I Spy Autumn Fruits…

I like September in the lane. Even people like me who may be a bit challenged in the ‘identifying wildflowers’ department are suddenly offered a helping hand by Mother Nature who obligingly sends forth a mass of brightly coloured berries to make the task easier – something similar to when you’re struggling with a crossword puzzle and someone comes along and fills in every other letter…

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This September there seems to be a huge abundance of fruits in our lane. So far I’ve spotted rowan berries, hips, haws, elderberries, blackberries, lords & ladies, acorns, honeysuckle berries and sloes (by the way, if you’re tired of sloe gin, here are a few alternatives I quite liked the look of…)

I don’t think we’ll be seeing any crabapples this year, the poor tree hardly produced a handful of blossom and there’s no sign of any fruit that I can spot. And I’m not anticipating a major conker crop this year since almost all the horse-chestnut trees in the park were felled last winter.

But what there is seems very plentiful indeed. Good news for foragers. (That’s not me though, apart from the odd blackberry or two. It’s less to do with willingness, more a result of always having the Delinquent Dog in tow. There’s only so much you can reach with only one hand free, and whilst I often say I look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, I don’t really want to put it to the test).

Are you a serious forager? What’s your favourite and what do you like to do with it?

I started a new Meditation Piece at the weekend.  (If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen a glimpse of it – there’s a link on the side) – It seems to have an autumnal feel – not deliberate, but perhaps a product of my subconscious…

Happy stitching.

 

Summer in the lane…

And so, finally the sun decided to amble over in our direction and grant us a few weeks of what we could probably agree to call proper summer – by which I mean being able to wear sandals and occasionally bring out the embarrassing sun hat.

Things are a bit different here for us this year. Unlike recent summers when we’ve disappeared up to the Highlands with a couple of tents and an optimistic attitude to rainfall, this year we’re staying put – or more accurately – not straying very far.

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Not getting to walk along the beach at Balnakeil near Durness, is something I’ll miss, but instead I’ll have the opportunity to watch as the summer progresses in the lane. Already I can sense a change in the pace of growth. The pumping energy of spring has given way now to a mild sense of exhaustion, the fresh bright greens of May are now darker, dustier. The delicate cow parsley has turned brown and shrunk back, replaced by the stronger stalks of hogweed and banks of purple thistles. The nettles standing sentry are gradually being pulled down by the wreaths of wilting cleavers.

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In the field, the grasses which in June swayed like waves have been cut and bailed, and already a new growth of nettles, thistles and grass is greening the pale stubble. We haven’t yet reached the point when the countryside turns golden, although I don’t think it’s far away – soon the colours will change and the tired greens will be replaced by the rich reds and ambers of late summer.

High summer has never really brought out the best in me, which is perhaps why I normally prefer to travel north for a cooler sort of summer, but I admit there’s something that feels right about observing at close hand the slow changes as the seasons roll round. I’m enjoying it in a strange sort of way, but at some stage I’m going to have to head for the coast and dip my toes in the sea…

I do hope you’re having a good summer – it’s great fun watching Instagram friends post pictures from their travels around the world – vicarious holiday pleasures!

 

 

 

 

The Wheel Turns…

November – It’s been a pretty grey month for me. Literally grey most days, with very little sunlight managing to lift our spirits and emotionally grey too, with the loss this month of someone who was and always will be very dear to me.

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I’ve rather auto-piloted through most days.

But the wheel doesn’t stop, it keeps turning and we go along too. I find comfort in that.

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And I am reminded how important it is to live life fully and gratefully.

So when nature drops a dragon in your path – obviously you pick it up and take it home…

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Teetering or tipping?

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These crows have been providing the soundtrack for all our recent walks…

I’m sure by now, some jolly soul you know, will have cracked the ‘ooh the nights are really drawing in now’ line – which really helps lift your mood if you’re already feeling a touch of autumnal melancholy…

But of course they’re right (well for those of us up here in the Northern Hemisphere at any rate), this is the time of shortening days, we’ve passed the tipping point of the autumn equinox and it’s all wooly scarves, thermal undies and stew for dinner, until winter gives way to spring again.

For the last few days, I’ve been obsessing over the whole concept of balance. We’re told how important it is to achieve balance – in life, in work, in our diet…, balance is described as something to be attained and held on to, it’s an objective, a target, something to strive for. But in practice, surely balance is an extremely tricky customer – and the energy required to maintain balance is exhausting – try the Tree (Vrksasana) or my favourite Eagle (Garudasana) poses in yoga if you don’t believe me.

