L.A, Advent, Still Life - The December Beagle For Beauty

Hello everyone,

I'm listening to the soft and constant fall of rain outside my little studio window. After two weeks in LA with beautiful sunshine you'd think it would dampen my spirits but I find it very comforting. Maybe I will feel differently if it keep this up but for now I am finding sunshine on the inside while enjoying the splash of puddles.

My time in LA was quite revelatory, building upon an already unfolding vision which has emerged over a now three year transition period. My husband is an animator, writer and film maker and it was wonderful to be immersed in that field through his business events there. We first met in 1995 in a Blockbuster video store where I was manager. Our starry eyes met, countless film recommendations were exchanged and the romcom between us began. We both had a passion to write and tell stories and embarked on a script writing journey together. Then the narrative blossomed, children came into the story and a new learning curve of parenthood and home educating dominated the next several chapters. I gave up that sort of writing in 2008.


Words and language have always been a fascination. The beauty in the weaving of sentences whether in poetry, prose or narrative holds my eye as a sparkling diadem caught in the glimmer of sunlight. Words shape worlds, inner worlds, they enrich imagination and help us understand ourselves and the world around us. We need words, we need stories. Words laden with truth, nobility, honour and goodness. Words like hope arrows to penetrate the looming darkness.


And, words are being lost.


Madeleine L'Engle writes in her book Walking on Water -

"In time of war language always dwindles, vocabulary is lost; and we live in a century of war. When I took my elder daughter's tenth-grade vocabulary cards up to the school from which she had graduated, less than a decade after she had left, the present tenth-grade students knew almost none of them. It was far easier for my daughter to read Shakespeare in high school than it was for students coming along just a few years after her."


If you're a Brit of my generation you'll most likely know and have a fondness for The Clangers. There's been a reboot of this show recently. The Clangers whistle rather than speak but the show is beautifully narrated. I can hear the difference in the language used between the two productions, to be expected as they're almost half a century apart. Do give them a watch if you're looking for something new as they promote kindness, family, and stretch the imagination of the viewer.


I remember Mr Rogers stating in the Netflix documentary Won't You Be My Neighbour? that "the outer world may have changed but the inner world of children has not". I think much of today's content for children is not created with that in mind. Yet my time in LA amongst creatives who are in positions of content creation and stewardship has given me so much hope going forward. I found myself among others who want to pass on a legacy of story telling which promotes empathy, kindness, imagination and goodness.


It was both foreign and familiar territory to be mixing with writers and creators again. The water felt the same but I am a different fish than that of 14 years ago. At times I have pondered the questions you may have; Am I too old to start something again? Is it too late to step back into this? What has been the sum of my last decade or two? Have I lost touch? What can I possibly offer this generation? Who would care to listen to my voice or take interest in what I have to offer?. . . . After the initial trepidatious dipping of the toe I found an anchored confidence and sense of self I hadn't possessed all those years ago. I have grown. I am a wife of 25 years, a mother of 23, a disciple of 25, a woman of almost 53, a home educator of 10. I've learned a few things, I know more of who I am.


Paul Scanlon shared this week that you can't take an old version of yourself forward into a new opportunity, "The next ting comes out of the next you . . . you can't upgrade to first class and keep an economy mindset" (my paraphrase). And so friends, I find myself evolving or rather experiencing a revisitation to the world of writing and story telling I used to love but as a new me. I have no idea where this is leading, if anywhere, but I'm curious and open.

 

Did you know I link every book, film, recipe etc in the Beagle? Where you see words highlighted, simply click the link.

 

After announcing last month the launch of my new gallery gift shop I am very sad to let you know that for now everything is offline. I was so excited to form a working relationship with this London based printer who offered a very low flat rate for shipping worldwide, only upon return from the States to find out second-handedly that they had changed their policy. I understand the reason but the rate was one of the main draw cards for me. I was also having technical issues with their app and its connection to my website. I won't bore you with the details. So it is with a heavy heart that my store is currently unavailable. I will have to go back to the drawing board and hopefully will have more news in the coming weeks.

 

Still Life

Vessels


'But we have this treasure in earthen vessels'


The is the Winter Ground Cherry or Chinese Lantern plant. I'm obsessed. I spotted these growing in a neighbour's garden on a night walk with the dog last week. I was captivated.


This first image reminds me of a sacred heart. It also speaks to me of a mother's womb, the delicate interweaving, the life-giving supply of nourishment being carried through intricate veins to the seed growing within. I love the twist and curl of the dried stems. The outer casing is like that of a lace veil shrouding the promise within. From the outward appearance we see decay and death but beneath the covering lies a vibrant heart beat.




 

Advent resources


Sarah Clarkson's Advent Retreat might be all the spiritual companionship you need this month.


I've written about my posture towards Advent before as well as sharing various favourite books and resources but I don't think I've mentioned this one yet.


