A walk at night
By Rosa Postlethwaite

This text was written through a process of automatic-writing. A process Rosa was introduced to by Professor Lois Weaver during their undergraduate studies at Queen Mary University of London. With automatic-writing, Rosa tries not to edit their writing, or to stop writing for a set duration of time. It is a story written from experience. Rosa hasn’t tried to fact-check anything.

On the first night of the eco-camp, Etta and Jona led Rosa, Denise, Juliana, Ayesha, Charlotte, Cornelia, and Annika on a walk in the woods surrounding the farm.  
If I’m honest I was tired, and I was also worried that my social battery (maybe I’ll try another metaphor - my social honey pot) was nearing empty. But something happened whereby I was hanging in the place where we had planned to meet and instead of saying, “I’m just going to go to bed”, I just went along with it. 
We started at the outdoor eating-gathering-partying spot where most people were finishing off desert or wine. It’s a wooden enclosure, mostly a roof, lit by eclectic lamps and candles, rugs underfoot, tables, chairs of different kinds and sizes, it felt snug and fresh – a rare and gorgeous combination for me. Our smaller working group had been assigned prior to arriving at the farm. As a whole maybe there were over twenty of us, and our smaller group – we were maybe eight. Our group leaders were Gylleboverket’s artistic leaders, Johan and Etta. I’m not sure why the smaller group was grouped together - which I think is a good thing. I’d forgotten the professional biographies shared in advance and how they had been so impressive. I’d moved through these initial fears and now here we were, a group of maybe eight, who had met that day, and vulnerably shared why they had applied to be here. We’d had dinner together, and found places to sleep in the many beautiful beds and shelters provided at the farm. 
It was dark. That’s very important to know. And what else about us – we had done names, maybe we knew something of each other’s walking gait, mannerisms, accents, ethnicities, where we had travelled from. Guessed at what languages each other might speak. Admired some jumpers. Created an art installation with Saul García-López guiding us in this ritual. Shared in Saul’s philosophical rant. Grounded ourselves. Maybe. For me no, I think not yet. Maybe shared in awe at the farm. 
Here, writing, I remember, in a present-future-scape, a knowing, that at the time of the walk, I would have been thinking of people I wished were there, longing, thinking of times when things had gone wrong, how I had seen the stars somewhere else, my grandmother, alongside the gripping, brilliance of the present on the walk in the night. 
We go over an electric fence. We take it in turns, with a partner holding our arm or back. I think of the film Forest Floor by Robbie Synge and Julie Cleves. I think of the sheep that are here in the field. We see a large house over there. I can feel the sheep poo on the ground. I haven't noticed the sky yet. People’s features begin to be indistinguishable, eyes, nose, mouth blended. We talk. The field, thick grass, slightly uneven. The air is cool, not stinging. My face feels calm from the air and the dark. Twos, threes, ones we walk, still, together. Coats, trainers and boots, hats, body shapes. The rich spectrum of the dark black night shades – blues and greens the smallest drop of yellow. We reach a wooden fence that opens like a doorway. Either Jona or Etta explains (as we stand in a semi circle) that we will keep going, but in silence now. Jona will guide from the front and Etta will guide from the back.
The ground slopes. I look at the sky. Unbelievably scattered with stars, bright silver-white, like a toothbrush flick on a mirror. Familiar stars but I hardly know them. I think I spotted the Plough, but then I’m also pretty sure that that is the Plough on the opposite side of the sky and that is the Plough there. But I do know them beyond what I think of as knowledge. 
I’ve lost direction. As in, I don’t know which way is back to the camp. But the group is close and calm. No one has questioned my expertise. My body feels safe from within. The ground here is more uneven, with small hillocks and turns. Patches of trees and bushes to glide and stumble around. Path-making together. No, not path-making, we won’t return. But way-making.
And here is where things get really interesting. The part of the walk we will return to in stories, giggling, and theorising – this part will become a metaphor for collaboration, society, life. And perhaps personal metaphors for secret pasts and futures. In the present we were going forward straight into a large – bush? Tree? A hybrid. But no it goes on, and on, maybe twenty minutes of facing branches and twigs. Just before the bush, I remember we needed to watch our footing, which is a different thing to do in the dark. I say, silently, ”If this goes there, then how do I?” “Ok.” “Bum down and turn.” “How did my neighbour do it?” We’ve become a close line, a snake. As we hit the boundary between the kind of space we might be used to walking in where there is rarely a branch in our way to a space teeming with branches and feeling their resistance, I hold onto Charlotte’s hand and I take Etta’s hand behind me. We seem to be heading uphill. And slowly. We make tiny squeals, and breathing deepens. Sometimes I shoulder a branch and then stop to hold it from hitting Etta’s face behind me. Sometimes we move too fast, I can feel my arm extending, extending... After maybe fifteen minutes in the tree-bush (or maybe four) we start to laugh. We are lost. The first half of our snake is out of sight and out of sound. We sort of breathe together and laugh, crouched. Etta calls out for Jona. He responds ahead. We continue holding hands, onward. We continue to laugh. Release. I hold on tight. Another five minutes and we come out and join the others. Everyone I sense is smiling. Something to remember. And we are out. And I attend to the stars again. Still giddy. I think of my dream to go camping (as a child, and now). I’ve only been camping once before. I went with someone who was very familiar with it. I don’t know if he didn’t want to teach me or I didn’t want to learn. But it had been a scary trip. Always feeling outside of the loop. I knew I would have made it up if I were on my own, I could intuitively know the way, but when I was with someone else who wanted to do it alone and better... I never intervened. They may begrudge me for my mistakes. Even though I love and embrace failure, play, exploration. I still care if someone else doesn’t. It wasn’t a healthy relationship. I didn’t feel emotionally safe enough to fail. He probably didn’t either. I feel the acceptance from this group of almost strangers. I feel I could fail-succeed, something in between, an experiment. Go into the dark with others. We come back to the gate where the talking stopped and crossing this threshold we slowly, gently chat, with bursts of joy about the brush-tree bit. We laugh. 
In conversation I hear that we needed to crawl in the bush. There was a clear path through, which was made by a hog. And the first part of our snake had done this. The game of body-telephone got disconnected. All this time we’d been going face forward and we should have been crawling on our hands and knees, eyes to the ground, listening to our neighbour in front and feeling the path by the pig. Amazing. And only the second half of the group held hands (those crawling, I suppose, couldn’t). I think both were enlightened by each other’s techniques, and happy with their own. I notice the stars. Less bright. But still so bright so close to camp! This is only our first night. I could look at the stars again tomorrow night. We crossed the electric fence. The orange glow from the party-gathering areas. People drinking wine. We will be storytellers of the walk now. We look at each other in the lamps. Bright eyes. Giddy. Breathless. Connected. 

walking, storying

About the Author
Rosa Postlethwaite I am a performance artist, dramaturg and facilitator presenting work in Visual Art, Theatre, Dance and Cabaret/Club contexts. I am based in Coventry, UK and Aarhus, Denmark from August 2022. My practice is informed by socialist, intersectional feminist and queer movements and is interested in the relationship between macrostructures and daily life. I am currently a PhD researcher at Aarhus University and Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University. My practice as research PhD, ‘Dramaturgy with other-than-human species’, consists of live art projects exploring dramaturgy practice with fungi and plants. My first PhD project “Solos” with Sourdough (March–August 2022) explores doing dramaturgy with sourdough (a microbiome of yeasts and bacterias).