Nature can be trusted to work her own miracle in the heart of any man whose daily task keeps him alone among her sights, sounds, and silences. - Freckles A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. 1 Kings 19:12 - The Message
Greetings from a sweltering London! My little studio fan is working overtime as we enjoy 30+ temperatures the past couple of weeks, but I have to say it’s not quite British to be sweating so profusely. Where would we be without our weather to voice complaints or commentary, that is very British indeed! After being totally blindsided by a mystery virus two weeks ago (not Covid) I’ve been gradually making my way back to daily rhythms. But oh my body is being slow. I have an issue with my white blood cells so it takes me a little longer to get back to steam. Afternoon naps are my grace at times like this. I’ve learned over the years to be gentle and kind to myself, to say no when I need to. So friends, not only do I have one beautiful still life for you this edition, or even two, but three! I just can’t help myself it seems and possibly these interruptions make me more creative!
Still Life trio
Books: Freckles, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle, Life of The Beloved, Love Set You Going
Music: Alfonso Peduto, Michael Kiwanuka + BFB monthly Spotify playlist
Recipes: Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffins, Lemon Sole
Film: Mrs Lowry & Son
Poem: Prayer Time, Eugene Peterson
Artists: Dutch artist Balthasar van der Ast, Daniel Keys
Snaps from home: My candid monthly adventures
Did you know I link every recommendation in each Beagle? Where you see words in a different colour font, simply click and link :)
If there’s something good to come from interruptions, it’s the opportunity to step back from routines and habits and see life with fresh eyes. You sometimes hear of people having a life changing experience which causes them to reassess their choices in life, they often go on to redirect their energies and pursue long buried desires or dreams. I’ve shared a little this week over on Instagram about leaning into my introvert personality:
Things I’m Learning at 51 It’s important I lean into my introversion not away from it. For so many years I’ve fought it, hated on myself for being ‘anti-social’, questioned what was wrong with me for needing alone time, pressuring myself to be more socially productive. Despite knowing I’m an introvert for many years I’ve never fully embraced the gift of it. I need solitude, quiet, space to just be, to read and ponder, pray and gather thoughts. The trouble is I love people. A lot of inner conflict comes from the desire to care for and help others. A lot of busyness, especially church service, has come from that compassionate place. A lot of burnout. Why? Because being around people too much doesn’t energise me it drains me. Understanding how I refill my own reserves is vital. Learning to know and understand myself and therefore have boundaries, to say no without feeling guilty. Do you understand your personality? Do live sympathetically with it or do you try to push against it?
I’ve been in church leadership for most of my Christian life, 24 years. It’s only been the past 18 months that I’ve stepped away from it and come to unearth many layers in myself. There’s a me who God created and a version of me shaped by church. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all shaped me and there have been wonderful fruitful years, but I’ve been pulled out of shape too. I’ve been reading Henri Nouwen’s little book Life of the Beloved and love the way he encourages us to practice active attentiveness, otherwise known as prayer. Henri says, “The real work of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me.” It’s very easy to feel cursed in this world, so many negative voices within and without, headlines, horrors, we struggle on many fronts. Certainly it’s hard to believe we’re known, loved and blessed in all the raised voices of daily life. Henri suggests we’re afraid to get quiet for fear of what we’ll hear, that we’ll hear God say we’re no good or not good enough. But ‘the movement of God’s Spirit is very gentle, very soft - and hidden.’ And we will hear that gentle voice speak blessing over us, don’t we all long to hear that? Ultimately we’re all driven by the same needs to be known, seen, understood, accepted, loved, affirmed and championed - just as we are, in the shape that we were created. How does this tie in to introversion? I think it’s important to get quieter, listen more, discern or regain our God-shape identity. Not knowing ourselves, not being self-aware, God-conscious of who we are created in him can cause us to lose ourselves in the noise. Sometimes you is buried under you. I spent many years presenting as an extrovert when in reality I was at great odds with myself. To be at odds with yourself is to be caught in a battle when what we deeply need is peace. I think stillness helps us to find peace with God in his presence with the natural ripple effect of peace with ourselves and peace with others.
Prayer Time Eugene Peterson I’ve never had an answered Prayer Or unanswered. There’s a clearing Away or a darkening over, A quickened pulse or Slowed step, not Getting but Getting in on God. Being there.
‘To know a poem by heart is to slow down to the heart’s time.’ Nicholas Albery
I just bought a beautiful new book (kind of an addiction) on the artist Balthasar van Der Ast and his work. It’s written totally in German but the images are stunning, I don’t need a translator for those.
