Sunday, 24 June 2012

After the Storm

Today I'm sticking with pictures as my last post was seemingly a bit 'Deepak Chopra' according to Rob. Which is fine if you are Deepak Chopra but definitely not fine if you are not...

Hoping for a brighter week for us all...

The sun and the rain

This summer in our valley and in many other parts of the country, nature is challenging us in more ways than we could have predicted. An absence of sun we're used to, grey skies and muddy shoes we can cope with, but this amount of rain has proved just too much for us and our poor overburdened rivers. On Friday night the floods came to the Calder Valley and affected many lives. Although the waters have now subsided the mess and the destruction that remains will take weeks and months to recover from. All this happening around summer Solstice has me confused and struggling to work it all out.

Despite my fears the sun really did make an effort for Solstice itself. I'd been harbouring hopes of climbing a big hill with a big view to watch the sun kiss the horizon but couldn't find any willing climbing partners, so I stayed home and made food and fire with my family.

Through the afternoon we pottered about enjoying the ease of outdoors, planting seeds and seedlings, digging earth, dragging wood. I was struck by how untamed and abundant the weeds and wild plants that grow here on the edge of the woods are. The nettles, bracken, foxgloves, lady's mantle, willowherb and buttercups are spilling out all over the place, unable to contain themselves. When the sun shines I can feel it too - the wildness that stirs within, full of potent power and creative energy. The warmth encouraging us to shed our clothes and with them, metaphorically, our old skin, helping us to feel a little more primal, a little more free. The boys seemed to really feel it this year, stripping off almost as soon as our fire was lit - desperate to join in with their dad chopping, slashing and burning in an uncharacteristically masculine display.

It was a gorgeous evening with the fire and the sun, we all felt it but the blissful heat and ease of being was fleeting...The next day was rain again, then a couple of days later, a deluge. How do we connect to the sun, to the land and to each other when we are forced into isolation in our homes? How do we find the strength to shine and bring light when our towns are flooded and we hold a heaviness that we usually associate with winter?

These are the questions that keep coming up for me when summer after summer seems to fall short of our deepest primitive needs for warmth and sustenance. Just as on the land crops cannot thrive and ripen without the sun, so it becomes harder for us to see our projects and dreams come to fruition at this peak point of the year when our powers should be at their height.

There are challenges and trials for us all in this unpredictable weather - some great and some less obvious - but there is also hope. Even as our community stands knee deep in mud and chaos, they stand together. Good-will and generosity abound as people volunteer their time, energy and care to people in need. Teams of people have been helping in schools, businesses and homes up and down the valley. No doubt this effort is being echoed in other places that have suffered severe weather. We witness this again and again after minor and major disasters all over the world; people offering love.

So I think that when the clouds gather and we're unsure where to look for the light, we can look within. We'll find it there in abundance, spilling out all over the place, unable to contain itself.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Easy peasy bunting

I have mixed feelings about bunting. The grown-up part of me that likes to think I have some taste finds bunting slightly silly and is despairing at the ubiquity with which bunting has entered the world of temporary decoration. The more child-like side of my character loves a nice bit of bunting, along with fairy lights and glittery edible dust on cupcakes.

I had been feeling like I hadn't done enough crafting with the boys recently and imagining that this was some massively important part of their childhood that was being neglected. And so, inspired by the banners at The Handmade Parade, easy bunting:

We cut some craft foam into little shapes - simple ones work best, triangles, stars etc, and hot glued them onto the top of some old thread bobbins, you could also use corks. I think I may have seen this stamping method, or a version of it, on Mayamade...

We then cut out some big coloured paper triangles, poured a tiny dollop of paint into some lids and stamped. At this point in proceedings, for reasons known only to him, Eli got really upset and frustrated and left me to finish his stamping.

He returned for the hole-punching and threading and seemed to really enjoy this bit...

And there we have it. A cheery string of bunting and an easy little project to do together.

