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‘One day, while calmly mowing his cloud, the prince of Cloud City was accosted. The arch-rival of his kingdom, GooGooGaga (a terrifying creature, half man, half baby), approached from behind. With a mighty shove, the prince was thrown from his cloud and fell down to Earth. Landing in a swimming pool in Fresno, California, he was transformed into a seed, which floated into the womb of the woman who he would come to know as his mother.’ – Tales of Cloud City

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As a child I created what could be termed a Mythogeography, though artist Phil Smith had yet to coin the term. To escape from the drudgery of life in Fresno, I fashioned an origin story that kept my head firmly in the clouds. I walked the suburban streets muttering to myself and my cloud companions, engaged in an ongoing battle against the encroaching army of Gloomy City where GooGooGaga reigned. It was far less injurious to the mind to live in a fantasy world, far better to soak myself in unreal truths of my own making. The sky above me, vaguely mine, shielding me from the conservative repression and suburban malaise that still characterises my hometown.

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From Fresno to Santa Cruz, where the shackles of conservatism gave way to the chains of a utopian left. Romping barefoot in the redwood forests I discovered a different version of myself, one infused by Romantic poetry, the historical avant-garde, Marxist critical theory and a healthy dose of psychedelics. It was UC Santa Cruz where I first met this week’s walking companion, both of us wrapped in the spectacular bubble of banana slug life.

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Walking through Trent County Park with Newell and her coterie of Romantic poets, Stephanie and I slowed down and gazed up; we strolled at a pace more reminiscent of our years in the woods than what one might typically associate with London living.  Walking across an open field I was caught between who I once was and who I have become. The founding myths of my childhood and their expansion as a young adult still underpin my actions. They were the experiences that compelled me to walk in the first place: to take off my shoes and feel the ground underfoot, to create trips without psychedelic aids. I still battle Gloomy City–GooGooGaga remains undefeated–but on this day Cloud City was ascendant.

Penny Newell

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