Sunday, 8 July 2012

Another rainy day dawned this morning. I nudged our roof windows open quietly at about five thirty, breathing in the soft rain drenched atmosphere, casting my sleepy eyes across the landscape with out focusing, it felt soothing. Though, no doubt my disappointment in 'yet another' rainy summers day would eventually waken; in unison with the rest of Britain, for now such negative feeling was still sleeping.

The summer rain had filled every dimple, hollow and new dug pond with in the bounds of our garden. Earth and sky in unison had created magnificent mirrors across our land, into which the dawn was now gazing.

The greatest reflection was cast by 'The Moon Burn', a feature in our landscape yet to be fully realised. In the future, this deep hollow will be lined and planted with water reeds, Irises and King the mean time, nature, it seems is content to complete it without us. From the window, I imagined slipping into the cool, still waters of the Moon Burn... swimming in the dawn. In 'imagining' one can experience bliss without chill realism! Then I imagined stepping along the Long Barrow, through the Narrow Way, towards the Fairy House tucked beneath the hill. Tracing my imagined path with sleepy eyes, they were at once wide awake when I glanced a family of Hares, two adults and a lively leveret, munching softly on tender wild flowers just beginning to flourish in the area set aside as meadow. What a beautiful way to start the day!

In truth, I snuggled back beneath our warm feather duvet and lulled myself back to sleep contentedly; the soft patter of rainfall on the window panes, the consciousness of the beautiful day before us.

I woke again at about eight... a lie in for me on a Sunday, to see a rainbow; the multicoloured arc sinking perfectly between the ridges of the narrow way... how could I possibly feel disappointed today.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Dance of the May Fly

I arrived in Bath this morning at around coffee time. The air was close and broody; I sensed 'sunshine', tucked beneath the blanket of grey cloud as if it had been thrown over it like a warm comforter, affording it a lie in. Surely eventually it would rise... enthusiastic to 'seize the day', if only to mock me for having worn jeans and a jumper!

I found myself in the city of Bath today. Weary, having milled around the shops all morning, I sought out a quiet place to sit and rest whilst Mum braved the confines of a changing room; a clutch of new clothes in hand to try on. Waiting rooms... waiting places generally, can be dreary but this one was particularly lovely. It looked out over the River Avon; that is the open window beside me did. It was a gloriously sunny day. I sat there contentedly and watched as a pleasure cruiser motored along its course, entertaining myself by trying to make out the muffled commentary of the cruise guide. Then, out of the corner of my eye I caught the sparkle of wings glanced by sunlight 'May flies'. A spiralling balletic swarm rising and falling, fairy like creatures engaged in their nuptial dance.

The last time I had delighted upon this spectacle was in Normandy whilst staying in Calvados at 'Le Moulin de la Mousse', a converted mill house beside the race (of course, where else!). I had looked to books then to realise an understanding of these exquisite creatures by way of which to underpin my delight. As an artist I am determined that my observations of nature should be more than flights of fancy and fantasy. I feel somehow obliged honour what I admire by growing a little wiser with each new observation, pursuing a better understanding of what I see, one that is cerebral not simply visual. I now understand that they live for no more than a day on the wing (the final stage of their metamorphosis), having lived beneath the water for about a year as nymphs. Sentimentally, perhaps this seems sad; the famous poet Shelly once referred to them as creatures 'gathered into death without a dawn'. However for me, the counterpoint to this sentiment lies in the exuberance of their flight; in their nuptial dance. If our earthy demise were preceded by such joy, realising our progeny, I venture to suggest that it may not be considered mournful at all. As I watch them dance, bobbing up and down as if held by invisible strings of light being tugged by the air itself, I perceive that 'this is' their dawn, they are dancing it! Their flight is so joyful, I am incapable of mournful thought. I perceive no nuance of suffering, no sense of pending death and find myself wishing our demise was akin to the mayflies. Sprightly...beautiful, invested in making love... seemingly devoid of suffering. A desire surely harboured in many human hearts. Though, I'm guessing by that by the same token many would find my allegory far too fanciful... an artists whim. Perhaps my interpret ion of what I observe is, more often than not, 'fairy tale'... comforting fiction. Never mind, I feel blessed to find comfort in the way that I see things. Risking being perceived as fanciful by some is of little consequence.

