Essays and prose
by Anna Tuhus
Horse Riding: Reflections on power, trust and counterbalancing acts
February, 2019 / Ogmore, UK
One does not talk with horses but move with them.
Stepping up by his side to let my gaze meet his and my hand fall gently on his neck, tenderly to make sure that he is fine with this. I breath into his nostrils to great him, he answers and heaves a gust of warmth on my cheeks, a taste of hay to swallow. The air is warm next to him.
He would take anyone for a ride and they said I would be safe with him. I place my left foot in the stirrup and swing my other leg over his back, sit down heavily in the saddle, my back straight, chin up, heels pressing down, imagine a sinker guiding my posture vertically and fixed, as I mount him.
They open the gate and the horde starts moving. Twenty horses or more, all of them know the route from the daily tours, every day the same. This morning, grey clouds has draped the sky like thick blankets, but it is not as cold as it was yesterday. We stroll the road downhill and cross the river, wading through the water that reaches high up his legs and just about touches my heels. He counters the stream and pulls across the current to the other side. I once heard someone say, that if a horse knew his strength he would never adhere to be bridled.
At first, he follows close on the tail of the horse in the lead, and stroll along as if I do not become him. I test him out. I make small gestures to direct him to hold for a moment or step to the side, only to see how attentively he listens. Soon, he gives in and he turns his trust to me. The space grows to the horse before him. He steps his own path through the landscape, his hooves sink into the riverside mud and a rhythm arises from the way he tugs his feet out of the clay ground. I am finding my rhythm to his beat, his limbs answers to my gestures. Under my command, on the narrow trail alongside bare hawthorn bushes, he shows me the way. His confidence grows to take the lead and now there is another muffle leaning right at his tail.
We move up the sand dunes now, and he and me reaches to the top before anyone else. I feel that he is eager, stepping lightly quickly skipping as if he is getting ready to take a leap, ears pointed and I know that he knows that something exciting is awaiting on the other side of the hill. He jigs like a puppy who wants to play, and I let him, I know I have him and I trust that he knows that he carries me.
I lean forward on him as he steps up the steep hill. I shift my weight from side to side to counterbalance his spine that moves like passing waves and when his back flattens out, I see the restless waters washing in on a broad beach stretching miles ahead on the riverside.
He is restless, too, when bringing me down to the shore. A group of horses gathered just where the waves break in, all of them as eager and now he has turned his attention over to them, alert and ready and suddenly, as if a startling signal and they all head off, a rapid four beat gait chasing the coastline and startling drumming heavy beating up a cloud of white sand. The speed picks up into a light flow and as he stabilises his posture within the increasing speed, he flies. And I am with him, with my fist clenching hard in a grip of his mane and I have to give in to the pace of the horde. He has no sense of me now. If I bounce out of rhythm is indifferent, his body is strong enough to take the weight of mine even when I fail to follow and collide with the beat. I need to hold on tight to him, for me. I can feel that my foot has stuck into the stirrup and I know it means, that if I fall off he will drag me along, oblivious to whether I scratch or hurt or breach. It would not make him halt if I fall. So now he is in charge of me, caught up in the whirlwind of the gallop.
The sky is grey and the crest of the river reflect the clouds and they are grey too and the light sand reflects the same grey and at the line where the sky and the earth meet – at the horizon, the sun breaks through the blankets and it stretches into a stripe of boiling gold. My eyes rests upon this ribbon of auric light and it makes it seem like we are still and afloat, although his muscles move like swirling floods and I swirl with them or am them, everything else is static still. He carries me through these greys and flowing gold, if fog or clouds, through the sky. I am of the sky.
He slows down, as the others halts. I feel his heartbeat at the inside of my calf, this big muscle pounding heavy hard. Sweat breaks through his fur. I run it through my fingertips. He wades into the river to cool down. I do not try to say, or make, him do another way. If I let him, he would not listen. I believe he has seen me fear now, and soaked it from my skin to know, not to rely on me again. From here, we head into the forest.
26.02.2019 / London, UK
Guest writing for the blog Experimental Research Methods for Arts & Design, connected to the Information Experience Design programme, Royal College of Art. Edited by Dr Dylan Yamada-Rice.
Read the post here:
About the ground, borders and breaking stones
07.09.2016 / Oslo, Norway
This summer I have a recurring dream, images of nude people crawling in the mud by rail tracks. They seem to be committed in an endless strive uphill, grinding their bodies on an infinite trail. Bare limbs are rubbing against each other in the cramped hordes, but no one seems to notice the other bodies intertwining with their own – each one fixated on their own struggle. Heavy chains are hauled in the slippery dirt along the tracks. They rattle with every pull and scrape cold against sweating skin. I cannot figure out if the vision is speaking of sex or about God. I am not sure whether there even is a difference. I think, I would like to talk this through with someone. Then I think, I should be ashamed of myself. / There is a rhythm to the pull and a beat to endure the grind. I tell a friend about the dreams, about the nude crawling and the infinite rail tracks. He thinks that I am speaking of hell. My words falter as I try to explain the difference between hell and love and labour.
