Death is change, transformation: for the departed and for the people they leave behind. Ian has died and although I cannot comprehend what that really means, I am utterly devastated: the world has shifted on its axis again. Ian – so Present, running full tilt at every adventure life offered him – is travelling onwards to whatever comes next. I’ve no doubt that he’ll enjoy every moment of it, but, for now at least, I’m in limbo until I can find my own way forward.
2010: As Jhonn Balance’s (Geff Rushton’s) partner, Ian has chosen the place for Balance’s memorial – an acre of woodland at the Woodland Trust’s ‘Church Plantation’ at Bassenthwaite Lake in Cumbria. It is perfect; a short walk from the hawthorn tree where Ian had scattered Geff’s ashes five years previously. I email Ian, thanking him for the directions to the memorial he’d put on his website and saying I hope to visit one day.
23 drawings for The 23 Stab Wounds of Julius Caesar; Ian’s art, such intricacy surrounded by such space. He is intrigued by my writing. We swap pieces of work. He treats me as an equal, always. Such a rare thing, it’s worthy of note. Never seeking or needing mainstream success, believing in himself and his imagination, telling me to enjoy my own imagination and celebrate it because so many people don’t possess one.
A little honey
His life is in two places – at Cantu Fermusu [agroforestry project in Asturias, northern Spain] with his partner, Mikel Quiros, and in Cumbria, his birthplace, helping his mother at her home. In between he’s in London with friends and collaborators. My self-imposed exile to Cornwall has me wondering whether our paths will ever physically cross and I realise this is too much to leave to fate.
Ian has no plans to die. He’s exhilarated to be returning to Cantu after spending much of the last year in Cumbria. He tells me what he wants to be like when he’s 70, that he will spend most of the rest of his life reading and gardening. He wants to see the Northern Lights. He wants to visit my favourite sacred sites here in Cornwall with me. So many plans for living. How can he be gone?
Cantu inspires me; life, stripped back to the basics, lived closer to nature as Ian and Geff had once planned. Ian invites me and T to stay and sends photographs of the amazing work he and Mikel have done. I set a story of mine, The Man Who Builds The Ruins, in northern Spain to pay homage to the pair of them. After discussing with Ian about what I was writing and why, I realise I’m now a dark fantasy/horror writer rather than the other way round. What looks like a subtle change is in fact huge, an acknowledgment that the negative forces of London are behind me, that I’m now exploring more fully the dark light: altered states, the Afterlife, the natural magic that humans are capable of. Writing – and, hopefully, reading – my work is now a more positive experience.
21 September 2014: we’re amongst the stones of Castlerigg stone circle and Ian is walking towards us flanked by his friend D and Lolly and Thora, his two dogs. The mountains surrounding the circle are phenomenal, each stone shaped like the mountain rising behind it. I don’t hug people but I hug Ian, so happy to meet him in the flesh at last.
25 September 2014: We meet at Wild Zucchini’s café in Cockermouth, and take up where we had left off a few days before. Ian’s alone this time and has bought a carrier bag full of gifts for me: bits and pieces of Geff’s, a copy of The Ape of Naples which Ian has signed, some of Geff’s remembrance cards from Ian and Sleazy. All carefully wrapped up in yellow tissue paper (and when I arrive home to Cornwall I find he’s also sent me Geff’s funeral music). Again, I’m almost incapable of speaking for a while, overwhelmed by his thoughtfulness. We talk about so much, including a little about his relationship with Geff. I want to ask a million questions about Geff and Coil but I wonder if it’s unfair; would it be holding him in the past to do so?
I hate you, White Man
And he gleefully tells me that women and faggots are going to save the planet, that I’m right to be horrified that the Conservatives have won the General Election and how much he’s looking forward to getting his copy of Storylandia when he’s next in Cumbria. I know I have to return to Cumbria, too, although I’m sure it won’t be possible before 2017. Part of me knows that it’s going to be too late by then, a continuation of the feeling I’d had when we parted company in Cockermouth in September – that it was vital to remember every moment of our meeting, as it would be the last time I’d ever see him.
Nature/Magick/Art/Love. Bright blue eyes, magnificent goat-beard. My friend, my ally. We have lost so much.
Maybe a great winged serpent will descend from the ancient cosmos and kill any Fascist, Tory or anyone who is just plain nasty
July 2015: Hearing of Ian’s death confirms what I’d already suspected: for the last couple of weeks, I’ve had an increasing sense of dread, a feeling that something terrible has happened. In the first days of July I dream that Ian has died, and wake up in distress.
When my friend Utherben hears the news she writes, “May the Melissae [bees from Ancient Greek mythology] gather him up and carry him through to the Otherworld on buzzing wings.”
17 July: Teresa and I cannot travel up to Cumbria for Ian’s memorial service, so we head to Boscawen-Un stone circle, a few miles west of Penzance, for our own memorial to him. We sit at Creeg Tol (a rocky outcrop overlooking the circle) for a while, then go down to the site. We spend an hour or so there with no other visitors – incredibly unusual for such an accessible place. Eventually, sitting on a couple of large stones inside the circle’s entrance, we notice movement a few inches from us: a number of honey bees, their legs covered in pollen, entering and leaving their nest, located in a tiny hole in the ground within the circle. Two days later we’re sitting next to the cherry tree near our home, when a deep droning sound can be heard. T spots a swarm of bees gathered over the tree. They hover there before flying away. It’s only then that I realise these two events are signs that Ian has been present and is making his way onwards. I don’t think I’d ever seen a bees’ nest before. And then I remember that I had, just once: it was located in an abandoned bird box within the graveyard at St Bega church, next to Bassenthwaite Lake. Nearby stands the hawthorn tree where Ian had scattered Jhonn Balance’s ashes.
Julie Travis, July – November 2015
All images and text ©Julie Travis unless otherwise stated.