Artificial Shores


A few weeks ago I found myself back in Yorkshire at the fascinating and inspiring Hebden Bridge which, as it turned out, was only a half-hour bus ride from Haworth, the home of the Brontes. During the week a friend kindly took a look at what is called my Human Design chart. For those who don't know, it's akin to astrology but with dividends I never knew astrology to deliver. One phrase she used stood out for me, that of my need for 'artificial shores'. My understanding is that these are sort of liminnal experiences, where I need to be between one state and another. This made a lot of sense. What has been described in me as a social anxiety, where I don't like dinner parties, can even be likened to a fear known as deipnophobia. Yet the human design approach identifies this as a positive thing, where one flourishes between worlds (if I understand right). This seems more accurate to me than deipnophobia, because I enjoy being around people including dinner parties but preferably on the periphery, where I can come and go as I wish. Rather presciently, my already-written book to be published next year, has three main characters who consciously choose to live between outer space and the main refectory.

I was born in north Scotland by the sea, and spent much of my early life in that area. In adulthood I have lived largely by the sea and when not, like so many people, I travel to it for a break in order to rebalance myself. My friends scattered all over the world and whom, until the last two years, I visited as frequently as possible, also mostly live near the sea. In Hebden Bridge (see above picture) water is very present, so much so that house owners can't get flood insurance because of the certainty of that event. Walking to town along the canal made mundane activities like shopping a more pleasurable experience. But still it wasn't the full untamed force of nature I've been accustomed to being near.


To get to Haworth from Hebden Bridge, one has to go over the moors and, whilst doing so, I felt the sheer power of the landscape, understanding that it was this which provided such a strong driving force for novels such as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I've known moors all my life both in Scotland and South West England, but this one had a wild unique quality I hadn't met before. When getting to the Bronte Parsonage, I was surprised how close to the main street of the town it was. I'd always imagined it to be more isolated on the moor. Pilgrims from all over the world simply had to take a two minute walk from the main hub.


The house wasn't in the centre of the town, but at the edge, 'betwixt man and wilderness'. Not only that, being a parsonage it was also by the cemetery, between life and death. The Brontes, I realised, reaped the benefits of being located on more than one artificial shore. The kitchen was tiny, like many of the rooms, the accompanying literature explaining how the siblings would sit by the fire and listen to the cook's tales and folklore from the countryside. Another archetypal boundary, or juxtaposition, of the comforting fire, warmth and conviviality in contrast with terrifying tales of the beyond. Wuthering Heights may have had its nascent beginnings here.

Yet it was the dining, room I found the most evocative. It was here apparently that the siblings would meet, share their ideas - and write on the table dominating the space. I found it overwhelming to be there, knowing as I did their tragically short lives and what would be given to the world despite that. I had had similar feelings when standing on ancient battlefields. At least here, something beautiful and extraordinary had emerged transcendent out of it. When I could compose myself, being the only one there, I turned to the guide who was standing outside the door. 'Is this the actual table where they wrote?' I asked. 'Yes,' she beamed, animated, 'isn't it amazing?' Yes, yes, it was.



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