"How do you pick up the threads of an old life, how do you go on?"
- Frodo, The Lord Of The Rings
“I am not at all afraid," said Miss Brown. “The pattern reformed for me once, and it will re-form again.” - The Castle On The Hill
Greetings from beautiful, autumnal London, and Happy 1st Birthday to the Beagle! I can't quite believe where that time has gone and also how much the Beagle has blossomed since that first edition. There are still some fun recommendations in there if you want to take a look. How are you all I wonder in your parts of the world? I love to hear from you so please drop me a line any time, what's happening in your life?
Apologies for this being late to your inbox this month, there have been some unexpected challenges which I'll tell you about. Isn't that life though in all it's glory! I've also written more this month than I usually do, it was hard getting my brain into gear I can tell you, I am working at this craft and it hurts the brain cogs. I'm thinking maybe someone needs to hear what I have to share this month so hopefully it is worth the wait. I've loaded my most delightful Pemberley pics as well as some extra goodies I don't usually include. It's a bumper crop for sure.
What's happening for me at the moment?
As a recently graduated Home Educator I've been finding my knew rhythm and learning more about the way I work best. I've been using Cal Newport's technique of Time Blocking for deep work when I need to focus. I can't work like that though, I need flexibility and freedom and, we're not machines. I don't have Cal's official planner I simply use a bullet journal. Why use this system? This time last year the Beagle took me 2 days to put together, this month it's taken me almost two weeks. I'm writing more which requires deep work, uninterrupted hours, I get this Mon-Weds when my son is at College. I now spend a lot more time reading, note taking and thinking and of course, photographing. One of my goals has been to finish books I've started, I am a notorious book buyer and multi-book reader! Using the Time Block method has helped me be disciplined in working through them. Of course we're all in different stages of life, it wasn't so long ago the only time I could get to myself was my nightly bath. I see you mums, keep snatching those pockets of grace where you can find them. I've also started using an incredible tool called Roam Research, it's kind of like a brain. I make my notes on there, quotes, thoughts, ideas, books I'm reading and excerpts, then you sort of hashtag those entires like this [[C.S.Lewis quote]] [[prayer]] [[jounral entry]] [[thoughts on faith]] [[Tolkien]]. At any time I can either search a word and Roam will bring up every entry mentioning that word, or, I can search the hashtag and it will do the same. It makes connections the same as your brain does such as, 'O, this made me think of that, and that quote reminds me of this film', and so on, it's been revolutionary, I'm not exaggerating. If you do any form of consistent journalling, research or study you might want to give it a free trial.
Isn't this a lovely scene? I saw this little florist tucked inside a courtyard when I visited the British Library last month, it definitely brought on all the autumn feelings.
Still Life: Snapdragons & Seashells. Ikebana style
Giveaway: BOOK - The Castle On The Hill by Elizabeth Goudge.
Artists: 11 year old Naomi Liu
Watching: Vivo, Dune
Poetry: 1194, VI, Wendell Berry
Books: A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry. Dune. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. Advent recommendation.s
Music: . BFB monthly Playlist. My Focus & Quiet Time playlist + the Groan playlist; music to pray or groan to. Joy Clarkson's autumn playlist.
Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Cake, Pumpkin Pecan Crunch Muffins, Chorizo, Chickpea & Sweet Potato Stew
Video: Walking Thoughts - If The Struggle Is Yours So Are The Spoils
When Faith Groans - Thoughts on Prayer
I Got A Nice Surprise from the Queen
Adventuring: Lyme Park (Pemberley from the BBC's adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, you know, the Colin Firth one ;)
Wonder & Inspiration: Chilie's Atacama Desert in bloom. How one man acted when a little boy kept riding on his driveway.
Snaps from home
Did you know I link every book, film, recipe etc in the Beagle? Where you see words highlighted and underlined, simply click the link.
The giveaway winner from last month, Leah, was delighted to receive her prize. I feel very honoured to see my art taking up residence in someone's heart and home. The dog looks pretty happy too!
And speaking of giveaways, I have one for you today friends. I'm sending one lucky person a copy of my of my favourite books, The Castle On The Hill by Elizabeth Goudge.
1. Either reply email here with BOOK GIVEAWAY in the subject line.
2. Or if you're on social media, leave a like and comment on the post featuring this month's Beagle.
I'll pick one name at random on Sunday 7th November, 9pm GMT.
Drum Roll . . . . My Debut Collection Prints are . . .
