Monday, 31 May 2010

Far from the Madding Crowd

The wet weather did after all 
give way to a dry bank holiday, 
though with little sun here in the Midlands.

All around us the houses and gardens are quiet
as families have taken advantage of the holiday
to be up and away,
and I find myself swamped by a sense of loneliness 
that I find hard to shake off.
(Hubby is bowling).

I know I 've mentioned that I usually relish solitude 
but this doesn't make me immune from the occasional sense
of isolation that is part and parcel of our human condition.

As I write that I remember the words,
"so many lonely people" 
from Paul Mc Cartney,s "Eleanor Rigby",
and it's true that loneliness has been called 
the epidemic of the age
as families split, change, and move on, or away,
and the core of community crumbles and is lost.

One answer for this can be the
"light a candle rather than curse the darkness" 
approach of getting up off your butt
and calling on somebody,
perhaps somebody you know who's experiencing real isolation, 
from illness, bereavement, or some other circumstance.
A phone call will do, 
just to let them know that they aren't completely forgotten,
with the added bonus that you also feel more "connected".
Strange to say just as these thoughts were going through my mind my brother rang,
and it actually made me feel worse.
So much for that then!

The thing is I can visualise where he was speaking from, 
(my childhood home),
and I so wanted to be there with him.
This begs the question how much of my loneliness 
is a sort of nostalgia for something past, or even imagined?
some sort of life that I feel others may have
and I do not, perhaps? 
Am I sitting here with a sense
of all the families enjoying themselves together 
whilst I languish alone?
Am I in fact just having a session of PLOM?
i.e. Poor Little Old Me!

Sounds very much as though I need to snap out of it
and celebrate what I have.
Time for cup of tea I think!
Oh, and to post this photo of one of my favourite
"silent messengers".

As you can see it's a lovely flourishing tree. 

What you may not be able to see quite as clearly 
is that it emerges
from some initial damage
at it's start.

In fact for quite a while
it merely lay along the ground with little sign
that it would ever grow into a tree at all. 

Gradually the sheer life force within asserted itself, 
and low and behold,
a thing of beauty!

Maybe things happen to make us truly know what isolation is. 
A breakdown in relationships.
Loss, and grief of any sort.
I've mentioned my own two years in bed in my teens
in an earlier post.

We may feel broken and prostrate with grief
for what we believe might have been,
yet even as we feel these things life is returning.

Who knows,
without being aware of it we may become
a sign of encouragement too.

God Bless

Friday, 28 May 2010

Spring Bank Holiday at Home

Coming up to a Spring Bank Holiday week-end and the weather is still holding good at present for all those hard working folks who are looking forward to a break.

We usually give these holidays a miss as being retired means we have the option to avoid busy roads and get out and about at other times. Of course the problem with this is that we can get stuck in the rut of not making the effort to really get off the patch very often.
It's surprising how much the routine and habits of everyday life can keep one obsorbed, and though I am very contented with that there comes a time when I have to spread my wings and fly away for a bit.
At the moment then it seems then that I will be spending the long week-end pottering about at home, though I have a hankering to be amongst the hills of my Welsh homeland. (This hankering is never far away, because I love the hills).

Since beginning this post the inevitable has happened and the rain has kicked in for the holiday. No more planting out of my seedlings today then, and even hubby's flat green bowls looks a bit iffy because it's raining so hard.
I will settle for an afternoon with my new pile of library books at my side ready for the moment I finish the one I'm reading at present, which is a fascinating look at mothers, daughters, and grandmothers, by Marianne Fredriksson, titled "Hanna's Daughters". The blurb describes it as "g ripping and gritty... Catherine Cookson with a touch of Strinberg".
No disrepect to Ms Cookson but Fredriksson seems to me to be less trite than that.
I seem to be mining a seam of those sort of generational/relationship books at present and some of them are really powerfully asking questions about heredity versus personality, and time and environment versus heredity too. As a former counsellor, as well as from my own life experience these things fascinate me.

