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‘A small but special Spring Plant Fair’ (the header on the flyer) this weekend at Great Dixter offered the opportunity for a gentle stroll around the garden as well as to view, buy, make notes about and order from exquisite plant nurseries. Wandering up the drive by foot and admiring the structure of the trees around the horse pond  -  an experience often missed if entering and exiting by car. A still and misty morning . . .

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. . . some plants just need more observation now such as the chusquea in relief against the castellated yew hedging.

 

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Simon’s stacks of timber await his decisions on their reinvention into a functional item. Organised groupings and practical arrangements show clearly in the early season before the masses of ornamental vegetation take over . . .

 

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In the field below the nursery and the shop, many small, established nurseries showed their plants, seeds and  products. Lohhof Stauden displayed many grasses and Wildside with Keith Wiley presented delicious, delicate looking but tough treasures.

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Around the Lower Moat, gunnera fronds are on view – the unfurling is magnificent to behold – such stature – accompanied by new vertical growth on the iris – slim and neat in contrast.

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From the orchard the house appears to retreat behind the flowering fruit at this time of year but in the Long Border the drama is centre stage. Confident planting with all companions appearing  well orchestrated. Great knobbly stems of salix, naked and as yet unadorned, punctuate the composition . . .

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. . . the beauty of emerging foliage and flower heads is quite breath taking.

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The Exotic Garden looks tantalising but we are not allowed in quite yet, as everything is under wraps until the temperatures rise, so the Topiary Lawn claims our attention  . . .

 

 

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. . . large trumpets of lime green and piped stems of bamboo and the coppery skirts on Euphorbia x pasteuri delight my eye around the Blue Garden.

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Pretty blossoms on Prunus tenella in the Sunk Garden – so feminine. And various compositions both detail at ground level and bulkier and more distant at eye level offer themselves up to those who can’t get enough . . .

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. . . Fergus has a thing about euphorbias and he’s right! Marvellous with the clipped yew backdrops . .

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and just to finish lines of early, fosteriana, double and late tulips. All one could wish for.

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Preludes and dawns, those spare awakenings

Gone before listened to, how we miss such

Arrays of opportunities. As sun lifts up

Its wings and birds tune their large orchestra,

We are invited out of sleep, called to

Take part, share all such daily, sweet beginnings.

 

Dramas of dreams rise up, the haze of them

Dries in the sun and the awakened mind.

The spirit’s opportunities see flights

We seldom heed. Good moments of regret

Vanish in our wanton rummagings,

O bold designs, O short disparaged nights. Elizabeth Jennings Missed Chances

 

walking with runway

March 8, 2014

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Runway organised an event today – Walk West – starting at Hastings Pier. It seemed best to join in as the group moved along the promenade on their way to Bexhill. Others were doing equally interesting activities  . . . .

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. . .  gazing out across the sea first to the south – and then to the west noticing how the beach has encroached making a scalloped edge along the lower promenade. Then looking east, anticipating the arrival of the group, and noticing  families inhabiting the beach on a sun filled morning post storms (here pre storms). . .

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. .  . . here they come,  all 31, dressed in black as requested. We were to be photographed at points along the  route in a linear composition. I don’t know why but that’s fine. We were asked to stand silently + engage ( there is a cross reference with Gormley’s figures here) . After initial chatting, we did manage this and found it therapeutic and absorbing.

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Others were doing the normal Saturday morning stuff in Bulverhythe – spring cleaning huts and tidying the beach – while we meandered along the cycle route that nudges the rail track.

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Glistening sea and shoreline and rugged interface of the granite boulders. Signs of wrecked gabions from ferocious storm damage make the path difficult for those on wheels.

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On the return journey, I find this long view always enticing.  The event - a great idea – contributing to a worthy cause ( the local refuge), group contribution to a creative concept and also good exercise.

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somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing  

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands   e e cumming

out + about

March 2, 2014

Still in an urban frame of mind as against more rural or natural landscape environments – not because I wish to be but it’s what is thrust centre stage at the moment. Another storm is whistling up tonight. If the summer ahead is long and very hot, then looking back on stormy evenings might be a good leveller. Gardens, plants, growth, softness and explosions of seasonal interest are still ‘parked’ . . . unfortunately. In George Street, Old Town Hastings, a few compositions were put on record . . .  child’s carriage or maybe a dog’s carriage would be more applicable for this doggy town and details on an old screen reminded me of transfers and childhood stickers. . . .

