TRANSITION

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It’s less than a week since I arrived back from Sweden and the transition to everyday life has been harder than ever. The break was perfect on all levels and once home I realised that my body made it across the North Sea whilst my soul was still residing in the summer house, wandering blissfully on the land, clambering on the rocks.

Senetti with Petunias and Flowering Chives

Senetti with Petunias and Flowering Chives

To aid the unification of body and soul I set out to do what often helps in these circumstances. When I was younger that would have meant a splurge at a bookstore after hours of browsing. As an adult and keen gardener I headed to the local garden centre and spurred on by the rare warm sunshine the temperamental trolley was soon filled to the brim. Muttering at the trolley under my breath I steered the plants to the car and kept my fingers crossed for a sunny Sunday.

Senetti with Petunias

Senetti with Petunias

Today I woke to fair weather and keen to get started I left the housework and headed out to the garden. Quickly a new solace took hold of me, gently pulling or cutting the plants from the tight pots and planting with joy. Childlike glee swept over me as soil spilt onto the grass, the patio; little granules of compost sneaking their way into my shoes. One old and tired plant needed to be replaced and proved particularly stubborn on being pulled out. I tried digging it out with a trowel. No luck. Then it was time for the fork and with satisfaction I attacked the rock hard roots, hacking away! At last, I managed to replace it with a beautiful new flower. I could feel my spirits lift.

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A few hours later everything was in place…happily including my soul! 

Nemesia 'Wisley Vanilla'

Nemesia ‘Wisley Vanilla’

That is when the idea for this post struck me…another book-style post is partially written but just didn’t feel right at the moment and I had initially left comments on my last post on Bert Håge Häverö but turned them off at the last moment as I was dazed and exhausted upon my return to the UK, feeling overwhelmed to respond.

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Thank you all for being patient; I’m slowly catching up on your blogs and look forward to easing into normality in the coming week. Meanwhile, I want to finish with one poem featured on Brainpickings this morning. Maria Popova is a gifted writer and her articles are always a treat and consist of interesting, informative and thought-provoking essays on writers/artists/philosophers and it was:

‘Founded in 2006 as a weekly email that went out to seven friends and eventually brought online, the site was included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive in 2012.’ *

Today’s feature on poet Jane Hirshfield is particularly relevant as it was Earth Day yesterday. Enjoy.

ON THE FIFTH DAY
by Jane Hirshfield

On the fifth day
the scientists who studied the rivers
were forbidden to speak
or to study the rivers.

The scientists who studied the air
were told not to speak of the air,
and the ones who worked for the farmers
were silenced,
and the ones who worked for the bees.

Someone, from deep in the Badlands,
began posting facts.

The facts were told not to speak
and were taken away.
The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent. 

Now it was only the rivers
that spoke of the rivers,
and only the wind that spoke of its bees,

while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees
continued to move toward their fruit.

The silence spoke loudly of silence,
and the rivers kept speaking,
of rivers, of boulders and air. 

In gravity, earless and tongueless,
the untested rivers kept speaking.

Bus drivers, shelf stockers,
code writers, machinists, accountants,
lab techs, cellists kept speaking.

They spoke, the fifth day,
of silence.

* From Maria Povova on https://www.brainpickings.org

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Senetti with Petunias

Senetti with Petunias

ON SOLITUDE AND LIFE

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This is the last in a series of Bert Håge Häverö (Swedish artist 1932-2014) paintings which I will feature during my holiday break this Easter. These delightful photographs were taken from our company calendar which we gave out to customers many years ago. Never having the heart to throw our copy away I came across this recently and wanted to share the beauty he saw of the Swedish landscape and people. Accompanying the paintings will be various quotations /sayings/poems that have inspired me or touched my spirit.  Comments have been turned off for this post.

