THROUGH A NEW LENS

"Star-like purple-blue flower close-up."

How often do we happen to look but fail to see? Fail to take the time or effort to truly assimilate and absorb the life around us? Perhaps something is simply too far away?

"Muntjac deer peering from undergrowth in woodland."

A camera is ideal to focus one’s attention and as an amateur photographer a recent birthday present of a new camera reignited my passion for the craft.

"Two marigolds close-up, golden yellow, folds of petals with crystals of dew drops."

It rarely leaves my side; accompanies me on walks, to the garden, around the house. I’m overjoyed to share ten of my favourite photos taken the previous week and hope you enjoy them and some of the quotations they inspired me to seek out! Each one has taught me to look afresh at the world, showing me a new perspective on life.

"Blackberries, unripe green, ripening red and ready to pick black ones."

“So it is with blackberries. If you pull too hard, you may get the berry but you will lose the sweetness of it. On the other hand, if you leave it, it may be gone the next time you come by. Each person must find this point of equilibrium for himself.” Extract from Death of a Hornet and Other Cape Cod Essays by Robert Finch

"Dog running fast along empty beach towards pier in the background."

“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.” Extract from Call of the Wild by Jack London

"Big wheel ride taken from below against white wispy clouds. Shows its dramatic height."

“How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
   Ever a child can do!

Extract from The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson

"Single gull, close-up, standing on outcrop with blue sea in the background."

“His one sorrow was not solitude, it was that the other gulls refused to believe the glory of flight that awaited them; they refused to open their eyes and see.” Extract from Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach

"Single pink rose called Queen of Sweden, petals startlingly clear and gradually unfurled."

“When you recognise the sacredness, the beauty, the incredible stillness and dignity in which a flower or a tree exists, you add something to the flower or the tree. Through your recognition, your awareness, nature comes to know itself. It comes to know its own beauty and sacredness through you.” Extract from Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle

"Autumn thistles against cloudy dramatic sky, white tufts of flowering thistles. In the middle on purple still flowering thistle."

“Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it.” by Confucius

"Colourful beach huts, seven altogether. Standing on the beach. The colours include pretty pink, green, blue, purple and yellow. All with small verandah."

Where’s the power button?

Just imagine … no delete key! To be typing away with no way of erasing one’s words. Where force is needed on each letter, the loud clickety-clack echoing around the room.

Some will have learnt to type on the old-fashioned ribbon typewriters, whilst for others they are an alien concept. How can one manage without autocorrect, cut, copy and paste!?

Forget the modern contraptions and imagine an antique typewriter set on a lone table. In a bookshop. Paper rolled into place. People approach and can write a sentence or two on it. What would this be?

Where’s the power button?

what is the password?

Just such a scenario developed as part of a community project in a bookshop which opened in 2013 in Michigan and the results are beautifully collated in the book ‘Notes from a Public Typewriter’.

A joint owner of the bookshop, Michael Gustafson, whose love for typewriters stemmed from inheriting his grandfather’s beloved 1930s Smith Corono, first imagined a great new American novel would be co-written by hundreds of people.

The Literati Bookshop, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

He couldn’t have been more wrong! Yet the messages are more than he could ever have predicted and they offer a unique insight into the human psyche as the anonymity allows people to bare their souls.

I’m scared I’ll spend half
my life deciding what to do
with it and the other half
regretting that choice.

They provide glimpses into other’s lives, their marriage proposals, relationship breakups, love, loss, addiction, joy, worries over school, college. Some cut straight to the question of our human existence.

The hardest thing about
loving someone so broken
is you might fall to pieces
yoursel
f.

Some are funny and intimate.

i love it when you talk typewriter to me.

Others are sweet and poignant.

I raced the snowflakes
to see who would fall first.

Of course the novelty of a typewriter features often as one young writer shows.

If I had to write a
five-paragraph essay on
this thing, I would withdraw
from middle school.

The purpose of life in all it’s facets is captured in a few profound sentences.

Life,
like this
typewriter,
has no
backspace.
Type strongly
and don’t
look back.

