Restoration Process

Since our weekend away our lives have been dominated by the hospitalisation of my 99 year old mother-in-law, who fell and fractured her shoulder. She is very frail and fragile, her body is wearing out. But in spite of her confusion and distress she still has a strength and determination, some might say an “indomitable spirit”! Those of you who know her will know what I mean!!

The other day I woke up with this quote from the Bible in my mind.
“For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day.” (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4‬:‭16‬ Good NewsTranslation ) It was a reminder for me that just because our outer physical selves are inevitably ageing and wearing out, it doesn’t mean we are “finished”!

Perhaps that is why I enjoy re-using, recycling, restoring old pieces of fabric, furniture etc. Nothing is ever finished or useless. Over the summer I have working on a project to restore an old trunk which has been in our attic for many years. Given to me by an elderly lady when I first went to university in the 1970’s, it was her trunk when she was a young lady on her travels, probably in the 1920s and 30s. Her name was Phoebe Bennett and although she died many years ago, her legacy remains.

The trunk was very battered, scratched and stained, it has been well used by me and one of my sons. I have been gradually cleaning it, painting it, and relining the inside. As I work on it I am reminded of that enduring quality of our lives, which has nothing to do with our outer physical being, but is about what we carry, our treasure within, and the legacy we leave. I am not sure yet what this old trunk will hold in the future…

Here are some pictures of the process so far. And I hope to post some updates – both on the trunk project, and how my mother-in-law is progressing.

Bank Holiday festival…

This time last weekend we had a fun time meeting as a family at  Greenbelt 2014. A beautiful new site, interesting speakers, musicians, writers and artists of all sorts  – Brian McClaren, Anne Lamott, Matt Haig, Mpho Tutu, Sinead O’Connor, Dave Tomlinson and many more…. As well as time to to sit around in the sunshine and eat together. Errr, well, Saturday and Sunday were sunny, Monday not quite so……!!

greenbelt 2014

Inspite of chilly nights and a muddy ending, we came away encouraged and inspired for the ongoing journey.

Capital day

London is not a place we visit often these days, although the coach ride is only just over two hours. A couple of weekends ago we mustered the energy to go, in order to see the Matisse Cut Outs exhibition at Tate modern.

The scale and colour of the exhibition was large, exciting and joyful. The video clips of the artist at work showed his enthusiasm and delight in exploring a form which brought together the texture and 3D quality of sculpture, with the colour and movement of painting. Both the process and product was akin to dancing or music making. To me it felt all the more wonderful because this was art produced when Matisse himself was struggling with the constraints of ageing and declining bodily health, and yet was able to break through the physical barriers to express a transcendent vibrancy.Henri Matisse - The Parakeet and the Mermaid 1952

There were a lot of people in the exhibition, in spite of the timed tickets, and at times I found it quite difficult to see and focus on the exhibits properly. It took effort and concentration, and we were glad of a coffee and chocolate ice cream at the end!globe lunch

We ate lunch overlooking the Thames, by Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, and later crossed the Millenium bridge, with views encompassing ancient and modern buildings. On to and beyond St Paul’s cathedral encountering more people, current art and culture en route, to the Museum of London where we were confronted with the span of human life on this site from prehistoric to modern times.london from millenium bridgebook bench

Just as in the Matisse exhibition itself, I found it exciting, stimulating and confusing to spend time in such a vast, historic and cosmopolitan city. Experiencing the vibrant life all around, a colourful, diverse, and multilayered collage of humanity, is demanding and even hard work!

But it was a good day out – we were reminded of the enduring qualities of human art, architecture, literature and spirituality, amidst wars, fires and plagues, and we managed to survive the frustrating confused muddle, crowds and noise of Victoria Station!

Unexpected restoration

An unexpected detour because of a road closure took me through an unfamiliar area of town. Sitting in a queue of traffic I noticed some colourful canvases and beach fabrics in the window display of an interior design shop. Just what I needed to restore some old directors chairs which had been gathering dust in the garage! Amazingly there was a parking space a few yards further on, and I was able to nip into the shop, purchase half a metre of strong canvas, and be on my way within a few minutes.

It was only just enough material, but it was enough!

Result – an enjoyable few hours spent, planning, cutting, and stitching the covers; and two useful folding chairs, now looking a bit more presentable. And a reminder for me that traffic jams, detours and delays can, in fact, hold the opportunities we had forgotten we were looking for. Just a matter of noticing and seizing the moment when it presents itself!

