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Painting in Words - I was once asked if I wrote from experience or from imagination - I replied both: my writing is inspired by nature, art, and memories of real events, times and places, coloured by imagination - vivid pictures painted in words - sometimes somewhat hesitantly expressed as ekphrastic prose, poems or as haiku ...
paint the evening sky
as the old piano plays ...
An exploratory piece on synesthesia inspired by pictures of goldfinch, and the music of Oliver Messiaen who heard birdsong as colours.
[...] I walk from window - to window, as birds fly quickly from one feeder to another, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Siskin and a pair of Goldfinch - to see and hear them is a joy and delight - beautiful birds [...]
These next pieces are about winter walks in the country where senses are heightened by the covering of snow ...
[...] A fresh fall of snow overnight. I walk in a winter landscape: the green fields mantled white; the blackish branches of willow and ash, edged white, starkly outlined, against the morning light; mirrored in the dark brown-grey of the brook; the distant woods a purple haze against the blue-grey snow clouds above. My footsteps the only sound. I stop [...]
drifting snow -
shattering the silence
a Wren sings
[...] At the edge of the wood early catkins - lambs tails - tremble and dance, sprinkling yellow gold-dust over the snowy branches. A small party of Long Tailed Tit tinkle through the delicate filigree of branches outlined against the early morning winter-spring sky [...]
a blush-pink morning
mirrored in feathers
In Pursuit of Spring
These next few were inspired by the poems and writings of Edward Thomas (Edward Thomas, 1878 - 1917) - especially his book ‘The Pursuit of Spring’.
Winter is not yet over but spring is just round the corner - beautifully described in his short poem - ‘Thaw’ - in which he describes the passing of winter.
Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flowers of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.
And here is my take on his poem ...
by a roaring fire
[...]. So don’t put his books away yet but leave them close to hand for reading again on those bright sunny days in February, which tease and tempt us out, but whose bitter winds send us scurrying back indoors; but the birds know! [...]
There was a lake I used to visit, in winter and spring, not far from my home in Wiltshire, where I spent many hours as a teenager watching ducks. There was an island church at one end of the lake ...
shattered by ripples
And from my bedroom window, at dimpsey, I would sometimes look out at the twinkling of distant cottage lights on the downs, as they appeared one by one, like yellow stars, fallen from the violet, not-quite-black sky ...
in darkening sky
Edward Thomas passed close by in his travels ...
And this one inspired by watching the swallows flitting in between the sheep and cows one warm evening in late spring - which idly brought to mind the poem by WH Davies - ‘Leisure’ - which many of us learnt at school.
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows ...
among the sheep ‘n cows -
we stand ‘n stare
I’ve always loved and listened to music and like birdsong I find a song or musical piece will evoke memories of the time and place when first heard.
Recently voted Britain's favourite piece of classical music - The Lark Ascending composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams's in 1914, on the eve of the outbreak of World War I, and first premiered in Bristol in 1921 - is just such a piece.
I think I first heard this in the early ‘50s, on the old Bakelite Bush radio we had next to my Dads armchair.
Vaughan Williams was inspired by by the poem of the same name by the Victorian Poet, George Meredith.
Here is my take ...
across dewy meadows
a lark ascends
I rediscovered the delight and innocence of childhood while reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ to my children when they were still very young. From make-believe to climbing trees, bedtime stories to morning play and favourite cousins to beloved mothers. A very special collection indeed.
[...] The smell of new-mown meadow hay - the gentle clatter of an old ‘Little Grey Fergie’ working in the distance - daisy chains, dandelion clocks and buttercup chins - the chime of the Church clock on the quarter hour from ‘tother side of the village green [...]
chasing lost dreams
in buttercup meadows
lark, and pipit sing
an unchain’d melody
There was a small pond in the middle of a field full of dandelions daisies and buttercups, a stones throw from home in Timsbury, near Bath, in which we used to play - the fields not the pond; ‘tho I do remember always going home rather wet and muddy. Timeless, cherished memories - those precious days of childhood ...
Walks by streams in meadows and woods on rolling hills and downs following in the footsteps of Richard Jefferies ... some meditative pieces inspired by his autobiography ‘The Story of my Heart’ or ‘Soul Life’ as he originally called it ...
halcyon days —
ancient mounds and hills
instinct with spirit
He would lie upon the hills ....
The downs he knew in his youth were also heavily marked by the relics of much earlier civilizations. Tumuli, stone circles, hill forts and ancient trackways suggested a network of forgotten knowledge, of subtle connections between the landscape and the world of the dead – the ancestors. Jefferies once described the downs as being ‘alive with the dead’ and, by the side of a tumulus, he imagines the vigorous life once enjoyed by the warrior interred there (‘The Story of My Heart’, chapter 3). All this is evidence that he perceived the links between life, death and landscape.
summer grasses sway
over ancient mounds and hills
bloody battles fought
In his autobiography, The Story of My Heart, Richard Jefferies relates some of his moving and profound experiences in the natural world. Of one such experience he writes:
“The rich blue of the unattainable flower of the sky drew my soul towards it, and there it rested, for pure colour is rest of heart.”
Interestingly, a similar idea occurred to the great 17th century Japanese haiku master, Matsuo Basho:
“A flower unknown
To bird and butterfly –
The sky of autumn.”
And here is mine ...
reflected in butterfly wings ...
a lark ascends
[...] Time means nothing – the sun moves across the sky – still I’m lying here in the grass at one with the mead – the sun and sky. I live through the trees, the grass; the earth itself bears me up ... The hours when the mind is absorbed by beauty are the only hours when we really live, so that the longer we can stay among these things so much the more is snatched from inevitable Time ... The clock should be read by the sunshine, not the sun timed by the clock. The latter is indeed impossible, for though all the clocks in the world should declare the hour of dawn to be midnight, the sun will presently rise just the same [...]
clocks tick timelessly
a leaf falls
And from ‘Hours of Spring’:
“…the beautiful clouds that go over, with the sweet rush of rain and burst of sun glory among the leafy trees.”
sweet rush of rain
among leafy trees
burst of sun
[...] Savernake was originally wood-pasture grazed with livestock – a mosaic of woodland, coppice, common land, rolling downland, and small, hidden farms. One of the mysterious and magical places of Wiltshire – an enchanted place; ethereal in its liquid greenness and shady places under the ancient trees; multicoloured sunbeams filtering through the woodland glades, where butterflies and faeries dance; the rides and grand avenues heavenly lit by the rising sun - a woodland cathedral [...]
This is probably my last post explicitly exploring this form of prose poetry. However you will find ekphrastic prose, poems - haibun and haiku - creeping in every now and again to my regular posts on nature writing - as I continue my journey painting with words.
But for now ...
[...] Here, for all who know the Downs – their wandering pathways through fields of yellow and green, blue yet often lowering skies, are the Downs on an English early autumn afternoon. Rowland Hilder - The Downs [...]
over colour-washed fields
all green ‘n gold
His paintings touched a strain of nostalgia for an unchanged and unchanging landscape. He was able to capture the unique essence of the British landscape, in all its moods ...
The featured image is of Goldfinch on Teasel (1978) from an original painting by Basil Ede. Published by Royles. A short biography can be found here: Basil Ede