Biola University Centre for Christianity, Culture and the Arts have a wonderful daily Advent devotional sent directly to your inbox. Each day offers an invitation to stillness and contemplation through a reading, artwork, poem and piece of music. I have used their Lent devotional a few times now and am looking forward to their advent journey. It's free to sign up.


My Advent & Christmas Bookshelves

(collected over the years)


ADVENT

The Art of Advent, Jane Williams

Haphazard by Starlight, Janet Morely

Watch For The Light, Plough Publishing House

Sounding The Seasons, Malcolm Guite

Common Worship Daily Prayer companioned with Common Worship Lectionary


CHRISTMAS

God is in The Manger, Dietrich Bonhoeffer The One True Story, Tim Chester A Children's Literary Christmas, The British Library

A Christmas Scrapbook, Elizabeth Walter

I Saw Three Ships, Elizabeth Goudge

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Home For Christmas, Stories For Young & Old, various, Plough Publishing House

How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss

Unwrapping The Greatest Gift, Ann Voskamp

This Is The Star, Joyce Dunbar, Gary Blythe

The Art of Christmas, Jane Williams

One Wintry Night, Ruth Bell Graham


Whether you do anything to mark these coming weeks or whether life is just too crazy with littles and life's demands, it's ok. Advent was given to us and not us to it.

 

Watching


Mrs Harris Goes To Paris. Absolutely charming, heart warming and delightful!


Watership Down by the BBC and Netflix.


I love this dialogue when one of the does, Strawberry, digs them a new warren;


"I think it's incredible. I think you've given us a place to feel safe. I think you've given us a . . . . a home".


At one of the Animation events in LA panelists were discussing the presence of threat and darker themes in children's content. It was a well known saying to 'scare not scar'. I wish my then primary school had known that. I was shown the original Watership Down when I was just six years old and it scarred me for life! Watching this reimagining of the original story was something I was curious to do. It's an astoundingly mature work and I mean that in the best possible way. I can see the layering of issues being addressed here, I was also on the edge of my seat. I wouldn't necessarily recommend for younger viewers but watch with your family at your discretion, I think it's a great conversation starter.


I was so privileged to see a preview screening of Charlie Mackesy's new short film. There's no trailer yet but I believe it will screen on Apple+ and most likely over Christmas. I think it's sure to be a hit and a beloved annual replay much like The Snowman.


Last Christmas. This was such a surprise to me and, I cried and cried and cried, love it! Available on Prime.


[Occasionally my recommendations may not be for everyone. My choice of films, books etc are based on my particular tastes and tolerances. Just a note for my G-rated friends]

 

For fun


 

Reading


A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles.


Finished Disappointment With God by Philip Yancey. Copies if this seem in short supply for low prices so I've attached an Abe Books second hand book link. Here are some favourite quotes and worthy pondering.


"Where is God when it hurts?" Dr. Brand replied, "He is in you, the one hurting, not in it, the things that hurts."


'No intellectual answer will solve suffering. Perhaps this is why God sent his own Son as one response to human pain, to experience it and absorb it into himself. The Incarnation did not "solve" human suffering , but at least it was an active and personal response'


'We remain ignorant of many details, not because God enjoys keeping us in the dark, but because we have not the faculties to absorb so much light . . . . faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse'


'Saints become saints by somehow hanging on to the stubborn conviction that things are not as they appear . . . . Hebrews 11, a chapter some have labelled "The Faith Hall of Fame", I prefer to call that chapter, "Survivors of the Fog."


'Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith either."

 

Artist


Another favourite of mine in this season is The Nativity by Gari Melchers (ca 1891). I really like this little write up by Lisa Vallente-Osborne.

 

Listening


I'm enjoying this Advent album by The Porter's Gate. I have a wee Beagle list going which I'll add to over December so do check back in.

 

Poetry


I posted this last year but it bears repeating, and repeating, it's so very good.


Advent CalendarRowan Williams


He will come like last leaf’s fall. One night when the November wind has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth wakes choking on the mould, the soft shroud’s folding.

He will come like frost. One morning when the shrinking earth opens on mist, to find itself arrested in the net of alien, sword-set beauty.

He will come like dark. One evening when the bursting red December sun draws up the sheet and penny-masks its eye to yield the star-snowed fields of sky.

He will come, will come, will come like crying in the night, like blood, like breaking, as the earth writhes to toss him free. He will come like child.

 

Recipe


Pumpkin Muffins with Pecan Streusel. I make these every year, there's usually a stampede and not much left, not even crumbs!

 

Snaps from L.A


I took only a few pictures this trip but had a lot of fun capturing ambient clips from our time away. I put together a little reel just for you. I managed to cram two weeks into 1 minute!



 

Farewell for now friends,

I am thinking of you wherever you may be, whatever your situation might involve and am sending you Christmas wishes, prayers and blessings for a season held in His love. We do not know what tomorrow holds but we know He holds our tomorrow. And to that end, I will hopefully see you again next month.


Merry Christmas,


Jacqui X