I leave you with a puzzle that you might be able to answer for me.
The photograph at the top is of the verbascum in my garden now.
The thing is that when I bought them they were apricot in colour, so when last year they came up white I thought that they were reverting to type and looked nice and delicate though not the desired original.
So nice did they look I did the watercolour in the bottom picture.
All well and good, but can anybody explain how this year I have two deep pink and one pale?

God Bless

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Getting the Bird (Not)

This is Brandon Marsh, a local Wildlife Trust where, if you are really lucky you might catch sight of a kingfisher. Neither hubby nor I have ever seen one of these magical birds, but friends who are fishermen tell us that we had as good a chance as any of getting a sighting at Brandon, so off we trolled.
Needless to say we didn't see the wonderful iridescent blue-green flash of the kingfisher. That aside we did find an oasis of quiet in the marsh.
Cuckoos called to each other across the silence as we sat beside one of the pools, and while this is a call even we could recognise, there were bursts of birdsong all around us that were totally unfamiliar.
In and around the hides we met folks who were real experts, (or certainly appeared to be to us). Without exception they were laden with expensive cameras, 'scopes, and tripods, and kindly shared their know- how with us by pointing out species and behaviour they didn't want us to miss.
The only bird my non-specialised camera could capture was the stately swan that had obviously found a rich feeding spot because it was still lazily circling and dredging the waters in the same place when we left as when we had arrived two and a half hours earlier.
We might not have gained our optimistic objective of seeing the elusive kingfisher but we had a lovely afternoon where we discovered, not just a bit more of the beauty of natural world, but had caught sight of a world of folks who have such a deep appreciation of it that they spend a lot of time and money observing and recording what they love. It was reassuring to be in their company and know that they were so dedicated to the beautiful, vulnerable, and ever-changing population of the marsh.

God Bless

Monday, 24 May 2010


Perhaps unusually for a woman I am really not into shopping but we have been looking for shoes for hubby.
If you have to shop then it's nice to be in a congenial place , hence shopping in Leamington Spa and walking from the car over the bridge that crosses the river Leam where the fairies seem to have hung a large beechnut bell in the trees overhanging the water. Hope you can see it in the upper left of the photo.
Then towards the Spa centre alongside the river with Georgian buildings across the way.

Better behave yourself though 'cos while all looks serene on this clear gold and blue cloudless day in a quaint English spa town, you are being watched.
Camera next to the church tower, upper left of photo taken at the bottom of the parade.

Needless to say we did behave ourselves. Well I did.
Hubby is not a peacock among men and has to be harangued into buying clothes. His "look" is epitomised as shapeless and comfy so although he knew the time had come to be re-shod he was not entirely in the zone, shall we say.

Unsurprisingly we did not in the end make a purchase, but at least have gotten over that first stage: i.e the one where he says, "How much did they say these were?!" whilst looking as though somebody is about to rob a child.
The reconnoitre over we can now look forward to another slog around the shops and this time he might even get to try the second shoe of the pair.

We had a lovely stroll back past the flowering trees and the river to the car.

Unfortunately the blacksmith who used to be in business in the little village of Stoneleigh on our way back home has ceased business or I might be tempted to call in there and have hubby's feet measured. Only a thought.

God Bless

Thursday, 20 May 2010

At last the studio tidy up is finished!
It may not look like it to you but this is one very sorted place at the moment, however I was reassured by reading recently that a creative mind cannot be a tidy one. Minimalists may not agree with that of course but there is something sort of sterile, (or perhaps I mean antiseptic), about that branch of art for me.

(These under-linings aren't mine but some sort of malfunction on the blogger).

The end of my tidy up has coincided with the weather becoming stunningly warm. As it gets really hot in the studio under the roof I've been going on with planting up in the garden. This prompted a drive through the beautiful Warwickshire coutryside to one of my favourite garden centres.
Wish I'd taken my camera because everything is looking so quintessentially picture postcard perfect it made me grateful yet again for the place I live.

