Thursday, 2 August 2018

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

2 August

One of the benefits of walking early on a summer morning is the potential for an encounter with wildlife.

We are heading downhill, the dew still on the coarse grass.  I am admiring the pale blue of chicory flowers, newly opened in the field to my right, when suddenly there is a sharp tug on the lead.  Millie has picked up a scent and is earnest to pursue it.

She is beginning to pull determinedly now and, being attached by a running lead around my waist, I have little option but to pick up the pace!  I half stumble, half jog my way down the rough track until she comes to a sudden halt.  I manage not to somersault over her (just) and regaining my composure, follow her gaze.  There, to our left, through a hedgerow opening into an adjacent field, are two roe deer.  A male and a female, facing each other, but with their heads now turned towards us.  They can be no more than fifteen metres away.  Backlit by the rising sun, which is peering over the upslope behind them, they are all chestnut glossiness with glowing edges.

We stare at each other for a moment, before Millie’s excited whine sends them to seek cover.  A running roe deer is the most elegant of creatures.  They appear to be weightless – leaping in long, low arcs, hardly touching the surface of the earth before alighting again. They are gone in the blink of an eye. We do not see them again, although I continue to look as we make our way along the path.

The author Diana Athill, writing in her 97th year, describes the experience of sitting and thinking in old age.  Rather than a pitiable state, she finds that it is surprisingly enjoyable – discovering, when her mind relaxes, that events from her past float into her consciousness.  Instead of the lovers and achievements that she expects to focus on, she finds that it is the most beautiful places and things that she has experienced that return to her.   What gives her pleasure in her last years is her rumination on the paintings and views that she has stopped and stared at.  They have been stored away unknowingly, to be paraded before her again and fully enjoyed once more.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

26 July

At 5.30am I open the windows and doors of the old house to let half an hour’s worth of cool air drift through, before setting out to walk.  I will open them again at 7.15am when we return, but by 8 o’clock the blinds will be drawn for the day and the interior of the house kept dark until twilight, when they will be flung open once more.  This daily pattern has become the new normal in this most unusual English summer.

Just up the road, near to Bury St Edmunds, a weather monitoring station has recently recorded the highest temperature (33.3°C) and the lowest rainfall (55 days with less than 1mm) in the UK.  Tomorrow, it is suggested, may break the British record of 38°C, and today looks like it will be a good practice run!

But this morning, at 6am, I am grateful that the open neck of my old linen shirt scoops up the fresh air. There is a musty, damp smell rising from the ground, where the dew is still on the grass.  The moisture sneaks into my battered running shoes, through a hole in the toe.  Can’t say I mind.  The last remnant of a layer of mist is disappearing above the western horizon.

Amongst the trees, the tapping of a woodpecker echoes in the stillness.  It sounds like a lone, distant workman, effecting some unseen repair.

Out on the dusty track, a farm vehicle passes me on its way to deliver more water to the sheep.  The tractor bumps along and the driver greets me with a sleepy wave.  From the droppings on the path it looks as if the deer recently travelled this way too.  I wonder if they attempt to share the rations?

The hares are about as usual and a couple of partridges run ahead of us.  They look like two misty little skittles, wobbling their way hurriedly uphill towards the light.

Just before home, we pass one of the sheep fields.  Some are already tucking into a pile of hay.  It would normally be their autumn/winter rations.  This really is turning out to be a year of extreme weather!

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

17 July

Last night, alerted by a tapping sound on the roof, we opened the kitchen doors and were met by the earthy smell of rain.  It was 10.30pm.  I walked the length of the garden and stood in the twilight, looking out over the fields at the narrow, orange arc of the moon, and let the heavy droplets fall on me.  It was over all too soon, but was so good while it lasted!

This morning is breezy and blue.  Small white fists of cloud scud across the sky and the air is cool.  We set out just after 7am and walk approximately three and a half miles.

On the dusty bridle path near the wood, I observe the dark polka dot pattern of last night’s large raindrops still evident on its surface – as if the soil has held them there, just to treasure them for a bit longer.

By 8.10am the sun is already feeling hot, but I have planned our route so that the last section will be in shade. A buzzard flies languorously above us, casting the shadow of its great wingspan onto the land below.

We reach the lane at the bottom of the hill and wind our way along.  Millie stops periodically to check out flattened areas of the verge, where the deer have crossed from field to field.  There is still some water at the bottom of the deep, tree-covered ditch.

Further along, the land rises again, and here the drainage is being improved.  It may not seem relevant now, but when I think back to the winter, it is all too necessary.  A digger has cleared another deep, narrow ditch (it looks as if it descends steeply about three metres) and three dead trees have been removed.  I can see the open ends of two large pipes (the land drains) jutting out of the smooth, cut side of the opposite bank.  Before being cleared, the bed of this deep-set brook ran between gnarled tree roots and was overhung with lianas and twisted branches.  In parts it looked more like a sunken lane from a hobbit adventure.  Now the base and one side are composed of shiny, compacted clay.  They will speed the autumn rains on their way.

