stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Monday, August 28, 2006


The words about the Japanese gateway at Kew, got me thinking about gateways in general – and also about thresholds and liminal spaces (yes there will definitely be a post about that – its germinating!)

A few months ago now, my Life Long Friend from way back in Library School (hereinafter known as the LLF) came down to visit us in Dorset, with a special mission. It was to scatter the ashes of Adam, her late husband.

Adam had been fighting lung cancer for over a year – and as she said at his funeral – he was a brave and patient man. But he had also been a “slave to the weed” for over forty years. The LLF is a wonderful person too, and facilitated at the funeral herself. She and Adam had no religious beliefs, so she wrote and organized it all. I was pleased to be asked to read a poem. As she said afterwards, it went as well as anything like that can. And the food at the pub on the banks of the River Thames was scrummy!

Adam had lived with us in Dorset for a time many years ago, while they were seeing if it was financially viable to make the move away from London. Sadly it wasn’t, but I know Adam enjoyed his time with us, and it seemed right that when his family wanted somewhere to come and feel close to him (he has no other memorial) that it was in our village.

So, the LLF did all the organizing, and bought in a lovely buffet lunch from M& S and Waitrose (top supermarket food providers) and alcohol. All I had to do was to make sure we had enough chairs, plates, glasses, etc. Adam’s daughters, sister, mother-in-law and their partners came and we had a thoroughly enjoyable wake. It was several months after the funeral, and so everyone was feeling more positive and relaxed.

The LLF had bought some lovely roses, and everyone selected a bloom and we walked across to our Millennium village green. His ashes were scattered discretely, and his family went one by one and placed their flower. I am not one for worrying about mortal remains (I couldn’t even tell you where my parents ashes lie) To me its just like the husk that remains, nothing more. So I was surprised at how comforted I felt that “he” was nearby.
The river carried on flowing, and the birds carried on singing. And life carries on.

We went back to the Old School, and the buffet looked and tasted delightful. The conversation hummed, and laughter filled the house - just like it used to when Adam was here.

The LLF kindly offered a donation to the next project or need of the Millennium Green, and the Board of Trustees were replacing a gate to Harry’s Wood, so she paid for that in its entirety. It seemed very fitting – a gateway, a portal.

The gate is completed and used often every day, but we have yet to organize a plaque. The LLF wants just a simple one, with his name and dates on, in commemoration. But I always think of her simple words by the river bank “ Adam – husband, father, brother, son, and friend”

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The water feature

I was asked about the drilled rock water feature on my patio - aka The Leak.

Here it is. One lump of greeny rock with a hole drilled through; one reservoir and one pump - as you can buy in a package. When I came home with the rock, a few years ago, my husband said "Why did you go and pay for that? I could have drilled through any rock for you." Err, yes, but I didnt want the broken drill bits and to have to wait until the next year!

I remember youngest daughter and I lifting up one of the paving slabs on the patio, excavating a hole, lining it with sand and installing pool and pump in an afternoon. Every year I have to lift the rock off so I can clean out the fallen leaves, bale out the old water (often complete with frog skeleton) clean the pump filter and refill. This year I havent put the covering of pebbles back to camouflage the plastic cover, I've just put all the plants in pots back there who like their feet in water.

The sound of the bubbling water is very soothing, and to watch the water as it bubbles up - always changing - is entrancing. It reminds me of the ever present element of change in all things. And that is somehow comforting and yet exhilarating. To have the component of change in every moment is a wonderful opportunity - it opens up a way out of the ordinariness of our existence.

On a different tack, do you fancy being a Guerilla Gardener?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


What an exciting evening! My friend Ginny has won the prestigious Bridport Open Art Competition!
We ladies met for our usual Thursday get-together in the village pub in Piddletrenthide where the majority live. Yes, its a genuine Dorset village, I kid you not. Ginny is an artist (Virginia Tuszynska Evans is her professional name) and was handing out flyers for the prize giving evening at Bridport Art Centre. "There's no free wine this time" she apologised "just a pay bar".

We have enjoyed a few launch evenings at her exhibitions before, and this would be interesting. "The Bridport Open art exhibition is a great chance to see work by both professional and amateur artists from throughout the South West" said the blurb. And the Winners Prize is the Sir Robert Marshall Prize of £1,000.

The over two hundred exhibits were varied - in all media, but mostly paintings. We amused ourselves by deciding which we would take home, if money was no object. I already have bought one of Ginny's paintings, and couldn't really see anything else that wanted to live with - apart from, perhaps, a striking naturalistic oil of some lilies (much more yellow and vibrant than my phone pic shows - I didnt think to take my camera)

Whereas Youngest Daughter fell for a huge stainless steel bird - only £60,000! It was certainly very striking. I kept thinking that if it was upside down, the feet looked like puffin's feet landing. P.S. In the cold light of day it must surely have been £6,000? P.P.S It WAS £60,000!

