Monthly Archives: July 2014

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”!