Balthasar van Der Ast has works on display at The National Gallery so I really have no excuse but to take a trip in soon. I love his extensive use of sea shells, insects and small creatures such a lizards. I wish I knew what the piece below is called but it’s in German. Most names aren’t very imaginative, it’s probably Flowers in a Vase with Lizard and Grasshopper or similar. Naming my pieces has been a creative challenge, I’m still not quite sure which direction to take yet.
I enjoy seeing the smaller studies and compositions, this reminds me to try new things and not always go so big, whereas Balthasar’s compositions apparently became more and more elaborate the older he got. Balthasar was born in Middelburg in the Southern Dutch province of Zeeland in approx 1593/94, his exact birthdate wasn't recorded. His entire family went on to become successful artists and teachers, it’s likely that Jan Davidsz. de Heem was under his tutelage.
A current day artist who I’ve been following for a while is Daniel Keys. The way he captures light, especially in his floral pieces, is stunning. I purchased one of his short online courses for my hubby last year and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Follow Daniel on Instagram to see much more of his current work.
© Daniel Keys, Symphony, oil on linen
Softly & Tenderly
Peonies, roses, cornflower blue and pink, hedge bindweed and other wild flowers, I loved the way the light wrapped itself so softly around this composition. It’s always about the light, especially when attempting to emulate the Dutch Masters. They of course could take their time, layer and re-work in order to create the desired effect whereas we work with digital tools. Yes I can dodge and burn (lighten or darken) areas but the foundational true light needs to be there, the shapes and shadows. I am closer to having my art shop up and running so keep a look out for that, I’m super excited as you can imagine.
Each arrangement provides opportunity for experimentation and sometimes acrobatics. My hubby came in one time to find me standing on one leg with a bent knee lifting my dressing gown, holding a piece of board in one hand with the remote shutter release, the other arm in the air casting shadow across the top of the flowers! I hold my breath for the few seconds the shutter is open, then try not to fall over.
I damaged my eggs in this shoot but managed to manoeuvre them so you couldn’t see the break, I really am quite clumsy and wonder how I manage at times. My neighbour kindly donated the beautiful big poppies but they faded so fast overnight that I had to go with the wilting look, that red really was something, so incredibly rich. And of course the stars of the show are the peonies, of which I can never tire.
Sunflowers a la Gogh!
This was a spur of the moment project inspired by my little charity shop found vase and a friend who said it reminded them of Van Gogh’s vase used in his sunflower paintings. I loved creating a slightly different result with this arrangement both with the colouring and the clarity. Do you also see my newest little bee? Usually I avoid bold colours such as yellow, orange and bright green but this came together really well.
Luca by Pixar. This is a sweet, fun and family friendly film with a storyline reminiscent of Finding Nemo. It’s a coming-of-age, dare to be different tale and very affirming of our uniqueness. Mrs Lowry & Son. “There’s a beauty in everything, a man just has to open his eyes and look”. Starring Timothy Spall (grossly overlooked so far as awards go) and Vanessa Redgrave. Beloved British artist L.S. Lowry lived all his life with his over-bearing mother Elizabeth. Bed-ridden and bitter, Elizabeth actively tried to dissuade her bachelor son from pursuing his artistic ambitions, whilst never failing to voice her opinion at what a disappointment he was to her.
Plough Magazine. I’ve just started a subscription to this wonderful publication, and so inexpensive. Plough Quarterly is a magazine of stories, ideas, and culture to inspire faith and action. Bold, hope-filled, and down-to-earth, it features thought-provoking articles, commentary, interviews, short fiction, book reviews, poetry and art.
Freckles, Gene Stratton-Porter. I really enjoy reading this level of literature as it’s easy to grasp and a delight to read when some of my other books are more theological or academic. I highly recommend middle/high school age literature, ‘tis a treat.
Without giving any spoilers the arc of this story sees a young man, Freckles, an orphan with unknown origins, no name and only one hand, leaving the Home to seek work and forge his own destiny.
‘What would it mean to have no parents, no home, no name? No name! That was the worst of all. That was to be lost—indeed—utterly and hopelessly lost.’
He is unaware of his true deeper needs until the place and people around him begin to speak to his hidden hungers.
“I don’t know what my name is, and I never will; but I am going to be your man and do your work, and I’ll be glad to answer to any name you choose to call me. Would you please be giving me a name, Mr McLean?"
“I will tell you what we will do, my lad," he said. “My father was my ideal man, and I loved him better than any other I have ever known. He went out five years ago, but that he would have been proud to leave you his name I firmly believe. If I give to you the name of my nearest kin and the man I love the best –– will that do?"
