Hello dear friends, and welcome to April's edition of the Beagle.
I hope you have a comfy chair, some quiet and a nice drink to hand. Today we have had blazes of sunshine and snow flurries here in London, the weather is quite confused. In the next couple of days my daughter is shooting a short film in our home so I've been cleaning every nook and cranny, moving furniture, sourcing props and hoping the dog copes with all the incoming crew. It's going to be a new experience for us, one I'm eagerly looking forward to.
I've been pondering many things these past few weeks as I suspect have you. I find I'm always wrestling some truth out, wanting to plumb to the depth of those questions. It takes time. Bible literacy really matters to me. Having been in a Christian cult for the first formative years as a believer, knowing what the word of God actually says, its meaning, intended audience and context, is key to seeing God rightly. Coming out of that situation I not only had to learn some truth but unlearn some error. My heart aches for those caught in spiritual abuse, sometimes I think I should speak into it more.
An overarching theme this month has been renewal, I believe you'll see this reflected in my own photography and the features I've selected. I wrote in one of my previous editions about Afroz Shah who took it upon himslef to clean up the heavily polluted Versova Beach in India. Soon after he started others joined the cause and eventually it was restored. What they hadn't anticipated was the return of nature. After a 20 year absence turtles once again began to lay their eggs there. Do go watch the clip, Afroz is inspirational and funny, "I tell people go date with the ocean, the ocean will never ditch you".
And as Easter approaches my thoughts turn to Jesus who didn't just clean us up and make us as we were before, he made us altogether new. I love how the Amplified puts it in 2 Cor 5:17;
Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!
This month will be slightly scaled down as I've had such a busy time with family. I did however have a chance to create two new still life for you. Both Renewal and Remnant images are available in the Gallery Gift Shop as a fine art print, see the link at the top of this page.
Did you know I link every book, film, recipe etc in the Beagle? Where you see words highlighted and underlined simply click the link.
Yellow Craspedia, or the 'lollipop flower' I've heard it called really does make this arrangement pop! Contrasting beautifully with the deep bluish almost purple Delphiniums it makes for a stunning image. A touch of white is brought in by the one open Campanula. I wanted to create something to stand with the people of Ukraine but also as a symbolic representation for all those finding themselves in conflict or under oppression, of which there are far too many to mention.
One of my mentors Paul Scanlon has taught a lot on transition, one of the examples he uses is that of the butterfly. If you were to look into the chrysalis mid-transition all you'd find is a kind of caterpillar soup. For anyone not understanding the process you'd rightly assume what a useless mess. Of course though this is just the breaking down before the new emergence of something entirely new.
I feel the stillness in this final crop.
The day after I shot Renewal I thought I'd create a flat lay using the remaining flowers. Flat lays are super fun but I don't do them often. I'm very happy with it, the lighting and deep tones are a chef-kiss! Isn't it striking how the black background emphasises the colour further and isolates the subject more. Symbolically this speaks to me of those suffering under persecution, their faith, hope and resilience. I wanted them to know they are seen.
Resurrection by R.S.Thomas
Easter. The grave clothes of winter
are still here, but the sepulchre
is empty. A messenger
from the tomb tells us
how a stone has been rolled
from the mind, and a tree lightens
the darkness with its blossom.
There are travellers upon the roads
who have heard music blown
from a bare bough, and a child
tells us how the accident
of last year, a machine stranded
beside the way for lack
of petrol is covered with flowers.
Wisdom Comes by Tamar Karni
Photography - On the theme of renewal (or rather, repurposed!)
A family of polar bears has taken up residence in an abandoned weather station in the Antarctic. These enchanting images were captured by photographer Dmitry Kokh, it was really hard not to share them all. I wonder if Goldilocks would dare venture in there! Enjoy more images in The Guardian feature.
I love a good meme 😜 I also love emojis, I believe it's a legitimate language 😏
Awe and Wonder
I'm beginning to hear the drumming of the Woodpecker here in suburban London. This footage showcases the incredible force they use to carve out their nest as well as the precision it takes. Skip to 2:56 to see the perfect row he pecks top to bottom, God is a wonderful Creator.
These are so so good and this will be the second year I make them. They do take a little more faff and prep but the results are well worth the effort for this special occasion on Easter Sunday. Eat them hot and fresh, I'd suggest sharing with the neighbours but that might be asking too much, you'll want them all. I think I need to lift my icing game this year! Do you have a favourite easter treat?
