A blanket covers fields and streams,
Stitched finely with gold thread.
As night descends we sink in dreams,
In patchwork caves of bed.
The winter hills and earth and trees,
though simple dark and bare,
Are sheltering the mystic creatures
Snowy owl and winter hare.
A glimpse is all it takes to know
We aren’t here all alone.
That fur and hoof and feathered beasts,
Are slinking back to home.
A frozen face, weary from storm
Patient winter cannot sleep.
Her eyes are sharp her cloak is warm,
Her shelter hard but deep.
With years of life and etched in time,
Her fields and hedgerows stand.
Embracing tiny babies
With her gnarled and gentle hand.
In beds of straw and hay and scraps,
All stolen from the yard.
The mothers strive to keep at bay
A winter long and hard.
And with a wing and paw and nose
The outside pushed aside,
'Til spring time scent wafts nest and air,
They curl and snooze and hide.
And all we see is cold bleak earth,
No colour life and sound.
Imagine all the hidden hearts,
Still beating underground.
As we look past the storm damage and the winter garden, bereft of it’s colours and usually dug up by four giant paws …
We could be sad and ponder all that was lost, and is gone: lament the landscape of change.
Or we could take a moment to celebrate all that has been and the journey through this last year, the people we met on the way, the new friends, the furry feet, the help we prayed for and received miraculously.
The beach hut is a movable feast. It goes where we go, for as long as it needs to be there. We all have a beach hut spot in our hearts. Who knows where ours will go next.
Skye Blue house was named after our beautiful Skye and the Blue of the sea and my daughter’s eyes, of all things sacred and beautiful in nature and in art.
Latterly life might have thrown a few curve balls, with health and weather, goblins and ghouls; but in our time here; we made fairy gardens, and a pond, had chickens that laid blue eggs, had garden parties, grew lettuces and fruit, painted a lot of furniture and made a lot of art.
Life is a series of moments strung together with spiderwebs of time. Every day adding brushstrokes to the painting of our life. The point isn’t to finish the picture, but to keep painting.
Happy New Year wherever you are, and love and blessings from all of us here ❤
If all we have is here and now, wrapped in the moment's arms
To see the line of sunrise bleeding inky peaceful charm.
To crush the darkest fears at night with fingers laced in mine
And deep in your blue eyes I see your joyful vibrant shine.
To wash away the worry of the meals and plans and musts,
For this is all that matters and you've given me your trust.
By candlelight we laugh and shout and eat toast by the fire
And find the spaces in between the gadgets, noise and wire.
A thousand seconds just like this, made Christmas warm and good
No power, rules and structure
No doing what we should.
In gratitude we say to darkness smothering the scene
with no distractions light Shines brightly, from a new formed teen.
How you are is my best gift, this year: and all to come.
I humbly write my thankyou card, I'm blessed to be your mum .
This is bonnie. When something isn’t right she stands very still and shuts her eyes . When she is scared she freezes.
Until the storm passes.
Often this becomes our default. Things get pushed aside to deal with later, lists are made and lost, promises made and broken. Mañana Mañana..
A happy medium between awareness and being able to just be in the moment. A recipe this lot have nailed.
There are jobs that simply have to be done like tiny claws that need clipping.
And preparations for events which will not be repeated, no matter the weather or budget
Just when, the Christmas food was safely stored in the bulging freezer, the presents wrapped and stored in the vintage caravan, which doubles as a place to stay in Summer. Just when the the Art studio was packed away for winter and paintings stored in Leah’s old Summerhouse. A storm blew in. Storm Arwen
⁹Thinking we were being burgled I headed out at two in the morning to find the contents of St Abbs and our garden flying mid air. Roof tiles, chairs, guttering, bins, pots and trees, whipping the walls and smashing everywhere. I frantically looked for something to wedge the windows shut and stop any more breaking glass. There wasn’t time to be scared though, it all happened too quickly !
We had already had the beginnings of a blackout, the night before so there was no hot water or electricity, and the storm raged on. The next day and the coming days, what happened was a kind of auto pilot for most. You Just got on with the immediacy of rescue, saving what could be saved and surveying the damage. When you have no choice but to boil water for a wash or lukewarm tea in a pot on the coal fire, there is nothing to butt against. Nobody to waste time arguing the pros and cons with in your head. Nothing to bury your head for. Real life decrees action.
