21 December 2013

Darkness gives way

In a gap between winter storms, the waning moon topped the trees in a sky that was clear for a precious hour or so this morning. It's winter solstice and at last the year will turn!

A waning moon suspended over the trees in the park on solstice morning
Not a moment too soon.

Winter-dark moon, earlier in the month
I've never found the winter-dark easy, and now each year my late brother's anniversary on the 19th adds to the sadness. He's always in our thoughts but never more so than on that day. And these last two weeks B has been through the wars ... but he is resting and recovering now... Iz lies beside him on the couch and provides dog therapy, and with the stove burning brightly, the christmas tree lights on, being plied with food, and with such amazing friends and family visiting and dog-sitting and shopping and cooking, not to mention B's own wonderful spirit and steadiness... well, healing and recovery are well underway.

21 December

So, the twenty-one theme. Here's how the field, park and garden looked this morning (you can see them in November here). I suppose the trouble with starting this in November is that there won't be a whole lot of changes from month to month for the first few months. But who knows!?
Anyway, here are the 21 December images.

The field

Not a fox in sight, but some mornings recently I've seen one drift silently across this field and into the copse of trees on the right

The park

The sun was just about to rise on the shortest day of the year

The light of the rising sun worked its luminary magic on the tops of the oaks and ash

We've had a really mild winter so far, but a couple of incredibly windy, stormy days have released the last of the leaves from the sycamores

The garden

The still of the year in the garden

Winter pool and the therapy-dog
Solstice is the real turn of the year for me. I've celebrated it 'officially' now for 10 years or more. A few stalwart friends have been there all along the way (you know who you are!) and a few 'traditions' have grown over the years. Spiced beef is one, simmered with vegetables, cloves, allspice, water and ale for a few hours and then compressed (with a few handy--and heavy!--reference books; something the internet just couldn't do) to squeeze excess moisture out. Yummm.

There's spiced beef in this picture...
A more recent and personal one is to check if the witch hazel in the back garden is coming into bloom. And this year, YES, the small brown buds are opening to reveal tiny tendrils of lemon yellow to quiver in the winter winds.
Witch Hazel blooms just in time for solstice celebrations
Walks have been a bit curtailed, but Izzy and I have found time once or twice for the winter woods.

Winter beech
Elf caps pinpoint a palimpsest of a fallen tree on the forest floor

Winter is time for texture

Iz surveys the swirling river

Over the last couple of weeks, I've found the beautiful clarity of Ingrid Kertesi singing Bach to be a solace and sometimes I've worked on random colour charts at the same time. I can't find Kertesi online, but you can find here on Naxos 8.554508 with the Hungarian Radio Choir and the Failoni Chamber Orchestra. Here's a taster, Flosst mein Heiland, sung by another soprano:

Ochres and russets, Caran D'Ache and Faber Castell Polychromos

Happy Solstice all.

02 December 2013


So... here we all are, rumours and old toffee abound (there's a phrase that has been in my head since I saw it on the sleeve of a John Martyn album in 1977...).

First of all, thanks to those who wrote/emailed/spoke to me about the blog over the last few weeks, you've been very kind and very helpful...I've been mulling things over and I've a germ of an idea.


On 21 November, I went out with my camera on the morning walk in the usual suburban haunts: the field, the park, the garden. I took photos at particular vantage points. And I hope to do the same over the coming twelve months on the 21st of each month. Those of you who know me well will realise that the choice of date isn't entirely random -- it'll rather nicely pull in the solstices and the equinoxes, as well as provide a record of the changes over the year.

As well as garden news and views, goings-on in the immediate environment and the drawings, I'll also pull in other serendipitous bits and bobs: music, writing, whatever ... I hope you'll stay with me for this small homage to changing seasons, what's to wonder at and what's to wonder about.

21 November

And to start, here are the November images. It's a dark start; I have an imagination deficit at this time of the year when I just can't visualise how these places look in a different season ... Maybe this blog will help in the coming twelve months.

The field

One of the nice things about winter mornings is the moon

The park

Lamplight and a glimpse of the not-yet-risen-sun-light in the distance
We have oaks, horse chestnuts and ash in the park; on 21 November a lot of leaves were still on the trees providing
lovely colour but in the dawn light all were looking a bit grey

It's dark under the trees in the early winter mornings. This is a spot-the-schnauzer pic too.

The garden

Coming home from the walk, we come into the garden,
which looks distressingly grey and drab here in the poor light. Ah winter!

In winter, the pool does its task of reflecting the sky light very well,
even when it has gathered lots of falling leaves

In other news

I finished the Alphabet Yew! I handed it in on 30 November. Handing in was a lovely time - there was a wonderful array of paintings, all sorts of styles and approaches, all bound by their letter, the paper and the dimensions (30cmx30cm). Adjudication begins at some point in the new year: there'll be a painter, a curator and a botanist doing the assessing and I think they'll be spoilt for choice.

Doing the yew was quite the process for me: it was something I enjoyed immensely though there were many moments when I wondered what on earth did I think I was doing!? Learning as I went meant that any idea that came into my head had to be tried out as I didn't know what I could do with the medium (coloured pencil). Which meant that the final work had been through a few iterations on other pieces of, by now, smudged, creased and much-loved paper. I'd say BvG and LB in particular are delighted it's done - thanks so much both of you for your helpful words along the way! Thanks too to fellow-alphabetisers SD and JS. Here are some pics of the work in progress. All the final works will be on display in the Bots in May 2014: a treat in store!

It's some tree... I worked from sketches and photos

Nearly finished with the berries

Yew twig on the go

Everyone who has seen the drawing loved the moss on the twig so I thought I'd include it here;
mind you most people said "Ooh I love the lichen..." so I may need to draw it better the next time

It feels a bit strange now to have finished the yew. I'll have to find something else to try to draw. Look what I discovered in the local park - what a beauty, such a contrast in textures! There are still some grand old trees in the park, left over from its days as part of a demesne or estate of some sort, it most likely belonged to a house called Runnymede (at one point used by the Yeats sisters to run Dun Emer, later Cuala, Press in the early 20th Century). This tree alas, fell prey to the health and safety 'police', but there's still a Giant Sequoia in the park starting to tower above the Scots Pines. Izzy chases squirrels in vain some mornings and they have been known to dash to the Sequoia and, as usual, confound her completely.

This must have such as astonishing tree in its day...

...but it still provides wonder...

... and then some!

There was a squirrel here a second ago ... Giant Sequoia and Miniature Schnauzer
And speaking of things spotted in or near the park. Turns out we've a better class of graffiti than the usual run-of-the-mill 'tagging' (which I think is akin to dogs and lamp-posts to be honest); here's some that made me pause. I had to check what a divergent series was with my resident mathematician.

Divergent Series: refreshing Dublin graffiti

And to finish where I started, with John Martyn. Here's 'May You Never'; this one especially for my two lovely sons and their dad, who lost their grandpapa and father this week.

It's for all of us too:  "please won't you bear it in mind, love is a lesson to learn in our time..."

Go well.