The judge was Brian Rice (recently on BBC TV) and gave a very interesing but short resumé of how the judging was done, and some he wanted to commend but had no prize to give. I must say that when he came to announce the winner, it was lovely to see Ginny smile. We were so proud to see her holding the cheque and posing in front of the winning entry.

She seemed very calm - whereas only a year ago I have seen her go to pieces over some small thing. She said later, when I commented how serene she seemed, "I shall probably go home and jibber" I replied that I thought her jibbering days were over. "Thats probably the meditation" she answered.

The most amazing part of the evening was when we realised that the prize was £1,000. A few weeks ago, during an exhibition as part of Dorset Art Weeks, she lost exactly £1,000 when a thief stole her credit card. And artists today are still poor in England so it means a lot to her.

Well done Ginny - and it also adds value to my painting to0. Bonus!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Fresh as the morning dew

I've enjoyed this summer more than any other, I think. Its been easy to savour its delights, and to appreciate each moment. The Dorset countryside is so glorious in these bountiful months.

But also its very easy to walk outside into the garden and drink in the sights and sounds, then the mind immediately creates a comparison with how it will be in the winter to come. Whammo! Joy of the moment lost!

Kerri's Colors of the Garden propelled me into curbing those trains of thought, her summer seems so short and her winter so hard. And Tabor's One Day at a Time inspired me even more to make the most of each moment.

After the unusual heat of the early summer, the air is cooler now and at last rain has started to fall. Very thoughtfully, the Universe has lately provided this at night. The early morning air is fresh and clean, and the garden is shaded and quiet with the sun just dappling through. The music of water, dripping from leaves in varying scales, is a gently syncopated backdrop to my morning wanderings with a cup of Early Grey in hand.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Water, water, everywhere

I was reflecting on how much I enjoy being near water. There is nothing like it for inducing peace, calm and balance. Whether its the river running through my village, or the sea, or the tranquillity of a pond in a Japanese temple - it has a magical influence on me.

I succumbed and purchased a "water feature", made popular in English gardens recently by a well endowed female gardener on TV. A large rock with a hole, through which water musically bubbles up and flows over it in a never ending song. Very soothing. My husband prosaically calls it "The Leak"! I dont really enjoy fountains, which isnt surprising - as in Japanese gardens water never goes up, a small bubbling something is about the limit of unnatural "upness".

Here are some of my favourite watery photos from Scotland, Egypt and Japan.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

How does your garden grow?

Looking at the lovely images of Turks' Cap Lilies by Kerrdelune, reminded me of a day out, last year with some Dorset friends to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. There was an exhibition of Dale Chihuly's glass - large works of art scattered around the gardens and in the huge palm houses - growing out of the water, peeping out of the plants. Wonderfully organic and vibrant.

I grew up near by Kew Gardens, just on the other side of the River Thames in London. Once, during an early period of unemployment, my Life Long Friend from library school and I spent many hours in the Palm House. We sketched, and talked, and kept our sinuses moist and free, and talked, and admired the different textures and shapes of the exotic foliage, and talked, and generally kept warm in the cold grey English winter.

If you would have told me, I wouldn't have believed that years later I would be seeing such strange sights in those glass houses, or with such a lovely group of friends. Also, with the same Life Long Friend (hereafter known as the LLF) I visited the new Japanese garden at Kew, built around the Chokusi-Mon gate...... but that's another story!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fun in the sun

It was a Grand Day Out!
Youngest daughter and I met our old friend David, and his two children at Bowood House.

All the main ingredients were there :- hot sun; awesome adventure playground (it took all my courage to follow the four year old down a HUGE slide - I remembered I am going to do a 70ft abseil shortly, so couldn't chicken out!); a cool lake to walk around; manicured lawns for a picnic, playing and slopes for rolling down (the kids, not me - though I am built for it!) a scary pitch black grotto to walk through; a cool waterfall to splash under.

An excellent day. One to remember.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Flowers in August

This is the title of my village's annual flower show. The entry form says "please remember this show is just a 'friendly one' so enter just for fun". There are classes for flowers, vegetables, eggs, floral decoration, baking (the recipe class this year was a lemon drizzle cake), children's classes, and photography.

The hot, dry weather recently meant that there were a lot fewer entries in the vegetable classes. In fact, hardly any. When we had chickens I used to enter the egg class, but these days I only enter the photographic classes. Just for fun, as the programme rightly says. Its not very posh.

The classes that I entered this year were and got first in were Sunrise; Village summer events; New Frampton Court. The last subject refers to a ghastly new development of very expensive flats that was, suprisingly, approved by English Heritage who said that they would not detract from the atmosphere of the village. Yeah, right. I couldnt resist a very quick attempt. I think it was the humour rather than the expertise that caught the judges' eye!

New Frampton Court

Village Skittles

Sunrise in Sinai

AND we won a raffle prize too! What more could you ask?