My amazing year as Talliston Writer-in-Residence came to an end this October. I had one final autumnal meet with the inspiring Talliston writing circle, during which we made the last recordings for our podcast, which I am editing at the moment. It will include pieces we wrote on the theme of dreams during this year, many of the pieces having been recorded in the house itself.
I've said this before, but if you have never been to Talliston, go! This beautiful environment was created by the wonderfully stubborn will and gargantuan efforts of one man, John Tarrow, rightly described as a visionary, who built this magical place out of daydreams and fantasy as well as hard work and determination.It’s existence provides a gentle but insistent challenge to us all -to give ourselves permission to dream, to work to make those dreams a reality, like John has.
During the year of my residency, the house and gardens made me ask myself : where do I want to live? What do I want my home to look like? Sound like? Smell like? What is possible? What is impossible? According to whom? If it is impossible why not do it anyway?
This house and it's creator truly are perfect examples of that beautiful quote
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Mary Oliver
So go see the house, then go and live you life as fully, vividly, passionately and wildly as you can. This is what I have taken with me this year.
But that is not all.
There is the book -"The Strangers Guide To Talliston"- such a treat to read.
It came out during the year of my residency and as soon as it did, John entered a whirlwind of interviews and book signings.
I’m not sure anyone has done anything like this before. To carve out a wonderland from a council house, to then spin a tale of such rich complexity inspired by the house itself- what an incredible endeavour.
This book lives up to the promise of the house which inspired it: it’s a rollicking adventure through time and space, rich with mythology and folklore, but filled with ordinary childhood (and grown up) perils and trials too. I loved it. I took it with me to what remains of the Great North Wood near my house, and got the pages all rain splattered as I sat and read underneath the huge oaks there.I took it to a hotel in Brooklyn and read it in the. sweltering heat of a New York heatwave. I read it on the 47 bus to Lewisham. I read it whilst sitting on a bench on the Southbank at midnight. I read it in my bath. I read it in my garden under a full moon, in front of a bonfire. I also read it during my last stay at Talliston, in the cabin, as I spent some time alone writing and watering plants in our own heatwave this July. As a result of all those travels, the book is a bit of a state. It is very well loved. At times it is is breathtakingly beautiful and tears at your heart, at other times it's an adrenalin fueled adventure. John told me his intention had been to write a children’s classic, and he has succeeded. I’m looking forward to the next one.
Whilst in Talliston, in the cabin, I made charms out of feathers I had found in the woods, and moon water and hand made paper and purple ink, drank strange dark teas to encourage lucid dreaming given to me by a shamen in a sleep temple in Islington (yes, there is such a thing), and wrote.
The dreams I had whilst at Talliston were intense, but the last one, of a wild woman living in the forest was the one I chose to include in our podcast. I dreamt of the forest during my last stay in the cabin, in the morning I woke at day break and scribbled down thoughts.
John gave me the confidence to go ahead and write the book I want to write rather than the book I think I should write and for that I am eternally grateful. I am halfway through the first draft and loving every minute.
I took a sample of earth from the front garden of Talliston home with me, and I keep it in my cabinet of curiosities (or wunderkammer as I love to call it as I love this German word). I kept a few momentous of my stay to remind me to have the courage to dream and to realise my dreams
Once visited, Talliston is never forgotten. Once read, The Strangers Guide stays with you, like the best sort of dream, long after waking. Let's all have the courage to live full lives, with a fierce heart, in which ever ways we are able.