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. . . .  George Street through the sea mist – colourful, a little shambolic in a charming manner, idiosyncratic and packed full of tea and coffee shops. Incurva Studios is in a side street connecting to West Street with an installation that changes seasonally. This quill may be a ‘Leigh Dyer’ . . .

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. . . in the window of one of the many second hand bookshops, a bound thesis or  dissertation by Jane  Gallup titled ‘Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment’. I don’t know what to say.

And some vibrant wall art on the extinct Butlers Emporium with the continual change of use showing  in the Old Town Butchers now housing eastern trinkets.

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Great glossy seas this morning, churning and rolling and thundering in a wonderful fashion. Huge winds push some of us to find a little shelter in Norman Road. Windows offer excellent compositions with layers of depth and sub text . . .

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. . .  the Baker Mamonova Gallery and Lucy Bell’s show floral art . . .

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. .  Fleet Gallery and Wayward show large light fittings and haberdashery items.

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Plan B and Sideshow Interiors have exotic mannequins . . . some pushed right into the window frame.

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Some are busy on repairing their buildings and some like to express themselves in a scrabble format on  other peoples walls. It’s a funny old place. I may have said this before.

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At this particular time I have no one
Particular person to grieve for, though there must
Be many, many unknown ones going to dust
Slowly, not remembered for what they have done
Or left undone. For these, then, I will grieve
Being impartial, unable to deceive.

How they lived, or died, is quite unknown,
And, by that fact gives my grief purity–
An important person quite apart from me
Or one obscure who drifted down alone.
Both or all I remember, have a place.
For these I never encountered face to face.

Sentiment will creep in. I cast it out
Wishing to give these classical repose,
No epitaph, no poppy and no rose
From me, and certainly no wish to learn about
The way they lived or died. In earth or fire
They are gone. Simply because they were human, I admire.

Elizabeth Jennings In Memory of Someone Unknown to Me

day trip to Margate

February 23, 2014

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The day starts  – for the young – with pasta salad, crisps, Red Bull and bars of chocolate and it’s only 9.30am. Good for them. We rattle along, just, through Rye, Ashford, Folkestone and Dover, Deal, Sandwich and then Ramsgate, Broadstairs skirting the edge of the Isle of Thanet – looking at flooded land through one side and then the sea, sometimes, on the other –  until we arrive at Margate.

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station clock

Margate station was designed by Maxwell Fry – a name from the past – with spacious platforms and booking hall under high curved ceiling and a clock that looks decidedly older. Straight down the hill sits the town with the new Turner Contemporary seemingly looking out to sea – except it doesn’t – just appears to.

first view

beach huts

Droit House built 1812 marks the start of the pier or harbour arm. It has a formal presence next to an asymmetrical new build. You would have paid your harbour dues there years ago but now it’s the information point. Georgian architecture spans the promenade with later decorative additions added for the delight of holiday makers over the 150 year stretch before the advent of cheap flights and bucket holidays. Many buildings have a knapped flint façade and are petite in structure. Quite a few have the curved Dutch gable style to the roofline like the original town hall. The old town is compact with rather charming connecting squares and retains a sense of its history with new shops and facilities (lots of eateries) providing a fresh and energetic atmosphere. The Shell Grotto deserves a visit even if shells are not your bag. Winding underground passages – (about 3 metres below street level) – richly patterned with this very tactile surface cause much wonderment.

architecture

town hall

shell grotto

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shell grotto 2

A terraced amphitheatre connects The Parade to the big sandy beach. The scale is good and it should be a useful facility . . .

closer view

over amphitheatre

harbour's arm 2

. .  on a day like today it could be Tangier.

beach + sea

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Inside the new gallery, Conversation Piece by Muñoz, welcomes the visitor immediately. Whimsical and enigmatic, the bronze figures, slightly smaller than human scale, appear to roll and pivot, in the space, talking or gesturing to each other oblivious to the rest of us. A sort of topsy turvy feel.

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turner

Turner has been partnered with Frankenthaler for this temporary exhibition - 100 years and a few thousand miles apart but speaking the same language in terms of how the natural surroundings are expressed and shared in oil and water-colour.

