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At the de la warr, it’s difficult to ignore the views out and concentrate on the work within. For me, the world beyond the windows offers up good compositions especially if the views are uninhabited.

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The strong grid of the light diffusing blinds makes an interesting additional layer. I snapped away,  the gallery assistants looked doubtful but then pleased, when eventually I turned to absorb the compositions on the walls.

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The current exhibition ‘I Cheer a Dead Man’s Sweetheart’  – the last verse of Housman’s ‘Is My Team Ploughing’  – shows work of artists in Britain today who refer to the past combined with a conceptual and contemporary journey in their method and practice.  The poem is on the wall in the atrium and having read it, it seemed as though the building also enhanced the ethos of the exhibition.

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At 135, All Saints Street in Hastings Old Town, it’s possible, on the odd occasion, to view a house built in 1500’s. Alistair Hendy has restored this house, especially the exterior, to something like it might have been. Guttering and down pipes are a nod to gentrification but windows, beams and the ‘jetty’ overhang are now revealed having been masked by the Georgians in their love of the flat façade.

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A small group of us were welcomed into the parlour which could have been a shop in earlier times. There is electricity and other services all discreetly hidden but the house is lit with candles to give an ambience of the past. All the fires were working – wood smoke covered us in a pleasant manner – as we wandered around the ground floor being mindful of the low thresholds, changes in level and admiring the eclectic taste of the furnishings – things Alistair likes as and not necessarily truthful to ‘period’. It’s his home after all.

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Looking down to the new kitchen which leads on to what supposedly was the town mortuary but is now the dining room.

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Outside in the enclosed courtyard, giant hogweed, tree ferns and a huge gunnera fill the space . . .

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. . .  and on the first floor, a box bed with a view out to the street. May 5th is Jack-in-the-Green day and decorations are up. A post on this will follow as usual (last years is here).

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all saints

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The thunder box and the chair mounted on the wall took my eye as did windows with the original glass. Shutters, quite rustic, are a recent addition. The floor below the  zinc bath required extra support – discretely done to the conservation officer’s satisfaction. Not a good idea to ask too much about the local conservation officials in this house . . . folks here know the brain ache that accompanies this relationship.  . . .

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. . a touch of Vermeer above and quite exquisite other touches to conclude. Lots of wonderment and looking in.  It’s worth a visit.

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Caught in a fragment of forgiven light

The past’s refracted and the present lies

Waiting to be caught. Now feeling dies

 

At the year’s edge, the dark-to-be of night

And then the migrants homing and the spring

New as always, meaning everything.

 

Day has its attitude of sovereign height,

Birds discourse, the long hours spread, we are

In the best moment of the travelling year.

 

Now the dark is light and sound is sight,

Winter written off, summer is then,

Spring is the season for begetting man. Elizabeth Jennings  Caught.

 

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

concerto for the elements

February 15, 2014

gull 1

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 . . .

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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.

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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.

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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

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. . . . .

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

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. . 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 . . .

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

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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.

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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 . . .

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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

 

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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.

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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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The Great Dixter Christmas Fair is held this weekend. After a wander around the stalls set up in the house, a chance to wander around the garden for the last time this year – for most of us anyway. In the Barn Garden, the fig, now bare, stretched out to take as much of the winter sun as possible is a thing of great beauty . . .

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. . I find the piles of compost and mulches and the stacks of felled timber equally beautiful in a functional sense.

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The clipped buxus by the front of the house have a melodious form. Fergus has tackled a hebe in a similar manner; I’m not sure about this aesthetically or is the formal European treatment of a New Zealander that disconcerts me?  Interesting though. Looking through the archive, I find a post from last November (written a couple of weeks earlier in the month) where a shot of the oast and the border in the Blue Garden is almost identical . . .

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blue garden

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. . . Dixter is a strange mix of the vernacular and the strength of form and texture in the planting – some contemporary. Very close to the hovel (above) in the Exotic Garden is a great explosion of foliage and vertical, soft and furry buds on a tetrapanax. No sign of the new dogs today, but Titch was around craving attention and receiving much affection. . .

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towards cat garden

. .  across the Cat Garden, behind the Long Border, seedheads are slowly turning to biscuit tones . . .

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. .   but the Long Border itself still has spots of colourful fruits and lingering flowerheads – delicate in composition. And opposite, the mulberry too shows delicacy in its form and texture.

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As does this grouping in the corner of the Vegetable Garden looking across the Orchard . . .

from veg garden to orchard

. . .  by the Horse Pond, great stands of gunnera slowly collapsing after their performance. Applause and much appreciation.

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What’s green is going, taking

with it the last hiding-places

of the light, its spills

and splashes.

The trunk of the one wild cherry

ink black, like the swan’s neck,

its leaves sharp scarlet beaks.

The land’s flayed bare by its reckonings

with the century –

torn off a strip,

like the sod that Private Harry Farr

stops under.

The moon pins its white square

of flannel over the heart.