“Thank you mightily," said Freckles. “That makes me feel almost as if I belonged, already."
“You do," said McLean.
The compassion, love and belief that Freckles receives from the father figure McLean forms just a part of the tapestry of adoptive family which begins to weave around him. Love begins to work its magic for, ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear’, 1 John 4:18. “To have been loved so deeply . . . will give us some protection forever,” - Dumbledore.
When he first arrives to work in the swamp he is afraid and filled with terrors, ‘Night closed in. The Limberlost stirred gently, then shook herself, growled, and awoke around him.’ From there he perceives every sound as a threat, ‘Bellowing, wailing, shivering cries, bats struck his face, wildcats scream with rage . . . the hair on the back of Freckles’ neck arose as bristles, and his knees wavered beneath him . . . he stood motionless in agony of fear . . . with a yell of utter panic Freckles ran’.
Freckles buries his fears and presses on nonetheless, eager to please and impress McLean who has placed so much trust and belief in him. After a month his outlook has completely changed, ‘Before the first month passed, he was fairly easy about his job; by the next he rather liked it. Nature can be trusted to work her own miracle in the heart of any man who is daily task keeps him alone among her sights, sounds, and silences. When day after day the only thing that relieved his heart of loneliness was the companionship of the birds and beasts of the swamp, it was the most natural thing in the world that Freckles should turn to them for friendship’.
I promised no spoilers which is difficult to do as there’s so much brimming from my heart that I’d like to say about this story. Freckles at first finds himself at home in the Limberlost and builds a family amongst the flora and fauna but goes on to flourish among the folk who believe in him, who love him.
‘So Freckles fared through the bitter winter. He was very happy. He had hungered for freedom, love, and appreciation so long! He had been unspeakably lonely at the Home; and the utter loneliness of a great desert or forest is not so difficult to endure as the loneliness of being constantly surrounded by crowds of people who do not care in the least whether one is living or dead.’
Janet Morley in her book Love Set You Going writes, “Love is fundamental to our being, our growth, development and continued well-being. It is the intimate sense of connection which shapes our human understanding and identity, impelling us to respond to another: to desire, protect or imitate, or somehow allow ourselves to be truly shaped by their presence.”
Freckles is shaped by love. ”Love turned loneliness backwards and remade the world”, Sarah Clarkson, This Beautiful Truth.
I really hope you enjoy Freckles as much as I did.
The Silver Chair and The Last Battle, C.S.Lewis. One of my goals this month and going forward, is to finish books I’ve started. I am a compulsive book buyer! I start one with good intentions then a new shiny book comes along and I move on, repeat cycle. Hence now I have numerous books waiting for me to work through. I’ve tried a few different strategies over the years but only one seems to be sticking - just read one book at a time. That rocket science advice was courtesy of my clever daughter. Per her instructions I’m investing in one at a time, gaining momentum and, finishing, five down already this week! There’s so much to love about The Chronicles of Narnia series as well as anything else penned by C.S.Lewis. The spiritual truths woven through this series are simply stunning in parts. ’Then Eustace set his teeth and drove a thorn into the Lion’s pad. And there came out a great drop of blood, redder than all redness that you have ever seen or imagined. And it splashed into the stream over the dead body of the King. At the same moment the doleful music stopped. And the dead King began to be changed. His white beard turned to grey, and from grey to yellow, and got shorter and vanished altogether; and his sunken cheeks grew round and fresh, and the wrinkles were smooth, and his eyes opened, and his eyes and lips both laughed, and suddenly he leaped up and stood before them – a very young man, or a boy. And he rushed to Aslan and flung his arms as far as they would go round the huge neck; and he gave Aslan the strong kisses of a king, and Aslan gave him the wild kisses of a lion.’ - The Silver Chair ’Jill looked at the King. His mouth was open and his face was full of horror. And then she understood the devilish cunning of the enemies’ plan. By mixing a little truth with it they had made their lie far stronger’. - The Last Battle Love Set You Going, Janet Morely. This is my second book by this author. As someone who loves poetry but is still learning to understand and therefore appreciate it more fully, Janet is a gentle and skillful guide. ”Janet Morley has the great gift of being able to write simply and succinctly about a poem in a way that invites the reader into the heart of the poem. A fine poet herself, and one of the best liturgical crafters of prayer in our time (her first book, All Desires Known is, to my mind, one of the best collections of prayers in the modern era), Morley brings to her writing the poet's sensitivity to language, the critic's capacity to analyse and interpret, the theologian's discernment of the sacred with the teacher's ability to communicate insight in fresh and memorable ways”. - Nicola Slee
Alfonso Peduto has been on my BFB playlist this month, what an incredible talent and pioneer in the use of the piano! In Quietude is beautiful. You can watch some of his truly awe-inspiring compositions on his website also. Go watch the This Is Not A Piano series! 20 Hands is a favourite.