By contrast I had to drive hubby somewhere through the city this evening and there are road works everywhere at present Hopefully they are filling in the awful potholes left after the winter, but
the resulting never-ending heavy , slow moving queues of traffic sudddenly seemed opressive.
Again I could only feel grateful I don't have to turn out in this every day.
Sometimes it's good to be a certain age.

It's also good to have a place to retreat to like my super tidy studio.
I have a little meditation corner up there as well. It all works together to try and keep me sane.
Sometimes it seems to work better than others!

Oh! at last the annoying under- lining is gone.

May show you that meditation corner and some photos of the beautiful English country around here next time.

Hope you find a place of peace for yourself today.

God Bless

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A Taste of Things to Come

At last! Today was warm enough to enjoy a meal on our shady patio.

As you can see hubby is getting ready to tuck in while I mess about with the camera instead of sitting down and tucking in as any civilised person would. (Not quite what he said but something very like it). I should like to report that we partook of an Elysian lunch of crisp leaves of endive, lambs lettuce, radicchio, and rocket, assembled with crumbled nuggets of a wondrous cheese from a small Welsh dairy farm, tossed lightly in a peppery olive oil, wine vinegar, and herb dressing, then scattered thickly with shreds of proscuttio, followed by fresh fruit and arabica coffee.

I should like to report that, but in actual fact we had what is commonly known in our local fish and chip shop as " the Wednesday Special". This calorie and cholesterol busting repast consists of a small fried fish in batter, a hot saveloy, (a really oily but delicious sausage), mushy peas, and a portion of chips, (fat french fries). All washed down with a good cup or two of tea. Aaah!

I can report that we do not often indulge in such unhealthy excess, but hey, it's the first day out on the patio.

P.S. When I 'm moaning about how tubby I'm getting feel free to remind me of this won't you?

God Bless

Monday, 17 May 2010

Things Are Bursting Out All Over

I am notoriously vague about dates but one thing that charts the way we are dashing through the year in a way that no calendar can for me, was a walk through my garden where the season has been playing catch -up.
I discover as I have been languishing indoors swallowing antibiotics, the plants in my garden have been moving on at an astonishing pace.
One glimpse at my fully blooming poppies, and budding roses, is enough to tell me that we are already hurtling towards mid-summer.
These exotic silken flounces, with their velvet purple- capped centres, and dusting of of black could almost have been designed for a flamenco performance.

At present the
euphorbias can be as dainty as these tiny blooms peeping between the foxglove leaves, or as big as the identical looking ones over- shooting the white rhododendrons.
Perhaps the showiest I have is the fiery variety which you can see growing through the ruby red lace of the acer.

While my garden has been so productive I couldn't resist letting loose in my half sorted studio.
Sometimes when I haven't the energy to tackle a "real" piece of work I leave my brain on a hook behind the door, (which some think I may not find too difficult), and just set to with no thought but to keep making marks so that colour, composition, and any thought of schema is left (literally) out of the picture.Technically this is called automatism, but it's really the ultimate in simply playing.
The result came as a complete surprise, looking like nothing I've ever done before, with bleached colours unlike my usual bold pallet and with a sort of almost Ben Nicholson look .I showed it to hubby who has developed a canny reaction of usually saying "Wow!" at first, whilst marshaling his resources to say what he really thinks. It hasn't photoed very well but it seems that he really likes this. Even as far as framing it as you can see.

Perhaps I should hang my brain behind the door more often.
What do you think?

God Bless

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The Treasures of Darkness

Writing the last blog while I was feeling so ghastly reminded me of how it came about that I so actively mark, and cherish, the little wonders hidden amongst all the not so wonderful stuff we have to deal with.

It's true that we are more aware of a shaft of light when we sitting in the dark, and I was certainly in a dark place when I realised how sustaining even a very small flash of light can be.