Every evening Michael Gustafson would collect the reams of A4 papers, read the messages and cut them out, placing some on The Wall of Fame. Fame that grew as news of the bookshop’s unusual activity became more widely known.

In 2015 an artist, Oliver Uberti, was commissioned to paint fifteen of the messages on the brickwork outside the shop and it is now one of the most photographed locations in Ann Arbor.

‘Notes from a Public Typewriter’ is a wonderful and inspiring collation of messages, some even resembling flash fiction, many incredibly poetic in nature, beautifully presented in a smaller hardback form. A sense of harmony is achieved as the disparate notes are put into various sections, first describing the initial set up of the bookshop along with his wife, Hilary, in Ann Arbor and then concentrating on different themes of the notes, providing glimpses of occasions and people in the bookshop.

The notes themselves are presented unedited in typewriter fonts along with all their spelling errors etc. They are raw, honest, beguiling, addictive.

It is a profound book, it is hilarious, it is life!

we are all stories in the end

It has become one of my firm favourites this year and a book I’ve recommended to many already!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Publisher: Scribe UK / Grand Central Publishing (US)

Available: Amazon US Amazon UK

Note: All bolded text are quotes from the book.

‘TO GLASS UNSHATTERING’*

Music is an integral part of our lives, winding its way into our souls even before our birth. The array of sounds touch us to the core, reflecting our emotions, creating unique feelings, supporting us through crises, lifting us to new heights of joy. The variety of music is infinite and the range of reactions it creates within us is never-ending. 

Lately I’ve been lucky enough to come across three pieces that sparked absolute awe within me, carrying me beyond the realm of the conscious to purity of just being. 

The first one is a favourite for buskers around the globe, with the haunting refrain echoing around shopping precincts, tumbling down cobbled alleyways. For some reason many see this as a ‘simple’ tune to sing. Nothing could be further from the truth; it demands deep soul-searching  from the singer, one so raw that the unadulterated passion is etched on the singer’s face, until the searing intensity of the song is felt by all. Jeff Buckley brought this Leonard Cohen song to millions around the world, and it was my favourite version until I saw this one below. 

Many thanks to Laurie Buchanan at Tuesday with Laurie  for introducing me to this breathtaking and heart-stopping ‘Hallelujah’ by K D Lang, which had me in tears in the end as the singer greets Leonard Cohen who is seated in the front row.

To lighten the mood my next tune is from on of my all time favourite songs; one that saw me through university and beyond. The first time I heard it was on a sunny day in Scotland (a rarity in itself as many of you will know) and it was one of those perfect days. Sitting on a window ledge with my legs dangling out I listened to this song for the first time as I watched the golfers at the 18th hole in St. Andrew’s. As I heard ‘Africa’ by Toto my spirits soared, life was technicoloured glorious!

Recently, I came across a new piano version of the song. The energy and vitality of Peter Bence, the pianist, is contagious, his enjoyment totally absorbing and fervent. Who knew the inventive sounds of a grand piano? For many musicians the piano lid bangs and the pulling of the piano strings might be cringe-inducing … but wow! The ultimate sound is spellbinding and unforgettable! 

The final offering is one of the most original and eye-catching lyric videos I’ve come across. It is particularly apt for all writers out there and has a marvellous retro feel to it. The message of the song is both stirring and heartfelt, the tenderness and beauty of both the music and lyrics merging to the sublime. I hope you enjoy ‘Taste’ by Sleeping at Last as much as I do and many thanks to Sue Dreamwalker who introduced me to this song on her post Fixing From The Inside ~ To fix the Outside.

Before the video, here is just a taste of the chorus:

‘To fists unraveling, to glass unshattering.
To breaking all the rules, to breaking bread again.
We’re swallowing light, we’re swallowing our pride.
We’re raising our glass, ’til we’re fixed from the inside.

Thank you so much for listening to this musical interlude, and as always I look forward to your comments and discussions! 

*From ‘Taste’ by Sleeping At Last.

HAPPY MIDSUMMER

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Glad Midsommor to you all!