The storm blew half of what we had away. It was the same and worse everywhere here, and I know that insurance companies are not picking up their phones still so the task continues . The caravan was hit hard with windows smashed and contents broken, including many Christmas presents which got wet in the rain or sucked out and broken on the ground. My Art studio roof tarp came off and water damaged the mattress, bedding, floor, artwork and sketchbooks, fabrics, and materials. Fences came down, were wrenched up by rope and wishful thinking; and then; went down again, the fridge and freezer contents were lost including seasonal food ; and any garden furniture and contents are now broken.
But thankfully, nobody was hurt. The damage to Skye blue house was minimal. A drastic cull of possessions wasn’t in the plan, but with little to be done, it was a done deal. The blackout lasted last for next 5 days.
Thankfully, we have a coal fire. A very precious commodity that week! So much so that half a pile of our logs were pinched ! And they just had to ask ! We were so grateful for the ability to boil the water, and cook french toast, to take flasks round to our neighbours, and for it to heat us ( at least in one room). We all stayed in there, guinea pigs, cats and all, and by candle light played cards and monopoly. It was a weirdly calm time, wearing all our clothes in bed, the smell of hot water bottle childhoods and the weight of twenty eiderdowns. My daughter was hilariously entertaining with her stand up comedy routine. I had no idea how funny she was, away from her phone! .
When we dared to look again, when the lights came on, it showed how much had to be done and what would have to be thrown away . Shed by shed the realization was clear. The storm was a gift that kept on giving as more soggy or smashed things were found. The full Christmas food stuffed freezer, the fridge just having been filled, Christmas presents soggy from storage in the caravan. Vintage China and bedding smashed, ripped, and mouldy. Pools of water on paintings.
All the artwork had to be rewrapped and dried off, brought inside and re-catalogued, the emergency boxing up of possessions will need to be redone but, as all the fabric casualties have been rescued and washed, paper and card objects fanned on radiators for weeks and bubble wrap is Bear’s new favourite thing; I think we might get through Christmas before tackling anything else. In an emergency you rescue what you can, without thinking. Grabbing the most vital, the irreplaceable, in a supermarket sweep of mad energy . The first morning post storm, the wind was still howling, and there was no choice but to keep going . Some kind of otherness forced me on. Grabbing armfuls, boxfuls, and bag fulls and piling them into the biggest hut, my studio. Two days later the rain went through the roof in there too. So, they got moved again. There was no choice but to make some serious snap decisions about what to keep. I found I didn’t mind. Our perspectives change in stormy weather.
In the worst of times a quiet knowing un-freezes you and gives you fight or flight to cope. The last few years have not been easy, but knowing how futile worry is, gives us power over the immediacy of today. Life can challenge us with hurdles, biblical in their trails. One by one testing areas of faith and resilience, emotionally, financially, with relationships, health conditions and work and lifestyle choices. To tell you not to worry isn’t dismissing your anxieties, but perspective can become clearer when things get shaken up.
Smiling is still thankfully free
A massive amount of support and help has come from outside of the village. We have been so lucky to have friends in our Art group, and a resilience team who have gone above and beyond to help patch us back together. Below are a few of the drawings by my group . Head to seasparkle.org for weekly gallery updates 💙🧚♂️
Knowing that while things may come and go, and others might challenge our perceptions, beliefs, things; we can weather the storm, however, whatever and whoever we chose to live as or with.
As I unearthed the boxes of paintings in the shed, hardly daring to see the storm damage, Artwork hastily packed in during lockdown, I realised how much has been created here. How the insular life through circumstances out of our control, has fuelled a chunk of creativity I had never been able to access before. When neighbours were cruel, I worked on art, and wrote blogs in the bath, when pandemics were rife, we made bags and jewellery and Art every day with other people, and turned it into prints and cards, and did Zooms to keep spirits up and WhatsApp classes to connect with friends. When pain was at its height I drew in bed, or in hospital. My daughter said that the pandemic was one of her happiest times, with a bubble of positivity and making, and everyone else staying home like we often do.
Sometimes in life all that we show to the world is our bottom sticking out of our hutch.
When actually the solitude is the space we’ve needed to heal
And get back out again with a whole new set of super powers we never knew we had.
When the Gods force a storm upon us, we have less time to overthink what is collateral damage and just resign stuff to the box marked ‘chuck’. We can also see clearly who and how to treasure. To appreciate who we have and to stand in the now with them, in an authentic life we choose.
The zoo will get fed
This world is changing and will continue to do so. Changing weather patterns show us just how adaptable we still need to be. Despite technology trying to disconnect us with virtual communication and cyber shopping, we still need to know how to cope using core skills, to be part of a community. Adapting and honouring your personal skillset, and knowing how unique you are, no matter your age and mobility, gives you purpose and belonging.
