The sensation of living

drawings from spoleto - Duomo 2007

All I am good for today is to steal, magpie-like, ideas from others. I scan and flick, allowing sentences to capture me. ‘What stands out is the sensation of living’, writes Rebecca Ray. Yes. The sensation of living. The sense of being alive. The senses involved in being alive. I am reading Rachel Joyce’s ‘The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’. He is walking, in deck shoes, to Berwick-on-Tweed to see a friend who is dying of cancer. A long way. He is exhausted, wet through, losing hope and suddenly the sky opens up and he sees everything with a new clarity, a simplicity, a beauty. The sensation of living. Using the senses to live, to be alive. Yes.

I think of the sun. An Italian sun. Spoleto. Walking up the steps from the Duomo in that light. So sharp it hurts. Everything is clear, distinct. Terracotta against azure. And white. Such white. Such clean white. And smells of sweet pastries, ground coffee, steamed milk, chocolate, peaches, petrol, dog shit, ice cream, baking bread all assailing my nose. To be away, like that. Transported to a foreign place, away from the minutiae of oneself is so wonderful. Sensational. I am made alive by the gift of it. Giving myself time to be in it. Alert to everything. Skin, nose, mouth, eyes, ears all alert to the everything of it.

Is it is enough to be just that creature? To not record, write, draw or deconstruct it, life. But just be in it. Part of it. Is it enough?

I walk Spoleto in my head. I walk Nerja in my head. I walk in those suns. A creature of habit. A creature of sense. Sensational, isn’t it?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.