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The first touch of autumn amongst the oak leaves..

If you’d asked me a few months ago if I was happy with my own balance, I’d have said I was, but just lately I realised that I wasn’t so much balanced as teetering – wobbling about in roughly the same place, desperately trying to keep everything the same, but feeling that at any moment, I should really be heading off in some new direction.

Then today, right on cue, while I was walking with the Delinquent Dog, I realised that I’m not teetering any more – I’ve tipped.

Weird, because I’ve no idea what pushed me over the edge, all I know is, I suddenly feel as if I’m moving forward again. Perhaps I’m someone who enjoys the journey more than the destination, or perhaps we’re just not designed to spend too long in one place, – perhaps as someone who embraces a cyclical attitude to time, I just tried to stand still too long.

Whatever, I have to admit to feeling much happier again now.

 

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Did anyone in the UK watch Midwinter of the Spirit last night? What did you think?

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I’ve really enjoyed stitching this piece – not much more to do now, then I’ll show you the whole tapestry. I’ve used a lot of un-dyed wool this time – Wensleydale and North Ronaldsay, both from http://www.blackbat.co.uk which has added quite a lovely variety of texture and tone, although it’s been moderately more challenging to work with.

We have a date for the new boiler – yippee!

Summer…

Walking the Delinquent Dog this morning, I was struck by the feeling that we are reaching the peak of the summer, moving towards the tipping point, where the strong pulsing energy of late spring and early summer finally flips over into the languid pause of August and begins to be absorbed quietly back into the land.

The bracken, which not so many weeks ago I swear you could almost see growing as you stood to watch, towers over me now, but it’s stopped getting taller. Now it stands, erect and still very green, but the energy that shot it upwards has ceased. It seems happy just to wait.

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Along the edge of the lane, colours are subtly changing. None of the gold and oranges of autumn yet, but look closely and notice the grasses, bleached pale blonde by the recent heat. In the hedgerow, the white elderflowers have gone, their stalks begin to turn reddy purple, the few remaining flowers are brown. The cow parsley that made the lane look as if it wore a fluffy lace collar, has now turned to rust and bends down as it dies.

In the fields, the grasses have been cut and baled, some are still there, drying in the sunshine, waiting to be collected. The crows are happy, hopping noisily amongst the bales and taking off when the red kites come gliding over them.

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In the wood, the horse-chestnut trees are showing tiny, prickly, conker buds, although many fall in the thundery rainstorms. The brambles and nettles have climbed all over the paths, making it difficult to follow some of our winter routes, forcing us to choose our steps carefully.

Summer is not my favourite season. I find the heat uncomfortable, I’m fair-skinned and blonde-haired, and burn in minutes, so forays outside have to be early or late. But since we’ve had the Delinquent Dog, I’ve begun to appreciate this time of year, it seems to be saying slow down, wait, stop – which of course is what so many of us do. Nature works in cycles, and we are part of nature, so it’s natural for us to be tuned-in to this seasonal round. It’s not surprising that we want to slow down for a while.

It makes me wonder how people who work especially hard at this time of year manage to do it – I’m just extremely glad not to have to.

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It’s all go…

My mind seems to have been all over the place lately.

I’ve been preparing for the Discover Original Art exhibition – more over at my website (click here for gallery details) – which starts  on Wednesday this week, 3rd June. 

I’m so pleased to have had this date to work towards, because although at times I felt as if things weren’t ever going to come together, knowing that I had to get there, eventually worked its way into my subconscious and turned things around.

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This last 12 months has seen the most amazing upheaval in my approach to making art. Twelve months ago, I had a stack of stitched canvasses sitting on a shelf, with no one except immediate family and you, my lovely blog readers, ever seeing any of them. Now, less than a year later, I’ve met and joined a local community of wonderful artists and begun to find my voice in the real, as well as the virtual world.

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In a very literal way, I’m beginning to feel as if various threads in my life are now coming together.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have dared think of myself as an artist. Now, well, it doesn’t feel too far-fetched.

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So having dates to work towards helps remind me that this is real, and at last there’s the freedom to make art without feeling guilty, which for me, is the most amazing gift imaginable.

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Keeping my head together though, with home, family and art to juggle, is helped enormously by the daily routine of walking the Delinquent Dog.

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Over the last week, everything seems to be growing at such a fantastic rate. The pictures in today’s post were taken this morning and last week – proof that however hard we try, nature just does it all so much better…

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Happy stitching…

 

 

Green – everywhere I look…

I just don’t seem to be able to get away from greens at the moment. I suppose that this year, even more than usual, I’ve been tuned-in to greens, having been working with a green palette for quite a few weeks.