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Images from the web, I’m afraid, as no photos of the hung work allowed. Frankenthaler: ‘Overture’ (T), ‘Covent Garden Study for Final Maquette (L) + Hotel Cro-Magnon (R).

making painting

covent garden study      final maquette fro Third Movement

1st floor

1st floor 2

And the works of Turner – so very beautiful – so beyond boundaries, more abstract and filled with light.  A lesson in distance, quiet atmosphere and composition. ‘Calais Sands at Low Water: Poissards Collecting Bait’ (L), ‘The Evening Star’ (R) + ‘The Falls of the Clyde’ (B). Tables held books and research information. I couldn’t have asked for a better subject to assist in front of the quote.

calais sands      evening star

falls of the clyde

research

A potential Turner sky whipped in and then whipped out again. Great day.

turner sky

last pm

The lost self changes,
Turning toward the sea,
A sea-shape turning around, –
An old man with his feet before the fire,
In robes of green, in garments of adieu.
A man faced with his own immensity
Wakes all the waves, all their loose wandering fire.
The murmur of the absolute, the why
Of being born falls on his naked ears.
His spirit moves like monumental wind
That gentles on a sunny blue plateau.
He is the end of things, the final man.

All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope,
A scent beloved of bees;
Silence of water above a sunken tree :
The pure serene of memory in one man, –
A ripple widening from a single stone
Winding around the waters of the world.  Theodore Roethke  The Far Field

concerto for the elements

February 15, 2014

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After yesterday’s big weather, slightly calmer this Saturday. Down at Rock- a- Nore (very delicious oyster, thank you, Sonny), the gulls are oblivious to the traffic problems of closed off car parks due to pot holes in the tarmac and the layers of pebbles washed over the interface of beach promenade as they  sway overhead enjoying the rhythm of the bands of the westerlies – all elemental. Us humans just trudge around talking about it all.

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Cones of strong sun landed on the fore shore within this episodic concerto . . .

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rock a nore

cliffs

. . the old pier stands its ground for one last storm before the renovations change its appearance and perhaps its use. How many storms has it witnessed? I find it more beautiful at each sighting and try to absorb the vision so that it’s not forgotten.

Back in St Leonards, the sky to the west grew thrillingly ominous making me rush in to listen to Martha Argerich (most marvellous and Argentinian to boot – the queen of pianists) playing Prokofiev. Oh, can I get to Aix and the Festival de Pacques to hear her live. No, sold out – stupid me as I saw the poster advertising it way back at the start of January. Imbécile. . . .

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st l's

last

Now this big westerly’s
blown itself out,
let’s drive to the storm beach.

A few brave souls
will be there already,
eyeing the driftwood,

the heaps of frayed
blue polyprop rope,
cut loose, thrown back at us—

What a species—
still working the same
curved bay, all of us

hoping for the marvellous,
all hankering for a changed life.  Kathleen Jamie  The Beach

quercus ilex

Not France but Eastbourne  – mature holm oaks near the Towner Gallery – great gnarled trunks topped with stupendous heavy canopied foliage that reveals metallic undersides in the blustery weather. Plenty of these trees still line the streets in the old town and match in well with the vernacular pebble and flint of free standing walls and buildings. Up above town on Beachy Head, hawthorns just cling on but beautiful in their own tough, stringy habit. We were all doubled up struggling against the weather this afternoon . . .

hawthorn

turrets

to east

. . and the clouds put on a vivid, visual and aural symphonic performance. All to be admired.

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to west

Even here on the chalky landscape, standing water slopped around our ankles.

erosion

Small, humble markers usually crosses are placed at significant points and a plaque with a telling verse from The Psalms erected by the Samaritans presumably (sorry for the quality of the shot). I thought about Plath immediately on arrival. Not from the obvious connection but I think that I see, read or absorb her work as environmental – related to the elements as against the emotions – so more meaningful in the big picture and less personal in the narrow view. It suits me like that I guess.

the sign

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On the way back, the marshes around the Pevensey Levels, are a more than usual watery landscape . . . worse for others elsewhere, unfortunately for them.

hooe

Stasis in darkness.

Then the substanceless blue

Pour of tor and distances.

God’s lioness,

How one we grow,

Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to

The brown arc

Of the neck I cannot catch,

Nigger-eye

Berries cast dark

Hooks—

Black sweet blood mouthfuls,

Shadows.

