Tuesday, 20 September 2011

For the Men of the Gleision Colliery

Still trying to get a handle on watercolour 
I started to doodle calligraphic marks with a fine brush
and a lovely inky colour
mixed from ultramarine and burnt sienna.

I soon realised the emergent schema was born out of the dry stone walls 
of my beloved homeland of Wales.

Truth to tell even now after almost 40 years
living away from the hills of home
I still carry the ache of longing  the Welsh call hiraeth:
which can only be translated approximately 
as a deep yearning for home.

Even now every distant dog barking instantly transports me
to the place where it is the sound of farm dogs 
calling from the opposite side of the valley.

As I dabbled on with the subtle tones of the watercolours
I re-walked the Cefyn road;
a road flanked by the old stone walls, that heads over the top of the hill
to fall into the valley village of Hafodyrynys,
past the old farm of Ty Sammy where my father was reared,
and the chapel of Cefn y Crib where both he and Mam rest now.

Through the ache of memories came this other more recent ache,
for the miners,and families of those killed and injured
at the Gleision Colliery,
in the Swansea Valley.
Every mining community, of which mine was one,
knows the heart stopping danger of men working
in the low, wet, narrow seams
of the Welsh coal face.

   I offer these words I wrote some years back, now in memory of
  Charles Breslin, Phillip Hill, Garry Jenkins and David Powell
who lost their lives in the Gleision,
with the prayer that they have found their longed for home at last.


The wind is sloughing through the curtains.
Hearing it I am no longer
in this house with the neat garden
And the traffic hum
sounding from the by-pass.
I am somewhere along the valley top,
Along the lane,
or in some room that opens,
(no matter how dark in itself)
onto the shining light of the hills.

And I myself,
The real and inner me,
is soaring out there
among the creaking branches
on the bare hill top.
Dry and rustling in the reeds;
soft and sighing in the grasses;
chuckling sinuous in the streams.

And it is all me.
And freedom is  in the sound.
My one true breath.
Wider than the world.
Higher than the sun.
Weightless as a life
held here no more.


Perhaps you could also join me in praying,
in whatever way seems good to you, 
for the 3 miners who were rescued  and will be suffering in their own unique way.

God Bless

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Calla Lillies and Cyclamen Still Life

The calla lillies my brother brought me the other week had me reaching for the watercolour paints again.

Not having a heavier weight paper to hand 
I used what I had, 
which was a smooth finished lighter weight more 
appropriate for line and light washes.
Consequently I had to take care not to overwork the surface
and could neither build washes nor lift paint
as I would have liked.
Still it's interesting to see how the different paper affects the outcome.

God Bless

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Zentangle 38

This week's callenge from http://iamthedivaczt.blogspot.com/ is called 

I really enjoyed Margaret's tutorial on how to do it,
but didn't have it near me when I tried to put it into practice so not sure this is right at all.

Perhaps it's the wind blowing around the house,
but I keep thinking of the shape of the tangle as bunting or prayer flags.

Here they are all snarled up by the wind!

Improving Your Memory?

A friend recently sent me this joke.

(The picture above has nothing to do with the joke.
In fact it's far from a joke and I never intended it to be here.
Explanation at the end of the  post.)

This is the joke -

 An older couple are having a few health problems.
During a checkup, the doctor tells them they're physically okay,
but they might want to start writing things down
to help them remember …

Later that night, while watching TV,
 the old man gets up from his chair. 
'Want anything while I'm in the kitchen?' he asks.
'Will you get me a bowl of ice cream?'

'Don't you think you should write it down so you can remember it?' she asks.
'No, I can remember it.'
'Well, I'd like some strawberries on top, too.
Maybe you should write it down, so as not to forget it?'
He says, 'I can remember that.
You want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries.'
'I'd also like whipped cream.
I'm certain you'll forget that, write it down!' 
Irritated, he says, 'I don't need to write it down,
I can remember it!
Ice cream with strawberries and whipped cream .
What's to forget?'
Then he toddles into the kitchen. 

After about 20 minutes,
the old man returns from the kitchen
and hands his wife a plate of bacon and eggs.
She stares at the plate for a moment, and asks,
'Where's my toast ?'

It's true,
 things do tend to "slip your mind" a bit more the older you get;
though of course I wouldn't know about that yet. (Ahem)!

In school we used the faculty of memory quite a bit , 
learning tables, poetry, and lots of stuff by rote,
but I'd not done anything like that for years.
Recently  however, I started to memorise scripture.

Quite a bit had stuck in my memory through the years
but I've never set out to really learn it this way before.

I decided to tackle the book of Ephesians,
and simply write out a verse at a time learn it and add it to the rest
as soon I feel I've committed it fully to memory.

It's going slowly, 
not (to my surprise) because I'm finding it hard to retain, 
but because I'm finding
 I want to linger with one verse for a good long time,
and there is no hurry.

This method of reading scripture is rather like lectio divina*,
in as much as you are slowed right down to let the words 
and the life in them sink deeply, 
to be savoured and enjoyed.

Now there's a word!

I've been struck by the repetition, in the opening verses of Ephesians,
at just how much God takes pleasure,
actually finds pleasure,
in GIVING to us.

through, and in Christ.

 (Good definition of grace - God's Riches At Christ's Expense)

Now because I can never look at anything
without seeing the other side of it,
I know only too well that much of the stuff of life 
is anything but the gift we would want.