. . . aaaaalmoooost ready. Sigh, friends, I've hit a potential blip with my packing slips and am hoping to get that figured out in the next 24 hours. I was really hoping to launch today until this snag presented itself yesterday. This also explains the lateness of this month's Beagle. My sweet, patient and ever so clever husband has finished the online Gallery Gift Shop, now we need this last little piece to fall into place. If I can't take the route I was set up for with remote printing I'm gong to have to take things into my own hands which will mean adjusting to a new method of operation. Thank you for your patience. When I picked up my camera last year during lockdown, after five years away from it I never imagined that today my work would be making its way into people's homes. It's very humbling indeed. It's been quite painstaking checking samples and suppliers, but I'm happy now that you'll be getting quality forever-art works in your hands . . . SOON!
A giggle for you
Snapdragons & Seashells
I have some lovely shells which I've collected over the years and this felt like a good time to let them make a full appearance. You saw a preview of them last month but I wanted to share a larger composition with the snapdragons and butterflies. The movement of the snapdragons is quite balletic. The arms are sweeping, the toned limbs curved and pointed, reaching, reaching. My new bee can be seen. I found this majestic chap quite deceased on the path and so set about rehydrating him, pinning and posing, he is lovely don't you think? I did have to snip his stinger off, just in case. Do you see the other small bee? That was another find which I worked with. And finally my two butterflies, a yellow Eurema and a now rather faded Indian Red Admiral. I wanted to try some Ikebana style also. This style of Ikebana is a rather modern approach on an otherwise ancient Japanese art form of flower arranging. It seeks to display simplicity, movement and balance. I wanted to blend my love of the Dutch Masters and so incorporated the gold frame. The arrangement is free to exceed the bounds of the frame and grow as if wild, alive, a living painting.
The origins of Ikebana are thought to trace back to the sixth century when flower displays were used for religious purposes. I selected three stems to feature, each with direction but only two with significant movement. The snapdragons arch and bend in opposing directions while the wild grass is upright. Only the lengthily leaf of the long grass curls, as an arm, around and onto the apple, almost protectively like a mother's arm across their child as they step off too early across the road. The horizontal leaf stem of the apple mirrors that of the vessel. The apple is perched outside of the frame, almost precariously. The butterfly balances itself between the two scenes. I hope you like it.
What I've Been (re)Reading *** SPOILERS***
(all quotes are taken from The Castle On The Hill by Elizabeth Goudge unless otherwise stated)
Re-reading my favourite Elizabeth Goudge book these past couple of months has been a deep delight. I'm coming to think you can't really know a good book until you've read it at least twice. But I really shouldn't put that kind of pressure on myself when my 'to be read' pile is already teetering! This story set my soul soaring when I first read it a few years ago, it resonated with my own sense of disorientation and the desire at the time but is a timeless message. The Castle On The Hill is about coming home, place, belonging, legacy, faith, family and love.It's a redemption story of lives rebuilt from rubble and ruins. It follows several characters all thrown out of their usual pattern of living by WWII. As they struggle to make sense of the world and their place in it each faces their fears and losses and becomes willing to yield to whatever the future may hold.
One of the main characters, Mr Isaacson, a displaced and formerly persecuted Jew, has the most significant redemptive arc in the story. Here's is a man, a musician, who has lost faith. He sees prayer as a childish toy, set aside long ago. How did this happen? The obvious answer seems to be the cruelty he experienced under German oppression and from his fellow man. He views prayer as a childish game for the naive, a play thing which implies pretence, a toy for amusement and distraction. It holds no real meaning (this aspect of his character lodged in my heart this month which you'll read about further down). To him prayer is deceptive, yet he still cries out to God. His reasoning is, prayer was so instinctive a thing, and as fair and shining as the Andante with its beautiful betrayal. Mr Isaacson is an accomplished violinist, music is his passion and religion. You can hear the betrayal he feels by both. Like the Andante he plays, which seems to offer something transcendent and hopeful, life's realities have persuaded him it's an empty promise. He plays his violin from instinct, yet no longer believes the power it holds. Yes he prays, but from instinct also, he doesn't believe it holds true.
Sarah Clarkson writes in This Beautiful Truth, 'Beauty and brokenness told me two different stories about the world. I believe that beauty told true.' Mr Isaacson is waiting to see which story holds true. Little by little Mr Isaacson encounters kindness, hospitality and finds purpose. He is unaware that his playing has reached into the most desperate part of another lost soul, Miss Brown. "You are not back where you were," said Mr Isaacson decidedly. "You are a great deal further on. You have lost your fear." "Miss Brown smiled. "If I have that is partly because of you," she said. "Whenever I feel afraid I think of what your music made me feel that day--I can't exactly describe it--sort of leaning back against the multitude."
There is a Divine presence in the beauty of music and the arts which pushes back against the darkness.
There are a couple of breathtaking crescendos towards the end of the book, this really is a feel-good read. I enjoy seeing the lives interweave, the way they either intentionally or inadvertently play a part in the restoration of others.