As we reach the top of the hill, the swallows are skimming the surface of the cropped clover at high speed, in pursuit of their in-flight meals.

We head back home and I into the studio to begin again a day’s painting.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

15 July

The last time that I seem to have recorded any rainfall was on 12 June, and that was just a light shower, refreshing an already parched landscape.  I have almost forgotten that earthy smell of long-awaited rain when it falls.  I’m hoping that this week I will experience it again.

The harvest has begun early, with some straw already baled.  Everything is bleached and tinder-dry – the crops, the lawns, the verges.  The leaves of the huge horse-chestnut tree on the green are hanging limply and many are covered in brown scales.  It all needs rain.

The butterflies, however, are loving the warm sunshine.  Small blues, large whites, peacocks, red admirals, small tortoiseshells, ringlets and gate keepers abound.  They especially love the pinky/purple flowers of the oregano, both in the garden and that which has escaped into the meadow.

Mrs Blackbird lands noisily on a post in front of me.  She does a pirouette, whilst nabbing an insect.  As she turns, I can see that the feathers on her rear end are scruffy and loose – no doubt she is moulting.  The only birdsong on this baking hot afternoon is the cheep-cheep of sparrows and the rippling little voices of the goldfinches.  Meanwhile I sit in the shade and write my notes, dive-bombed by butterflies and listening to the electrified “zzzzzz” of the grasshoppers.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

8 July

Lepus the hare is out in force this morning.  We see seven on our early walk, including two separate incidents in which the individuals come lolloping down the dusty track towards us, only to be surprised by the presence of two people and a short-sighted whippet!  In what looks like a “yikes!” cartoon moment, both pause, stare, and then swiftly do a 180 degree change of direction, showing us the soles of their long, narrow feet.

The crops are ripening rapidly now and I saw the first harvested field yesterday.  It seems as if the entire landscape is turning to the colour of pale straw.

In the meadow, a few ox-eye daisies are still to be seen, now accompanied by the occasional splash of red from a newly opened poppy.  Mauve thistle heads are providing food for the goldfinches and the spikey, purple flowers of knapweed are beginning to appear.  We have laid out three shallow water bowls, refreshing them daily.  Butterflies have been sipping delicately from them and the blackbird with no tail (now growing again) helps himself to a drink before foraging amongst the tall stems adjacent to the path.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Monday, 2 July 2018

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

2 July

Millie and I are still employing our “earlier and further” walking routine.  The hot weather continues, with no end currently in sight.  The grass is cool and dewy in the shadow of the hedgerow, and we can keep up a comfortably brisk pace without breaking into a sweat.

Much to Millie’s disappointment, rabbit-ville is devoid of occupants this morning.  She still performs her low “stealth” walk – just in case!

We take in the sights from the meandering little lane at the bottom of the valley, and I am pleased to note that the stream that runs beneath the old cart bridge still has water in it.  No doubt this is due to the enclosed tree tunnel which sits above it, providing constant shade.  Watering holes for the wildlife must be getting sparse by now.

On the way back uphill, towards the church, the sheep in the field on the left are huddled under the shadow of a large oak.  They fit themselves together, like a woolly jigsaw, in order to form its exact shape.  They always remind me of the paintings of Samuel Palmer when I see them thus.

By the afternoon, the meadow sounds as if it has been plugged into the mains.  The continuous, electrified “zzzzzzzz....” is being emitted by innumerable grasshoppers, whilst velvety brown Ringlet butterflies flit over the surface of its biscuit-coloured stems.

Thankfully, however, there is a considerable breeze, and looking out beyond the grasses and wildflowers, a vast field of pale green barley on the opposite side of the valley is being combed by the wind.  It is flicking over the surface and forming almost white waves.  We have an inland sea view!

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Abstract Landscape Painter.  Rural Dweller.  Lover of Modernist Art and Design.

26 June

When I look out, shortly before dawn, there is layer of mist floating just above the earth.  A band of soft-focus, hovering between grass and sky.  Our little valley has become a sea, and the wood, an island.  The billowing green of two large oaks that pierce the grey, appear as the sails of galleons.

The sunrise brings bright light and saturated colour.  Millie and I go out earlier than usual, in order to avoid the heat and to walk whilst the hedges still afford some shade.  The paths where I once slipped and slid through mud, are dry and dusty.  They crumble underfoot.  There is a crunching sound as I walk. 

Other sounds – the jingle of Millie’s harness; the light tap of her little feet on the pale clay; the chirping of hedgerow birds and the song of a wren; the grasshoppers “zzzz-ing” and the deep “baaaaah” of distant sheep, interspersed with the higher-pitched “beh-he-heh” of maturing lambs.  They have stripped the pasture of every stem of clover.  They will soon be on the move.  But for now they cluster around the bowser, or gather beneath the trees for shade.

All text & images ©2018 Carol Saunderson