I have spent the summer of 2016 up north. The days have been imbedded in cold drizzles and dim shadows reflecting the grey clouds. But just as I had given up hope on feeling the sun warming my face, September brought an Indian summer. Blue skies make me forget and forgive all of July and how you-lie.
I believe that an apocalyptical worldview is just a trait of collective human consciousness, with each generation dreading a moral collapse as if the world was ever better before. I do not think that we are on a downward spiral, but this summer I feel that the ground is somehow shaken a bit of its axis. I follow the news. This summer I see Farage captaining an island to pull up its anchor from its harbour, only to jump overboard as the ship sets out on uncharted waters. I remember waking up in London on the sunny morning when Brexit was announced, to the unease of a country splitting up from a continent and possibly splinter within itself. This summer I hear Trump speak of his inability to smash up the lithosphere from his position on top of his tower, and how he would compensate his shortcomings by constructing a cleft raised above ground. This summer Sweden has changed their migration laws to limit asylum seekers rights to family reunification, calling it a solution to a crisis; As if the real crisis was not actually happening on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea – where vicious forces stone people to death and hang the corpses up to display, while turning homes and cultural heritage into desert gravel. It is all new borders, new cracks. If I put my ear to the ground, it seems like I can hear the continental plates cracking under the pressure of billions of feet trampling them. The earth seems as fragile as an eggshell. It appears to be a strong arch, but with a hit on a softer angle it will split open for the magma to pour out into a heated frying pan.
I go out to the woods and pick a rock of a size that I can just about hold with one hand. A red piece of granite, inclusions of quartz resembles fish scales glittering in the sun. This type of stone is tough and withstanding, massive blocks of it is used for constructing buildings - but its grainy texture creates softer angles where a crack can occur if it is hit. I use a hammer and a nail to break the stone into smaller pieces, turning it into a pile of pebbles and sand. It lies by my feet as an intricate puzzle. Every piece of stone belongs to another and I wonder if I would have the patience to fit them back together again. There is a rhythm bouncing with every crack brought down in stone, and it takes a beat of a heart to mend it.
About jewels and stones and place as a home
24.08.2016 / Eda, Sweden
I take a flight, then a train, then a bus, to go to see my father. Once my home too, this big house encircled by a hopelessly untamed garden. By now the sandbox in the backyard has since long turned into a self-sufficient little jungle and raspberry bushes have proven to grow like weeds if they are allowed to do so. I feast on apples and cherries from lush trees and keep the dog company on the lawn, feeling the grass tickle my ear. The house itself has been made into a home for this family over the time of a couple of decades, with the jumble of chattels and memorabilia that comes with it. When people truly inhabit a house, the interior eventually tends to start growing as wild and organically as the garden surrounding it.
Among the many things, there are stones in each room. I see them on shelves, in baskets, on top of the piano, decorating corners of window sills or used as paper-weights on a desk, heavier rocks used as doorstops. None are at first sight peculiar, just stones that one can find on a walk in the forest or on the side of a road. Collected by a younger me because I found them pretty, or by my mother who would be drawn by the charm she found in small details, by my father for being put to practical use or by my brother, who would hoard just about anything.
I remember being five years old and obsessed with white stones, fair minerals of a size that could fit into a pocket. In a landscape of pine trees resting on grey bedrock, these white pebbles were unusual and attracted my attention. For this I found them precious. Drawn to their lustre I collected any white pebble that I spotted. I brought them all home, where my mother put them in a bucket that eventually got filled to the brim. It was a bucket of raw gems in my eyes, my treasure trove of white stones. I search for these stones now, eager to see what I can make of them today. I dig out boxes of forgotten toys and shine a flashlight in the dark back corners of the garage, but without luck. I pull my brothers away from computer screens and engage them in the search. We rummage through every nook of the house, until one of them recalls he might have taken a bucket of rubble to a gravel pit during a spring cleaning a few years ago. In his memory he found pile of useless pebbles, and so he got rid of the rubbish.
The word jewel, picked up by the English tongue through French influences, derives from the Latin word jocale, which was phrased in the years of the Roman Empire. The actual meaning of the latin word would be “precious object”, or “little object of joy”, and I find this definition to be truthful still. Jewellery is objects made for pleasure; Little things that sparkle, surfaces that shine - chosen pieces that delights our senses. We desire to bring these treasures close, constructing the objects to fit closely on to our limbs and weigh into our skin, as if to adjoin them to our own bodies. Adornment, attached and moving with us. Objects to which we attribute sentimental qualities, and by doing so crooking the concepts of value in a material world. So it happens, that a bucket of white pebbles can be a treasure trove to one, but useless to another.
I am not a hell of a lover, but I understand the importance of practising these things. To be a maker of jewellery is an attempt to hold on to another – the object a bridge between my hands and you. The relation is way more tactile than we would like to mention, yet just happening in a brief rub between two different worlds. My perception of reality, channelled and manifested in a piece – but in the passing on it becomes something else, as it becomes your body and your story to tell.
But then, how can I hope to find your skin touched by something that I did not put weight to myself? How can I hope to see you grasp and hold on to something so tightly, if it did not come from my own rib cage ripped open? I find that deep conversations come with boldness and strive for honesty, from both parts. It is my job to give of myself, if I want to cut straight to a heart; The personal is the most professional for a jeweller.