Category Archives: writing

Stuck – comment 23

I was feeling really stuck today and didn’t know what to draw or write about.

I felt bogged down, not inspired at all. So I looked up the meaning of stuck and found its ambiguity. There is a swamped, drowning sense, a feeling of being overwhelmed. An abandoned, beached, a high and dry sense. There is a sense of being imprisoned, powerless, glued and unable to escape. And then there is the secure sense of steadfastness, faithfulness and loyalty, the friend who has stuck with you.

So where am I today? Perhaps it’s all of them…

So I drew my glue, which I use a lot when I’m being creative, and thought of all the meanings of stuck.


Listen in the garden – comment 19

It has been a busy couple of days, and I didn’t make any “comment” yesterday. Today there were no pressures and I could take my time. The morning was misty and grey and I stood at the window and watched a song thrush on the lawn. Stepping outside the first sound I could hear was the rain, but gradually I became aware of bird songs all around.

I am not good at identifying them all, but just listening was enough to connect with their underlying joy. So I made a little collage from pages from an old poetry book, and a drawing of a thrush. My comment on their songs…

Let it flow – comment 6

Well I did say this blog would be about every day life, and what could be more everyday than a kitchen tap? But so essential – if the flow is blocked, from the tap or down the plug hole, we know it!

And then while writing a letter my pen ran out, and I realised how crucial it is that things flow, whether it’s water or ink. When things freeze up, get blocked or run dry we’re stuck, and nothing can move.

So keep it flowing… (Not easy to draw flowing water by the way)

Beech tree revisited

A feature of Facebook I quite like is the “on this day” memory prompt. Today I was reminded of what I posted to this journal five years ago… I have revisited that word sketch, and my subsequent post, before today. When studying metaphors and imagery in poetry on my MA course I looked through the window at that same tree, and thought about life, and the seasons of the soul.

Today the tree is still here, and so am I. Both older. Since then I know more of my ancestral grounds, and more of the sadness of loss and letting go. But I also hold on to the hope and promise of that life which is ongoing, and which cannot be quenched. It will stir again in spring.

Here is the three part poem I eventually wrote from my first word sketch five years ago. The voice of the poem shifts from being in the tree, then addressing the tree, and finally describing the tree from a longer time perspective. I find this is a process which often helps me cope with the changes and seasons of life. I hope you enjoy it.

Beech Tree Revisited

I stand tall, frame strong, robust

black arms, branching into finger twigs,

dressed respectably in leaves

of supple bronze, green sap holds firm.

Days disrobe me. Clothes fade

to shabby rags, brown stains of death.

Threadbare cloak pulls from my back.

I am stripped,



Here are your reaching fingers,

clutching brittle dying debris.

Here are your silvered arms,

rain sluiced, wind tossed.

Skeletal shoulders

bear the winter of your soul.

Here is your straight scarred trunk.

Here is the moss wrapped body.

Here an inner downward thrust,

to roots deep underground

where something unknown

wants to live.


Chattering excitement spills

from nestlings, sheltered

in wooden box pinned to her heart,

Circling crows above her head,

like v-shaped birds drawn

on the sky by children’s hands.

She stretches fingers to the blue,

touches shimmering rain clouds

with swelling tips of pink

which burst to lime,

and hurrying, lace gloves

pulled on, she waves

in welcome to the spring. Then turns,

still rooted in ancestral ground,

to dance along new paths, where

from beneath the litter of past years,

spouting bluebells fountain

into pools around her feet.

Cilla Sparks

October exhibit

This blog, started in January 2012, was originally inspired by Writing our Way Home, and their idea of writing “small stones”

I usually write a month of small stones to kick start each year in January. However I am currently following WOWH’s email course of October small stones and am finding great inspiration for just sitting still, and paying attention to life in all its variety.

Today’s quote was from Henry David Thoreau

“You only need sit still long enough in some spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns”

I didn’t need long in the garden this morning (it was drizzling!) to find this inhabitant exhibiting itself to me and inspiring a small stone.

Late chrysanthemums

Tight buds hide centres

of yellow mathematical arrangement.

Opening to wind and rain, rusty petals

stretch random sequinned fingers

towards the clouds, defying greyness

with their fiery flowers.

Accessing history…

Over the last two days of our stay in Ireland we spent time with Lindsey, another cousin of my father’s. Although Lindsey and I are close in age we had never met before this trip to Ireland. The rain was falling outside so it was a great opportunity to focus on catching up on a life time (well, make a start at least!) and discuss our shared interested in tracking down the family history. We have both become hooked on the detective work of searching online records for clues about our ancestors lives and stories, and regularly exchange emails about our discoveries.

Linen features strongly in our family history so it seemed appropriate to visit the Lisburn museum and their Flax to Fabric exhibition. It was fascinating to see the process of linen production and to realise the impact of the mechanisation of what had been a domestic industry for generations. The looms in their collection would have been housed in weavers’ cottages, their punch cards determine the jacquard pattern in the weave. There was one storage box on display with the name Greeves on it, sadly too high up to photograph well,  but it was physical evidence of my 3x great grandfather John Greeves’ factory, his Linen Spinning mill in the Falls Road area of Belfast. The photograph is from the online collection from Belfast Live


With Lindsey we went to Oxford Island and the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre. In better weather we would probably have walked, but instead we talked. As well as the beautiful location the Discovery Centre had another bonus, an amazing local history collection including over 700 Quaker books and publications. We met the archivist, and he was keen to help us with our search for more clues to the stories of our family in this area.


Our final stop before heading to the airport for our flight home was another place of preservation – the National Trust property Castle Ward. On the shores of Strangford Lough we enjoyed a wander around the Old Castle farm with its turreted tower, and then a tour of the the 18th Century house, a strange mixture of Georgian and Gothic. The National Trust does an amazing job of conserving so many historic buildings enabling us to see architecture and interiors we would never be able to see other wise. Their conservation principles are to manage the land, structures and collections in their care “ensuring that their special qualities are protected, enhanced, enjoyed and understood by present and future generations”. Ironically Castle Ward is a site of the filming of Winterfell in Game of Thrones, raising interesting questions in my mind about historical reality and the nature of historical fiction and fantasy novels.


However, and why ever, we study history, to unearth forgotten facts or create fiction and fantasy, thank you to all those whose work of preservation and conservation enable us to access and understand truths about our past and present (and future?)


Process moving again…

Nearly three years ago I started a process to restore an old trunk which had been in our attic for years.
Battered and dirty it was not good for much, so I set about painting it and re-lining it. I also managed to recreate a drop in drawer for the inside and finished the interior.

And then everything stopped, and it has been sitting in my conservatory, half painted ever since. This week I had tea with a friend who I hadn’t seen for months. She asked me how my trunk was going. Trunk? I realised it had been forgotten…

But I had been accumulating materials for possible solutions to the outside refurbishment. So spurred on by my friend’s enquiry I started work again. I had been collecting fabrics with a theme of writing and creativity for a while. After some long consideration I decided that collaged and quilted panels using some of my fabric stash would work best to cover the lid, as the trunk will hopefully be a repository for some of my written and textile creations. Selecting appropriate words was quite challenging, given the bitty nature of the fabric. And making the panels the right size and shape was tricky, but I am now creating the last piece.
Some days of torrential rain, followed by an unseasonable head cold has meant I have been largely confined to the house for a few days. I was feeling irritable and frustrated at myself as well as the weather. But frustration was eased by the activity – my head and sinuses may still be blocked, but I feel the process of trunk restoration is moving again…
Still a way to go, I’m determined it won’t be another three years before it’s finished!