Category Archives: quotes

Poem for a Birthday

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Poem for a Birthday

 

I am the single bluebell

In the mowed lawn.

I am the clusters of buds

On the British Library apple.

I am forget-me-not

Self-seeding where it will.

I am water hyssop transplanted

From India, Ayurvedic.

I am a hellebore’s nectaries

Fleshy with pollen.

I am dewdrops beading

Lady’s mantle leaves.

I am dandelion and dock,

Goosegrass and nettle,

Never say weed.

I am honesty, in love

With my faithful moon.

I am the new clematis,

Alba, kissing its trellis.

I am so many yellow keys

Of cowslip, jangling.

I am the different yellow

(Buttery) of marsh marigold.

I am these violas on the step

And their blue music.

I am narcissi –

Pseudopoeticus – still at it.

I am this garden, here, flowering

Against the odds, catching

Every last gram of wind.

 

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I sometimes feel that I have lived two hundred and fifty years already and sometimes that I am still the youngest person on the omnibus.

Virginia Woolf, Diary, 1931

 

 

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City of light and shade

Sofia is a city of dramatic contrasts, history and geography under pressure from all quarters.  It is sometimes confounding, sometimes beguiling.  Now I’m back here after my time away on the coast, it’s strange to see how much it feels like ‘home’.

‘A city called Wisdom should float on clouds…

…Reality is never clear.  It’s never final. You can always change it or see it in a different way.’

From ‘Solo’ by Rana Dasgupta

 

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Sparks of Light

 

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Colour is seen in growing things, living the life of the rainbow curve, the sevenfold spectrum. Flowers create colours out of the light of the sun, refracted by the rainbow prism. So I paint flowers, but they are not botanical or photographic flowers. My paintings talk in colour and any of the shapes are there to express colour but not outline. The flowers are sparks of light, built of and thrown out into the air as rainbows are thrown in an arc.

Three Kinds of Artist, 1974

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I like painting flowers – I have tried to paint many things in many different ways, but my paint brush always gives a tremor of pleasure when I let it paint a flower – and I think I know why this is so. Flowers mean different things to different people – to some they are trophies to decorate their dwellings (for this plastic flowers will do as well as real ones) – to some they are buttonholes for their conceit – to botanists they are species and tabulated categories – to bees of course they are honey – to me they are the secret of the cosmos.

 The Flower’s Response, 1969

 

After a visit to Dulwich Picture Gallery to see Art and Life 1920 – 1931 – Ben Nicholson, Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis and William Staite Murray.

Words and images by the wonderful Winifred Nicholson.

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Hero

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At the newly refurbished award-winning William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow on Sunday I was reminded how much I admired this Victorian Renaissance man (1834 – 1896).

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How not to admire someone who did so much and said such wise and prescient things:IMG_7950

 The past is not dead, it is living in us, and will be alive in the future which we are now helping to make.

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 No man is good enough to be another’s master.

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It was heartening to see a new garden taking shape behind the house on the edge of Lloyd Park, designed according to Morris’s principles and incorporating some of his trademark flowers.  In the sunshine you could almost imagine you were in his ‘Earthly Paradise’.

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Windows & Walls

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Let us love this distance, which is thoroughly woven with friendship, since those who do not love each other are not separated.

Simone Weil

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I know that the writer does call up the general and maybe the essential through the particular, but this general and essential is still deeply embedded in mystery.  it is not answerable to any of our formulas.

Flannery O’Connor

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Outside In

So, I came home via Edinburgh Botanics and spent a wonderful weekend wandering around the Gardens and looking at the displays inside and out.

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Franz West & Heimo Zobernig 2004/2013

IMG_6255A woman asked me What are those chairs doing?  She didn’t seem convinced when I told her imaginary people were sitting on them.

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I thought that perhaps the Petrosavialles Family was also imaginary…but apparently not.  According to Wikipedia, they are found in high-elevation habitats and have bracteate racemes, pedicellate flowers, six persistent tepals, septal nectaries, three nearly distinct carpels, simultaneous microsporogenesis, monosulcate pollen, and follicular fruits.  Sounds interesting.  I hope they find a specimen soon.

When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

John Muir

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Leavings

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All our literatures are leavings.

Gary Snyder

And so, my last day at Cove Park.  I’m very sorry to be leaving this wonderful place, so conducive to deep and broad thought.  My three weeks here have allowed me to orientate myself more clearly in relation to the writing that is growing out of my botanical travels.  Still much to do, but at least I know which direction I’m taking.

IMG_6100Someone said the days here are long but the weeks are short.  That’s a good way of describing the strange timelessness a community of writers and artists slip into together free from the distractions of the supposedly real world.

IMG_6092Last night we stood on the deck looking at a sky so clear the stars seemed almost near enough to touch.  How old was the light we were seeing?  Owls screeched among the birches and rowans. The beginning of autumn’s chill percolated through the air.  A perfect moment to take home.

IMG_6104We live in eternity while we live in time.  It is only by imagination that we know this.

Wendell Berry

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At Cove Park

Installed in the beautiful setting of the Writer’s and Artist’s Retreat Centre at Cove Park, overlooking Loch Long, to work undistracted by anything but the scenery.

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Lots of wild flowers growing on the hillside – one new to me – Red Bartsia.

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And a striking purple Wild Angelica.

photo copy 2That we find a crystal or a poppy beautiful means that we are less alone, that we are more deeply inserted into existence than the course of a single life would lead us to believe.

John Berger

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An Unfinished Story

Living, as distinct from literary, speech is continually interrupted, and there is never a single thread.

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What can happen in twenty-four hours may outlast a century.

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Silence can be like a hand extended.  (Or, of course, under different circumstances, a hand cut off.)

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Write by hand with a knuckle bleeding.  Like this blood underlines some of the words.

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Every story is about an achievement, otherwise there’s no story.

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Hope today is a contraband passed from hand to hand and from story to story.

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from John Berger’s Bento’s Sketchbook (Verso 2011)

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Kew Gardens

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The true motive of travel should be to become lost and unknown.
Lin Yutang

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