A couple of weeks ago I attended an evening prayer service at Pusey House chapel in Oxford called Compline, my first. I was intrigued to take part and witness this centuries old tradition. I hadn't a clue what I was doing but a kind and patient friend guided me through each step. We were handed candles and an order of service, the lights were turned off and a quiet anticipation fell upon us all. The faces across the chapel were illuminated by soft flickering flame, our eyes would meet occasionally, there was a oneness. The sung responses were especially beautiful. A moment that touched me though was when we each lit our candle from our neighbour's flame. There was something in that passing on of the light that spoke to me of fellowship. We are created to gather, to encourage and stir one another to good living and devotion. We each have a light with which we can illuminate the life of a fellow life traveller who may feel lost in the darkness.
You see this all throughout The Castle On The Hill but towards the end an exchange between Mr Isaacson and Miss Brown reveals the ways in which they've had their lives touched upon: "But how did I save your life, Jo?" gasped Miss Brown. "Just having a use for me," said Mr Isaacson. "I thought if you had, well, maybe life had."
The bus arrived, and they got in, and all the way home Miss Brown sat marvelling at the fact that apparently she had unconsciously done for Mr Isaacson exactly what Mr Birley had of deliberate intent done for her . . . Made him feel again that he had his place in the pattern.
I think this is such an encouraging, hopeful and restorative read. The characters aren't perfect, they reflect reality. They doubt, fall, rail, fear and wrestle it out, but it is ultimately redemptive, which for anyone feeling a bit wobbly is just the tonic.
Taken from A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems (1979-1997) by Wendell Berry. For many years, each Sunday, Wendell Berry would write a poem. This is from that collection. ***Sensitive Content***
A man is lying on a bed
in a small room in the dark.
Weary and afraid, he prays
for courage to sleep, to wake
and work again; he doubts
that waking when he wakes
will recompense his sleep.
His prayers lean upward
on the dark and fall
like flares from a catastrophe.
He is a man breathing the fear
of hopeless prayer, prayed
in hope. He breathes the prayer
of his fear that gives a light
by which he sees only himself lying
in the dark, a low mound asking
almost nothing at all.
And then, long yet before dawn,
comes what he had not thought:
love that causes him to stir
like the dead in the grave, being
remembered—his own love or
Heaven’s, he does not know.
But now it is all around him;
it comes down upon him
like a summer rain falling
slowly, quietly in the dark.
I see so much raw expression in this piece, the bare bones of struggle. It is undressed and intimate. It speaks about difficulty and prayer, those times when you're feeling so desperate and alone and wondering if your prayers mean anything. This poem begins in the dark and ends in the dark and in the space in-between a miraculous yet quiet work takes shape, a conception of hope.
In the first seven lines we see the picture of a man, facing something seemingly insurmountable. A man lying on a bed in a small room at night. Why is the room small? ) I've since discovered it was written for Wendell's friend Mike who had recently lost their daughter). It is a child’s room.
There is a circle of hopelessness about him. He anticipates the return of the weight upon waking, that even if sleep did come it can't remove the burden. Sometimes our grandest prayer is simply that we'd have the strength to get through another day. His prayers are fear fuelled breathes, stripped back, unrefined.
The picture of the flare is a strong one. Have you ever seen a flare, maybe only in the movies? They shoot up high into the air and then slowly burn, gently arcing and falling to the earth. The flare gun imagery is one of emergency, send help now! When do you use a flare gun? When you're lost, when there’s been an accident. The writer tells us, this was a catastrophe. His prayers lean upward on the dark, they seem to be labouring against it or are they defying it, is the very darkness providing an up-ramp to heaven?
His are nighttime thoughts, full of doubt, weighted with fear. We observe that he sees himself as a low mound asking nothing at all. I've felt that way before have you? When sorrow is so overwhelming it makes you feel incredibly diminished. As his fear-breathed groaning arcs and descends something comes back to him, love that causes him to stir, like the dead in the grave, being remembered—his own love or Heaven’s. Does he feel seen by God now, did he seem dead to God but remembered or has he glimpsed the alive-love he has for his lost child? A reassurance that, 'she is not dead but sleeping'. Love blankets him, falling like summer rain, most unexpected.
There is no clear resolve to this piece, it simply states things as they are. There's no magic solution or dramatic turnaround, how can there be, this is reality. One foot in front of the other, one stumbling step at a time. What I do sense though is a gentleness and comfort. In the midst of sorrow a quiet consolation falls all around him. The work of God is gentle and unseen, it comes in the darkest places and clothes us with Love when we feel least worthy and least expect it. What are your thoughts on this poem?