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A day when the heart can fly with joy, the spirits soaring with life and energy!

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Where both the body is nourished by good wholesome food, and the soul is rejuvenated through stillness and sharing.

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Where the mind flows between the present and the past; the two often seeming to merge. When the memories offer contentment and happiness, the present likewise a source of comfort and joy.

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Whether celebrating this Midsummer, the longest day of the year, or not – I wish you all a wonderful day filled with love, compassion and adventures!

To end this brief post I’d like to share a quote I came across recently – the words like a thunderbolt of wisdom!

‘Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply give you courage.’ Lao-Tzu

May we all find such courage … experience such strength.

Photos courtesy of Pixaby

HATS FLYING / SPIRITS SOARING!

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Ever since I started blogging, I’ve never failed to be astounded and inspired by the superb and moving posts here on WordPress. Some posts have become part of my regular weekly reading, and Feminist Friday by Bernadette at Haddon Musings  is a post I never miss.

Her post celebrating the life of a woman or women mark the start of my Fridays and I always sit down to read in the knowledge of a rewarding, interesting and uplifting article.

Last week’s article on Anna Quindlen’s graduation speech moved me to tears. It is a wonderful and brave speech, extolling life and love, celebrating the actual art of living! I felt heartened and warmed by the strength and power of her message and I hope it touches your heart as it did mine. I reread it. What a wonderful life-affirming message for these young people.

Here are just a few snippets to start with. The rest of the article can be read by clicking the link below:

“But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.

“Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work

“Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad. Get a life in which you are generous.

“And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted.”

Please click the following link to read the whole speech viaFEMINIST FRIDAY 2018 

55-12266-anna-quindlen-photo-2-1390852019A quick aside, as I’d never heard of Anna Quindlen, I looked her up and discovered she is a renowned American author, journalist and commentator. In 1992 she won the Pulizter Prize for Commentary.

PS. Comments are turned off for this time, to leave space for any thoughts on Bernadette’s blog.

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THE 3 DAY QUOTE CHALLENGE #3

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Welcome to the final day of my 3 Day Quote Challenge which I’m thrilled to take part in following the kind nomination by Laura at laurabrunolilly.com .

To the challenge…The rules are as follows:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day

As a writer, I wanted to finish this challenge with a quotation about the craft. The elegant and eloquent truth of the following quote struck me like an epiphany when I came across it a couple of years ago and I am sure it will resonate with most poets and writers. Having read her words I instantly noted it down in my journal and it is one I often come back.

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img_2650The writer of the quotation is fellow writer and blogger Adrienne Rich who blogs at middlemaybooks.com. Adrienne is a writer of historical family sagas about the Weldon and Crenshaw families of Gilded Age Englewood, New Jersey and she ‘first fell in love with family sagas watching family drama at the many funerals’ of her youth. Her blog is  ‘to celebrate who we all are, past and present, flawed and sublime.’

My 3 nominees for day # of this challenge are:

 

THE 3 DAY QUOTE CHALLENGE #1

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Sometimes a challenge arrives at the perfect time and this one – The 3 Day Quote Challenge – caught me when I find myself surrounded by quotes, absorbed in collecting them, reading through old ones, finding new ones.

For the next three days, I will be posting a quote and explaining why it’s made an impression on me.

To the challenge…The rules are as follows:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

Many thanks to Laura at laurabrunolilly.com for nominating me.

Rules and I don’t always mix well; so my quotes may be a bit longer and my first foray into the challenge begins with a ‘Blessing of Solitude’.

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The above is an authentic Celtic blessing found in a book written by John O’Donohue called ‘anam cara’ (soul-friend) and sub-titled ‘Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World’.

This book resides on my bedside table and one I dip into now and again. Its pearls of wisdom, gems of inner-understanding ensures it’s a book that not only has meant a lot to me but continues to do so. In recent weeks some of my friends are going through hardships and I found myself seeking solace and clarity within the pages.

