On this day we gathered to share a meal of root vegetables. To celebrate our own roots, the power of our female line. Some has to be said were not strictly root vegetables, but rhizomes, while others various relations of cabbage, but all of them making me think of the soil, all still carrying traces of their close associations with earth.
It was a slightly cooler day than the last, and the hot vegetables felt comforting, as we shared them around the table.
Unlike in the past, it was hard to preserve the sense of ceremony, because Clementine, now fully mobile and self-propelling, was too impatient to adhere to the slow rhythms. But that too is part of the ongoing story, the transformation that never ceases . Even as we return to the same place, re-enacting similar patterns, time works its powers and things change. Of course these changes are most visible in the child: last year Clementine was not speaking, not walking. Now she expresses herself in 3 languages.
And Anna has decided not to come, Bohemia is far from the excitement of London, her friends and community.
In us adults, the one year’s transformations are less marked, but they are there all the same, as we spiral through the cycles of seasons and months and reuniting annually, in summers, here.
Extra lines in the skin, tautness replaced by marks of use, the pull of gravity of the Earth, causing everything to be drawn downward, towards the soil from which all the plants have sprung. I find it almost therapeutic to have to scroll through the footage and face my own image on the camera. At times to see what I would prefer not to see. It’s like an annual moment of reckoning, the acknowledgment of time: this is where I am, right now.
Other bigger things have changed too: there is a pandemic in the world, we have been isolated from each other for more than 3 months.
On a personal level, I have adjusted to the new life with a new daughter. I have completed a feature film, shown at the Whitechapel in January and I have purchased a new camera, which for me is a step, as I am quite attached to my old one. The different camera, which I am slowly getting used to, enables me to film differently: I find myself moving away from the static to the more dynamic. I enjoy this lightness, although some of the focus and sense of intimacy has shifted now.
We film a sequence in the garden: my grandmother leads us, she walks fast, as we circle the garden of the farmhouse. It is a new location for our filming too, only few meters from the barn, with a sense of the landscape, the place.
When we finish, my grandmother asks to watch last year’s film. I like the idea of watching the film together in the barn, the very same place where I shot it.
The signal from the wifi is poor, so that the film keeps stopping, interrupting the experience. At one point Clementine runs in and watches as she was “baptised” with water in the very same barn last year. I wonder what she will think about all this as a grown up, one day in the future. Will she appreciate she has had this time, with her great grandmother, even if she becomes unconscious of these moments? Will she relive them and re-narrate them, through these images captured on camera, to make her very own life story?
For a moment, I have the same sense of looking into that hall of mirrors, something that first happened in my grandmother’s flat in 2015, in front of a mirror, and then again recently, on Skype (the digital two way mirror), as we connected 4 generations between London and Prague. In this hall of mirrors, shared between us, the generations, the living time stretches in both directions: into the past, the known that is constantly being re-narrated and the future, which is as yet unknown, although can be felt.
Interestingly, I realise here, the future is behind us, while the past is constrained inside the monitor, in front of us. Neither of them fixed, neither of them dead.
What does it mean to have the future behind us and the past in front?
I am reminded of C G Jung, and this particular quote:
“Every mother contains her daughter in herself and every daughter her mother and every mother extends backwards into her mother and forwards into her daughter. This participation and intermingling gives rise to this particular uncertainty as regards time: a woman lives earlier as a mother, later as a daughter. The conscious experience of these ties produces the feeling that her life is spread out across generations – the first step towards the immediate experience and conviction of being outside of time, which brings with it a feeling of immortality.” (C G Jung, Science of Mythology).
This is not just an academic text, this has become a living reality for me.
Tereza Stehlikova, Chvalkov, South Bohemia, 2020