Tuesday, 10 September 2013

September's Wake-Up Call.....

Hello!  The Summer we've just had has been luxurious!  Long, dry days with sparkling, balmy nights.  It's been heavenly - so many beautiful sights to alight the soul.  Many of us Brits moan about the weather, but this year, it's been more seasonal than I can remember for a long time.  I've never seen so many dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies - even the blue butterflies I recall seeing as a child in the fields.  It's been idyllic.

But now the harvest is almost done, I wonder what September means to you?  It's still a little too warm for my usual mark of September - that cold snap of air in the morning.  We have the change in sound, usually September magnifies the sound of activity on the main roads, as thought the morning mists and dew carry the noises.  We also have the yellow glow coming through the blinds, the extra penetrative gold light, low and dazzling.  But not yet do we have 'my snap'.

September in centuries past used to herald the end of the harvest, especially around the Equinox.  The last of the grains and fruits were in, and stored for the forthcoming barren months.  It was a thanksgiving, but also a time of looking inward.  Years ago, people who'd been banished from communities, were released back into their villages at this time, and to be accepted - they had to repay their debts.  This could prove difficult, as the villagers had to these extra mouths from their bounty, despite any ill feelings connected to the reason for their banishment.  So it became a time of forgiveness and making amends.

Nowadays things are different.  But these seasons still have an effect on us.  September used to be a time that set a pit of sickness in my stomach - I dreaded the start of a new term at school due to bullies.  It took almost ten years after leaving school for this feeling to subside every year, but it did.  Now I am happy to say this is my favourite time of year.  It's the time of year I now feel most alive, sharp and in tune with the energy the earth gives us.  In Spring, I can feel the earth burgeoning with effort to come alive, which can be exhausting for someone with fibromyalgia.  It's a fabulous time, but I always feel I can't keep up - and the air feels intoxicating.  My grandmother always used to sniff the air and say 'It's strong today'.

Autumn's onset heralds a period of analysis for me.  I think on what I've achieved in the months past, but in a personal sense.  A spiritual sense.  I look at where I have grown, and think about where I still need to grow. I feel the nights getting cooler and darker with an inner sense of quiet pleasure.  Those nights will be here soon where it's more acceptable to cosy up with a book full of knowledge, or to sit and simply write to the soundtrack of a thrashing wind and spattering rain.  The thought sends me into transports of delight.

It is after all, where the year winds down into a time of repose after action.  A time to look inward and take stock.  And while we do this, there are still a cornucopia of sights, smells and sounds to come to inspire and marvel at.  There was one day last year, in early November, when I spent time with friends in Marazion to celebrate the birthday of a friend.  It will always go down in my history as 'a perfect day'.  I'd risen early on the Sunday, and while the rest of the house were sleeping, or socialising in the living room, I ventured out for a walk.  

The narrow streets with pretty painted houses wound down to the small town.  I saw a huge amount of bird activity among the rooftops, watching jackdaws create mischief around the chimneys.  The air was so exceptionally clear, I kept revelling in it with every breath.  Cold, but so clean and pure.  As I rounded the corner into the main street, I glanced left and saw an alleyway between two buildings, leading to the sea and St. Michael's Mount.  The wave of sea air hit me and rendered me powerless.  If you could bottle that smell you could make a fortune.  Every smell of each pebble, each strand of seaweed, each rusted piece of metal, was in that scent.  I'll never forget it.

That brings me briefly to another day.  I stayed with my mother in Lyme Regis for a week in October.  The same awakening happened there too - although it was warmer.  The late sun was still strong enough to heat the sea, so I swam nearly every day.  But the air was sharp.  These times remind us who we are without all the trappings of daily life, they make us think about what we want on a deeper level.  They inspire us to seek a little further, to questions our existence.  They prompt us into action.

Autumn is a key time.  It was the time I found the craft for the first time, in a bookshop.  I picked up a book and found the most beautiful things I thought may never be mine.  Then, thirteen years later, I found it again in an email from people I'd contacted to begin a period of learning.  Each time, Autumn was the accelerator.  It's marked a huge time in my learning and achievements, and a massive shift in thinking and creativity.  And for these gifts, I love this time and give thanks for it's abundance - whether it be blackberries and seasonal mists, or introspective revelations and the need to carry notebooks to record those sudden surges of creativity.  

But - what does Autumn mean to you?

Friday, 12 April 2013

A Return To Painting....

