I have climbed up onto the moor, so high that the origami-folded valleys fan out at my feet. I breathe hard, stretch my arms wide and my body loose. The wind whips cold, pushing and tugging at clouds as thick and filthy as the fleeces of moorland sheep. A lamb bleats. A ewe twitches up from her graze and fixes me with her button eyes, chewing slowly.
I run on, swooping out onto the path to the trig point, and down again as it forks.
I do not know how it happens, but somewhere I take a wrong turn. I am on a track, passing through the mingling space of moorland and pasture above the village. I can see ahead of me familiar farmsteads and landmarks. I know where I am … and yet it does not feel right.
It feels unfamiliar, strange, unheimlich.
The track branches, snakes, branches, curves, branches. It roams. Hunkered sheep grow animate, shuddering to their feet around me. They watch me stumble.
And then I get it. I am not on walking paths but sheep tracks. I have slipped, somewhere in the twisting arc of my run, from the familiar world of human pathways to the unfamiliar world of animal traversal. I am not lost, but I am elsewhere.
A day or two later, I sit still, my jacket zipped tight, in a stone chapel that never grows warm. I have come for a choral performance. Women’s voices mingle and collide, flying into a cavernous roof built for a thundering pipe organ. They sing in Finnish and Swedish, in alternating harmony and discordance.
In ‘Tuulen Nostatus’ they sing to raise the wind; a wind to come sweeping and racing, scouring the land. They are women singing in an old chapel. Then they plunge into wild places. Their voices well, blossom, swoop. They are spirits, flinging shrieks and cackles across low incantantations. They serenade. They howl. They become the wind itself, whispering and rustling, blowing about the chapel walls.
As the song ends, we in the audience find our breath. We had slipped from our world and found ourselves elsewhere. There is a pause before we clap, a grasping moment as we regain a consciousness of ourselves as spectators at a performance.
Latour writes that there is no division between nature and culture. Not really. It is modernity’s creation; an artifice and artefact that produces and prescribes an ontological sense of ourselves.
Slipping from the sureties of a world mapped and measured, we become both here and elsewhere. It feels otherworldly, and this is precisely so. We have crossed between ontologies and become, at least momentarily, displaced.