Dawn drips its slate-light

across the field,

scratches another name

on its sum of wonders.  Alison Fell    November (6)    Lightyear

(Harry Farr was a young Yorkshire soldier shot in Flanders for so-called desertion)

to the mouth of the river

November 15, 2013

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At low tide, looking across Nook Drain, the tussocky forms of Atriplex portulacoides (sea purslane) are revealed carpeting the marsh extents of the River Rother. A hidden landscape at high tide. Foragers will collect the seed for pesto  or something more complicated . .

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. . looking to the west across the wader pool, an area of John Gooder’s saltmarsh habitat, the teazels retain their presence. Humans can consume the seeds as a remedy for Lyme Disease but they are much needed by winged foragers as the temperatures drop. Looking again at these photos taken early afternoon, I realise how deceptive they are. In reality the river path through the wildlife reserve was thick with folks enjoying a stroll in the sun – and why not – but my interest lay to the landscape and the eclectic elements within and also in the distance. The large built mass of the power station at Dungeness is just hovering on the horizon in the image below . . .

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. . closer at hand is one of a pair of WW2 blockhouses and, of course, the much photographed red roofed hut. How many coats of paint or bitumen has this received over the years? The end of the path is blocked now as construction work is being carried out to the long timber river wall but it’s possible to trudge and slither down the pebbles on one side and gain access to the beach . . .

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building

. . . and discover the groynes in many shapes, formats and materials.

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Soft textures working their way across the steel and natural stone as well as sculptural man made hummocks of concrete. On the ground there are watery imprints of the tide as it leaves the last surface – sand.

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concrete pilllows

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edge

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Time to stop intruding and just steal away. A couple of related posts, here + here + here

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It was winter, near freezing,
I’d walked through a forest of firs
when I saw issue out of the waterfall
a solitary bird.
It lit on a damp rock,
and, as water swept stupidly on,
wrung from its own throat
supple, undammable song.
It isn’t mine to give.
I can’t coax this bird to my hand
that knows the depth of the river
yet sings of it on land.   Kathleen Jamie    The Dipper

november and the sun is warm

November 10, 2013

swimmer

We woke up to warm sun this Sunday and it was most welcome following torrential rain and a storm ten days ago. Standing in the attic window, I spied a swimmer doing a fast crawl towards the pier – wondered if the sea was warm too – and was a little relieved to see him exit the water about 30 minutes later.

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The storm threw the pebbles over the lower promenade disguising the division between beach and tarmac  . . .

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the burnt out pier

. .  . strong shadows on the soft, sandy, lower stretch . . .

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. . .  all the crunch is now higher up mixed with seaweed drying out and crisping up.

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seaweed

Taking this shot, I start to notice the cracks and fissures in the concrete oversail . . .

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. . and conscious of Cornelia Parker, having watched and been influenced by her episode in What Do Artists Do All Day, started to take more detailed shots .  . . .

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. . and then I started to think what I was going to do with the photographs – time will tell.

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cracks + view

Down in Hastings, the Herring Fair should have drawn in many visitors to compensate for the washout of yesterday. Sonny had some fine kippers – a pair are in the fridge. Yum.

kippers

Wild nights – Wild nights!

Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –

To a Heart in port –

Done with the Compass –

Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –

Ah – the Sea!

Might I but moor – tonight –

In thee! Emily Dickinson  Wild Nights

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First glimpse of the harbour arm this morning down at The Stade and once passed the fishing boats the rainbow colours are left behind . . .

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over the harbour arm 2

over the harrbour arm 3

. .  if I’d chosen B+W these images couldn’t be more graphic. Great turbulent sea.

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Even the puddles have a marine quality  – this one looks like a large turbot. Nipping into Sonny’s at Rock – a – Nore  turbot wasn’t on offer but no matter as his display looked mouth watering as always.

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rock a nore

Battling up the shallow incline of The Old Town High Street to see Drawings Inspired by Great Dixter Gardens which had some resonance with the bare bones of the stormy weather. Large charcoal compositions that ignore one of the attributes that Dixter is famous for – the variety of colour within the planting palette. So, a brave decision, but one that many are appreciative of.

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echo

Artist and gallery owner in deep conversation and an idea of the scale of ‘Echo’, the largest piece. Listen carefully and you might hear nightingales . . . .

paradise revisited

. . I rather like these shots where other pieces are reflected to form layered compositions. I also rather like it when our garden clients come along and make a purchase. Very good choice, James.

dixter

a thousand ways

It’s been a weekend devoted to gardens. And devoted to gardens with yew hedges that provide a still and calming presence. Yesterday was spent at Sissinghurst when we talked a lot about control. How to convey sense of place and mood when writing about gardens. How to describe the character of plants successfully. How to dig deeper and also how to edit. Today, there is no control and hence the choice of poem, but it was a close run thing with Robert Frost.

last

The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep,
And round the pebbly beaches far and wide
I heard the first wave of the rising tide
Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep;
A voice out of the silence of the deep,
A sound mysteriously multiplied
As of a cataract from the mountain’s side,
Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep.
So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul;
And inspirations, that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  The Sound of the Sea

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