Thursday, 14 June 2012


Well, I've managed to blog every day this week. I can't promise that i'll manage that kind of commitment every week but it's been good to push myself a little. My challenge for next week will be to try and post without mentioning the weather...can it be done?

I've got a surprise father's day treat lined up for Rob and Eli tomorrow and the conditions could prove to be the make or break factor in whether they enjoy it or not! I'm not feeling massively optimistic about their chances of a dry day at the moment, but I'm hoping.

So, until next week I leave you with a father/son collaborative project of a technological nature, his name is HB1:10...

Have a great weekend dads!

A peek into Wonderland

In an unassuming shed in West Yorkshire, frenzied activity is well under way for this year's community art extravaganza - the Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade! Oh, the excitement!

Last year it was just the boys and I who paraded (and my costume was a little half-hearted to be honest due to trying to control two small boys in the midst of art chaos!), the year before that we were rapt observers but this year all four of us are going to be part of the event. It feels brilliant that we're all creating together but it involves some crazy times to get everyone's costumes made on time.

Every year I'm bowled over by this incredible event happening right here in our little town. The parade itself is a wonderful thing to witness - but the work that goes into making it happen is nothing short of miraculous...

A team of frankly amazing community artists headed up by Andrew Kim manage to mould the ideas and creations of literally hundreds of people into a cohesive collection of paradable art. They also manage to make between them enormous withy sculptures; paper mache giants; banners and inflatables that make the brain boggle.

Going along to the big shed where all the magic happens is so exciting for all involved; there's an almost electric buzz about the place as a whole community gets creative. Art works come together from nothing but bits of cardboard, masking tape and paint. Children are encouraged to create their own costumes as well as the adults so it really does feel like everyone has ownership of the event.

I'm always massively moved by the whole thing...I've yet to go a year without crying somewhere along the process. For me it reveals the power and wonder of what people can achieve when they work together creatively and collaboratively.

So, if you're free on 23rd June, and you fancy witnessing something wonderful - please come along and see the procession. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A solitary walk

In a continued effort to nurse myself back to cheeriness, I encouraged my very understanding other half to take the children off for a large chunk of Sunday. I'm prone to a little panic whenever I get a rare couple of hours 'off''. The feeling that I should be getting lots done can make me anxious. There are always any number of jobs to be done and my house could always do with some attention in the cleaning department (ahem). This time however, I decided to acknowledge my exhaustion and just give in to it.

I pootled about the allotment and marvelled at how the slugs had reduced almost everything I'd planted to nothing. There was also some quiet rejoicing that some of my potatoes have not only survived but seem to be least we may have one harvest this year.

I stood and watched the action down at the canal. It's all happening, as you can see...

Then I walked home, so slowly that it may even have looked as if I wasn't moving at all. Slow walking is not a luxury many of us can afford and I took full advantage; stopping at every bloom and view along the way. There was much humble and overlooked beauty to be found...

Those little wild-flowers of herb Robert, cow parsley and forget-me-nots just sing of summer. All my grand plans slipped away, I was lost with the day.

I feel so grateful for the quiet of that day, so thankful for the warmth of the sun and the gentle thrum of growth.

It really is the little things isn't it?

Monday, 11 June 2012


Warning: there are a lot of pictures of hand-made buckets in this post - if you feel this may be too much utilitarian stitching - look away now!

I've been wanting to make these nesting buckets from Mayamade for ages and ages. But like most things around these parts they've been on a slow burn. Too many ideas/children (two, children that is), too little time.

They are fantastically easy to make and fantastically useful. I know some people like to de-clutter but I prefer to compartmentalise it - so these little clutter carriers have had me happily moving piles of 'stuff' about for days.

The fabric for the lining was bought at our local second-hand market as a pre-loved duvet and the outer fabric was a scrap bought for a song. Their humble origins make them all the more satisfying I think.