At sixteen I became ill and began a two year period of being flat on my back in bed.
The first months of this time were spent on the medical ward of a hospital where I learnt that it was wonderful to have a few hours free of pain, and with enough quiet on the ward to sleep.
I learnt that although we might have to wait, there was always somebody around who could supply basic care for our needs. What was wonderful was that very, very occasionally, care was given with a deep intuitive understanding, and a degree of tenderness which cannot be quantified.
unforgettable wonder was the time a patient who was in the next bed to me and who was regarded as being permanently and totally aphasic, (without the power of speech), suddenly ceased her unintelligible babbling and leaning over the side of her bed towards me and said "Thank you", quite clearly.
Her daughter who was visiting her at the time was jubilant, as none of the doctors believed her when she said that her mother was capable now and then of uttering clear speech.
"Now, you've heard it too!" she said.

So that's the nature of these things I guess. We cannot make them happen when we want, they flash across our paths, lift us, and are gone; though leaving behind a residue of strength and hope that, no matter how dire our situation, there may well be many more wonders to come. And of course there always are...

The other thing about wonders is that like the lady with the
aphasic mother, you want others to know about them too.
I guess she wanted the doctors to realise that there was more going on than they gave credence to. More to be surprised by, baffled and delighted about.

Seems very much the essence of life doesn't it?

God Bless

P.S. Some of you may recognise that the words " The treasures of darkness" are a quote from Isahia 45:3. If you are interested in the rest of my of spiritual story I am going to start a site about that soon. Perhaps you could let me know what you think?
Keep watching my blog if you are interested and I'll let you now when I've got it set up.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

View from the Chair

It was my birthday at the week-end and I had a lovely time with friends and family.
An especially nice bit of the actual day itself was spent at the birthday party of a dear friend of mine, before I went on to my own.
Just before we left my friend's son took the microphone to announce to one and all that it was my birthday as well as his dad's, and went on to say which number birthday it was. Although this came as a surprise my greater surprise was that nobody rushed up to me to say that he must have got the number wrong!
Conclusion - No matter how I might like to kid myself I sure do look my age!

Since the week-end I've had to go on to anti-biotics, spending a lot of time dozing in my chair feeling pretty low.

I must say that watching the politicians unravel the dilemma of a the post-election hung parliament did little to cheer me up, but my greatest disappointment was that here I am again. Having got on top of the gardening so that I could, with a clear conscience, get some painting done, finding I wasn't able to do it. I must find some way of making my priorities work better than this. Which is where I was when I started this blog.
Perhaps I have to decide once again that painting is a priority for me. For now I'm not feeling up to thinking the way through to a new modus operandi but do have these words that were on the birthday card sent to me by the friend whose party I went to,

"Life is a gift from God and our best days are spent discovering the wonders of that miracle."

Though my friend wouldn't know it I was interested in how well that chimed with the intention of this blog.
I must say that some of my worst days have been spent looking for, and eventually finding those wonders, and that transformative pursuit is most definitely one of my constant priorities.

God Bless

Friday, 7 May 2010

Doing is Seeing

When I started this blog I had no idea I would ever be doing a "How To" on it, but as you know that's just what happened yesterday, so what was all that about?
As I picked up that wonderful leaf which the addition of small blue flowers, and the work of the wind, rain, and sun, had melded into a thing of beauty, (see "Nature's Art" blog), a few things came to mind.
Firstly, all art is sourced from what is already in the world, and even the most gifted of artists do not start from nothing. We need materials, and we need ideas. As somebody once said, "Only God can create from nothing".
Sure, Picasso and Braque may have pioneered collage art in the early 1900s, (see above - Picasso's "Three Musicians"), but here was nature
dropping the same sort of assemblage of things at my feet, and how lovely it was.
Secondly I thought how easy it would have been to have missed this little gem, and for it to have decomposed quietly in the garden all unseen, or to have joined the pile of weeds that I was tossing on the barrow for disposal.