There is suffering, and pain,
darkness and desolation. 
I've written and spoken about the mystery of this
at length elsewhere, 
but just for now I want to encourage you to look for 
the "gift" within the hard place.

(and I do speak from experience), 
for one reason or another we are too overwhelmed to do this.

Just the act of even metaphorically lifting our eyes is too much.

The psalms are full of folks just like us,
who feeling bereft of everything,
even their faith,
still cry out to the seeming void.

If this is you, then don't berate yourself.

Don't be afraid if you find yourself berating God.

His heart is still towards you, 
and FOR you, 
even now;
even in this.

You may ask me,
(especially as I am not immune from darkness myself)
how I can be so confident?

Maybe just because I am so familiar with darkness.
And that even so, 
given I stumble and struggle from time to time still, 
I am somehow, 
despite myself,
  kept, and brought through the darkness 
to know again the fullness of the "gift",
and the pleasure of the giver.

May we find the gift of joy in
the gift of life today.

God Bless

Oh yes, the drawing at the start of the post 
is taken from my journal and for some reason,
though it wasn't done for others,
I feel it's important to share it . 

It's my experience in the recovery room back in May. 

The chap in the centre is the anaesthetist, 
then there's me,
 and the two nurses caring for me in recovery. 

It's an attempt to show those moments of struggle
when one's body has to all intents and purpose shut down 
accept for the mind that searches,
in it's panic, for a means to get out of this place.  

It was at that moment that I knew,
not for the first time, that we were not alone, 
and that as dark as it seemed,
there was light unseen yet present,
in the One who is both giver and gift.
He is the real centre of the drawing.

P.S.  if you want to know more about the lectio divina method of reading scripture click on 

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Creative Process (My Version)! and Zentangle 37

Dropped hubby off at the bowls club
where he hobbles off on sore legs to be a volunteer groundsman 
with some of his friends, 
and I hurtle home determined to paint today.

I reckon I have a few hours before he will ring
(at my insistance) 
for his lift home.

I have that
 "about to burst if I don't slosh some colour around" 
feeling that I have been trying to organise in my head,
so that when the time comes to
put it into practice I can be methodical
in the approach I want to take.

I can visualise the colours I want
to arrange into groups for their tonal values, 
but scotch the idea of working in oils 
because I know that will take too much time
so I decide to use pastels and getting home,
dash up to my studio to set myself up.

When my eyes light on the scene above 
I remember that the last time I was in here ended
in a hurried departure for something pressing.
 Not unusual, and no excuse,
because this space is in a constant state of chaos.
I notice in horror that I have very unusually
not cleaned my brushes
and they lie caked in hardened paint 
which will take precious time to clean.   

I shove stuff around 
to make space for me 
and the plant
I've decided to paint.

Not for the first time 
I wonder why my waiting materials
get mixed up 
with fascinating things
like this crown off a poppy head.

I covet the luscious, rich,
immediate pigment of the pastels, 
but even as I access some tinted pastel paper
from the rack I know they will not satisfy my need to 
"slosh around"
and foolishly opt for the unforgiving yet enticing
medium of watercolour.

Have an inward moan at hubby 
who has been using my guilotine 
and left a pile of paper shards
on my working surface. 
A flea bite compared to the chaos I've left
but it's a handy means of 
venting some of my irritation at myself.

I hurriedly stretch the paper and descend to the ground floor
to bring up my mobile and the house phone 
so that I catch hubby's call when it comes,
finish drying the paper with a hair dryer,
and  notice with annoyance that the tape
holding the paper has lifted.
I know the paper is going to cockle now,
even before I start.

Set up table easel 
to at last start to slosh,
but I'm frayed and annoyed.
Water colour needs thought
and mental review of colour and process,
and the free, fresh, light-filled colour 
that can be achieved with this medium
is lost before I begin.

But I do have a slosh
resigning myself to an unrefined dabbling
that will be far from what I've been mentally planning, 
but will at least be in touch with the colour I crave
 I watch the glorious colours blend into mud,
hear hubby enter the house two floors down and am thankful he got a lift home,
while despair that it's that time already. 

  I scratch my intials with the brush handle
onto this little 8"x8" misshap
and only now wonder that the habit of signing 
everything is so engrained. 

After our lunch eaten in the still sunny garden,
I climb back up to the attic 
and against my better judgement can't resist 
reaching for the brush and
ladle on more pigment.
Just lemon yellow and alizarlin crimson. 
Merely a different colour mud I decide,
and make up my mind,(not for the first time),
  to be more disciplined or give up.

I step back and look for something good. 
Well, the tonal values are intact
but the singing colour inside my head has been submerged.
But then if you set yourself up to fail...

At least with the Zentangle challenge I can do it anywhere!
This is number 36 
and the challenge is to work on grids,
and is called "Kiss my Grids"
 by Laura who set the challenge on
 I think my grids are inspired by the bars in Spain 
where the walls are adorned
with heavily patterned mismatched tiles
and you can sit with a glass of wine,
a selection of tapas, 
and try and guess the age of the cold meats and sausage
hanging from the ceiling .

P.S.  You may wonder why,
if I was so pressed for time 
I stopped to photograph my chaos.
  I guess it's because making myself stop and see,
and think where I am,
sometimes helps slow me down and talk sense into myself
  It could have cleared my brain enough to have known
 getting prepared for another day might have been more sensible.
Sometimes I just want to do what I want to do though...

Sound familiar to you?

Got to go now.
Hubby has a bowls match to play in thirty minutes and
he's called up the stairs to say that of course,
he could catch the bus...

God Bless