 

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‘When I am feeling dreary, annoyed, and generally unimpressed by life, I imagine what it would be like to come back to this world for just a day after having been dead. I imagine how sentimental I would feel about the very things I once found stupid, hateful, or mundane. Oh, there’s a light switch! I haven’t seen a light switch in so long! I didn’t realize how much I missed light switches! Oh! Oh! And look — the stairs up to our front porch are still completely cracked! Hello cracks! Let me get a good look at you. And there’s my neighbor, standing there, fantastically alive, just the same, still punctuating her sentences with you know what I’m saying? Why did that bother me? It’s so… endearing.’

Amy Krouse Rosenthal (1965-2017)

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‘Reading it that evening was like having someone whisper to me, in elongated Germanic sentences, all the youthful affirmations I had been yearning to hear. Loneliness is just space expanding around you. Trust uncertainty. Sadness is life holding you in its hands and changing you. Make solitude your home.’

Rachel Corbett on Rainer Maria Rilke

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PERFECTION / IMP OF AN IDEA

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This is the second of three posts on Bert Håge Häverö (Swedish artist 1932-2014) paintings which I will feature during my holiday break this Easter. These delightful photographs were taken from our company calendar which we gave out to customers many years ago. Never having the heart to throw our copy away I came across this recently and wanted to share the beauty he saw of the Swedish landscape and people. Accompanying the paintings will be various quotations /sayings/poems that have inspired me or touched my spirit. Comments have been turned off for this post.

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‘I am lying on a hammock, on the terrace of my room at the Hotel Mirador, the diary open on my knees, the sun shining on the diary, and I have no desire to write. The sun, the leaves, the shade, the warmth, are so alive that they lull the senses, calm the imagination. This is perfection. There is no need to portray, to preserve. It is eternal, it overwhelms you, it is complete.’ Anaïs Nin

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‘It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.’  Mary Oliver

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THE FIRST POET / THE MUSE WILL COME

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This is the first of three posts on Bert Håge Häverö (Swedish artist 1932-2014) paintings which I will feature during my holiday break this Easter. These delightful photographs were taken from our company calendar which we gave out to customers many years ago. Never having the heart to throw our copy away I came across this recently and wanted to share the beauty he saw of the Swedish landscape and people. Accompanying the paintings will be various quotations /sayings/poems that have inspired me or touched my spirit. Comments have been turned off for this post.

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‘The first poet must have suffered much when the cave-dwellers laughed at his mad words. He would have given his bow and arrows and lion skin, everything he possessed, just to have his fellow-men know the delight and the passion which the sunset had created in his soul. And yet, is it not this mystic pain — the pain of not being known — that gives birth to art and artists’  Kahlil Gibran

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‘I start all my books on January eighth. Can you imagine January seventh? It’s hell. Every year on January seventh, I prepare my physical space. I clean up everything from my other books. I just leave my dictionaries, and my first editions, and the research materials for the new one. And then on January eighth I walk seventeen steps from the kitchen to the little pool house that is my office. It’s like a journey to another world. It’s winter, it’s raining usually. I go with my umbrella and the dog following me. From those seventeen steps on, I am in another world and I am another person. I go there scared. And excited. And disappointed — because I have a sort of idea that isn’t really an idea. The first two, three, four weeks are wasted. I just show up in front of the computer. Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too. If she doesn’t show up invited, eventually she just shows up.’   Isabel Allende

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EASTER AWAKENING

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The plonk of a parcel landing on the hall floor startled me from my writing reverie and with the eagerness of a child I dashed downstairs and fetched the promised package – these wonderful Easter creations knitted by a dear friend. During the winter months she’s been beavering away in the evenings with family and two lively cats around her and finally her collection was complete! What a lovely and kind idea to share these chicks, bunnies and carrots with family and friends! What a beautiful way to spread Easter sunshine to us all! 

For two weeks I’ll be enjoying the peace and beauty of our ‘retreat’  in Sweden, away from the busy bustling world, barely connected to its digital being. 

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I look forward to walking the land in the cold mornings, the freshness of the air biting my lungs – a sting I welcome as I inhale the crisp ozone air scented from the surrounding pine forests. The dew on the grass will be bathed in sheer white frost, crackling underfoot and dotted around I’ll spot tracks of nighttime visitors of rabbits, badgers, foxes and deer. This early communion with nature has been sorely missed! 

