Monday, 27 November 2017

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

The Turning Of The Trees

There is a vicious wind blowing from the north today.  It is bitingly cold outside and the remaining leaves are being torn from the trees.  In the garden, the small birds are eating and moving as fast as they can.  I am doubly pleased with my homemade log store, as it is also providing shelter and food for them.  The blue tits and the robin keep appearing and disappearing as they hop in and out of it via the air slots.  The sparrows are busy foraging for food amongst the plant debris on the oak floorboard roof.
We had the tops of the trees trimmed last week, but I wanted to l leave enough cover for the birds, especially since two more trees have been cut down in the neighbouring garden and because the kestrel has taken to swooping down into the front garden now and then.  I have no objection to him / her hunting over the meadow, but I’m not so happy about the garden birds being attacked at the feeders.  Again, the log store is providing shelter.

I like the winter, but that’s easy for me to say from the comfort of my fireside.  I don’t have to eek out a living out in the elements as the creatures do.  I provide for them as best I can - feeders, trees and bushes, fallen apples, piles of logs, half of the meadow left uncut, a stone water trough, holly and ivy.  I put high energy food out when the temperatures are at their lowest.  Tonight it is supposed to drop to -4°C.  They do so well just to survive.

I have brought my paints in from the studio, in order to prevent any crystallisation in the low temperatures, and it won’t be long before I break out the thermal underwear!

I have been working on a series of tree paintings.  I’ve grown much more interested since doing the residency at Great Saling.  I have been struck by the atmosphere of the woods.  During my twice-daily dog walks, I always pass through or beside one.  When there is no air movement, the stillness within is one of the most peaceful experiences that I have known.  Even without human company, I never feel alone whilst walking through trees.  I am always aware of the abundance of life thereabouts.  It isn’t just the birds, or the occasional fox or deer, but the trees themselves.  The sense of life force that they give off is enormous.  I can see why writers, such as C.S. Lewis, could create stories in which trees moved and spoke.  They often seem to be on the verge of it.  The space amidst them is a magical space in which anything might happen.  And when the wind blows.......then is power truly unleashed!

Philip Larkin, describing trees in full leaf, moving in the wind, wrote,  “unresting castles thresh the air in full grown thickness every May”.  He uses the word “thresh” and later, “afresh”, both of which are onomatopoeic.  They evoke the sound of those leaves and branches hurled back and forth in the wind.  The term also makes me think of the old method of beating corn with wooden flails and letting the chaff blow away whilst the grain remains within the “threshold”.  The trees, he says, are threshing the air with their branches.  Standing beneath vast trees and hearing the wind rush through their outstretched arms, is one of the greatest experiences of the power of nature.  The roar is both deafening and exhilarating.

Like the trees going into Winter, my Mum is now shutting down from life.  Their leaves change colour and fall.  I know that before February, I will prune the apple trees because they will be dormant.  She is becoming dormant.  Her illness means that she is now almost always asleep.  And like the chlorophyll dying and the leaves loosing their grip on the stems, her abilities and faculties gradually died and fell away.  First she tripped and stumbled, then she was unable to get up, to remember, to walk, to speak, to feed herself and now to stay awake.  The desire for nourishment, and the ability to consume it, is almost gone too.  She can hardly swallow and she no longer opens her mouth for the small morsels of puréed food. Sometimes, she places her frail fingers between the spoon and her lips.  She is tired.  Life has run it’s course.  

Larkin says that the trees die, but they will be reborn in the Spring.  There will come a day when she will not awake again in this life, but I have high hopes for her rebirth in another.  She will be alright.  But the body that she is in now has outlived it’s usefulness.  She must be transformed.  Meanwhile, the trees that are now also losing weight and beginning to show their skeletal and beautiful forms, will awake to new growth in the Spring.

Die Welt wird alt und wird weider jung ‘

‘The World grows old and grows young again’



All text & images ©2017 Carol Saunderson

Saturday, 25 February 2017

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

The Ridge

It is two days since Storm Doris passed over us.  The rain was not as bad as expected but the winds were the highest that we have experienced here.

During a sunny interval, at around 11am, I took Millie, our whippet, for a belated morning walk.  She was initially keen to get out but was soon unsettled by the roaring sounds.  I coaxed her down the lane, along the populated and tree-lined section, but once we left the shelter of the foliage and stepped out onto the ridge, she would go no further and I was forced to abandon our outing.  I can’t say that I blame her.  We were assailed by the full force of the wind, which at that time was gusting at about 40mph.  We sped back home with me feeling as if someone had a hand on my back and was pushing me along.

I was sorry not to be able to walk along that section of the lane as it is my favourite.  It follows the line of the ridge and, being the highest point for miles, affords a far-reaching view across the landscape.  It is like a spine on the back of the land.  On the right-hand side the fields curve quickly downwards and then gently up again to a distant wood.  At this time of year I like to stand and watch the white gulls flying beneath my feet as they wheel and turn above the chocolate-brown earth below.  From that point I can see over the wood and beyond to the horizon.  The farmland ripples away and the only buildings visible are a couple of distant farmhouses denoted by the white and pink triangular shapes which have become so familiar to me in recent years.

To the left the descent is initially more gradual until it begins to fall and fold in on itself from both sides.  It creates a sheltered, sloping, scoop-shaped valley.  Walking here every day as I do, I have become familiar with some of its inhabitants.  As one creature of habit I have become familiar with the behaviour patterns and timetables of others.  I know where to see a group of six deer twice daily and the best locations for sightings of hares (yesterday was the first sighting of the year when I spotted six running across the face of a large field).

Meanwhile, back on Doris Day, the winds peaked at 60mph at around 4pm.  I had to stop work and leave the studio because if I hadn’t locked and braced the double doors shut with timber against a parallel step, they would have been ripped open and the bolts broken.  Being of a light build, I found myself knocked off balance and slapped against the outer wall as I faced the rush of air flowing unimpeded across the fields and up and over the garden.  I was glad to get into the house and out of harm’s way.

Waking during the night, it was strangely silent after all those hours of noise.  I spent most of yesterday repairing a broken fence and picking up plant debris from the garden.  We were lucky - no harm done.

This week, hopefully, it will be back to some quieter painting.  I have recently sent eleven pictures off to an exhibition which opens on Friday (3rd March) at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle Upon Tyne.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be continuing to produce a series of paintings and drawings inspired by the gardens at Saling Grove in Essex as part of my residency there and beginning work on a couple of commissions.  That should keep me out of mischief.  However, I’ll still find time to go on my daily walks with Millie and to enjoy the ever-changing panorama from the ridge.

All text & images ©2017 Carol Saunderson