'Forgiven' by Daniel F. Gerhartz
How does this make you feel looking at this image?
I have a beautiful song to accompany it which I first heard and saw live twenty or so years ago. I was touched with an inexpressible mix of love, gratitude and resonance, tears streamed down my cheeks as Cindy Cruse Ratcliffe sang. Her vocals, skill and artistry are truly God-kissed. I hope you find it as grace-giving as I did. The image quality isn't great but her voice remains just as powerful. (This was taken from a Lakewood church service but I can't hold that against her 😜)
Making Art Not War In Liberia. I shared this 7 years ago with the girl's group I used to run, it spoke to me again in light of recent and ongoing conflicts.
The Lord will mediate between nations
and will settle international disputes.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
nor train for war anymore.
I came across a wonderful artist and writer on IG this month, Evie Shaffer, who created this piece below, Evie writes for Alabaster Co and is multi-disciplinary artist and award winning photographer. This particular image was created as part of a Lentern series in 2020. You can view the entire work here and the inspiration behind it.
The BFB 'Easter-ish' playlist is HERE.
This Lent To Easter Playlist is a great collection.
Resurrection Letters, Vol 1, Andrew Peterson.
Turning Red from Pixar. There's been a lot of debate and unnecessary controversy around this wonderful film. This is the studio’s 25th animated feature film and the first to be directed by a female director, Domee Shi. Aimed at an older audience Middle High+ I felt it unwrapped important themes within the family dynamic and is also great for parents as well as their tweens/teens. There would be many opportunites for good conversations after this film. Turning Red is not about a girl getting her period although that is alluded to at the start, it's actually about coming of age, child/parent relationships and the importance of safe friendships for teens. To the parents, it's about allowing your child to find their own way when they hit that age and resisting the urge to make them in our own image. Like it or loathe it it will make for good discussion.
[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]
The Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr.
This was recommended as a good Lentern read, one to encourage towards lamentation and reflection. I found it fascinating, poetic, beautifully written, sometimes left a little baffled. My friend and I have been trying to pinpoint who some of the characters are representing, the jury is still out on that but the allegory of faith, good vs evil is very clever. The enemy isn't Disneyfied, he's truly ugly and cruel, that was hard at times but I prefer the darkness not to be sugar-coated. The hero in the tale is not infallible but he conducts himself sincerely as under God, a faithful, loving under-shepherd to those in his care. I'd like to read this again next year as I feel I'd get more from it again. I've now moved onto the sequel The Book of Sorrows which I think has been retitled to The Second Book of The Dun Cow.
Well my friends, this is me signing off for another month. I wish you a blessed and renewing Easter wherever you are. I'm off to cook some dinner and watch a bit of telly as we say here. The sun is shining again and snow flurries have vanished although one half of the sky looks mighty moody indeed. I hope you receive the joy of Jesus' resurrection in all its fullness and that the kindness of God would wash through you in deep waves of peace.
With love and until next time,
Snaps From Home
Good friends will usually let you drag them along to something as was the case with my friend Andreea. Wycliffe Hall in Oxford were hosting a Women's Vocation day and afterwards we took a quick walk of the town centre.
My son turned 17 last month and we all went into town to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. It was a lovely evening so we took a city stroll for a bit, to work of that burger!
More adventures with my friend Sally as we got to escape for the day before our bible study group in Oxford. I was peering through the window of a quaint house in Woodstock, admiring all the brimming bookshelves, books on chairs, tables and any available space, when the owner came out the front door. I apologised for being snoopy but he seemed used to it. Jeremy was the son-in-law of the owner of the house who then appeared. John is 95 years old, an author and scholar of historical archaeology. We chatted and heard all about his life so I naturally asked to take his picture, he seemed quite chuffed. Jeremy then very kindly walked us round to the back entrance of Blenheim Palace and gardens and got me in for free can you believe. As we turned the corner of the grounds I about thought I'd died and woken up in heaven, what a sight!
I got to see my mum for Mother's Day, we popped to her fabulous local garden centre where we not only ate the most delicious cakes but they have an incredible aviary. The embarrassed looking yellow bird is a male Star Finch the darker brown bird is a rare Strawberry Finch.
Signs of Spring. Have you ever seen pasta Gerberas? They're so pretty with their curved petal tips..
A day in London with mentor Paul Scanlon talking about our relationship with Time, Ourselves, God and Calling.
We pig-sat ❤️