Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

"To walk quietly until the miracle in everything speaks is poetry, whether we write it down or not".

Mark Nepo

Time away in Scotland always makes me ponder slowness, quietness, emptiness and silence.

This quote captures so very simply and beautifully that there is a miracle in everything.  Every small plant, every wisp of cloud, every shaft of light, every lichen covered rock...there is a miracle just there, if we take the time to look slowly.

I also ponder words and descriptions and capturing things with words when I am here, and often those thoughts turn to poetry.  I read more poetry here; I buy poetry books and keep them here; it seems to be a place for poetry as well, even tho all places are.

To understand that we are always in the midst of quiet, poetic, miracles is pretty special.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

To Shetland....

As mentioned we had a week away with a visit to Shetland and Orkney.  Shetland was a first for both of us and we loved every minute of it.

Here are some memories of our days there.

Enroute, we stayed overnight in Stromness in Orkney - the sky was blue.

At Kirkwall airport on Orkney there were mosaic panels like this detail - done by using floor coverings by three local artists - Sheila Scott, her husband Jim and her brother John Reed.  They were absorbing in their detail and helped pass the time during our three hour delay.

In the middle of town in Lerwick (across the road from Tesco) stands Clickimin Broch. Astonishing.  We walked out to it and over it and through it and just wondered at the skill and the talent and the skill and the ceremony involved with it all.  Brochs are a feature of the North and the Islands and are a fascination to me.

Our first night in Lerwick was perfectly still. We had fish and chips by the harbour (with plenty of seagulls) and wandered the docks until 8pm. Eating outside in Shetland in Autumn at 7.30pm was unexpected but delightful.

Its all about water and boats... reflections.

I loved this anchor.

Next day we visited Sumberg Lighthouse and this wall was so wonderful.

Jarlshof archaeological site was beyond belief and the most astonishing archaeological site I have ever visited.  Could not believe we were allowed to wander all over it as it moved from Stone Age to Iron Age, to brochs, to wheelhouses, to viking long houses, to medieval farms to a 17th century big house.

I said as I left, if you can hear a pinging sound that is my brain exploding.  It was that good.

We travelled to Scalloway and learnt so much more about the Shetland Bus at the museum there.  The 'Bus' ran dangerous and important trips between Shetland Norway to aid the Resistance during WW2.  Mind boggling stories in those treacherous seas and under the watch of armed German vessels.  This is the memorial.

For those who watch Shetland, here is Jimmy Perez's house! He wasn't home, but I delighted in learning that houses built into the sea like this are call "Lodberries".

We also visited Bonhoga Gallery which was a stunning building with a great shop and two beautiful exhibitions.  This work by local Mike Finnie made me happy.

There was so much to see and do and enjoy.  I was fascinated by the strength of the Scandinavian connection in architecture, houses and names.  Strong ties endure.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

All in a day's...

We have been away for a week, visiting the Shetland Islands, and it was wonderful.  It was as far north as either of us have ever been and we had an amazing time.  Whilst we were away the weather was kind, so it was bit of a shock the system to wake this morning at the cottage to a gale blowing, about 50mph, gusting this way and that.

We managed our daily walk to the cove with some entertaining moments - both of us stuck on one leg  at times as the wind was so strong it stopped us putting the other leg forward and down!

So it was pretty much an indoor day today doing bits of this and bits of that.

The sea at the cove was wild and crashing.

The sun made a valiant effort to burst forth through the clouds.

And was rather marvellous to observe through the salt spray that was blown across everywhere.

I did some washing - you know when you have to make the most of a good drying day!?!

It was hilarious - I have never been so buffeted in my life, but I got it done. Barry was working in the shed and photographed me thru the window.

Note the pegs that have been blown over and into the fence; and the roof slate in the basket to stop it blowing further away!

In between times I have been slowly dyeing more thread and the work I am imagining is coming together more in my head and in scribbled notes in my book.

I had to purchase some new wooden pegs for rolling the threads onto and they arrived during the week, so I rolled the most recent batches, and labelled them.

I am quite fond of the devils-bit scabiosus, and the lichen (off a rock in our garden).

 Part of my job now is getting the proper names for everything so I have a good record.

And because I looked around the studio (i.e. kitchen bench, lounge room coffee table) and wondered what next? I pulled out the sticks we collected from the beach last weekend and the horse's hair and wool we had detached from a barbed wire fence and went off to make some brushes.

Who knows what might happen next or how they might get used, but they are ready and waiting in my tool kit!

Barry made a much tidier one from horses' hair than me.

But I think they have some potential!

All in all a pretty good indoor day...

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

"A studio is a toolbox".

Ryan Gander

I am post-posting my Thursday Thoughts this week as we were travelling and I didn't manage to get them done; and I like the regularity of them, so felt like I should do one, even tho it isn't Thursday anymore (altho I have dated it for Thursday for the ongoing record...).

This wee one felt pertinent this week as I face the ongoing challenge of making art and being creative when I am away from my studio.  My studio is definitely a tool box for me - it holds my big machinery (the presses) which I can't take with me and it has all the bits that keep them going. It holds the odds things, the bits I use infrequently but when I need them, they are there.  Just like a tool box.