My 3 nominees for day #1 of this challenge are:

Quick Aside

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I’m stunned and very honoured to have been nominated in the Best Pal category of the Bloggers Bash Awards! There are only a few more days to vote until the virtual box closes at midnight on April 30th (BST) so head over to the ballot – there will be lots of familiar names there in a whole host of categories … and towards the end is the Best Pal nominations. Press HERE to vote.

BEST PAL: Which blogger do you want to go to the pub with? Or maybe have dinner with? Who never fails to reply to comments, and has thoughtful things to say? Maybe they encourage the community through weekly challenges or blog parties. A blogger who makes the blog-o-sphere a better place is what makes the Best Pal. (This description courtesy of Bloggers Bash Awards)

SUNSHINE BLOSSOM

Two weeks ago only the daffodils braved the grey chill that clung all around. Trees barely seemed to be in bud and the occasional bulb peeked above the sodden ground, seeming to retreat as soon as they appeared.

What a difference a week makes with the welcome arrival of glorious Spring weather! As we basked under exceptional warm temperatures, the flowers in the garden woke with a blaze of colour. I cannot help but study them in awe and wonder, often whilst swinging on the wooden seat with hushed joy.

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Some of you I know still have a little (or a lot) of the ‘white stuff’, some are in Autumn, so I want to share just a few photos of the Spring flowers in my garden. As it is National Poetry Month, I’ve included part of a Spring poem to accompany the images.

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‘A sensitive plant in a garden grew,
And the young winds fed it with silver dew,
And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light,
And closed them beneath the kisses of night.

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‘And the spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

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‘The snowdrop, and then the violet,
Arose from the ground with warm rain wet,
And their breath was mixed with fresh odor, sent
From the turf, like the voice and the instrument.’

img_0719The above are a few stanzas from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem entitled ‘The Sensitive Plant’  (published 1820).

DAYS OF WONDER: A BOOK REVIEW

Daysofwonder

As a huge fan of Keith Stuart’s debut book ‘A Boy made of Blocks’ I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity by the publisher to read and review a pre-release copy of his latest novel. As always on such occasions when I eagerly look forward to a new publication, I hesitated for a fraction before plunging in to read … I just hoped the book would not disappoint. I need never have feared – it is truly a gem! 

From the first couple of paragraphs into ‘Days of Wonder’ I knew I was in for a treat and settled back to enjoy, savouring the story, becoming engrossed with the characters and their lives. By the end my emotions had been on a rollercoaster ride, ending in tears, at times laughing out loud, all the time moved and touched to the core.

Keith Stuart’s first book was based on his own life experience as a father with an autistic son, ‘Days of Wonder’, his first fiction novel, also centers on the relationship between a father and his child; in this case a 15-year-old daughter, Hannah and her father Tom. Not only is Hannah seeking her natural independence, experiencing first-love, fretting about A-level options, she also has to contend with an uncertain future – and perhaps none at all. Since being diagnosed with a life-threatening heart-condition cardiomyopathy, her whole life has been under its shadow. 

The disease has brought father and daughter wonderfully close together, their bond inseparable since her mother left whilst Hannah was still young. Tom has raised Hannah on his own, with the support of his eclectic theatre group which he manages. The members are close-knit and effectively a second, albeit quirky, surrogate family to Hannah, caring and understanding.

Since the initial diagnosis at the age of five, Tom has sought to bring magic into her life and a professionally produced birthday play at the theatre has been key to this … a tradition Tom is desperate to continue, one that Hannah feels less keen on in the cusp of adulthood… an adulthood that may never exist for her. 

Starting the book my one fear was that the disease would dominate the book, that it could become mawkish and moribund. Not at all! The disease is a backdrop to so many stories within the book; the uncertain future of the theatre, how it has saved so many people. It’s about lives, relationships, friendships, love. Of living and dying. I became totally absorbed into not only Tom and Hannah’s lives but that of Ted, Angela, Margaret, Callum, Sally to name a few. Their fears, frustrations, courage and perseverance were uplifting and soulful.  