There is always a friend at the beach hut. You can come out now!
Strategies to remember to get different results in your artwork. Fun techniques , such as oil pastel and ink, or adding details on top instead with chalk pastel or crayon .Watered down pva glue painted onto your paper first, then tissue layers, then more glue. Use neat glue for adding textures like feathers. Play with dry and wet surfaces for ink , play and be careful with salt and bleach. Draw with glue and leave to dry, add gesso and dry brush paint.
From an early age my philosophy has always been to prepare the way ahead, just in case tomorrow sends you a curve ball. Which we all know is exactly what life does in the most spectacular, ridiculous, heart-breaking or just plain annoying ways. Following on from our last post may we present the Art of recycling- what-was-either- being- sold- or-moved and the power of intention to flip the map upside down, and reroute the bus down a more scenic route.
Life gives us lemon groves sometimes.
Deconstructed rooms, zoo on a road trip, painted garden bits flaking under constant scrutiny and rain, upended blue paint tin tipped over mural by designer dog who himself, having timed his burgeoning adolescence with the upheaval of travel; very nearly became one of the must-go pile!!!!..
But where’s the fun in that?
This is Skye Blue House. Nothing gets us down for long. The mural needed a repaint anyway, work was then started on the rest of the path with masonry paint and blue shed paint, very early in the morning, section by section to avoid giant paw prints across the living room carpet. A ton of Scottish cobbles created a beach effect where a patch of grass was previously dug up by Bear under the old trampoline circle. This became a border housing the pot bound plants gasping for breath over Summer months with the addition of some perennials . Leah’s old wardrobe became a bespoke garden tool store, far sturdier than similar ones in the garden centre.
Since the surgery a few months ago to remove a bone in my hand, I am delighted to be able to paint things again without wincing. Arthritis creeps back and in my case it is sneaky and persistent. So making hay while the sun shines is vital, before winter creeps up again making outdoor work too painful. And to re-claim the home we thought we would be leaving, two rooms were given a face-lift to satisfy that New -House itch and to let this house know we do love it it still !
Houses, like us, love to be loved and seep their pride into your (much anticipated and welcome) winter guests .Home ; a perfect blend of comfort, colour, you and spontaneous tea and cake. Disclaimers will include here the many blobs of paint on carpets, hastily cleaned up, ruined glasses I accidentally use for paint water, muddy dog paws on new Indian bedspreads, non compliant teenagers, weather, the bank balance …….
This was an especially driven project for many reasons. Not least a big birthday. Which was date to have things finished by, and free up other head space to focus on bigger Art projects, pursue health options and enjoy the season with at least a few ticks on the list.
Autumn will come with its own surprises so for today there is a calm quiet comfort in home . Which you and I know is in us all along
Thankyou for the Facebook compliments and the requests for outsourcing the old decorating skills… I think other than in advisory capacity over dinner, its back to words and watercolours for a while. One of the reasons to have moved was longer seasons, in a warmer climate which you’ll know yourselves makes a huge difference to the mobility. …
And well; if we can’t have sun all year round, we’ll keep warm with quality friendship and cake xx
How old were you when you found your wings ? When did you first feel in control of your choices? Or grounded enough to let go of your fear? Whose fear was it anyway ?
Did you climb a mountain in a sweltering landscape and peek at your new perspective through the gap in the clouds?
Did you find God one day while eating your toast?
Did you reach Nirvana whilst touching the high notes with your choir or dancing with your tribe around a flaming bonfire?
Or understand fully one sunrise your need for grounding in earth, as you smelled the air and witnessed your hard labour flourish?
Or maybe a little of all of these?
Did you then forget your epiphany as soon as you landed back on planet earth with a plop when someone needed you or worse, wiped your seed of new hope away ? Did the technicolour get switched back off ?
Did a voice in your head tell you how unrealistic your positivity was?
When the clear glistening ideas in your mind unfurl, new and shiny and exciting, like a glossy tropical flower You just know that someone will come and cut your petals off. Often someone who in theory should have your back.
This is the vulnerable point where many fledgling dreams die. Trying to push against the system which surrounds anything different, whether at home or work is often too difficult. It is easier to drift back and become engulfed in the ‘way it has always been’
Most people know who they are. What brings them joy and a sense of pure satisfaction. But we are fed so many alternatives to this core knowledge, and are often hungry for a little more validation. Sometimes these vital gaps in our unconscious self worth came from feelings we have when we are little and can’t yet fly.