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Whilst on holiday I will heed the words of Thalia Gust’s latest poem, rejuvenating in the beauty of the natural world, bringing my full awareness to the sights and sounds…leaving those ‘Musts’ behind.

MUSTS

What is a Must 

when Cherry blossoms shimmer,

What is a Must

when the skylark sings,

 

What is a Must

when garden turns

        yellow, white and blue;

 

What is a Must

when the wind plays in the Willow

What is a Must 

when I sit on favourite bench,

 

Wren and Robin nesting

in bushes that surround.

 

I left Musts behind today

threw them in the river.

© Thalia Gust

I hope to be on Twitter some, a little on WP but otherwise want to wish you all an enjoyable and peaceful Easter!

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DIRT

Thank you to Lanaa  wonderful, gifted and creative writer, for inspiring / challenging me to attempt this unusual form of poetry. 

According to Lana, a Blitz Poem ‘is a run-on of phrases and words, a rush with rapid repetition.’ Having been an avid fan of stream of consciousness writing since childhood I couldn’t wait to give this poetic version a try…here is my first work, entitled ‘Dirt’.


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Dirt on her baby pink plimsolls

Dirt in her long blond hair

Hair that morning soft and shiny

Hair at dusk, all tangled

As tangled as chains

Tangled like her necklaces

Necklaces of beads and shells

A necklace of her grandpa’s blue fishing yarn

The old yarns he spun

Her yarns they never believed

Don’t be so trusting, Amber. So believing

Always believing. What an idiot

Idiot! Am not!

Idiot. Am

Am lying in the ditch

Am dying

Dying. Not breathing

Dying

©Annika Perry 2017

‘Perfume of the Mountain Grass’ *

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An unassuming man writes unassuming songs with such power and poetry that he’s single-handedly dominating the UK music charts with 14 of his songs in the UK top 15.

EDEd Sheeran, a Yorkshire lad, grew up in a village not far away and it was his ‘Castle on the Hill’ that first grabbed my attention with his signature style of telling a story of his youth, simple and straight forward but beneath the surface a soulful and profound message.

Quickly other songs on the album grew on me but ‘Castle on the Hill’ stayed with me and when I learned it was only an hour’s drive away a visit was planned. I just hoped it wouldn’t disappoint.

The predicted hour became a long meandering two-hour journey through quaint villages, thatched houses centuries old hugging the roadside. Soon other houses took on bold and vibrant hues, painted in ochre, startling orange, scarlet, dazzling blue. Small hamlets with the extraordinary names such as ‘Nedging with Naughton’ passed quickly whilst pedestrian style hunchback bridges spanned the brooks. Once again we spurned the Satnav and trusted to instinct, good luck and ultimately the good-old fashioned road until finally, we arrived at Framingham (and it only took three circuits of the town to locate a parking space!).

Framingham Castle dates back to the 12th Century and it was built by a local Norman family and was their home for over 400 years. Later it was briefly owned by Mary Tudor as she gathered her supporters to fight for the throne.

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The castle is built on the natural highpoint in the village and it stands magnificently on the mound; a landmark visible across the county to the North Sea.

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Its imposing facade strikes me as I walk towards the main gate which would have had a drawbridge across the dry moat. Towers reach for the sky and now number twelve out of the original thirteen and on top of some beautiful brick Elizabethan chimneys have been added by later occupants.

These were for both decorative and practical purposes and seeing their corkscrew design it is easy to understand why!

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Having read about the wall-walk this was our first destination. It is unusual to find a complete curtain wall in a castle in England – let alone be able to walk around it.

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The climb up the 10.5 m (30 feet) high walls was well worth the effort with spectacular views, particularly looking down at the mere below. When originally built the mere was three times larger and the castle would have been reflected in the still water and provide a striking and stately effect.

