Still Life, Writing & An Announcement - August Beagle

I have an important update to share with you today which I'll post at the end.


Hello friends,

‘Glory be to God for dappled things’ as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote. What beautiful summer days we are in where light dapples in through lush green leaves. Summer hasn't come without it's challenges though, we've experienced record breaking heat in London and wildfires. During my 17 years in Australia I regularly saw and experienced the eery atmosphere of bush fires, I never expected to see that here. Yet creation is so very forgiving, I already see signs of recovery with cool changes and much needed rain, the heavens open and the ground says amen.


Have you seen the images from the James Webb space telescope recently? I am in awe. We are seeing the edge of the created universe a million miles away, glimpsing light as it looked 4.6 billion years ago, we are looking back in time to where God spoke words and worlds were formed.


I've been catching up on things this month which summer seems to lend itself to. I've been enjoying talks and inspiration from Sarah Clarkson on her Patreon and was inspired to write something a day as a little exercise. Just t write, anything. The idea is to still yourself with pen and paper to hand and simply launch off from whatever you observe or are pondering. Do you notice the way the light is coming through the window, how it falls across the room and casts a golden sheen to all it touches. Does your body feel weak, are there aches and pains, worries and deep fears. Has the news been bothering you, or are you wearing that new outfit which makes you feel more like yourself than ever?


It reminds me of a more lengthily kind of journalling with a literary twist.


Here are two days from my exercises:


Day 1: The biggest obstacle to my progressing by far, is my phone. But I can’t lay the blame squarely there, it’s an inanimate object. It’s me, me who turns it on, who awakens it with a touch, who glances over to check on it like an anxious mother. No, I’m being a coward, I must shift the blame to me and me alone. Self–control is not the issue, I cannot control myself, such is its hold over me. Self–removal is what’s required. It needs to be banished, exiled!


My books wait patiently, untouched pages, un-fingered folds. I glance at them briefly but not so much with desire as with guilt. My phone has a new screen protector to replace the one with the crack while my books gather dust. But I long to break free. I must get ahead of the curve and pre-empt the temptation by removal of the device while in a strong emotional place. I need to sneak it away while it’s sleeping, in between chores and other occupations. I must take it when it won’t notice.


This has been going on for too long, I have fooled myself, I have played with fire. But how can one take fire to the bosom and not get burned? How can I live and share the same space with this hot coal, will it not burn the whole house down? My creative self is held captive to its domineering and subtle, pleasant ways.


There is no life in this thing only empty calories like those Konjac noodles. They look appealing and taste good at the time but not long after you’re left with an ache in your belly and a hunger for more. ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’, all around me I see good the wonders of the invisible God made manifest in everything around me. Yet my mouth remains dry and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I must forsake all else, go, pluck, bite, touch, smell, see – take this real full fat life into my bones and nourish my soul I’m a strike now all my dander is up!


Day 2: "A study found that just by being in the same room as our phones (even if they are turned off) will reduce someone’s working memory and problem–solving skills." Translation: they make us dumber. As one summary of the report put it, “If you grow dependent on your smart phone, it becomes a magical device that silently shouts your name at your brain at all times.“

- The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer.


I’m busy and distracted, it’s taking me far too long to get through the above mentioned book. Oh the irony.


I had a hair appointment today and rather than take my phone to read whilst ‘cooking‘, I brought my book. It’s a great habit but habits often fade and fizzle when not cemented in and therefore need re-impressing. Today I prevailed. I found myself reading hungrily, nodding and underlining in a voracious rhythm. If I can stack this habit and keep going I might just finish the book . . . . before Christmas!


My hair has been a bit of a focus this month. You see at 52, I’ve just discovered that I have naturally wavy hair. I’ve railed on and fought with my tresses for decades as it kinked and drooped. I’ve always seen it as fine, flat and a bit of a failure. Why did God give rich rubbish hair? But I am a little in love right now. I’ve entered a whole new world of this thing called the Curly Girl Method and a whole new relationship with my locks. We are getting reacquainted. Some days I'm curly girl others I'm more cave girl. It’s hard to describe the feeling which came over me when I first discovered my usually limp, straight, fine hair is actually textured, wavy and full of volume. I felt like Harry Potter when he got his invitation letter to Hogwarts or the ugly duckling when the swans saw him for who he really was.


I’ve been in an almost three year season of transition from home educator and church leader to graduated mum and currently church orphan. There have been many aspects of me buried under me which have surfaced but this display of luscious waves was not expected. I wonder what else I will discover about myself in this season of rediscovery.

 

For fun


In Awe & Wonder


Google Monkey Orchids, the cuteness level is high.


