PERFECTION / IMP OF AN IDEA

20170320_142411

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.

20170320_142314

‘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

20170320_141831

‘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

20170320_141521

THE FIRST POET / THE MUSE WILL COME

20170320_141257

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.

20170320_141235

‘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

20170320_142518

‘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

20170320_142435

 

EASTER AWAKENING

20170328_112808

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. 

20170328_114225

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! 

20170328_114441

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!

20170329_094718

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’.


FullSizeRenderDIRT

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’ *

top

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.

20170311_133821

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.

20170311_130930 (1)

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!

20170311_131107

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.

20170311_132253

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.

20170311_131116

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.

20170225_084657

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.

20170226_132118

‘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.

20170226_092542

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

51cqsuwiz2l

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

img_0094

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.

img_0095

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.

img_0097

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.

img_0092

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!

img_0093

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.

img_0096

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! 

champagne-glasses

AT THE EDGE OF THE ORCHARD: A BOOK REVIEW

cover1

Apples! Only someone of Tracy Chevalier’s calibre can pick such an ordinary fruit and create the most mesmerising, sweeping novel centred around them. 

tracy-chevalierAs a huge fan of her earlier books, particularly Girl with a Blue Earring and The Last Runaway, I was positively giddy to be approved by HarperCollins to review her latest creation, At the Edge of the Orchard. I started reading with a great sense of anticipation.

‘They were fighting over apples again.’

applesConstant war reigns between James and Sadie Goodenough in Ohio in 1838 and onwards as they struggle to turn the inhospitable and aptly named Black Swamp into a successful apple orchard. To James, son of an eminent apple farmer in Connecticut, apples and their trees are an obsession and are treated with reverential care and none more so than his beloved Golden Pippen, a sweet-tasting ‘eater’. 

ciderspittersMeanwhile, his wife Sadie seeks solace from the misery of her life, her losses, in the applejack cider which is made from fresh ‘spitters’ apples. 

In the midst of their bitter, self-centred and often violent marriage, ten children are born and many die from the yearly ‘skeeters’  (mosquitoes). Those that survive are more slaves to their parents than children and fend for themselves in the brutal harsh world. It is a gruelling existence which is described in great detail and intensity; I felt as if I suffered with them.

Robert, the youngest son, is striking with his disarming knowing look that unsettles both James and Sadie equally; his quiet diplomacy at times succeeds in calming the household even though he is also interested in the apples.  Martha meanwhile is a sickly child, who nevertheless runs the family ‘home’ and she is pithily described by Sadie as: 

‘Martha was the runt of the litter, the only weak one left who hadn’t died. She hummed all the time, hymns to block out the sounds of Deaths footstep behind her.’

This example is just one of the variety of brilliant narrative techniques used by Tracy Chevalier in this book. Her skilful entwining of narrative voices creates a fully immersive read and it starts with a close third person (James’s) point of view interwoven with the simpler, colloquial, childlike, even bawdy and misspelt first person voice of Sadie. I felt I was involved in an intimate conversation with her at some stages. 

Altogether there are five chapters, each from a different era though some do overlap. One chapter is a masterful collection of Robert’s yearly (unanswered) letters back home following his sudden departure from Black Swamp as a child, describing his intriguing and tough adventures over seventeen years as he heads further west. The mystery as to the cause of his sudden departure is not revealed until much later, however. His life is vividly portrayed as he enters the Gold Rush in California and ultimately ends up working for Willian Lobb, a famous tree collector.  

in-wintertreesWhilst the first section of the book deals deftly with details of apple grafting, growth, picking, the second section centres around the grand sequoia of California and of Robert’s life with them. The description of the sequoia that Robert first encounters is awe-inspiring and I can visualise the whole scene exactly.


dancingThroughout the book, Tracy Chevalier expertly weaves fact with fiction, including the then recently discovered Calaveras Grove in California.  Billie Latham built the infamous stage on the stump of first giant sequoia, named The Discovery Tree, to be cut down at the Grove. As a tree agent, Robert becomes responsible under William Lobb to collect seeds and saplings to send to James Veitch, an English nurseryman for the stately homes in the UK. 


The rough pioneering life of California is recreated brilliantly with the raw hard life in San Francisco captured in minute detail whilst evoking the enthralling enticing allure of the wildlife. Robert is forced to forgo his lonely existence when one day a visitor brings the haunted past dramatically back to him.