I’m a little besotted with Michael Kiwanuka’s sound at the moment. Home Again and I’m Getting Ready are favourites but really he is a fantastic artist with a rich and wonderful sound across the board.
You’ll also find a little Dean Martin on the playlist this month, he’s so fun to cook Italian food with! I have 22 songs in this month’s line up, I hope you find something new to delight you.
Raspberry and white chocolate muffins. I’ve been making these for about 18 years, they’re a family favourite! Based on a handed down recipe from an old family friend this base can also be adapted to work with other ingredients such as orange and poppyseed or blueberry etc. You can drizzle your muffins with additional melted white chocolate after they’re baked or use a half/half mix of dark and milk choc chips instead. So many possibilities :) Ingredients: 2 cups self-raising flour 1/2 cup caster sugar 1 cup white chocolate chips 1 cup raspberries 125g butter, melted 2/3 cup of milk 1 egg, beaten Demerara sugar to top. Method: * Melt the butter first and leave it to cool while you do the other prep. It needs to cool at least half way or it will curdle the egg and milk. * Sift flour into a large bowl, stir in sugar and choc chips. * Blend together the milk and egg. * Make a well in the flour mix. * Pour in the milk and egg mix, stir slightly. * Add the butter, stir it all together. * Don’t over mix. * Gently fold in the berries. * Spoon the mix into muffin cases to the top. * Sprinkle with Demerara sugar. Bake on 170-180 for approx 25 mins depending on your oven. Insert a skewer at 20 mins and see if it comes out clean. When it does come out clean they’re ready. Allow to cool in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack for another 10 minutes (if you can wait that long!). Enjoy!
Lemon Sole. I don’t like fishy fish but really enjoy white fish such as cod or even sea bass. This new-to-me recipe is taken from one of my favourite cook books Lidia’s Italy In America, as previously mentioned in April’s Beagle. This was so very good plus delicious and quick! If you can’t get Lemon Sole you can substitute with either Plaice, Dover Sole or Turbot. Ingredients: 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 5 tablespoons unsalted butter 4 skinless fillets, lemon sole (or skin on) 3/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt Flour, for dredging 5 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled (keep whole) 2 tablespoons pine nuts 1 cup dry white wine 2 tablespoons lemon juice 3 tablespoons drained capers 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley Method: Put the olive oil and 3 tablespoons of the butter into a large frying pan over a medium heat. Season the sole all over with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Lightly dredge the sole in flour, tapping off any excess, and slip the fillets into the melted butter and oil. Brown the fish on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Once it is browned and cooked all the way through, transfer to a warmed plate or platter while you make the sauce. Increase the heat to medium – high. Scatter the garlic (crushed but whole and peeled) and pine nuts in the pan. Cook and toss until the pine nuts are toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the white wine and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Add the capers and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk to melt the butter, and boil the sauce until reduced by about 1/2, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Remove the garlic cloves from the sauce, then stir in the parsley. Pour the sauce over the fish, and serve. I served mine with asparagus and long stem broccoli sautéed in butter and seasoned. You could add sides catering to whatever your taste is. The rich gravy this sauce makes is just about close to heaven I think!
Snaps from home
I wish I had more shenanigans to show you this month, but being out of action for a couple of weeks meant less adventures. I hope you enjoy these anyway! 1. Celebrating my mum’s 79th birthday last week. I love this captured moment. 2. My monthly mentorship group with Paul Scanlon. This investment into myself has been such a good choice this year in helping me grow. I’ve been following Paul for 20+ years but this tribe of people has brought so much insight and wisdom. 3. Summer at last! 4. Alba checking out Brad in the new birdcage prop I bought this month. I hate to break it to her but he isn’t going to move anytime soon! 5. Bruschetta. Pronounced broo-sketa, so simple, so delicious. I’ll share this easy recipe next month and the delicious chicken bulgar wheat risotto in the background (half eaten!) :D 6. Beautiful wild flowers growing near my house, there were so many of them.
Farewell friends, do drop me a line anytime via my email or social media as I love to hear from you. I hope this has been a blessing to you today, something to ponder and gaze upon, to tap your feet to or whet your appetite. I look forward to next month with new floral compositions, books read (must tackle that stack!) and any other goodies my magpie little self can gather for you. I pray a kind, adventurous and surprising month for you, filled with love and light and only good things. With love, Jacqui X