Something else

Hauls me through air—

Thighs, hair;

Flakes from my heels.

White

Godiva, I unpeel—

Dead hands, dead stringencies.

And now I

Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.

The child’s cry

Melts in the wall.

And I

Am the arrow,

The dew that flies

Suicidal, at one with the drive   Sylvia Plath  Ariel

les halles olive stall

Things other than landscapes have taken my eye recently. Day to day occurrences and visual flashes add to the experience of all I’ve come to value about life here in the Gard. The senses seem to be heightened – food, of course, looks as appetising as it can be even before the pleasure of the tasting . . . .

les halles fruits

. . . Les Halles in Nîmes, the central covered market, offers not just stalls but also one of the best places to eat –  Halles Auberge - busy, well priced  and positioned where the ongoing life of the market can be viewed over a plate of coquillages. Pieds et paquets and Agrillade St.Gilloise are also on offer.

huitres

halles auberge

Just opposite les Halles is a marvel. A shop like shops used to be when I was young – a long time ago. Appetising from the outside and even more so once inside . . .

droguerie

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. . . all the pigments that anyone  could wish for. Rich, appetising and electrifying colours can be seen in Claude Viallat’s work in the permanent exhibition at the Carré d’Art – Musée d’Art Contemporain – plus a powerful piece from Gerhard Richter which sucked me into the detail of the application of paint.

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richter

arenes

Near the Arènes, hoardings screen a building site that will eventually become the Musée de la Romanité, meanwhile this stencil on the hoarding seems to evokes the sadness of the bull fighter – the arena is the stage. The fear of the performance or the possible outcome or just Spanish melancholia – I know nothing of this. What I do know and like are the swatches of silk as shown the Musée du Vieux Nîmes where the history of denim ( yes, it came from those associated with Nîmes) is well explained. Swatches of colourful cottons caught my eye nearby on daily visits to the Bar des Beaux Arts in Place des Herbes for a noissette.

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cottons

villaret

Maison Villaret has delightful window displays that entreat you to enter, admire and taste what’s on offer. The small pile of marzipan crocodiles shouldn’t be disturbed but maybe the tower of crystallised fruits can be.  . . . .

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. . and to finish off a couple of camion – swiftly disappearing from the roads now. I felt Gilbert, artisan peintre, would be totally trustworthy and execute his work with integrity – great marketing. And in Uzès, another more modest vehicle that sat well with the surroundings and colour wise reminded me of the vernacular.

camion 1

olive tree

Per solatz revelhar,

Que s’es trop enformitz,     

E per pretz, qu’es faiditz

Acolhir e tornar,   

Me cudei trebalhar’                    

‘To wake delight once more

That’s been too long asleep,

And worth that’s exiled deep

To gather and restore:

These thoughts I’ve laboured for’   Guiraut de Bornelh

a Christmas present to myself

December 26, 2013

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Walking in a landscape with trees is one of my most favourite things. A suggestion that we might get out from family Xmas indoors stuff was grabbed at. We needed to go to a landscape that would be user friendly for the youngest member of the family and his special Xmas present, so we came to the Barrage de Bimont which along with the smaller Barrage Zola holds most of the water for the town of Aix. The main path weaves its way easily through the rocky surroundings. Blustery wind and threatening clouds moved around us – along with other families, runners and singletons . . . .

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. . . .  this is a pine and holm oak landscape with a few cedars sprinkling the edge of the pathway network making up the tall structure – cistus and lentiscus the prevalent second storey. Careful management of the twiggy planting gives the ground plane a presence, filters the wind and also provides beautiful visual effects – the trunks of the holm oaks carefully cleaned to show the character of the plant.

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Heavy rain on the gentle slopes had left ‘fun’ elements . . . and he only needed a push on the odd occasion – such energy, resilience and joie de vivre.

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I couldn’t have wished for a better outing – like a pig in muck.

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Back in town, festive activities are of course totally human based – some want to exercise for leisure and some need to entertain for a few coins; some require churches to reflect and worship in. I simply put myself back within the barrage landscape. Won’t forget it and lots of love, T, C + H..

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In a house which becomes a home,

one hands down and another takes up

the heritage of mind and heart,

laughter and tears, musings and deeds.

Love, like a carefully loaded ship,

crosses the gulf between the generations.

Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies

of our passage: when we wed, when we die,

and when we are blessed with a child;

When we depart and when we return;

When we plant and when we harvest.

Let us bring up our children. It is not

the place of some official to hand to them

their heritage.

If others impart to our children our knowledge

and ideals, they will lose all of us that is

wordless and full of wonder.

Let us build memories in our children,

lest they drag out joyless lives,

lest they allow treasures to be lost because

they have not been given the keys.

We live, not by things, but by the meanings

of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
 from generation to generation.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery  Generation to Generation.

journey back

December 12, 2013

sevenoaks platform

The journey back to the coast from London is never as pleasant as the other way around and it’s nothing to do with expectation and the tantalising thought of the great city – it’s simply the fact that the countryside that this train line powers, sorry chugs,  through is photogenic from the one direction – south to north. This statement sounds ridiculous but after 10 years I feel the same. So the journey back – north to south – is best for reading, making notes and a little meditation. Or crying, which I have done before. Yesterday, the elderly couples left the train at Orpington as normal and then there was a little spatial period  – mind and ergonomics – before we stopped at Sevenoaks. . . . .

seven oaks station 2

. . . the light was dropping fast backlighting the trees with flashes of fire from the low band of the sun . . .

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tonbridge

. . at Tonbridge, the schools entered the train. There are many ‘good’/ ‘fee paying’ schools here but the noise levels of the young is much the same – the accents slightly different. Chattering and more chattering -  all quite loud and not very interesting unless you are concerned with league tables – so, the option is to listen or stuff in the headphones . . .

tonbridge platform

. . . ah, after Battle, we’re released. We, dull adults, are left to fiddle with phones or glimpse at the strong compositions of the twiggy textures flicking beyond the mucky windows . . .

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wadhurst 3

. . the light of the sunset across Beachy Head streams across the horizon.

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last sunset 2

last sunset

Black is the prominent tone. Black landscapes that suddenly seem so unthreatening – static – dramatic.

So now I think that the journey back is best just at nightfall – for the time being anyway.

wadhurst

On my bedroom wall

Father paints a beautiful picture

of the famous river that runs beside our house.

 

The river is black and all the clouds,

fields, thin shimmering houses, stars,

moons and bridges are black, cool and noir.

Soon the entire wall is black.

 

His river-painting is so beautifully black,

so wild, so percussive,

it makes me weep, on each of my tears

is painted a tiny curled-up baby, seahorse-neat.

 

Father shrugs off praise.

‘Picasso is right,’ says Father,

‘black is the only colour.

You can fly through black!’   Penelope Shuttle   Picasso is Right

early december landscape

December 7, 2013

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This morning, the horizon shimmered with a low misty layer. The sea appeared to be exhaling in long slow sensuous breaths into the huge sky above. The contrast of this light show (orchestrated by the universe) to the raw, stubbly  texture of the newly ‘cut’ hedges (massacred by man) was quite powerful. . . . .

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. . . . although the colours of the landscape here in the  Country Park, now are mostly earthy and restful, flashes of brilliance appear on the top of the gorse and from the berries of the stinking Gladwyn iris – poor plant to have to bear this detrimental tag . . .

ulex

iris foetidus

. . . but holding its own against the encompassing mass of bracken fronds looking now like shredded brown paper bags. Attractive in appearance, the bracken masks its true nature  -  pernicious, invasive and opportunistic.coast 2

oak + horizon

 

birds

Scrub oaks and small sweet chestnut are more prominent visually on this sloping coastal terrain. A flock of birds showing as black specks add to the graphic quality of the composition. I feel a stranger in my surroundings. When I look to the horizon from this rather gentrified landscape, I want to know what is happening beyond and elsewhere in the world. I should feel lucky  in comparison with those caught up in violent conflict as the poem intimates.

The seasons are sharp and divide the look and feel of the landscape. It becomes very different worlds when the seasons change. Elements are exposed; then covered, hidden and secret. I think again and again of Ravel’s  sentence:  Music is the silence hidden between the notes.

scrub oak leaning

Was it widthways or lengthways,

a quarrel with the equator?

Did the rawness of the inside sparkle?

Only this is true:

there was an arm on one side

and a hand on the other,

a thought on one side

and a hush on the other.

And a luminous tear

carried on the back of a beetle

went backwards and forwards

from one side to the other.  Monica Alvi  How the World Split in Two

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