The characterisation in At the Edge of the Orchard is superb; there is not a single false tone or word. Everyone is realistically portrayed although it is hard to feel empathy for certain characters, especially James and Sadie. 

The darkness that is all pervasive in the book would be too much without the glint of light and hope in the form of one critical person. Will she become Robert’s saviour and end the desolation that’s blighted the lives of so many? 

I fell head over heels for Tracy Chevalier’s latest novel and was swept away by the story. I’m in awe of the electrifying literary writing which remained powerful throughout. Reading the book I was emotionally overwrought as well intellectually savouring the exquisite recreation of nineteenth century Ohio and California. The ending was a crescendo of sorrows and joy. The best book of 2017 – so far!

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.  At the Edge of the Orchard is available to purchase although the paperback will be released on 7th February 2017 in the UK and is already for sale in the USA.

netgalley

Rating:                          5 out of 5 stars.

Publisher:                     HarperCollins UK

Links:                             Amazon UK or   Amazon US 

 

A Winter’s Walk

20170122_102009

 Picture perfect winter days have been few and far between this season and when they do deign to appear I’m like a child again, eager to step forth into the white hued countryside, to inhale the crisp icy air, to stomp on the frozen puddles and lakes sending ripples of cracks zigzagging along the ice.

On my quest one sunny Sunday I join my son on his regular long (ie. very long for me) walk through the local nature reserve, across the fields to the local town. A new route for me as I’ve only taken the road there but trusting his navigational skills, I duly follow!

The nature reserve is a lush wood with a few smaller lakes and a central flat grass area with picnic tables dotted around. It is a hidden gem and luckily only twenty metres or so from our house. It has not always been a protected area of natural beauty however and until the 1960s it was a sand and gravel quarry – not too successful by all accounts as the American airforce considered the quality of the product inferior and was unable to use the gravel and sand from here when building the runway at the local airfield. After its closure the quarry became unflatteringly known as the ‘Pits’, the holes filled with water and some fish were introduced for anglers. It remained bleak and barren until adopted by the village in the 1980s and today it is managed to a high standard.

20170122_101655

As  I cross the level plain I glance again – after all is this snow or white sand? It’s deceptive in this play between light and shadow, my eyes blinded by the sunlight.

20170122_103032

Again the mystery of light enhances my feelings of the mystical as I look into the woods, recalling the old-time sagas, remembering the Nordic myths…I almost expect to witness a troll staring back at me and after a pause, a shrug, continue on the walk, my disappointment palpable and real.

20170122_105401

What is it about paths that just beckon to be explored? Where could they lead? There are so many to choose from, I want to veer off, investigate further but my son leads the way and dutifully I follow, musing. Paths. Like the ones out here in the wilderness (of sorts!), life offers up many diverse paths, opportunities and various factors determine which ones we choose to follow, which ones we perhaps return to at a later date, which ones…I realise I’m dawdling and hurry to catch up, my reflections forgotten, as I carefully traverse the rough ground. 

20170122_101528

Frozen in time the leaves, solid in their white coats, catch my eye, their gold, amber and brown colours cloaked in frosty layers. Striking in their unusual state it will not be long before the warmer air frees them from their enhanced beauty and as the soil turns to mud they’ll gradually mulch into the field, another state, another time.

20170122_102427

The bridge, at times flooded from the troubled waters of the stream flowing beneath it, is a safe crossing for us this time and the tractor’s tracks of upturned mud are frozen into solid peaks and troughs. I step gingerly in between them.

20170122_101745

The pools of water are scattered across the plain, their surfaces covered with fragile thin layers of ice, like the veneer we often display to others, the false confidence, joy, certainty. Like the ice here, so easily shattered, transitory.

Good fun memories flow come to mind; of my toddler son jumping with glee on the ice, winter suit wet and muddied, of stick battles with the frozen puddles, swishing huge pieces of two inch thick slabs of ice across the slippery grass, an alternative version to ice-hockey. Memories so much a part of us, part of our past and our present and even our future. 

Content, exhausted, refreshed I return home…like the child of the early morning I long for a hot chocolate and biscuit break – the only difference is now I’ll be making them!

‘I was sorry to hear my name mentioned as one of the great authors because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I am not feeling very well myself.’  Mark Twain