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Walking around the moat, past the mere the sense of peace is palpable, the sense of history all around. Where Normans and Tudors walked, fought, lived, sightseers of the 21st-century swarm. People from the village gather, talk, chat…discuss music, compose songs. It is not hard to feel the inspiration which has become a top hit for Ed Sheeran.

As the album ‘Divide’ popularity grows and yes, I have become one of over 672,000 to have fallen in love with the album and bought it and quickly another song stood out to me. Its quiet, peaceful lyrical beauty is a tribute to his grandmother  – it is wonderfully moving, touching the hearts of all who listen to it. I’m sure ‘Supermarket Flowers’ will have many in tears.

*From ‘Castle on the Hill’

CROCUS FIRES ARE KINDLING *

The unexpected gift proffered in his hand is a single crocus, weak and weary after the stormy night, found forlorn on the sodden lawn, its stem and spirit broken by the might of the gusty gale.

With a tiny ‘ahh’ she reaches quickly forth and gently takes hold of the stricken flower, searching out a small glass and fills it with water. She places the crocus on the windowsill and waits.

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Never a patient person she returns regularly until at last her administrations are rewarded with an admirable show, a spectacle of petals open to view, the blue purple streaks bold yet tender, the yellow stamen a glorious beacon of light, of warmth, a promise of Spring.

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‘It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.’  Charles Dickens

The brevity of life is encapsulated in that single crocus as the next day she approaches the windowsill with fluttering expectation and finds the petals serenely closed, folded across each other into a perfect form, the sunshine within hidden, the petals virtually translucent. There is only a glimmering of the purple veins of life visible upon the parchment-like veil of petals.

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By the evening the crocus clings limply to the glass surface, a striking green slime flourishing around the sad stem, the petals now shrunken and old, the straggly stem floating listlessly in the water. This particular augur of Spring decaying just as the crocuses outside are timidly reaching out from beyond the dark of the ground, their purple, yellow petals a bright sparkle to the winter still residing in the natural world. Onwards she strolls around the garden eyeing each new development, the buds on the buddleia, the daffodils tall and proud, their yellow trumpets safely ensconced in its tight wrap, the leaves of the tulips promising the red celebration later in Spring. Here, amongst the snowdrops the crocuses display shines strong. Welcome Spring!

‘I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,

If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,

If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun

And crocus fires are kindling one by one:

Sing, robin, sing;

I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring.’

The First Spring Day by Christina Rossetti

* Christina Rossetti

THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS by @emily_barr #FloraBanks #FollowingFlora

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This is a book that shouldn’t work. But it does so brilliantly. The One Memory of Flora Banks tells the story of Flora, a girl with no recent memory and who astonishingly is the sole narrator. As she faces the world and herself anew every few hours the reader quickly becomes as one with Flora and her confusion, despair and growth.

As a result of treatment for a brain tumour at the age of ten Flora Banks has anterograde amnesia. The seven years following the operation are a void to her although she remembers much of the first decade of her life, especially her parents, her best friend, Paige and her brother Jacob. However each day she’s startled by her older self, family and friends as she wakes to fear what is happening, what has happened. No wonder she has ‘Flora, be brave’ written on one of her hands. 

Writing is one form of survival for Flora as she seeks to navigate her disjointed life and for her aid, she covers her hands and arms with words to remind her of her life, events, people. She also keeps a detailed notebook throughout the days which becomes vital for her sanity and further notes direct her to the book. 

svalbard-islandsThis is Flora’s life until one day something amazing occurs – she kisses a boy on the beach and remembers it!  The boy is called Drake and also Paige’s boyfriend. This pivotal event transforms Flora’s life and she will do anything to chase her memory of  Drake – even to the extent of travelling to the Artic alone in search of him. Her one and only memory in seven years. She’s sure he holds the key to her future self.