A Baby seagull made its home on top of our caravan this Summer. Nesting in our rooftop chimney, a fluffy little chick was waited on by a village of seagull parents; decorating its roof with hard to clean graffiti. Baby seagulls are very demanding. Screeching their needs very vocally for not only their parents but all adult birds within a two mile radius. Relentlessly they deliver takeaway delights to their offspring with their gruesome picnics, and swoop low and hard on any unexpecting human passers by.
While we travelled this Summer, she stayed still and grew fat, filling out her fluffy edges with spotty brown feathers. And on our return, she was almost as big as her mum, and still, she cried and cried for food. Once fed, the crying started again with the rapidly less patient mum nudging her baby to move .
These seagull parents were getting fed up now.
Over the next few days, the crying continued. But nobody came. She knew she could fly. They knew she could fly. She realised food was going to be slightly harder to come by. So she cried harder. Her feathers were turning a lighter shade of grey. She walked to the edge and back again, and sat down. Her cries became more plaintive and although beady eyes watched from nearby rooftops, nobody came to deliver dinner. Until. there was nothing more for it. It was time….
After several short trips to nearby treetops and a couple of shed roofs soon all that remained on the caravan roof was the Jackson Pollock masterpiece.
There is a time, when nobody comes. Sometimes we wait a lifetime for that reassurance and feed, and believe we cannot function without it. We have a core belief that we can’t. … (fill in the blank) That a teacher, a parent, a partner, or any person we give permission to have (or had ) power over us, and once that is delivered ; we will then be whole.
All living creatures have a right to love and nourishment but we know this is seldom true for everyone.
If we are fortunate, we are fed the morsels we need to build our strength, courage and resistance, to build healthy bones, lives, relationships and feel loved.
It takes courage to say, thank you for feeding me, but I can take it from here. That I have enough belief in my self to choose whom to take advice from . It takes courage from those who love you to also let you go, make mistakes and come back, bruised but more wise. And when there is no Big seagull watching you must hear your own voice.
You’ll hear other squawks and caws, creating more choices, more distractions. Jostling for attention and swaying your resolutions and ideas with promises. A person who fears change will fear yours. “Stay safely in your comfort zone that matches ours, think these thought because they match the system we created.”
And on a superficial level we get thrown life changing ‘temptations’ “Be the best version of yourself with our new products. Buy a whole new set of clothes, get a better job, a shiny new car, and always a new sofa… THEN you will be the perfect person you always knew you could be! Hurry while stocks last. On sale now. a new improved you. No mess, no clutter, just competition ready human.”
When it still doesn’t feel better, when we are still hungry for something else; that’s the gift of looking deeper into our own needs.
This Summer has given us a new perspective. One which we hadn’t planned, but clearly it was in the plan all along.
As an art teacher I have spent my life collecting resources for others to use, from shells to old objects, books, materials, plants, metal things, glass things, fabric things, beautiful shiny objects and tiny things that fit into the palm of your hand. A classroom was packed with labelled boxes and lovely stuff to draw from.
When I left my teaching post through ill health, my huge supply of resources was lugged from house to house, into storage facilities and a basement, back to the shed and back to another art room. It was whittled down and down but at each stage of the life of the stuff, people were using it and creating beautiful artwork. It has been my nemesis for as long as I can remember. Collecting things for people to use makes so many people happy; it was never a question of not keeping things
People donate art materials to you which is amazing and for classes an Aladin’s cave of colourful ephemera grows. Easily the bags and boxes also grow in quantity, and without adequate permanent storage- one becomes a permanent bag lady. This state relies on meticulous organisation, warm weather for easier mobility, an army of volunteers to help lift from the car and bend to the floor for any stray tissue paper and stray clutter, not to mention the energy needed to create in the first place. The reality of wheeling bags of art materials in a force ten gale while a rainbow of pens skittles off down the road is highly likely.
There is a time for everything
And a place too.
Yesterday, after making a decision to start focusing on a bigger project of my own, my remaining boxes were returned from the community centre where I was teaching . Oh no, boxes of stuff again.!
After spending a Summer literally throwing out everything I own and starting a home renovation now we are remaking our own home with less clutter, I could have wept! But I asked for these things back. Why on earth did I do that? Things just keep coming back, growing in volume.. again! .
In amongst the detritus of making equipment, there were sketchbooks and memories, boxes of collected resources, things donated and found. Things which will give pleasure again. Working in the art field always comes with a running commentary of ‘funny’ labels. Junk, clutter, crap, stuff or worse. But look back. Look at how that plastic became a dragon sculpture. Look at how that ink was layered in rich textures over all that scrap and made this fantastic collage.