Embroidery – well the way that I do it – is an extremely slow art form, and all those hours of stitching, inevitably lead you into a very close relationship with the different shades you’re using.

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2015-05-01 09.07.03And similarly, the various textures, coarse tweeds, strong wools, fluid silks, all play differently in your hand and in the canvas – all working together in sometimes unexpected ways.

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2015-04-30 08.30.28Trying to plan what goes where I find to be a fairly pointless exercise. Instead it seems to be better to simply let each thread decide, according to what else is happening around it.

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Impossible at this most verdant time of the year, to ignore the way that the countryside changes colour. So many delicate plants appearing in the lane every day now, but all held together by nature’s tapestry of green.

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All photographs taken in the lane on the daily dog walk, over the last couple days. Follow me on Instagram for other daily pictures…

Happy May Day….

Some people regard May Day as the first day of summer – well, in some ways I agree, there’s definitely a lot happening in the hedgerow now, foliage is growing so fast, you feel as if you could practically watch it unfurling in front of you. But having spent the hour of our walk with my eyes streaming from the cold wind this morning, I can tell you, it doesn’t feel like summer just yet!

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After the last post here and my admission that greens give me problems, I realised just how many greens I see every day on the trip along the lane and through the wood. I’ve been observing them with more attention than I’d normally give it, and what I’ve learned, is that there are more shades of green that I can imagine, and Mother Nature doesn’t seem to mind how she puts them all together – and yet, it works…

I’ll keep trying…

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Happy stitching…

And breathe…

Just about recovered now from the final episode of Wolf Hall – phew – even though you knew what was coming, it was still heart-ripping.

And so apparently it’s nearly the end of February – a busy month around here, family birthdays, car MOTs, half-term – I’m always surprised how very ‘full’ this shortest month can feel.

This month, despite remaining cold and grey for much of the time, spring has actually arrived on the lane. Buds on trees and a tiny clump of snowdrops give me visual confirmation, but the daily chorus of birdsong (plus the drilling of the woodpecker), leaves me in no doubt, the mornings are getting lighter and spring is here.

I’ve had a sticky few weeks on the stitching front. Several pieces started, with enthusiasm, but somehow unwilling to go the distance. In an attempt to rid myself of whatever was blocking me, I had a good old thrash around with the metallic paints and then on Friday 13th, I went off for the day to Ely cathedral – an artist’s date – to top-up the creative juices. I’ve posted about the cathedral over at Mists of Time – do pop over there if you’d like to see pictures. 

Ely has a superb stained glass museum – and of course the cathedral itself has a vast amount of stained glass windows – the whole jewel colour extravaganza always carries me off to some other place – and I think it shows in the stitching…

I’ve finally managed to settle into a piece that I’m confident now I’ll stay with until it’s finished – another tree would you believe.

And February has set me a challenge which I’m sure may well keep me occupied for some considerable time – the whole question of whether William Shakespeare of Stratford, was actually also the playwright...or not.

Since writing the previous post, I’ve been carefully reading Shakespeare: An Unorthodox Biography by Diana Price – a good place to begin as it attempts to establish the knowns and unknowns, without getting hung up on possible alternatives. I’ll post more, once I feel I’ve digested it enough to make my initial thoughts clear, but I’m already hooked, it really is a fabulous mystery, and perfect for early night bedtime reading.

I hope February hasn’t been too harsh where you are – happy stitching!

You can find almost daily pictures on my Instagram page.

 

Tree time: An oak through a year…

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Well, as many of you will know, back at the beginning of January 2014, on a whim, I started taking a photograph each day, of one particular oak tree that I pass while walking the Delinquent Dog.

A year and many, many pictures later (I didn’t miss out too many days in 2014), I thought I’d make a little slide show to show how the oak and the surrounding hedges changed over the course of the year. It’s also a record of some of the blue skies – and the many grey – we enjoyed during our morning walks.

I love watching the tree, but in fact it’s really the changes in light that have had me most enthralled over the months – even the enormous changes day on day we sometimes have.

What these pictures don’t show is the rain – occasionally quite a lot of it! And sadly they can’t give you the sounds to go along with them. Today, it was really noticeable how much more the birds are beginning to sing again – it might not feel too spring-like yet, but it sounds like spring already. And there have been many mornings when the wind was roaring through the branches, like a train going past!