Memory forms not only ourselves and our lives but is also critical in storytelling with a beginning, a middle and an end. The One Memory of Flora Banks is unique in that the past, present and future become the now and along with Flora we face each new moment with a tangible sense of fear and anticipation. Her bewilderment and turmoil are brilliantly conveyed and the reader immediately mirrors the unpleasant surreal sensation of her existence. Life becomes akin to a waking dream, at times nightmarish, at times exquisitely beautiful. Whilst Flora’s life in Penzance is written with a more concrete grounding in reality, her time in Spitsbergen gains a stunning dreamlike quality whilst her new-found friends remind her about themselves and herself, helping her, losing her as she chases Drake further.

svalbard-ice-cave-trip-spitsbergenUnlike Flora, the reader has one major advantage – memory! With this ability, the brave, tenacious and surprisingly whimsical nature of Flora shines through and the remote location in the frozen depths of the Artic takes prominence, the bleak white landscape a metaphor of Flora’s blank spaces where her memories should reside. Gradually a more complete picture of her life is created, how her parents dealt with her illness, how her brother wanted her to have a more free, less protected life. His belief in her strength and ability to do anything is the driving force that carries her closer to Drake. But will she ever find him? Will it help her recover her memory?

This is a book that lived with me through the days even when not reading and to which I couldn’t wait to return to every evening. Its magical enchanted feel fluttered like lilting music over me, the absolute unknown a welcome break from formulaic writing.

Why on earth it is marketed under the YA (Young Adult) category beggars belief. This is truly a disservice to a superb book which would be loved by readers of all ages, so please don’t be put off by this pigeonholing.  

This is a wonderful unexpected unusual book which will delight you with its story, its originality and its deft and clever execution; I really can’t recommend this highly enough.

netgalleyI received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

Rating:                          5 out of 5 stars.

Publisher:                     Penguin

Price:                              £ 3.99      Kindle UK

                                          $ 4.39    Paperback  US

FRIENDSHIP

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From a young age we all strive to form friendships, to feel that special moment of ‘oh yes, you get met’ as kindred spirits meet, cautiously at first then unconsciously a life-long friendship is cemented. To have even one two o’clock in the morning friend, on whom to call without fear of disturbing in moments of need, fear, sadness or even celebration  is a blessing indeed.

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The subject of friends has been on my mind this week as a dear and very close friend celebrated her birthday. As I bombarded her email with birthday messages, some posted here today, the sentimental and poignant quotations struck a chord with me. 

Only our truest friends know us to the core, the inner worries, the films and books that will bring us to tears of laughter. Only lifelong friends from young know the ‘whole’ us, events at school, childhood, teenage years that are so instrumental in forming the person of today. Only with them can you reminisce about the broken hearts of young love, the friendship breakups which cut so deep, the scars still raw.

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As we exit what is hopefully the haven of home a cloak descends upon us – for better or worse. We can’t help it! In the midst of desperation, a smile will be plastered across our face as we greet others in the street, at work. In a snatched lunch hour an email full of your true feelings will be sent and soon the ping of reply from a good friend brings soothing comfort and support.

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Friendships take many shapes and when young you believe friendship is one solely between peers. The sense of joy is overwhelming when you realise how short-sighted, how juvenile you’ve been and a close friendship strikes up between your parents and your more mature self, as a closer warmth and care for your grandparents develops and later you become aware that the security of friendship is found not only in platonic relationships but also in loving ones. This really does feel like hitting the jackpot!

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Like relationships, friendships take work – hard work at times! Like relationships there can be break-ups, big ones that reverberate across a large group of people, as the ground shifts, old friendships crumble, new ones are formed. Unlike most relationships, friendships can be sustained for months, even years, with only remote contact – it is amazing how one can sense the others problems, call just at the right time, how easy it is to slot back into relaxed chat after a three-year hiatus apart and pick up the conversation as if from the day before. 

The journey of life, withs its highs of happiness and lows of loss and suffering, would be unbearable without the constant presence of friends – the shared expedition easing the load, doubling the joy.

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As friendships take new format in the world of interconnectedness a new source of inspiration, support and sharing is created. Its warm glow a ray of sunshine and hope on the many bleak aspects of the internet.

So, to new friends here on WP, I ask you to join in a virtual celebratory toast to friendships everywhere! 

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