stepping stones of truth

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

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I must go down to the seas again...... the lonely sea and the sky.... So goes the poem Sea-Fever by John Masefield that I had learned at school. And I really did have to go and walk by the sea one day last week. Quite a strong need I had. It was a bit of a wild day, with sudden sharp showers blown in on blustery winds, between sunshine and blue skies.

This is my nearest bit of coast, about twenty minutes drive, thats all. And this is a hidden bit of coastal path, off the beaten tourist track. A narrow lane to nowhere with an amazing view.

You can look back south along the pebble ridge of Chesil Beach, (and the section of water behind it called The Fleet) to the Isle of Portland, which is actually attached and not an island at all. It looked a bit wild and desolate as I dodged the showers.

Also with the same view is a layby at the top of the hill out of Abbotsbury, where in summer an icecream van is usually parked. The lady inside needed the aerial to provide her with some entertainment - it was a quiet day for tourists and a bit lonely up there.

However, someone stopped. But the cows on the other side of the road were extremely interested - perhaps it was local ice cream, maybe even from their herd? Who knows!

I decided to go to the small car park on the coast at West Bexington - just a car park, a small café and the public toilets with the best view in England! Its on the Chesil Beach which shelves steeply and the waves had been whipped up by the wind.

The second verse of the poem came to mind...

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

The air was damp with sea spray, exactly as in the poem. The waves crashed onto the pebbles sending the spray into the air and sending foam up to the bottom of the first ridge where I stood in safety.

But despite the strong wind (I had trouble opening the car door against it) a couple were determined to enjoy a day on the beach. They used several windbreaks to huddle behind, to create an almost totally enclosed space, I think they were reading the papers. But the dog had heard me crunching along on the pebbles and had come outside to see who was mad enough to be out on a day like this - apart from his hardy owners that is!

I had a wonderful time, and came back with the cobwebs blown away and with salt spray tasting on my lips.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sumi - Japanese ink work

This is Christine Flint Sato, who I met in England but lives in Japan, in Nara (quite close to Kyoto of my heart) She had come to Dorset to exhibit some of her work with Hands On Art and also give a day workshop in Japanese ink work (sumi is the Japanese word for Chinese ink). Her website gives some more details and background.

We were a select bunch of four ladies, and the setting was the light and airy barn classroom at New Barn, Bradford Peverell. Everything was laid out for us. Christine explained the use of the elements - ink, brush and paper. It didnt feel like a workshop, rather a conversation between someone more experienced and us less experienced.

Our first task was to create our own ink with by gently grinding the block of ink with a little water on the inkstone. The fragrance of the ink was very delicate, but instantly took me back to Kyoto and I was inside a temple. The very essence of Japan was released under my nose. Bliss.

We played with dense ink and then much lighter ink, and at first just made lines on the paper and watched the ink spreading - or not if it was more ink than water, and got used to different tones. Then we made wavy lines, spirals (my all time favourite - as you can see on my workspace above) and watched how the ink spread on the soft rice paper.

Just watching Christine create marks on paper was a lesson in itself. It was fascinating to see how the brush was part of her, and how she moved her body rather than just her hand as we do in the west when we use a brush on paper. These are the characters for mindfulness that she created for us - very appropriate!

All of sudden it was lunchtime, and we went to the small cafe within the New Barn site. I had egg and chips, with chips that were light and crisp. Mmmmm. Followed by honeycomb flavour ice cream. Food was included in the price of the workshop, as were tea/coffee and cakes. Perfect.

In the afternoon we moved on to trying out a few simple Japanese characters, and some of the calligraphers amongst us were totally involved. Not having any experience (apart from learning the basic few at my Japanese conversation class a few years ago) I was more taken by using patterns. All these photos were taken on my phone, apologies for the quality, and the one above was taken by Avril on hers. We spent a moment sending the photo from her phone to mine. Wonders of the age eh?

Christine suggested I could create a pattern using a Japanese gravel garden as a theme. I had great fun, and it all felt a bit familiar. I realised that, at school, I used to spend time in class doodling - I would take a word or group of letters, quite small with space between, and create shadow shapes around each letter, spreading out like ripples - just like Japanese stones in a gravel sea! Weird or not!

At the end of the afternoon, we were invited to do a hand print with purple ink as the people doing workshops had done last year too. This is mine - it had quite dark patches of ink, and an amazing hollow in the palm. They were all so different.

Christine does some beautiful paintings, that show what can be done with sumi, but I just had fun and was very happy with my spriral.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Colmer's Hill

A warm summer's afternoon - what better way to spend it, than going for a walk with Eldest Daughter, Life Long Friend and Wilson, the springer spaniel. ED and LLF hadnt been to the top of Colmers Hill so we drove to Bridport in ED's new car, with Wilson giving excited little yelps all the way from the very rear of the car.

The photo above (taken on another day) was shot through the windscreen of the car as I waited for traffic lights to change in the middle of Bridport. It can be seen from miles around.

It is near the village of Symondsbury and all the land around is owned by the Colfox Estate (even the seconday school in Bridport is called The Sir John Colfox School).

We didnt walk up the permissive footpath (granted by the estate) but along an ancient and deep track around the back. It is a very special site because of the geology that can be seen on the banks. A very mysterious place, even in high summer.

Once off the track and onto the hill the going was much steeper. The ground was nicely nibbled grass, thanks to the sheep that graze it. But we stopped to admire the view many times - apart from ED who had Wilson to pull her up - being on his lead due to sheep and his tendency to race off around the boundary of any field he finds himself in. He is only two after all. A legacy of his genes and training as a working dog, flushing out and retrieving game.

It was much cooler on the top, and a stiff breeze was blowing that couldnt be felt as we climbed up. There is a trig point up there on the little plateau (we could see another two points on the map, despite the nearness to the coast) It was a handy point for a quickly taken delayed action photo. I will not show you the one that went off "early" and caught me running back into position!

I used to be the Line Manager of someone whose father helped plant the trees, apparently during World War I. But I was glad to see that there are more smaller pine trees that have been planted to replace them eventually. They are heavily guarded against rabbits and sheep!

If you can see the hill from miles around, then the view FROM the hill will also be good - and it is! We spent a happy few minutes orienting the map so that we could locate what we were looking at - from the coast to villages and hills way inland.

There is no "boot shot" as I forgot my boots (well it was a warm and dry summer afternoon) and managed to climb up and down in my mules well enough). But I did take a 360 degree quick video to compensate for its lack! You can see the late summer countryside and a glimpse or two of the sea. Lovely!

Friday, August 14, 2009


I find it quite difficult, after a lapse in blogging, to restart. And the longer the gap, the more difficult it is somehow! I dont know if other people find that too?

Anyway - here goes. Four photos, now that a warm few weeks has kicked in at last....

My lovely grandaughter, one year old! She has a sunny nature and is such an accurate mimic of movement I think she must have been a dancer in a past life, if not this one surely. I spent a happy few days with her in London.

And then she, and her parents, came down to Dorset. And her doting grandparents (and Aunty and her fiancé) got to look after her while they celebrated their second wedding anniversary with a night at Summer Lodge (though she got to go and splash and swim with them in the sophisticated spa pool!)

Sorry this image on its side, I uploaded it straight from the camera! This is a wonderful sight - I thought, like Zen, that my black bamboo Phyllostachys Nigra had died in all the snow we had last winter. It was his post that reminded me to go and look at mine. And yes, I have new growth too!

And Keri's post about her daylilies made me go and take a photo of my main variety, that was (as she puts it) a passalong. I do so enjoy it. And I have no idea of its name. Any ideas?