 Throughout feisty gutsy Hannah is insightful and wise beyond her years, whilst loving and worrying about her father as she desperately seeks to find him a date. Furthermore, she finds and becomes supportive of her first boyfriend; a young man equally crippled with a very different illness.

The book is effectively and skilfully told through the two-viewpoints of Tom and Hannah. With the latter, it is as if overhearing a private conversation, immediate, at times raw, at times swinging perfectly into modern jargon. As with Tom and the other characters, the sense of humour is impeccably narrated, the put-downs perfectly timed. Through Hannah’s words we learn about her best friends, including a very special 81-year-old lady, the dramas of school, relationships.

Tom’s narrative is personal, emotional, realistic … comically sardonic at times, other moments relating such humorous dating escapades I cried with laughter! As a reader, I couldn’t help but warm to him and feel for his predicament- caring and being over-protective and struggling to let go of his daughter. All the time, unaware his daughter is trying hard to protect her father from the future and for the future. His gentle, confessional tones mingled with the comic and drama persona whilst the ghost of his ex-wife lingered in the background, the possibility that they might yet be a family.

For both of them, there will never be a normal life … and as the novel develops they learn to embrace their predicament; their love and bond growing stronger as a result. 

An interesting additional narrative format is the occasional letters in the book … deeply revealing about past events in Hannah’s life and written by her, it is only towards the end the reader becomes aware for whom they were written. This is yet one more poignant and emotional revelation in a novel which has heart-wrenching moments cascading throughout. 

The descriptive detail by the author is superb, he is wonderfully visual in creating settings, presenting plays, and I became engrossed in them all and felt as if I’d been watching a film. 

‘Days of Wonder’ is ultimately, and perhaps unexpectedly, a powerful, life-affirming and inspirational book. I was hooked from the very beginning and did not want to put it down for any breaks. It’s one of those books that I just had to read one more chapter until I sadly had to say goodbye to my new friends!

 
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I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.
 
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Publication Date: 7th June 2018
Price:  Amazon UK:    £ 12. 99 Hardback.      £ 6.99 Kindle    
             Amazon US:  $ 9.82  Kindle
Publisher:  Sphere (Imprint of Little, Brown)

ETT HEM #3

The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. “The strokes come like speech.

“The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. The strokes come like speech.” Vincent Van Gogh

Welcome to my third and final instalment about Carl Larsson and his watercolours of the beloved family home; a place where he ‘experienced an indescribable delightful feeling of seclusions from the hustle and bustle of the world’.

Carl Larsson (1853-1919) was heavily influenced by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement in the UK and over the years Karin and Carl transformed their humble abode and in the process created a lasting legacy for interior design in Scandinavia and beyond. Their charming, evocative and distinctive style in furnishings is still highly influential and inspiring homemakers today.

“If light is in your heart you will always find your way home.” Rumi

Whilst Carl, with some help from carpenters, made the furniture, carved the doors and cupboards, Karin was responsible for the textiles and tapestries at ‘Little Hyttnäs’ as well as the rugs.

The idea to paint pictures of the home was first suggested to Carl by Karin during a rainy summer in 1894 when she feared her husband would fall into depression. Inspired, he continued to paint all aspects of their house and lives within and outside it.

“A picture is a poem without words.” Horace

Following Carl’s acceptance of an invitation from the publisher Bonnier to print some of his watercolours, twenty-four of the paintings were reproduced in the now famous ‘Ett Hem’ book. Initially sales were slow in Sweden until a German version became an instant bestseller in Germany, selling 40,000 copies in three months.

Carl and Karin Larsson were said to have been overwhelmed by its success however Carl always felt that the pictures of his family and home ‘became the most immediate and lasting part of my life’s work. For these pictures are of course, a very genuine expression of my personality, of my deepest feelings, of all my limitless love for my wife and children.’

‘Ett Hem’ has never been out of print and has had over 40 print runs. Today the family home is owned by their descendants and open to tourists during the summer.

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” Winston Churchill

NB. I look forward to reading your thoughts about the posts in this series and I will respond upon my return to the UK later in the month.