When Faith Groans - Thoughts
“O Lord; consider my groaning.” Psalm 5:1 ESV
“Better to groan to God in unknown tongues than to offer prayers that are totally disconnected from yourself.” Andy Squyres
The prayers of Mr Isaacson as mentioned before, sparked something in me this month, I hope you don't mind me sharing. Wrestling with faith and doubt are normal, they're common to us all, it's our very nature. I feel for poor "Doubting Thomas" that nickname is a misrepresentation surely. Thomas had questions which Jesus welcomed and rather than meeting with rebuke he was invited to draw closer and examine the evidence. Was Thomas's approach the correct one, I don't know, but again, he was welcomed closer not turned away. He didn't have it all together but he was the one who got to touch the risen Saviour's wounds! I bet the others had a twinge of jealously, they wanted to have a feel too! Do you think they were tight behind Thomas trying to get a closer look? I think Thomas was bold, he was honest. Jesus doesn't frown on that.
Mr Isaacson's journey is relatable in this area. Because of what he's seen and experienced he's become mistrusting, he's given up on himself, God and life itself. He's forgotten the voice of goodness and truth. He prays and plays from instinct but neither mean anything to him any more.
This is where I've found myself at times; doing what I know to do from instinct, going through the motions. Prayer, what is it, what does it mean, what does/should it look like? It's been my quest to find personal freedom and redeem the concept and practice of prayer. No more legalisms or dead religiosity, no more playing with prayer and fiddling formulaic strings, I want to feel the aliveness of the One who gave it all for me. I have an inkling, maybe you're already there, but I've used those formulas as a cover for getting quiet. Why am I more comfortable with my list than sitting bare and naked in heart waiting for God to send light.
Henri Nouwen writes in Life of The Beloved;
"For me personally, prayer becomes more and more a way to listen to the blessing. I have read and written much about prayer, but when I go to a quiet place to pray, I realise that, although I have a tendency to say many things to God, the real ‘work‘ of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. This might sound self–indulgent, but, in practice, it is a hard discipline. I am so afraid of being cursed, of hearing that I am no good or not good enough, that I quickly give in to the temptation to start talking and to keep talking in order to control my fears."
Fear. I wonder how many of us fear prayer, real prayer, honest communion with God? We feel pressured to be tidy, to have all the answers and keep up appearances. We try to please God and be the 'good Christian' by over compensating with our performances. We fear being scolded when we have questions and doubts. We fear being our authentic selves before God because we think we'll meet with rejection rather than acceptance. Friends, we will never be "good enough", following Jesus is not about perfect behaviour it's about resting in a perfect Saviour. This is another reason we either steer away from quiet time with God or lean heavily on the script. We fall short, we sin, and we let those sin scars keep us hidden away. But Jesus is the one with the sin scars, he's already cleared the way for us to come boldly like Thomas.
So friends, let me encourage and give you permission to mumble, grumble, groan and fumble your way forward, Jesus will only ever invite you closer.
Seeking Mr Darcy?
On our recent trip to Northumberland my daughter Zoe and I were beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Lyme Park aka Pemberley, a dream for us. As former Regency re-enactors we should have worn our dresses! Lyme spans six centuries of history, the house has evolved over the years with each owner adding to its design. Located just south east of Manchester and on the northwest tip-off the Peak District National Park, we stopped here on our way home. It was a flying visit in the middle of what turned out to be a nine hour drive, argh!
The first image you'll see is the true front entrance, whereas the BBC production adapted the back to be used as the front. Who can forget the scene as Lizzie's carriage came around the corner and the house reflected in the lake came into sight.
Seeing as the Master is away, let's ask the housekeeper for a peek inside . . .
It was only the exterior of Lyme Park which was used for shooting P&P but it was fun to imagine what it might have been like had they used the interior also. We both agreed it felt quite liveable unlike some other houses we'd visited.
This inviting sitting area below was designed by the lady of the house as her reading spot. Yes please!
Fancy a bite? Rugs were rolled back in these large rooms to make way for dancing.
other interiors . . .
Of all the rooms this Elizabethan Drawing room is the best preserved and dates from around 1580. Apparently this couch is a replica and was replaced a few years ago prior to reopening the house. It comes on castors and they hurriedly got it in the room the day it opened to the public. Apparently a tourist came in and was invited to sit on it. This person threw themselves on with gusto according to the guide, and promptly took off across the room! The next day they had little anti-slip cups put over all the wheels. True story.
Need to hide from Mr Collins or other unsavoury relatives?
Zoe and I found this secret hiding space a bit of a giggle. If you need a quiet introvert moment or possibly to spy on the dinner guests below, you can close the doors behind you and peek out from behind the painting the other side. Probably the painting isn't part of the original design, possibly this was a balcony area to look down on the ballroom and be seen, after all it's all about being seen!
Some of the various, intricate woodwork within the house.