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ten·tac·u·lar | \ ten-ˈta-kyə-lər


Definition of tentacular

1 : of, relating to, or resembling tentacles

2 : equipped with tentacles

Almost 3 weeks into social distancing, and aside from silly amounts of cleaning - even window cleaning today - I find myself thinking about how to deal with all this ‘hunan ynysu’, islanding ourselves.

And I’ve had an idea.

We are (likely) only a fraction into what maybe months of potential islanding. But perhaps we are also equipping ourselves with tentacles… sensitive tentacles of connection:

  • Zoology. any of various slender, flexible processes or appendages in animals, especially invertebrates, that serve as organs of touch, prehension, etc.; feeler.

  • Botany. a sensitive filament or process, as one of the glandular hairs of the sundew.

There seems to me to be more phone calls, more amusing and loving posts and messages on facebook, more solidarity and ally-ship with diverse others, more talking (at a distance) while on walks… the opposite of the polarising and devisive Brexit-effect?

One tentacle in particular has inspired this post: Emily Meilleur and I have had a submission accepted into Tentacular, an online poetry, responses and arts magazine. Published today, you can see the issue here

Our submission is a sound compilation from our Bwystori Bethesda Bestiary, a multi-lingual piece which celebrates our Cydfod - Interbeing - with all the species within one space. All the beings - human and non human with whom we are intimately entangled. And I have felt - have you? - that these creatures are suddenly closer as the sounds and presence of humans fades. And the joy of this closeness seems to be happening in towns and cities (all those pictures of fish and dolphins in Italy, goats on the strees of Llanduno, wild boar in spanish towns) as well as here in the mountains. At the heart of it is the question ‘who is we?’ We are multi-species tentaculating!

And this, surely, leads us to tentacles that sense a new way of being in - and of - the world.

I’m not saying that this is going to be easy. But it is a more honest reflection of where we - all species on earth - find ourselves. In a condition of uncertainty. The story of linear progress has gone. Even here in the global north, we are facing the precarious nature of our situation. It is going to hit hard, and hardest on those with the least. It already is. Our tentacles will need to be long and inclusive, building a ‘we’, an ally-ship with those (human and non-human beings) suffering most, listening to the voices and lives that have not been heard, who are living in different ways, and who can show us a new way of being. And this is the future.

I’ve been thinking of growing vegetables. I haven’t done that since I was about 10, when my mother kindly made me a little ‘worm free’ bed (I have a phobia!) in which to grow tiny globe carrots and herbs. And strangely enough, this was one of the suggestions coming out of my ‘Sgwrs Dyffryn Peris Conversation’ project, in which I am talking with people of my valley about changes and the future. I’m thinking perhaps we could start a support group (online!) for others also trying for the first time. I would like some of my tentacles to be growing into the soil (could I become ‘we’ with the soil?)… and there is precident, as I found an old newspaper article from around 1905 where someone living in my house won prizes in the local show, for marrows and peas…

All my work this year is focusing on connecting people and place, and I’m lucky that although many things have been postponed, two of my projects are able to continue despite the islanding. The first is in Niwbwrch - Newborough on Anglesey. Here I’m working with a community woodland group - Llyn Parc Mawr - on interviews and old footage and photos to create a set of videos/sound files/visual prompts that might create some kind of ‘Anticipatory History’ (thanks to Iain Biggs for introducing me to the idea), in which we think of the future from a place of a tentacular exploring of the past.

The other is rethinking “Llinellau Llif - Flow Forms”, a show that Lisa Hudson and I were doing at Plas Bodfa, where we are mapping a derelict house with marble drawings and sound, with musicians Sioned Eleri Roberts and Katherine Betteridge, and poet Rhys Trimble. We are experimenting with turning our collaboration into one done online, and publishing the results. You can see our work as it develops here. We did a little ‘practice’ online with a Zoom meeting on Saturday night, with 48 creatives, with people from across the world sharing their work that they are taking online or posting into Plas Bodfa.


And then two new tentacles are sprouting, trying online collaborations based on place, with people far away - one with Iain Biggs, who is doing something around the idea and symbolism of ‘Corlan’ (enclosures) - read his early thoughts about it here; and the other with ‘artist and wanderer’ Walter Lewis, (introduced to me via Iain), who is interested in doing something around quarries. I’ve been playing with the idea of sound mapping the place, using sonograms. The sound of our non-human relatives are filling the space left by humans.

Meanwhile, Dyffryn Peris is getting organised. We were a bit traumatised by the sheer number of visitors the weekend before ‘lock down’ - with cars parked all along the road, the worst we’d seen, and the helicopter rescue service and Ysbyty Gwynedd hospital sending out messages that they likely can’t cope. Some responses to this have been increasingly vitriolic - I’ve even heard of people scratching ‘go home’ on camper vans. But others are being more creative - see this video by Robert Zyborska. Meanwhile, neighbours are visiting each other (at a distance), checking people are ok, and we have a community-organised support group for those in need in Llanberis/Nantperis. A facebook group has started in Nantperis where we share photos and observations each day. The pub quiz has gone online. Almost all traffic has stopped. And it feels good. Food banks and fundraisers have been set up. Collective organising of food from various distributors. It’s a start.

Who knows what will come next - but artists are out there, thinking about what to do. Two examples you could extend your tentacles into if you wish: The first is Lisa Heledd Jones, who has started a website Shifting Sands in which she is collecting stories, images and sounds of what life is/was like in this moment. And Louise Ann Wilson is developing ‘Walks to Remember During a Pandemic: With Memory I was There’, inviting you to send in memory-maps.

I hope you are OK, and that some kind of tentacular connections are forming for you too… perhaps we can build a better world from here?