20140814-103839.jpg “before”

20140814-103909.jpg “after”

Process and product

It is so lovely to have a long stretch of warm sunny weather, (broken occasionally by a thunderous deluge or two). It is somewhat enervating though, and I haven’t written much here for a while. But a couple of recent creative workshops have been fun, if completely different. One was on Dorset Button making which I had thought would not be really my kind of thing. But they proved fun to do, easily portable, and have kept my fingers usefully occupied whilst watching commonwealth games etc…. I have a growing collection of experiments – singletons, birds eyes, Blandford wheels, and Yorkshires to use at a later date.IMG_1733

Another day was spent creating silk paper landscapes – completely different from button making – and I enjoyed the free, impressionistic effects. I based two of my landscapes on beach scenes of the Pacific north west, where I holidayed last year. Here they are in their unfinished state, but I could almost smell the spray and hear the roar of the waves again as I made them.sesacapeseascape2

A few other stitched landscapes I have made over the months have been bubble wrapped and parceled up for an exhibition in a local gallery this week. (The Hayloft Gallery, Christchurch) It feels strange putting work “out there” for others to scrutinise, and not a little worrying. I love the creative process, but what of the product? What is it for? Who is it for?

It is not dissimilar to writing this blog, I don’t know who will read my words, what impact (if any) those words will have. But occasionally I receive feedback from a reader that something resonated, and helped, encouraged, soothed or gave insight. I scour other people’s creative blogs for inspiration, so perhaps my little stitched landscapes might be an encouragement to others to “just sew”, “just write” something, anything….

Stale harvest

This is the time of year when fruit is in abundance and the process of jamming, jellying, bottling and freezing begins.
It is also the time when we discover the unused bag of last years beans or blackberries lurking at the back of the freezer. Or find that some of the jars needed for this year are hidden at the back of the cupboard still filled with old jam, now shrunken, crystallized and inedible.
It is galling and difficult to acknowledge that this produce, lovingly picked, prepared and preserved last year, now has to been thrown away. We don’t want to let go of it, but we must, to allow room for the new. Difficult though it is, we have to choose. Hold on to last year’s harvest, or throw it out to make room for the new pickings. (It does go on the compost heap so not entirely wasted!)

Another life lesson here I’m sure. Some joys reach their sell by date and become stale. And we often can’t truly enjoy the joys of today until we let go of yesterday’s.

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Cherry picking

I am doing a lot of this at the moment, and as well as emerging from the fruit cage with bowls of juicy red fruit, I also seem to collect scratches down my arms, and hair full of insects and twigs. My husband’s irritation and blood pressure has been rising, as the protective fruit cage has become more like an aviary, housing a family of blackbirds who constantly find new ways to get in as fast as we close gaps in the netting. Cherry picking has become a mixture of joy and irritation.

Strangely the term “cherry picking” can mean something rather different. In some circumstances it is used to indicate a fallacy or lie that comes from selecting favourable evidence, and suppressing other evidence, sometimes known as confirmation bias. It can even be used to mean a kind of tax avoidance. In the photograph of my cherries I haven’t shown you the split or mouldy ones, the bird pecked fruits, or the hard unripe cherries. These are “cherry picked” to give you a certain impression of the harvest, an impression which is, in fact, an incomplete and misleading picture!

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This has got me thinking about the true nature of our lives. I am following Writing Our Way Home’s “Joyful July” (highly recommended). However I noticed myself feeling rather irritated by a quote yesterday from the Bible. James 1v2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” It reminded me of the rather gloomy, depressing, “always expect the worst” kind of spirituality of my childhood which I have had to work hard to recover from.

But as I have been picking cherries and contemplating this, I have begun to see this quote in a different light. True joy really does only come from embracing the whole experience, not just cherry picking the juicy nice bits. There is an increased feeling of pleasure because of the perseverance necessary to chase off the birds, and endure the scratching and stretching for the hard to reach fruits.

There is a deep joy in embracing the whole experience of our lives, resistant though we may find ourselves. We want to avoid the “trials”, whether it is a marauding blackbird, injury or loss, an unexpected tax bill, or something which contradicts our strongly held beliefs. But avoidance and denial does not bring growth and wisdom. Instead, as James continues in the quote, we need to “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

True joy is cherry picking without “cherry picking”!