It has heaps of paper stacked and stored; here I can manage A4 at the most, and suppliers of beautiful papers are few and far between in the Highlands (altho a visit to Vintage Paper Company in Orkney is always on the list).

I guess a studio is also like a toolbox simply in that it holds the tools of your job - all the bits you need to do what you are doing, and in that way, whatever you call your studio (your box of bits, your table, your cupboard) is what you draw upon to get the job done.

My toolbox on the coffee table in the lounge room!

And on the cushions on the lounge itself...

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Corner posts

For some reason, I have been looking at and looking for, corner posts.  I noticed one a week or so ago, and my attention has been drawn back to them time and time again since.

I think I admire them because they have to be strong.  The integrity of a fence emanates from them; by taking the strain in both directions, they make a fence around a paddock possible.

I like that they are a juncture, a meeting point for different sides.

They are often worn, yet tough. Most of them tell stories through years of wire and additions.

Here are a few of my favourites so far, in all sorts of weather, mostly from our daily walk in the village.

A few iterations, at our neighbours'.

Perfect morning light and still holding strong.

Falling down on the job just a tad I fear.

A tangle of things, but still getting the job done, just across the road.

The balance of this one is quite calming.

Some are doing less work now than they used to.

The second one I focused on; not in our village but full of stories I'm sure.

And finally, the one that started my interest... love the danger.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

"It's a wonderful thing to let go of your own way of telling yourself the world and allow someone else to do it for you."

Mark Haddon

This is part of the joy and wonder of books for me - that they show me so many other ways of being in the world.  Whether its fictional characters, non-fiction essays or historical or memoir writing.  I learn so much, and learn that so many people embrace and live in worlds so very different to mine.

Reading opens minds, just opens, and I think opening up and being open are such very important things in this world of ours.

Opening allows for empathy, opening allows for interest, opening allows for understanding.

These two books are showing us so much about Scotland, nature, and life - beautiful essays of wild and wonderful places and other things.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Palettes of grey and blue

We often say there is plenty of weather here.  It moves and shifts and plays with you really.  This morning we woke to blazing sunshine and stillness after driving home in the gloom and mist and rain last night.

But it does wonderful things with the light, and looking back over photos, there are some lovely greys and blues...

Grey mornings, and the fish net drying poles

A sea wall at Keiss.

Peeling paint on a beached boat at Keiss.

Fishing nets in the beached boat at Keiss.

A transitional sky.

Clouds in a puddle

Clouds in the sky

The fishing net drying poles in the blue.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Cottages, gardens and stitches

I have been enjoying the quiet moments - stitching, reading, writing and researching.  We are interested to discover as much as we can about the woman for whom our cottage is named; as well as the history of the cottage itself, the village, and the archaeological bits around this part of Scotland with its ancient history.

So I am mostly doing the people stuff - discovering that "Hughag" was in fact Hughina McKay, born 1868 and died 1951.  One person in the village, our neighbour across the road, remembers her as a tall stern woman in black who kept her chickens in the kitchen.  Another woman from a neighbouring village says she was a wonderful story teller and the children would hang around her and she would teach them songs and tell them stories.  I like that part a lot, but I also love the chicken story.

Barry is doing maps and village history and the archaeology - I am trying to track down the building of the cottage and its inhabitants.  The people with whom we share the experience of living here, albeit in very different circumstances.

So that is lots of fun and means we have no excuse for an idle moment! This was a great find, a petition for the building of a doctor's house signed by Hughina in 1896.

The garden is returning to a semblance of normal, although heavy rain meant we once again had to dig drains!  The water gets away a whole lot better now.

Nonetheless rain does make for lovely photos too - I call these two "wet washing day".

It is the first day of Autumn here today and the colours are fading and a few leaves disappearing.  But there is still enough around for me to want to dye more thread, so the search continues.

I was amazed by the first batch of dyeing.  The sweet peas had been so mauve!  Then as they dried they softened down to a pinkish colour, then I rinsed them in water and they turned silver grey, then they dried agains and ended up soft green.  Who knew?

I spent time last night rolling them onto pegs, and then did the labels today.

From L:R sweet peas, thistle, red clover and stinging nettles.

And then to stitching quietly.  Two coaster top layers stitched, a third underway.

And some foraging in the weeds produced these flowers for the next brew. I think they are Devils-bit Scabious, but it can be pretty tricky working out these Scottish flowers!

They may be the third purple flower to dye green, but we shall see.  At least they have had some lovely sunshine today to burble away with.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

"Learn silence. With the quiet serenity of a meditative mind, listen, absorb, transcribe and transform".


I often think about how powerful and important silence is, and we are finding moments whilst we are here when we stop and hear absolutely nothing. Nothing. Nothing at all.

It is eerie and challenging, yet also pretty special.

I like the way Pythagoras all those many years ago spoke of silence, not just in and of itself, but also as a catalyst for something more.

The idea of using the silence to consider and then propel yourself into something is interesting.

In part that has been happening of late as I adjust to the pace and the rhythms and the quiet.  My mind is beginning to have conversations with itself about what to do with it; how to use the thoughts that flow through your mind when you walk in amongst it; how to consider and make use of the words that flow - where should they go? what should they become?

And so hopefully yes, I will be able to absorb, transcribe and transform moments from the silence.