I’ve just come in from a late evening wander up the valley, raising moths with every footfall and, for the first time in months, feeling the familiar squish of damp ground underfoot instead of bone jarring, cracked earth. I went down to the beck and stood knee deep in the water for ages (a regular post migraine activity) gazing up at the mountain who was looking benign and majestic in the warm evening light. I squiggle toes in the slippery pebbles and clamber about on the bank where the rocks are warm still and the bracken prematurely tinted with Autumn; almost tempted to go back for a tent so that I can sleep next to the water. On the way home I stop to talk to my favourite tree thinking how precious it is to be able to do this, being alone in such a beautiful place momentarily lets me be the child I still am inside since there’s nothing about to show me I’m actually a small 51 year old woman acting like a lunatic talking to trees and wallowing about in the beck dressed in pants and a hoodie. Something about this summer’s heatwave has me reliving childhood memories of golden barefoot summers in the 70’s, just as it’s revealing ancient earthworks, drowned villages and lost gardens. This is the summer they will talk about for years to come.
As ever I started writing a blog post in May and have had to scrap the whole thing because so much has happened in the mean time. A proper summer for the first time in 4 years and the generous loan of a Canadian canoe has meant we’ve felt extra lucky to be living in the Lake District – what we lack in financial security or a packed social life has to some degree, been balanced out by the priceless joy of a clandestine night on Wild Cat Island, a picnic supper on Ullswater ( even though we canoed double the distance because we forgot to pack the gas for the tiny miniature stove and had to go back!) or an afternoon gliding about in the swimming “pots” of Borrowdale.
I’ve just returned from my weekend at Art in the Pen in Thirsk where we all nearly melted in the cattle market under the sweltering North Yorkshire sun! This year I didn’t do so well ( many people said sales were down on previous years) but I think I enjoyed myself more. My pen neighbour Hannah Sawtell was particularly lovely and we had good chats about politics, future directions and the joys/trials of parenthood/cat caring/empty nests. I fell in love with several of her prints but the one I had to have included a quote from a favourite REM song and someone looking slightly uncertain on the edge of a moonlit pool …
We did a little artist swap which sadly is the only way I can own the art I love at the moment. I sometimes feel like such a hypocrite going on about #JustaCard all the time and then leaving the “pens” of people whose work I’ve admired for years without buying anything but it really would have been madness to spend the small profit I’d made because that will be needed to pay for the materials and costs of the next event. It really is hand to mouth sometimes and times are hard for many of the creative people I met. Rupert had helped me set up and take down my pen and commented afterwards that he really felt for those who hadn’t done so well “…they all work so hard, they’re all makers and they make the world a better place.” The overriding feeling was positive though, despite the heat, the farmyard aromas, the slow sales and all. The visitors were all enthusiastic and full of praise and the other artists full of camaraderie and humour; I love the concept of artists taking over the cattle market for a weekend and replacing the animal s**t with things of beauty, it makes me smile for so many reasons !
… As usual it’s taken me an age to write half of what I wanted say and its now tomorrow! I’ve just been into Keswick to post out some orders, including some of the cyanotype workshop kits I’ve put together, and got side tracked by a rarely open antiquarian bookshop. I came away with an armful of old Observer guides and intend to spend this evening identifying “Grasses and Sedges” on the fell side with a spot of bilberry picking if the birds haven’t eaten them all ( my car is always covered in purple bird poo at this time of year). The rest of the week will be busy with lovely bookshop days and a cyanotype workshop for Cumbria Printmakers in Shap where we have an exhibition until Sunday.
And so the summer speeds along and it’s been a good year for the roses.
I’ve been stitching and printing like mad for all the exhibitions I’m taking part in; much of the new work features stitched roses on cyanotype still lives and the elusive dream of a home with roses around the door . The next event will be Craftsmen at the Priory in the Dacre Hall at Lanercost. I visited last week and it’s a seriously beautiful part of Cumbria, right on Hadrian’s Wall. I do feel very honoured to be one of the core group’s invited guests especially as this is the 40th anniversary of the exhibition. It opens on August 8th with a preview evening including a 10% discount. Here’s your invitation…
Now I must go and learn some new plant names, write a newsletter and organise the things I’ve unpacked and piled in the middle of the floor after Art in the Pen. I want to write more often, I will try, it’s often the World that makes me silent- why add to the noise when there are important things to be said, by people better able to say them. Will you read if I keep writing? I hope so.
Recent Reading: Swallows and Amazons – A Ransome, Sweet Caress – William Boyd , 16 Trees of the Somme- Lars Mytting, The Gloaming – Kirsty Logan Rotherweird – Andrew Caldecott (audio book) , 21st Century Yokle – Tom Cox (audio book)