I'm writing this in early January from the eye of the storm, the calm of the in-between. In-between houses, in-between the old year passing and the new year entering in, in-between sickness and health, exam prep and reshuffling, in-between presidents and sovereignty. There's a lot happening isn't there! My tumble dryer is humming happily and warmly behind me, a domestic comfort that life goes on and clothes still need washing.
I'm seeking solace in these pockets of grace all the more these days, tuning out the multitude of voices and leaving my phone to idle. What a portal to Pandora's box that glimmering little screen can be, and yes at times, a great blessing. I've recently produced an entire course on that subject sharing my own struggles with technology. I'm offering a free session if you'd like to take a peek.
I feel this month to bring you a basket full of calm content that will hopefully inspire deep breathing and inspiration to set our hearts and mind on gentler things, things I feel our soul needs right now.
Above you will see the first larger scale composition I created June 2020. A kind friend let me plunder her bountiful garden and these peonies (a fave) took centre stage for my debut attempt at a Dutch Still Life composition. I've only shown this on my Instagram up till now so I'm thrilled to share it with you full size. I am delighted looking at this to see how the Lord blessed me during the first lockdown by bringing me back to my camera, I also see how much I'm still growing and that this newsletter was birthed from this process. I'll be bookending this newsletter with my other first more 'official' composition called Taste & See, I'll tell you more about it later. And now, to the beauty sniffs from this month!
Enjoy these birds in winter, so soothing to watch and brings a stillness to my day.
I ordered ahead of time something I wanted last year but saw too late, Janet Morley's A Poem A Day For Lent and Easter. How could I resist that front cover! I really enjoy books like this which feature something of the arts which unfold an aspect of God's character or theology.
My family has been enjoying this game over Christmas and weeknights, in fact I'll give you three! Sussed, Uno Flip and Poetry For Neanderthals which was a gift to us so not sure what they're trying to say! A truly hilarious game :D
More Morten Hilmer who I've shared with you before. 7 Days Nature Photography and Bushcraft. So relaxing, peaceful and thoroughly engaging. Be sure to watch to the end where we get to see Morten's beautiful images set to relaxing music. That night sky at 19:46! Morten takes you BTS on his photography towards the end and his friend Bertram did all the bushcraft which can be seen here. Bertram has his own YouTube channel, his silent nature adventures are so soothing. I confess, this gets me quite excited in a primal way when I see bread being kneaded on a slice of tree! I simply love the absence of talk too.
I recommend watching this when adrenalin is low and emotions taxed, I found myself having a cathartic little weep at the end of a very long day this month. The gift of voices and music in the most unexpected places, a kiss from heaven.
7. I fell in love this month with Dutch painter Cornelis van Spaendonck!
8. How do you let the stress cycle take its full course? Did you know we're the only species that storehouses stress? In every other instance the fight or flight process runs its course once the threat is gone; the gazelle goes back to grazing, the fish comes out of hiding. We on the other hand hold onto these worries and in doing so release cortisol and adrenaline when we don't need them. Did you know that organ transplant patients are injected with cortisol and adrenalin when undergoing surgery to suppress the immune system to stop it rejecting the new organ? We must find ways to allow our stresses to complete the cycle and in doing so be better friends to our bodies. I watched a documentary called Heal this month which was very insightful. While as a Christian I don't support every view offered, I was reminded of our beautiful design in God and that I need to be intentional about its care. I think there's a good reason we're encouraged hundreds of times not to be afraid.
9. Taken from one of my favourite films The Prince of Egypt, this lady Jada, went viral with her impromptu singing in an empty lobby. At this stage Jada had received 3.3m views and so went back to record this full song from the same film River Lullaby, wow, so beautiful. Here's a small clip from the beautiful film.
10. Still Life - Taste & See.
We are dimensional beings, created with senses to experience our world in living colour! There are a few threads of journey which lead into this final piece. I'll share the back stories underneath but I’ll let you interpret this image in your own way, what does it speak to you?