Along with this came the thought of how much beauty we miss seeing everyday, either because we don't look. or because we don't see. And there IS a difference in looking and seeing as you will know if you have ever had somebody frantically pointing at something and yelling "THERE it is!" in your ear while you've been staring at something that you just cannot home in on, and despite their efforts, cannot see. That feeling that you're missing out is frustrating isn't it? but that, I fear is what happens a lot of the time regarding the lovely things that are all around us. We simply miss seeing them.
So, what has all this got to do with having a go at a simple collage, I hear you ask.
Well the best way I know to really see, as I've suggested is to really look, and there's no better way to look and to see than in making art, but so often people say to me , "Oh, I can't draw a straight line! I wish I could, but I can't".
That seems so sad, because most children are free of this self consciousness, happily scribble away, and what they do is lovely. So I thought this was art so simple and child-like, yet with an outcome you might enjoy.
If you do try the collage and then go back and look at the photos of the leaf you will (hopefully) begin to see it with new eyes, and appreciate the subtlety and purity of that very small piece of creation.
And the leaf? It will join my collection of objets trouve in the studio so that I can watch the process of change it will undergo and marvel some more. It's amazing how much beauty there is around once we "get our eye in".
I hope you'll join me again to look, and see, some more.

God Bless

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Making a Simple Collage

This is the spot in the garden where yesterday's natural leaf art was created.
It was made up of flowers from the clump of blue ones at the foot of the ficus shrub, and from the leaf that had dropped from that self same shrub. Both of these are to the right of Boris the bird bath.
call him Boris because when we bought him there was some discussion as to whether he was a Doris or a Boris. The grand daughters decided he was a Boris).

Essentially what was created by the leaf, the petals, and the elements was, of course a collage, and that's what I've made to show you.

As you can see we need a few more things but I am a firm believer in using what comes to hand if at all possible. It is part of the fun and the serendipity effect. Also it's good to re-cycle as we all know, and if like me you have a problem throwing bits and pieces like this away it helps to make you feel less guilty about your magpie hoarding as well.
What I'm using is:- a used brown envelope, a piece of card that was a free paint sample, a couple of pieces of tissue paper that had been paper crowns from Christmas crackers. (Yes I'm that sad that I keep those too)! Stick of paper glue, pencil.
1. Whether greeting, gift, or place card, cut your card to size and fold in half, taking care to keep the sides square. I used my paint sample for this.
2. Cut a small rectangle or square of contrast paper, and glue in the upper left of the front of your card. With the brown leaf in mind I used a piece of brown envelope. If you can, cut your paper so it's slightly rough edged and not too "careful" looking. As you can see I scrunched up the paper before sticking it and it certainly isn't looking tidy,or even straight, but of course if you like measuring and straight edges this is "you" and you should do it that way.
3. I made some flowers from the used tissue by drawing rough varying sized circles, dissecting these with petal shapes and cutting them out. You can use flowers cut from old cards, magazines, wrapping paper,whatever.

4. Literally throw your flowers roughly where you think they should go and stick them there. If needed you can tweak this a bit to get a better look.
5. You can add words if you like, but there's the basic job done.

Hope you like it.

Tomorrow if you'd like to join me I'll tell you what
made me put this "How To"
on the blog.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Nature's Art

I found this lovely leaf when I did my final clear up of the garden today. As I stooped to pick it up and put it atop the pile on the wheelbarrow I thought it had somehow been splashed with blue paint but I hope you can see what the real source of the colour is. ( Clicking on the photo should bring a larger version on your screen).
Some little blue flowers from the border have become dried onto the fallen leaf of the ficus that grows above them. It is reminiscent of a faded antique print when seen up close, and all the result of wind, rain , and sun, doing their thing. It makes me itch to get back to my paints, and now with the big spring blitz on the garden over I should have the time to climb into the studio and get back to it.

Even if you don't consider yourself artistic this process of nature's melding two images, and colour onto colour, is one that can be easily followed with simple materials to make an attractive image.

I'll show you how tomorrow, just now I'm going to get some rest and recuperaton from my labours in the garden.
Off to make my bedtime drink now.

God Bless.