I went to Pomona Island yesterday, a wildish space in the centre of Manchester squeezed between the old docks on the Manchester Ship Canal, and the sliver of the Bridgewater Canal. I first became curious about it in my second month in Manchester, when B joined me in exploring and orienting myself in my new home, and we walked along the canals to Salford Quays. I gazed across at Pomona and wondered what it was – a semi-wilderness grown up amongst the decay of what had clearly been a find promenade along the dockside. In the rainy late afternoon yesterday, I wandered through the profusion of anarchic and excited vegetation of late summer: the brightly coloured wildflowers, the blackberry bushes with their confusion of ripe and unripe berries, and the heaps of overgrown rubble. To my left the sleek concrete bed of the Metrolink railway rose above me on concrete pillars; over to the right the Manchester Ship Canal flowed gently towards Salford Quays and pooled silently in the old Pomona Docks. I stood still for a moment and allowed myself to feel the years seen by this space to be present at once with me there. This little corner of land has seen so much: the orchard that stood there and is now re-membered in the blackberry bushes; the huge ocean-going trading ships that sat in the docks to load and unload textiles and raw materials from the empire; the vacant stares of the people gazing over the scrubland that exists there now, waiting for a tram at Cornbrook Station at the end of a long day.
In wildish space, if you stand your ground, stand on the ground, you can really feel how the idea of time and space as separate entities is a nonsense. You can feel how all that has happened in this place is still alive somewhere in the earth beneath you, and all that has yet to happen, is as yet unmanifest, is possible, hangs above you in the air, waiting to be breathed in. The philosopher Martin Heidegger had this idea that time is not just a series of now-points, but a unity of the three dimensions – or ‘ecstasies’ – of past, present and future. All of them existing at once. I think you can really feel the sense of this (in both senses of the way we use that word) when you stand in an open space and look around you: the future and past lie just beyond the horizon of the space-time circle of now in which you stand. Space and time are one field of experience.
Forgetting this connection is dangerous, it can result in us remaining stuck, trapped in the status quo and the current moment and our unskillful habits of thinking and relating. Not questioning the rules we’re given, failing to find the courage to relate to each other freely with and in the love that emerges between us. Wild space, however, is what we make when we face each other with honesty, speak the language of our bodies together, break the habits that tie us down. It’s where we dare to dream, and where we end up when we step off the wheel.
There’s wild space in each of us. But it’s hard to find this in the city streets, where the rivers flow so far below the tarmac that we can’t even hear their burbling and rushing any more*; where the cries of the birds are drowned out by the traffic; where surveillance cameras and culture police our relationships with the place and each other.
B says: “the wildspace is only accessible through the avenue of beauty.” If wildspace is liberation, we need to be able to appreciate and travel the beautiful path to get there, so we can “truly love our calling as wild beings, ascending the spiral with passion.”
Our wild selves need wildish space to connect and remember. Save Pomona.
*Including the Corn Brook, which gives its name to the Metrolink stop overlooking Pomona Island.