I’ve selected quite a few here, but if you’re really interested/mad/have nothing better to do –  and want to see every day – go over to my Instagram page – click here or on the links in the sidebar – and you should be able to scroll through them all.

I was going to stop once I’d completed a whole year, but I find now that I can’t just walk past without getting the phone out for a quick snap, and anyway the dog automatically walks to our spot and waits for me, so I’ll just keep on doing it. I’ve sort of got into the habit of posting them up on Instagram, so if you want to keep following, just pop over to the side panel or follow me on Instagram.

If anyone feels a tiny bit inspired to do something similar – not necessarily a tree, there are lots of alternatives – please go ahead and tell us all about it – you’ll actually be the one who has the most fun though – I guarantee. 

A Brief Interlude…

I don’t know what the weather is doing in your part of the world, but it’s been pretty dark and dismal around here for most of January – so far…

Which is why, when I was out with the Delinquent Dog this morning, I almost cried out loud as the sun managed to break through the cloud. I was getting ready to take my daily snap of the oak, and felt compelled to photograph the lane as the sunlight caught the tree in front of me.

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On the way back, with the sun still shining, I was struck by the incredible greens in the moss – enhanced no doubt by the drenching they’d received for the last 48 hours.

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But needless to say, it’s raining and dismal again now – with the possibility of snow overnight – well at least it would be a change!

 

 

 

Tree Time: December…

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s nearly a full year since I started the daily tree project, but there we are, time flies and all that.

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This was the oak on Christmas Morning. It was a simply gorgeous time to be out and about. There had been a slight frost, but almost all was gone when I took the Delinquent Dog for his constitutional, instead there was an almost warm sunshine and fabulous blue sky.

But this is what Boxing Day looked like…

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Taken at the same time of day as the previous picture – just goes to show how huge an impact the weather has on the way you see things around you.

And after almost twelve months of watching that oak pass through the seasons, it’s really the weather and the changes in light each day that have held me most in thrall.

I know we’re incredibly lucky to live in a country where the weather varies so much, even if we’re famous for using it as our stock conversation line – it’s not difficult to see how it must affect us, when you realise just how many shades daylight comes in.

Over the year, I’ve learned just how ignorant I am about natural history. I’ve watched countless species of green plants emerge from the hedgerow, grow and die down, and managed to identify only a few of them. I’ve seen lots of wildlife. Squirrels top the list of animals, although rabbits have their season, and we’ve seen quite a few deer over the year too. Fox encounters have been rare, but actually my favourite, they seem almost as intrigued by us as we are by them, they stand and take us in for a few seconds, assessing us, before judging it best to run and hide. I’ve practically never managed to get the camera out in time.

Birds are even more difficult to photograph. We are in a red kite area, and from time to time, I’ve stood and watched them wheel around above the field, but my pictures are no use at all. We see lots of jays, which always give me a little thrill, it’s just that flash of colour you can’t miss. And at the moment, we seem to be seeing robins everywhere – but maybe that’s just a function of the season!

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But birds and squirrels, lovely though they are, haven’t taught me as much as the trees, hedges and plants about the passing of time. Even at the beginning of December, (2nd December above), there were still a few leaves left on the hornbeam hedge, now though, after the wind, rain and frosts, there’s not a leaf remaining.

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The 19th December and all the leaves have finally gone.

Sometimes, as we get older, we talk about how time flies, and of course there are ways in which this feels right, but having spent a year walking the same route, almost every day, stopping to look and notice what’s happening along the way, it seems to me that a year is a long time, a full and rich time, in which a whole cycle of life and death has passed, and already I’m looking out for the signs of life beginning all over again. I find that immensely reassuring and exciting too.

I haven’t quite decided what to do next year. It won’t be possible to walk past the tree and not take its picture, but I’m not sure if I’ll post them on Instagram (where, by the way, you can see almost every day’s photo from this year) and I think perhaps there should be something new here on the blog for 2015. But having amassed pictures from 2014, I’m quite keen to do it again and compare year-on-year. This, I strongly suspect, will be of far more interest to me than anyone else, and although I would one day like to be the sort of old dear who’ll tell you how late spring is this year, how the bluebells are early and how things were different in her day, I’m not quite ready to be that woman just yet.

Next month, I’ll do the January 2014 vs January 2015 post – just so we can see the full circle. I hope you’ve enjoyed the Tree Time posts, if anyone feels like doing something similar, I’d say don’t hesitate, ‘do it!’ You probably won’t learn what you thought you might, but I guarantee you’ll discover a lot of new things.