Investigating the life of things across space and time

Nin: Pencil drawing of a bird woman with a long neck, her wings flapping as though she has just landed


For Nin, poor Nin. For Nin neither.

Drawings, etchings and monoprints by Sarah Gillett (2008-2012)
Text by Amy Lay-Pettifer (2009)

For Nin, poor Nin. For Nin neither.
So much for you to hear and fear, that owl hoot and dog bark is not for you. Come out from under your wing soft down. You are needed.

                    As cold morning broke over the sea there was unrest in the long grass that crests the slithered front faces of the cliffs. Things lost their footing and slid. No usual rhythm was here as the day came. Nin awoke and craned her lilac beck. Over the top of twisted twig she looked and saw nothing but the way down. She was alone at that moment as her sisters had flown already, leaving her there.

                    She heard the cackle of their song in the distance and the out turned melody of it as it bounced back at her from the rock face. It had no words but a kind of chorus that was hard to forget, as it reminded her of hard stone, distance and simply being alone. This was the sound of every morning, for Nin, and had been so since the day the egg cracks had disintegrated and the high winds had suggested that she and her sisters should make their way in the world. Nin had yet to leave the nest, and even to that day had no intention of doing so.

                    It would be untrue to suggest that Nin had no fear, fear of the world she certainly had. But more that that she saw nothing of it but unpleasantness and rather preferred the down lining of her bed and the panorama of the sea in the distance. From the wooded rim of the nest this is what she saw:

                    emptiness at the bottom of the long way down
                    scavenging beasts at the bottom of the emptiness
                    flower-buds trampled by heavy boots
                    a frenzy of running and running from things
                    beasts mounting other beasts in grunting and silence
                    precious things lost and trailing from tree branches.

                    She knew in her heart that there was likely to be more than these things in the world, so for a while she listened carefully to the stories of her sisters and anticipated what they would bring with them on their return. But nothing shining and real was returned to the nest, only mud and wriggling creatures. Her girl sisters were often laughing as they came home, but Nin noticed their missing feather patches and the occasional sorrow in the eyes of one of them as the other’s laughter spent and her expense. They told stories of the heights they flew to and of showboating and loop the loop. But Nin suspected that they over heard many of the most exciting stories and simply adopted them as their own. They most likely spent their mornings cooped on a ledge, deep in idiot chatter, pink eyed and swooning as eagle wings passed them and great beaks sang.

                    This current cold morning brought nothing new. A vast swarm of grumbling insects clouded her view of the canopy and so Nin rested her long throat on the farther side of the nest and looked out towards the sea. The straight edge of it glinted, the straight edge where the world fell away and it was no longer possible to tell what was what. The sun was warm on her back and her eyelids felt heavy as she strained to look/ Just as they fell closed the sound of loud shrieks echoed from the water and Nin was suddenly wise and awake.

                    Dog howling at first she supposed and then the commotion of some great catch. But this had a different sound altogether in the afternoon air. There was a distress in it that sounded unfamiliar to Nin.

It keened to her and it almost sang her name.

Gallery of Nin works

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