Hello there!  A mammoth month of bugs and sneezes gone, I'm back in almost full force.  A curious thing has happened during that time, I've had the biggest urge to begin painting again and found the inspiration mounting up to saturation level.  I began with this piece, Tree Woman.  I had a huge desire to do something I've never done before, which is to include people.  I've never been able to paint or draw figures, but somehow there was something different going on.  It's as though something has changed within, and I have a deeper insight into the physical makeup of the human body, and it's language.  Normally, I would begin a piece like this by tracing the image, but I found myself drawing her freehand.  What's more, instead of studying photos like mad and making observations on skin tone and shadow, I winged the whole thing and painted what I felt.  And I'm surprised at the outcome.  

The thing I love about painting is the anticipation of the blank canvas....so many possibilities, and the only limits are within your own mind.  It's a ticket for the imagination to run riot, jump, tumble and cast itself to as many shapes, colours and forms as it wishes.  Like standing on the edge of an abyss, you need to jump to see what's in it, and it teaches you something valuable along the way.

I love the way paint smells, the way acrylics and gouache blend together and create warmth or cold, soft or hard and a multitude of hues and shadows.  There are so many ways to apply it, brushes, sponges, or my favourite - the fingertip, for blending.  The palette ends up looking like a work of art in the process, sometimes more impressive than the canvas, but there you go! 

While I was recovering from a nasty bug, these ideas were forming, and while taking care of my husband who had it a week later, I had time to sketch them out and begin.  One night, to try and stop coughing, I put on some relaxing sounds and did a relaxation technique.  I decided to let my mind wander and not try to contain or direct my thoughts.  Very interesting, indeed!  The vision I experienced was so clear I have planned it as my next project, in four stages.  If I'm happy with the result, I may well post!  

What's important about the exercise is, the soothing effect of painting, the therapeutic nature of it.  Sometimes speaking or writing isn't enough, there's something else that can't be communicated in any other way but imagery.  I personally don't think it matters how it turns out, it's the fact that I've made an effort and perhaps learned a lesson or two.  Maybe it helps me realise something as I'm creating the image of an idea, helps me get in tune with why it was in my head in the first place.  

Whether the images you create are positive or negative, bright or dark in nature, it's an interesting thing to fish them out of your soul through the fibres of a brush and look at them.  And it's also very surprising so find that other people recognise your feelings through images you think are relevant only to you.  

Saturday, 12 January 2013

A Bow in the Hand, and Twigs in the Hair!

Hello fellow bloggy folk!
I've been a bad toad and not posted for ages, I know.  There's been so many lovely things going on that I've been busy experiencing them all 'in the present'.  I've often felt in the past that taking beautiful pictures is all well and good, but sometimes you can feel on the periphery of an event rather than part of it.  I found that I was almost planning how a post would look while taking photos and analysing the moment ready for writing. So I ditched the camera and the keyboard for a while and just lived it.  And it's done me good, for a while....
However, I have missed my blog, and I'm dying to catch up with it and all of you with what you've been up to.

Today has been an excellent day.  We took up archery a couple of months back which I've been dying to try.  It was a little daunting, as shoulder surgery left me rather weak on the left side, and the fibro sometimes has a mind of it's own.  

But I decided to give it a go and we went to be measured up for a bow each and treated ourselves for Yule.  It's been one of the best things I've ever done.  Bob and I are lucky, we love doing things together, and make a good partnership.  But the best thing is that the difference between us in the way of strength, height, etc,. doesn't matter.  Because the bow is tailored to the archer, it means men compete against women, adult against child, on a totally level playing field.  

I've learned that I'm not that good practising with targets on the butts, but out in the woods I surprised myself.  The winding paths take you past all manner of rubber animal targets, each at varying distances, and with a coloured level to use depending on skill and experience.  I favour the woodland targets, it's so peaceful there and you can zone your focus in much more easily.  I love closing off and just feeling the wind through the trees and hearing the birdsong.  Even in barren winter it's got a charm that seems to make me feel warm.  It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be to shoot at animal shaped targets.  Although lifelike, they are exactly just that - inanimate targets, even this wonderful raven.  There were a few eyebrows raised in my direction when we rounded the corner and realised the next shot was at a corvid.  I think he forgave me.

One of the best things is being able to spend the whole day doing something I love, outdoors, with my nearest and dearest, which includes husband, good friends, and now my brother who we've just had a wonderful day with.  And of course, the dog.  Poppy is fascinated with the targets, and on her first visit barked at all the targets and tried to provoke a fight with all of them, especially the turkey and the smaller bear.  She is my little hunting hound for the day, sniffing everything, racing around the main field with anyone who will chase her, then sleeping like a log all evening when we're home.  