And here they are in action...the biggest sized one is great for toys, next biggest for general tat, medium one is just perfect for CDs and the baby one great for keys and wallets. Not that I would want to be prescriptive - I'm pretty sure you could find any number of uses for them!

Ah, creating with purpose - it does the soul good.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A slightly dark butterfly tale

I've been struggling to post here for the last couple of weeks. Generally I'd say I've been lacking in the joy and sparkle department of late.

My mood was mirrored by our hatched-in-captivity butterflies. When I ordered those teeny weeny caterpillars I'd imagined us being a part of a joyful journey of growth and transformation...but the experience fell short of magical. It was pretty impressive how quickly those little critters grew but I was perturbed by their food solution. They were certainly not on a natural diet of wild greens, and their plastic pen didn't allow them much room as they grew. They got bigger and bigger and bigger again. The chrysalis forming stage was incredible - definitely awe-inspiring - but as the slower developing caterpillars came along trying to find a space to hang from, their jostling knocked down one of the already formed chrysalides. I was worried...We transferred the butterflies-in-waiting to the hatchery, pinning the hanging cocoons to the netted side and placing the loose one gently on the floor as advised. We eagerly awaited the moment of birth...

They emerged unseen. One by one we missed the births; we discovered the empty shells of the chrysalides first, then searched for the bedraggled new-borns clinging to the sides of their temporary home. The fallen chrysalis lay unopened. The freshly-hatched butterflies did not flutter like wishes on the wind, they flapped and fell clumsily onto their backs and then scrabbled desperately up onto the walls once more to tremble fearfully. They did not eat the fruit nor the sugar water we provided for them but seemed more and more subdued. We couldn't release them because of the ceaseless rain, so for days they sat silently with folded wings. They became an oppressive presence.

It was disturbing to have these creatures in our house. They didn't seem to know how to fly, they didn't seem to know how to eat, their wings didn't look right; I associate butterflies with weightlessness and freedom and the whole business was starting to get to me. I decided that at the first break in the rain we would release them. Oh, but the wrongness didn't stop there! Our stunted butterflies fell from our fingers and flopped into puddles the wrong way up; they jumped from the flowers and leaves we put them on into tangled undergrowth and became ensnared. It was not the release I had hoped for.

They are, however, now with nature come what may. Perhaps the whole butterfly rearing experiment would have been more wholesome had we been able to release them much sooner on the warm winds of more welcoming weather...

I'm not sure where all of this is going, except to say that perhaps that some of us need the sun much more than others...

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Carrying the sun

Well, the rain has arrived as we knew it would and should. I'm fairly sure that when the rain started I heard the earth heave a grateful sigh. I have been rather less happy. The weather affects my mood greatly and I'm generally a more pleasant person to be around when the sun is shining. I love the freedom of being able to walk out of the door with the boys in the morning and stay out all day - frollicking in nature; cares forgotten.

I've been feeling heavy and burdened this last week and struggling to shake it off. I can't help but think it has a lot to do with grey skies and damp air. I know people say there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing (or something like that!) but my appetite for the outdoors is definitely tempered by wetness and greyness. It is virtually impossible, however, for us to exist harmoniously indoors, so we generally brave whatever conditions are presented to us. The boys are seemingly unfazed by the lack of warmth, whilst I am a little more grim-faced about rain dripping from my hood.

 Those beautiful sun-filled days spent with friends in rivers and woods keep me warm when the sun is no longer shining...

Tacky sun-creamed skin, sun-warmed sandwiches and blanket-strewn grass are memories I carry and keep like treasure. This year Eli took to piling up river stones to make ephemeral sculptures and Monty tentatively braved deeper waters.

While this much-needed rain continues I'll pull on my wellies and waterproof, take a deep breath and walk out into the drizzle. I'll try and remember to be thankful for the lush greenery, the flowing rivers and babbling brooks; the verdant vegetation. I'll try and remember to be thankful for the rain, even whilst I'm hoping and dreaming of more sun to come.