They really are visually fantastical, few would argue otherwise. They have four gossamer wings, the hind pair much smaller than the fore, which they hold upright at rest and flutter like quick silver whilst in sprightly acrobatic flight. They have two or three long tails called cerci which I fancy they trail like fairy tale dress trains. They never venture far from the stretch of water from which they hatched, their delicate wings unless caught on the wind, lack the necessary strength for distance flying. Indeed neither distance flight nor appetite need concern the mayfly during its fleeting life on the wing. The males of the species are possess the greatest acrobatic prowess, courting the females with their seductive nuptial dance moves. Once seduced, having mated, the females lay their eggs by the score, hundreds in the day-span of their life time. Some types of mayfly lay their eggs by simply scattering them into the water during flight. Others settle on the waters surface and, dipping their abdomens beneath its surface, deposit them more demurely. Others discreetly crawl down water plants to lay them on submerged stones. Having hatched the mayfly nymphs live beneath the water for about a year. Some species are understood to be burrowers and diggers, such as the 'Ephemera' others are more agile clambering and climbing about their underwater world, for example those of the 'cloeon' group. Others, like the 'Caenis' confine themselves to a more sombre life on the bottom of the pond or river... I say sombre emotively, they could well be very happy fellows! There are yet others who are active swimmers, namely 'Baetis' and those that enjoy life amongst the weeds of fast flowing rivers and streams, known as the 'Ephemerella'. Just as the adults trail three long tail filaments, so to the nymphs, though some species loose a filament during moulting, resulting in an adult mayfly which likewise trials just two. All nymphs have tracheal gills situated on their abdomen to aide respiration. Some absorb oxygen directly from the water whilst others employ their gills as paddles to maintain a constant flow of water across their bodies; respiration occurring through the skin. The nymphs feed largely on plants, favouring green algae. Uniquely, the mayfly goes through two further stages of metamorphosis before emerging as a fully mature adult or 'imago'.In its initial transformation from nymph to 'sub imago' it is still covered with a transparent skin, dulling its vibrant colouring, cloaking its glistening, translucent wings. Over the course of several hours it proceeds to moult once more before taking flight, though flight to me seems too inadequate a word to describe the spectacle of their transcendental nuptial dance.

Friday, 13 April 2012

11th March 2012

I have just been standing on a large patch of sticky puddled earth where presently a Fairies house will stand. A sycamore, recently felled is now steadfast again at its centre, buried deep into the ground. Sixteen sturdy poles stand guard about it. Floor and walls, windows and door will by and by be constructed before all is hidden beneath a hill upon which wild thyme and marjoram will flourish. Butterflies will nectar there, hares will hurry by and nibble on the sweet grasses, children will play, and all the while fairies will abide secretly beneath their roots... their paws... their feet.

 A fantastical boast indeed, some may choose to disbelieve me, but I have truly stood upon this ground... and what's more, I'll stand my ground against anyone who diffides me... I'd simply invite them to come and stand beside me!

There is certainly magic here, though unlike the footings of the fairy house, I couldn't share it with anyone of a doubting disposition, they simply wouldn't see it; it wouldn't be tangible to them. To see 'magic' you need a certain twinkle in your eye. All children are born with it, though sadly many grow out of it...twinkling that is. Instead they grow to see things from a more 'grown up perspective', which really can be rather dull... not twinkly at all!

 As a child my play time sparkled with imagination, all kinds of fantastical creatures took shape there; fairies and giants unicorns and other creatures so extraordinary that perhaps I am the only one to have ever seen them. I must concede that growing up, even my belief in magic wavered from time to time. “It's only pretend”, grandma would say... granddad, mum and dad invariably followed suit. My big brother seemed to take particular delight in this casual quest to disillusion... he head up rumours that Father Christmas wasn't real and fairies didn't really exist. But there was always a glimmer of hope in my heart, a twinkle in my eye that distracted me from this grown up outlook and enabled me to continue to see magical things. Sadly most grown ups(...some as young as eleven or twelve) stop looking with a sense of wonder, barely even noticing much that is beautiful and real never mind magical.

Thursday, 5 April 2012


Well, having not 'blogged'for sometime I thought I would begin blogging again with a boast! I was to begin: 'I have just taken the final stitch in an Orange tip study, resolving my commitment to the publishers to provide an extra 'something' for page 86 of my soon to be published book; 'The art of embroidered butterflies'. Alas my tiny handmade needle has suddenly, as if by magic disappeared. That will teach me for having a pre-emptively clever thought! I've been peering at my studio floor for the last half an hour now, not very enlightening. I've swept and I've fussed in all the corners... I've even disturbed my poor innocently snoozing cat to look accusatively in the folds of her favourite blanket... no joy! So there will be no boasting here, just an acceptance of my fallibility and the reality that tomorrow is another day... another appropriate old saying would be 'pride comes before a fall!'

There is magic all about me as I sit here in my studio, set as it is on the edge of our field, for work is now under way to transform it into an enchanted garden... we even have a fairy house (or Sidhe) well under construction. Having deliberated over such a transformation; from field to butterfly haven, for years and consulted with the most magical of friends we now have a master plan for: “Cerridwens Enchanted Garden”. Watch this space!