There's an interesting thing here, though.  Archery is a sport.  Or is it?  Personally, I think not.  People have turned it into one, but I favour the spiritual approach of using it as a discipline and a way of life.  Especially after a friend of mine gave me a book on Zen in the Art of Archery.  It's fascinating.  I don't feel it's about scorecards or where the holes in paper targets fall.  It's more about how you conduct one of the 75 movements it takes to prepare and loose an arrow.  You know in your solar plexus if it's gone well, you just feel it.  The paper targets are almost irrelevant.  My favourite shots are when I don't know if I've loosed the arrow or it's loosed me.  I can't tell if the animal is the target or I am.  I just know that my breathing is right at the moment of release and I haven't muddled things by thinking.

As you can see, I've decorated my bow with the trusty symbol of the crow.  I've also added other woodland animal silhouettes to the other side which I'll post soon.  It's definitely a magic bow - it's got a personality of it's own.  Accompanied with the book, and the constant advice from the folks at the Archery centre, I'm getting a better understanding each time.  The moment when you loose an arrow can be tricky, and everyone knows when you've thought about it because it doesn't work.  There's an art to letting go, and the passage in the book sums it up brilliantly.  The Zen Master says (roughly paraphrased)  'think about the tiny baby, who amazes you by gripping your finger with such force.  He then lets go as though his hand were never there, and he lets go without effort.  He releases your finger in order to pick up something else, so at that moment is only focused on the other thing, not letting go.'  That's how you have to release the bow string.

So farewell from the Wild Wood, from the woman with twigs in her hair, and leave you with this advice - mainly for people doing archery with fellow Monty Python fans......  'Don't laugh when loosing an arrow.  You don't find the arrow, and get twigs in your hair looking for it without success.'  

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Crow Gifts!!

Look at this!  I had a surprise belated birthday present today from Mum.  I'd heard her talk about these little matchbox books for a while, and I've visited Gina Ferrari's page Fan My Flame - but I wasn't expecting to be treated to one myself!
 As you may have guessed, I'm partial to members of the Crow family.  I love them and never tire of watching them, listening to them, drawing them and reading about their behaviour.  I love this little book as I think Gina definitely understands 'crow'.  Some people tend to look at me strangely as though to say 'why on earth would you want a crow on it!?!?' - but this is perfect.  I love the way the box is even lined with lovely crow paper, and there is a wonderful stitched crow on the cover of the book.  
 Such care has gone into making it, it really is like little treasure.  I will write in the book, I don't know what but I'll think of something.  Probably a crow poem.  I have an altar in my home, so I think this little chap will live on there to keep him safe.  He can also guard the space for me when I'm not in.  
So, big thankyou to Mum and to Gina for an enchanting surprise.  I was planning to set to work on one art project but I've got a feeling I may be diverted in a different direction and do something 'crow' again.  Oooh, just thought, I've still got leather paint upstairs - maybe some crow shoes should be in order!

Friday, 10 August 2012


I don't know how many of you have ever skinny-dipped, the first time I did this I was in a beautiful large pond in Canada (Saltspring Island) at the tender age of seventeen.  It was fabulous, the family we stayed with were very 'real' in an age where image meant a great deal, especially to me, a teenager all too aware of what I thought were physical disadvantages.  It was a magical sight to see us all in the water, followed round by the floating candles they'd put out on the most balmy and beautiful night.  

I've skinny-dipped elsewhere on my travels, one time on the Isle of Sark, when the beach was empty, it just lent itself.  Another time on the Isle of Wight, the Solent was warm just before the tide turned and I couldn't resist it.  But what's the attraction?

I do love that feeling of going back to basics.  That sensation of being totally free, unencumbered by clothing or any earthly trappings or trimmings including make-up and jewellery.  It's that sense of being totally at one with your surroundings, no barriers, just you and the landscape in your rawest form.  And it's an intoxicating feeling.  It can be liberating, relaxing, enlightening and so much more.  I feel it's good sometimes to remember what you are under the clothes labels, and public image.  And the oddest thing is the way people respond to you in that environment, when perhaps there would be a social barrier when clothed.  It doesn't matter what you look like, or what you think you look like which is more often the problem.  People don't care, they just like to see other people happy.  The thing I like about groups like this is that there's a broad range of people, all shapes, all sizes, and all ages.  Whatever you're worried about is totally irrelevant when you get in there. 

We went to a skinny-dipping club tonight, and I was happy to find a good clean pool, excellent facilities including a steam room and sauna, and a friendly but not in-your-face atmosphere.  As a fibromyalgia endurer I find a total peace in water.  I've watched the Olympics this past week and seen the swimmers at the end of the race and kept telling myself 'I'll be elbows up on the side of the pool soon'.   My Dad was keen on swimming, so we were 'launched' at about three years old, and I said tonight I was so grateful.  I couldn't imagine life without that pleasure.  I got in and found that the usual aches and strains ebbed away with the effect of buoancy.  A shoulder that's been pretty buggered since a wrong diagnosis suddenly works a little better.  And most of all, there is no restriction in the way of shoulder straps.  Nothing to put on, nothing to take off.  