Five years ago we thought my husband had cancer, it was a dark and scary season and time for my budding photography wasn’t a priority any more, sadly I laid my camera down.
Five years later my husband contracted Covid and not only did the hamster wheel of life cease to turn, the whole hamster world came to a grinding halt, now there was time aplenty. A sweet neighbour dropped some tulips off along with our food delivery, I felt a tug at my creative heart and picked up my camera again. Using what I had to hand - our bedroom, gifted flowers and the light, I fired up the creative cogs again. That was May 14th 2020.
The last couple of years I’ve had a growing love for Dutch Golden Age still life painting in particular flowers and nature. Artists Jan Van Huysum and Rachel Ruysch have inspired me and for a long time I’d dreamt of some day replicating such works photographically. Taste & See is my first official piece after weeks of trial and error in limited space and with limited materials.
What have I learned in this new world I find myself in?
* Life takes away but it also gives back
* Limitation can be life’s gift to me
* The darkness is what makes the light stand out
* Better to light a candle than curse the darkness
* You might be buried under you if you’l allow time and space to discover that
* recognise ‘some day’ when it arrives
This dressing table scene for Taste & See speaks to me on many levels in my heart, this is one of them: I may be tempted to concern myself with the outward dressing but God sees past all the decoration and loves me deeply, thoroughly, unconditionally. I may feel discouraged when I catch my reflection seeing only my faults and flaws, but God sees the image of his beloved son Jesus who’s perfection alone I‘ve put my trust in.
A sweet and favourite verse of mine is in the book of Songs, "You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” Such words are too wonderful for me, they’re words I’ve had to receive by faith at times. I am so grateful for his love, his faithfulness, his belief in me because of my love for him and I am confident that I am ever being transformed into his image as I look to Christ.
A dressing table is also place of quiet thoughts, for preparation, for taking off and putting on. A space, a place for reflection, decoration, unmasking. A pocket of grace to indulge a little in a secret sweetness.
As in life so it is in a pandemic; in the broken place, under the shadows we are invited into a secret feast, a banquet of God's goodness. We won't just taste and see the goodness of God in the sweet thereafter but now 'in the presence of my enemies' (Psalm 23).
It was absolutely sweltering the day of the shoot, I wondered if my chocolates would melt into a delicious puddle or how the delicate petals would hold up but we made it through. Can you see my little friend on the roses? Taste and see indeed; the wine that speaks of forgiveness, redemption and sacrificial love. The chocolate which reminds me that God gives 'all things richly to enjoy' (1 Tim 6:17). The roses, decadent, fragrant, fleeting, frivolous? Certainly not. Consider these and how beautifully they are fashioned and yet God will clothe us even more so, such a message of comfort and care for us (Matt 6). Observe the light, breaking in on the darkness, revealing beauty, giving expression to joys concealed.
I’m hoping to recreate more themed Dutch still life shoots and work my way towards a photographic publication which gives light and hope to it’s viewers. A Still Life will be a visual devotional featuring images of beauty and words of encouragement for weary hearts.
This sweet little still life was taken inside a small aged wooden crate I use, it provides the loveliest backdrop and light. These were the very last two winter roses in my local park, I felt they deserved honouring.
Well my friends, I will be in my new home when you receive this, is it ok to confess I hate moving?! I am excited though that all my family will have more room for their personal use and, drum roll, I will have a room for my studio. To think, I started shooting in my bedroom, actually on my bed, I mocked up a little magazine cover from one of my favourite creative reads Where Women Create. The spaces featured are usually so inspiring, so grand, like Tuscan chateaus and French Villas, but it's not where you create that matters so much as what you do with the loaves and fishes you're given. I am so grateful for this next step.
I'll leave you with a little winter gallery from a surprise snow day we just had on my birthday, what a treat for us all in the middle of everything.
Blessings, love and peace to you friends -