Our things, the ‘stuff’ we collate and have an affinity with, create a thread with others. When someone else decides to throw away, comment about, or sabotage our things without our permission, it makes decisions about what we need, and for some precious objects leaves a physical loss. In all of the Art spaces I have run, we have kept a wide and varied selection of materials for every project one could think of. Even though the hoard was very organised, being forced to cull occasionally is healthy! The eye of a non interested observer however will only ever see this, (below) and make that the excuse for treating stuff-which-doesn’t-slot-into-a-neat-category badly.
Until someone tells them its ART , and then they pay ££££££££
Then, a week later, it happened again. More things were going to be travelling to us. Do you think the universe was trying to tell us something? This was the first time ever that everything I owned would be in one place. After my first reaction of horror, dread and wondering if I could crawl under the covers with a sketchbook and Netflix, this stuff was being given its own second chance, to fit, or not fit, for where we are now. Just like we decided to give this home a chance, despite a few crows pecking at our corn. For the first time, there was nobody telling us it had to go somewhere else.
The value we place on objects is so unique to us, an extension of our selves through our space and our clothes, our belongings and our creativity. If we don’t care about these things, or let others mock, its personal . Allow a child to love a rock collection and a row of conkers. There will be a time when we are gone and none of these things we own matter. But we do, and we live on in the worth we allow others to enjoy in us.
I had been buying things for years and giving them away. Then, weirdly, a delivery of almost the same thing would come from somewhere else, it would come back to me in a different way, for example as a gift or a donation. Without realising it, I had been viewing my things through the eyes of my critics, slightly judgingly and disposing of them often because I could hear the voice..
There were sketchbooks or materials we could use with other classes. And although most of it went into the recycling. I enjoyed the little pocket of time carved out to really appreciate and look at how it got here. And what we need now. And what we don’t. Placing value on each item , purely based on my own voice, I have to admit was a lovely feeling. When we realise why we carry a weight of doubt, and for how long, it is a profound gift to let it go.
Looking through boxes of old teaching resources I was blasted back to that time, those energies and passions. Not just the resources used to teach Art lessons and critical work, but the drive to focus on particular artists, Frida Kahlo, Pierre Bonnard, John Piper, The Pre Raphaelites. The design lessons of masks for a Midsummer Night’s Dream, of world festivals, of Alice in Wonderland and natural form. A whole bank of ideas, images, interests and inspirations. I still love all those artists. Drawn to since childhood, many Artists still resonate, and I find synchronicities and parallels with how I like to work.
In gaining the ability to throw away , we must trust the ability to keep. This pertains to any area of our lives- clothing, activities, foods that make us unwell. Whatever pops into your mind as you read this. What will come again easily is what you need and what is precious. I should have asked myself at five or ten to tell myself now what I would like. Most of it would still be true.
Sometimes a journey can be much more than you imagine. The 3000 miles we drove to find a potential new home ended up with an appreciation of where we are now. Waiting for my seagull family to land with dinner was a red herring.
There was however, a whole aviary of supporters in the nest
Whatever you might be not doing because you are waiting for permission; just do it. People can and do wait a lifetime for a morsel that never comes, a crumb for their inner baby bird. Approval is overrated. Do no harm to others and strive to enlighten your self.
Trying to apply your hearts desire against a soundtrack of criticism, whether ‘kindly’ unprompted advice or hostile, fear addled barbs; is like flying in a tornado.
We gave away all our food, drove 3000 miles, took five animals around the country, packed up our house and unpacked it again, closed off every avenue, and in coming home; found that all the people and paths that were meant to be for us, were still here, quietly giving us the thumbs up. Those who believe in you will do so no matter how you take flight.
Our Summer wasn’t what we expected but it truly was what we needed. We found strength and courage, and a bigger picture. . Despite the madness, I would do ( most of it ) over again. We could have chosen a whole new place but got to unwrap the gift of life here again. Much has been happening at Skye Blue house since we returned, with an almost constant paintbrush in hand. The next post will unveil all the hard work!
Travelling helps root us back home and get perspective on the life and accomplishments we have achieved so far , with or without a team in the pits
So, replace that fear in your chest with a few helpful butterflies…Then Spread your wings and leap off the caravan roof.. You might not get where you thought you were going. … .but there is a big horizon waiting.
Tell your seagull self;
To live a life you’ve never lived; you must do what you’ve never done
Take one step towards the edge and the rest will follow