It's like stepping out of your normal self, your well-known self.  You cast away  all inhibitions and with that the stresses and worries go with it.  It's a great stress-buster.  The effect of the whole thing is that I came away feeling like I had been 'ironed's mentally and physically.  Every creak, knot and grickle was given a stern talking to by the beautifully cool pool water interspersed with the steam room for a few minutes.  Being naked enhanced this, I know my body has it's problems, but it needs a treat.  Why not let it breathe and be free for a while?  

There has been a big debate here on Naturism recently, and what's interested me is the younger generation getting involved.  I see this as a fight back against media pressure to look 'like this or like that'.  It is a very accepting, tolerant and peaceful environment.  And...you get the whole pool/sauna/steam room to yourselves for two hours!!

So who knows where this may lead?  Will skinny-dipping and walking around naked perhaps force the media to stop being so stupid and forcing daft body images on to young people?  Probably not, knowing them.  But, maybe we've found a rebellion to that rule.  And I salute them.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Wind of Change

Well, following on from my post about inspiration - this is what's been happening.  It's a total change from my normal style - everything usually has to look like what it is (which is not a bad thing, but can be restricting).  I often choose pagan themes, and try to depict the exact image in my imagination of a beach, a rock, plants or a sky.  This day, I settle with my new paints, a gift from the Ragged Old Blogger and set about creating something totally from scratch.  Whatever shapes came to mind, colours and themes.  

What resulted was surprising...I ended up with colours I wouldn't normally work in, I've often favoured watery colours like phthalo blues and greens, and steered from reds, light blues, yellows and browns. I loved the sensation of just 'winging it' and seeing what happens.  Enjoying the smooth blend of the paints, creating colours and following flowing lines.  I'm not sure if this is finished yet.  I still think, when I've built up the courage, to paint some sort of chequered floor going off into the distance at an odd level.  But for now, this is what it is.  

There's something planetary going on within, and my tastes in colour are changing gradually.  I still love circles, so maybe something angular next time might be a good thing to play with.  I think what's come out is the classical view of the planets....Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.  I plan, to represent this somehow in the ringed circle on the left - with some depiction of their orbits.  

Bob asked me what this meant when I brought it home, and since we've yet to analyze it, I'm not fully sure.  I'm always interested in what he can spot that I can't.  Sometimes he can see more of my characteristics on things than I can.  

I'll repost this when it's finished - with a full 'warts and all' breakdown, Bob and Julia style.  It'll no doubt be debated in bed on a Sunday morning, over a few cups of tea.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Inspiration - where does it come from?

I've been thinking about what inspires us, how it presents itself and how we process it.  I'm going to share this picture that resonated with me the other day.  It's probably a good one to use as I haven't analysed it yet.  I wonder what it is about certain things that grab our attention.  What I found fascinating about this photo, is the fact that the body without the face attached is quite simply, dull.  The life is in the face.  Some commented on the fact that it seemed disturbing, but I felt that the soul or the mind was elsewhere.  Her body still carries the earthly trappings and trimmings, but her face was suggesting the enjoyment of a different plane entirely.

I think these odd things are in us all, which is why there's a frisson of something when we see them.  An ability to recognise a concept that runs deeper than everyday life.  It's amazing what the brain takes in in a few short seconds, too.  I calculated that the girl was happy and comfortable, she was warm, the breeze was mild.  There's probably the scent of flowers in the air, perhaps the scent of coming rain.  It spoke volumes, and much of this inner dialogue is impossible to put into words.  It's sensations and feelings - distant ideas and timeless memories.

So what do these connections wake in us?  There's a multitude here, if I could find plenty like this I would be pleased.  I am designing a deck of tarot cards, and would love to use images that speak to the very root of me.  It's made me think of painting, poetry, dance, music, and collecting things of a theme to see what I draw from that.  It's certainly a good way of relating how I feel about fibromyalgia.  There are days when I'm happier 'away from my body' which hurts constantly.  I think myself into a small holiday and give myself respite.  This is what I think the girl is doing.  So out of this photo, comes this poem.

The world is noise,
phones cars sirens talking.
nothing worth hearing.
The body is pain
pins knives cudgels
no sensation worth noting.

I think of the dark sea, the rocks, lighthouse.
My face peels from my head,
it's etheric layer floats up.
The lights in the channel blink, in turn,
my legs disappear as I feel the sand under my toes.
My neck evaporates in the soft breeze, I taste salt on my lips.

I'm gone, the physical body is static,
Like a mannequin, waiting for my return.
Symptoms on hold, I run, I am the wind.
I lie in the water, fly over cliffs, hide in the trees.
for a while....then

Back to world....back to body.