Snowflakes on fern fronds, what an amazing creation and Creator!

 

Still Life

Afternoon Delights


The Hydrangeas are at their best right now, cheering the garden borders with thier pompoms of colour. They're wonderful to cut fresh and bring inside, lasting for many days, even weeks. I put together a little story theme with these compositions, pondering an afternoon of crafting and taking tea.


I have a few collected treasures in these scenes; The little embroidery panel which I found at an Oxford market as well as the delightful little book which a man originally created for his wife (what a gift!). Vintage threads and wooden spools, buttons and scissors and my lovely tea infuser, which I actually use. You'll also see one of my most treasured tea cup sets featuring one of my favourite British wild birds.


 

Poetry


The Simple Dark

Luci Shaw


Black birds slice their evening patterns -- long curves in the sky. Everything

is drawing down into shade.

But the dark, which is at first so simple

is not simple. Away from the farmhouse

with its slits of yellow, the monochrome

develops like a print in the chemical bath.


The unbroken velvet swims

with complications so subtle that

seeing and hearing must take their time

to know. The shadow purples,

the dusk intricate with crickets. The sky

infested with pricks of light.

My whole body an ear, an eye.

 

Artist


Louise O'Hara. I love the way Louise uses mixed media and takes and remnant of something lost or forgotten and gives it new life as she incorporates it into a fresh piece of art. Louis lives and works from her studio in a little Cheshire village. He work is very affordable.

 

Reading


This feels like a confessional but here are all the books either on the go which I'm enjoying at a slow savouring pace, those I've started and am yet to finish and those new to the pile. My great ambition is to finish the ones already begun and also enjoy the new reads in the next two months. I feel as if I'm shooting for the moon now I've listed them all out, but maybe I will hit some stars.


Fiction:

Dune (Book 1) by Frank Herbert (finish this first)

A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles

Lila by Marilynne Robinson


Spirituality:

What's So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey.

Disappointment With God, also by Philip Yancey.

The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr.


Personal Growth:

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Make Comer.


On Writing:

Caught Up In A Story by Sarah Clarkson (re-reading) Faith, Hope & Poetry by Malcolm Guise. (crosses over into spirituality also)

Walking On Water by Madeleine L'Engle. (crosses over into spirituality also)

Save The Cat by Blake Snyder.

Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark


Poetry: I was gifted a beautiful book of poetry last month and am slowly enjoying savouring each piece - What The Light Was Like by Luci Shaw. Joy: 100 poems

 

Watching

Virgin River Season 4 on Netlfix. I am a sucker for the beautiful scenery, gentle music and pace of their countryside lifestyle and who doesn't;t love a bit of Hallmark beefed up.

 

Listening


I don't have a playlist for you this month what with Covid and it just being so darned hot to be sitting inside doing much of anything but I have been enjoying this album by The Hunts, Darlin' Oh Darlin'.

 

Snaps from home


Not so many this month as it's been too hot for much or I've forgotten to takes pictures but a highlight last month was getting to meet up with an Instagram friend, Anna, who lives in Germany. I've written about the many snares of social media but it absolutely has it's blessings too. We met at Baker Street under Sherlock Holmes and took a whistle stop tour of a museum and then talked, talked, talked. We caught a double decker bus into Trafalgar Sq and walked through St James' Park to Buckingham Palace before finally collapsing for a cool cider in a fun American sports bar. What a tonic it was to be with a kindred spirit!


1. You're never too old for Lego. Once in a while we get the big box out and yes, ages 17 to 52, we all had a play. 2. My friend invited me for the day to her holiday rental and I was so thrilled to get this close to the resident Peacock. 3. I have just discovered I have naturally wavy hair.


  1. Movie night out with my dashing young man. 2. We had lots of dappled light laying about this month. 3. Hubby hand selected some chocolates to bring home from me from a business trip. I think this melted blob could be a Willy Wonka creation, you get a new experience with every bite 😂


 

Some news

I'm going to be taking a break from the Beagle in its current form for at least the next 2-3 months. I've accepted a place to study Theology at Oxford from October which is still a bit of a dream. In the lead up I'd like to be able to finish some projects (and reading) and try my hand at others. I'm not sure how I will fare with the study, this is going to be a total change of rhythm and workload and I also am not sure if it is actually for me or me for it. It's been a desire for so very long and now is the time to find out if the reality fits. That said, you might see something in your inbox over the coming months but on a more scaled back level, no promises but I might surprise you. I love hearing from you each month and look forward to your letters, we are connected and not existing in a void. I hope you've found some resonance, beauty and delight in the Beagle today and look forward to sharing again once my ship has steadied.


With love and blessings,


Jacqui X