And hark! how blithe the throstle sings! He, too, is no mean preacher: Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher.
- William Wordsworth, taken from The Tables Turned
What an invitation, to go forth into the light of things! After so much seclusion, tucked away in our wintery quarantine burrows we may be yearning for any type of going forth. I encourage you to enjoy the full gem of this poem which my friend Leah Boden shared on Clubhouse this week. Spring defiant is showing her presence with every sprouting shoot, while politicians lift the bottle top off of lockdown and the fragrance of liberty and adventure teases. I cannot wait to go forth how about you? I know not everyone is as keen for the re-entry, for many it brings further anxiety and worrying thoughts about safety and the pressing sense of needing to rejoin the rush and hurry. I think we each need to find our own pace and path, being kind to ourselves and each other.
January has seemed long and tiring, I'm not gonna lie, I've had to fight for beauty and sniff it out with renewed determination this month. It certainly helped to be in my new studio space and experimenting with the light. I've also spent much time in the garden, prepping raised beds, clearing rubbish, getting a fire pit! Beauty needs to be apprehended, scooped up, captured and framed, even if for a moment. Speaking of this you'd love to read The Bright Field by R.S. Thomas.
Now, without further ado, onto this month's Still Life.
The image at the top is the first in a series of three called The Beauty In Afterlife. Having no fresh flowers yet and with the house move, I drew upon the treasures I already had, dried and preserved loveliness. Do you also see the marvellous wooden base and ivy? This was found behind the derelict shed, it's stunning, I'll have to show it off properly next time. These dried Clematis stems and seeds are wonderful, they seem to have movement and dance to them,
The third is very similar to the first but with a slightly different composition. These were basically my first test shots in the new space with my chalky backdrop and natural materials. I have an ambitious project ahead to recreate an aged Tuscan wall, we will see. I also have a very exciting new friend to share with you next month who's been in the pipeline for a few weeks and something I've dreamed of for the past year. I have a funny story to go with it too from when I was about 5 years old and growing up in the countryside. I'm looking forward to telling you that story!
Reading: I'm thoroughly enjoying my new poetry book for Lent and Easter, The Heart's Time by Janet Morely. I'd love to share one with you that's really been speaking to me. I don't come from a traditional church background at all, in fact I came to the Lord late, 27, and my first church was Charismatic/Pentecostal, we had no traditions and I only found out what liturgy was in my mid 40's. This is the first year I've been curious to explore Lent and from my experiences with embracing Advent the past 5 years I was encouraged to take the same approach - through art.
Advent and Lent have come to me gently and quietly as invitations to see Jesus through the language of the arts. This particular book presents a daily poem accompanied by a little unpacking of the prose and some devotional connections that lead the reader to contemplation. Here is my favourite from last week:
Lent is a tree without blossom, without leaf,
Barer than blackthorn in its winter sleep,
All unadorned. Unlike Christmas which decrees
The setting-up, the dressing-up of trees,
Lent is a taking down, a stripping bare,
A starkness after all has been withdrawn
Of surplus and superfluous,
Leaving no hiding-place, only an emptiness
Between black branches, a most precious space
Before the leaf, before the time of flowers;
Lest we should see only the leaf, the flower,
Lest we should miss the stars.
- Lent, Jean M Watts
I found the words of this poem spoke not only into my desire to see Jesus beyond the dressings of everyday life but the timing during lockdown wasn't lost on me. Those things which were 'surplus and superfluous' have been 'withdrawn' there's been a 'stripping bare' 'leaving no hiding place'. I have seen so much of my heart, my life that cringes at the stripping bare and longs for somewhere to hide, yet, yet.. like the season of winter 'between black branches', in the exposed place 'a most precious space' had been presented to me. An opportunity to see God between the bare limbs, a call to not miss this season and opportunity to glimpse an unseen beauty.
Music: Since March last year I began curating a little playlist each month, the soundtrack to my (mostly) lockdown days. I have a few beautiful tunes for Feb so I'll share the whole list this month.
My singer songwriter daughter Zoe compiles wonderful playlists and is responsible for much of my discovery of new music. Here is her laid back vibe playlist, 3rd coffee of the day . Great for driving to, doing housework, working or relaxing.
Gifts: I am in love with this wellness journal by Papier and have used their card service before. Curators and creators of beautiful things, if you ever want to treat yourself or send someone a special something you can't go wrong.
Watching: I have fallen for the Netflix series Virgin River , ok confession, I am totally emotionally now invested in these characters as if they live on my street!
Worship: Tasha Cobbs Leonard, OMG ( I love that she's flipped that) This is the worship song I didn't know I needed, caught off guard and then suddenly weeping, aching for congregational singing. I love the harmonies and vocals in general. My best friend in Australia was from Samoa and taught me everything I know about natural harmonising, she used to say she came out of the womb singing and boy was she gifted, so, I guess I have a soft spot. Enjoy. Soon we will all be together again.
Clubhouse. You may or may not have heard the buzz about Clubhouse? I've been on there a couple of weeks and am seeing the beauty of it (also some craziness). The app is still in it's beta development stage and only runs on the iPhone at present, it's also invite-only while they control traffic and work out all the bugs, so maybe ask a friend if they're on and could they invite you. I'm on there weekly running a Sally Clarkson Club, talking all things Sally, parenting and being a sane mum. I'm also hosting short 15 min poetry pockets as well as a photography chat, and that sums up Clubhouse, chat! It's all audio and very participatory, it's been wonderful to meet new people and actually connect in conversation. I do hope the developers are working at making it accessible to everyone who may either be hearing, speech or sight impaired. I'd love to see you on there, come follow. The best thing about Clubhouse?... you don't need to be on camera!
Thank you for sharing this photographic and beautiful journey, collecting and curating loveliness as we go, I'm humbled to have you along for the ride.
Until next month, may you seek and find beauty in your world,
Snapshots from this month: 1. Two hibernating Peacock butterflies we found in the derelict shed we demolished in our new garden. We safely relocated them! 2. Alba. 3. Incredible ice formation from the splashes on the side of the road. 4. Community knitting group who were 'craft bombing' local Post boxes. 5. Snow Drops. 6. Morning sun. 7. Props unpacked. 8. New/old desk. 9. Spring blossoms. 10. Treating the raised beds. 11. Burning the old shed. 12. Hubby and I having our tea break ;P
The last winter rose from our new garden.