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Cabin Life: 7 days on the 'Island' of West Cornwall

Marina Sossi writes about her winter residency in The Alt Haus - if you'd like to apply for the next women writer's residency which will take place in January / February 2025 please email me for details. Looking forward to hearing from you, Rebecca

"I felt myself beginning to unravel on the 5 hour train journey from London; making necessary correspondence and signing off online duties for the week, the layers of 'to do' and responsibility falling away. Rebecca had kindly organised a lift from Penzance, so I already felt held as I entered the wild west of Cornwall in the dark. Travelling through the bone valley, my driver made a reference to the Travelling Wilbury’s song ‘The End of the Line’ and I could sense the mystery beckoning; wanting me and my attention.

I settled into The Althaus at night, the fire already toasty and cooked a tasty dinner. Making myself at home, I felt excited by the view that would meet me when I looked out in the morning.

This night, I unpacked, organised the desk and made my plan. My mission these seven days was to write my play ‘Treehugger’. 

My daily schedule: get up, do yoga practice, eat oatmeal, drink coffee and listen to the radio, before sitting at my desk and writing for 3-4 hours. No messages, social media, calls or research. Then get out walking and exploring the moor (my reward), before a peaceful evening by the fire and preparing a yummy dinner.

Treehugger has been a long time cooking and therefore passed through a series of incarnations. Initially it was a piece that I was commissioned to make and perform, about communicating with trees (It never happened because of the pandemic). I had already become immersed in researching the ways trees communicate and discovered a treasure chest of nature writers and ecologists along the way. My early childhood connection to the natural world, plants and animals became reawakened, and I realised the de-naturing impact living in London for the past few years has had.

The play has since evolved into a heroine’s journey with a central female character exploring relationship; romantic, maternal, with the self and other. Through this the nature of duality, the balance of masculine and feminine and the power of myth unravel. Themes of coercive control, loss and suicide are central threads. Questions arise; How can we live with each other? How can we live with ourselves? Can nature save us? How can we realise wholeness in a complex and fragmented world?

I’m not a playwright. For years I have written poems and songs and pieces of text for performances that I make, but I have never sat down and written a play on my own. For people like me, being a writer or artist wasn’t really an option growing up, so I never admitted it for a long time,  not even to myself. 

I am an artist (I can say that now) and I have mostly devised performances, plays and happenings as an ensemble, with other people. Sometimes the text isn’t formally written down, sometimes there is no text, but there is always poetry. 

I’m not sure yet if Treehugger is a stage or radio play, whether it is a solo, two hander or bigger cast. But following my own guidance (the ‘rules’ I made at the beginning of my week) I will allow it to evolve and become what it is meant to be. This is the collaborative way I have always worked; continually in response, in dialogue and listening to and noticing everything. The quiet and isolation of this retreat was essential for cultivating and supporting the quality of attention I require to create alone in my own way. 

My retreat week was blissful. Every day I was so happy and the writing itself became easy, a natural, pure pleasure, as the distractions fell away. I fell in love with Cornwall and became slightly possessed by the incredible magic of this ‘island’ feeling the Penwith Peninsula has. Everything about the Althaus was perfect; the environment, the landscape, the design of the cabin and its amenities and the quiet, discreet presence of my host next door. Everything I needed was provided and held me in a special way, I can hardly describe. I am deeply grateful for this experience and cannot wait to return." Marina Sossi

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