Saturday, 21 July 2012

The 31 Day Drawing Challenge.

You know how, at the beginning of something like summer holidays, time seems to stretch out before you, endless hours just waiting to be filled? And then a curious thing happens, doesn't it. Time becomes a slippery ghost that seems to melt away into the day, without you even realising it. And suddenly the weeks are slipping away and you cannot grasp them. 

One of the four seasons.

I do try to spend this time doing things that the normal car-bound, school days don't allow, things like seeing friends who are further afield, or catching up on my personal to-do list that always, inevitably, ends up at the bottom of the pile.

Book cover for a favourite book.
One such thing on my list was, by coincidence, nicely facilitated by something my brother Andrew posted about on Facebook: a 31 Day Drawing Challenge, for the month of July. A list of titles/topics, one for every day of the month. Regular readers here will have noticed that I have recently been drawing, something which I have not done in any serious way for years and years, other than with the children. The reason for my renewed interest in this is something for a whole other post, which will follow in a couple of weeks, but suffice to say, the opportunity to commit myself to doing a drawing a day was nicely timed! I was feeling very rusty! And thanks to Donal Fallon of  Galway Pub Scrawl, I am not only enjoying drawing again, but day by day my appreciation of what it means to draw and illustrate, is changing and growing. 

A favourite fairytale.

I joined quite late into the challenge, and I have not managed to do every day since then, but I am really quite pleased to have managed what I have so far. As you can see, some days I had more time than others!
Do click the link above to see the rest of the work by everyone who is taking part. The variety of styles alone is amazing.

Favourite mythical creature.

So, it's the weekend now, and myself and the children are off for a long weekend, heading south the the tip of this island of ours, south to the lighthouse, the wilder, warmer sea. I may be naive to think that I'll have lots of drawing time (Three or four mothers, and at least twelve children? Hmm) but that is what I am aiming for. Now that my imagined project suddenly seems so much more possible, I am excited to get started!

What I wanted to be when I grew up.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I hope this warm weather continues. I hope whatever you get up to, you too find the time to tick something off your personal to-do list. 

Let's just give that to ourselves this weekend!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

What I Love About The Summer Holidays.

Although the weather has not been good, the days are whizzing by. Days of a little sunshine and a lot of rain, in spite of which we have been making the most of no school and long hours of daylight that stretch away from us towards beaches and woodland and picnics-whatever-the-weather. We are good at that, ignoring the weather. We can't change it so why complain? But I can tell you, it is the unremitting topic of conversation, no matter where you go. In fact, I cannot imagine what this country would come to if we couldn't talk about the weather! A standstill, is what!
Nevertheless, regardless of our unexceptional summer, in terms of sunshine, I do love this time of year in this temperate isle of ours.

I love when the evenings linger, generous with a light that seems reluctant to be gone from the sky, unobtrusively just...not leaving. It is as though the very air we inhabit has swelled, to fill more hours, pushing the limits of what we can call Day, just so we can really make the most of this mildest of seasons. And we have been doing just that.
Whatever the weather, the sea is the place to be this time of year, and even the drizzly days that call for rock pooling with wonderful friends instead of lounging on the sand, they still couldn't resist getting in for a swim, as the first picture above attests.

I love the extra hours that are ours, morning, noon and night, to do as we please. To spend time with friends we don't see enough of during school time, to be spontaneous and drop everything and run out the door when the phone rings to reveal an Idea Of Exceptional Splendidness at the other end of the line. And best of all, BedTime is on holiday too, and so, not always to be found when expected.
The word Relax becomes meaningful.

I love it when the teenagers stay out late into the dark, walking down the beach or to the village shops with their friends, coming home in high spirits to chat loudly in the next room. They have discovered LP's, the sound of vinyl and the riches it holds, discovered our collection of records, and I lie in the dark listening to the murmur of their giddy voices, the thrumming of the bass through the wall, as though splinched somewhere between a time warp. I secretly love that they are, without knowing it, engaging in a Most Important Musical History Lesson. Some day they'll realise it!

I love that we live by the sea, so grateful for moments like this. Is there anything more splendid than this? 'That golden moment' my Dad said, when he saw the above photo. Hours upon hours, just jumping into that cold water. If that doesn't awaken your spirit, I don't know what does. What a way to spend a summers day!

And at night, I love when the bedroom window is open and a cool breeze passes through. For on it comes dustly winged moths and drunken daddy-long-legs, and I lie as though in a summer woodland meadow, wings brushing past, telling tales of the chirruping reeds and marsh and meadow in the dark beyond my windowpane.

I find myself, as I so often do this time of year, travelling through these high speed days in slow motion. Do you remember that feeling as a child when things felt ginormous and teeny tiny at the same time, smooth and prickly, fat and thin, at the exact same moment? (Or was that just me?!) Well, I often find myself in similar intensely felt moments now, where I am in slow motion while all around me is at high speed. It's very beautiful, and allows me fleeting seconds of clarity, to really absorb and feel purest gratitude for where I have found myself on this journey of mine.

I hope you are enjoying your summer, and the weather is to your liking! Do you have any plans? Ideas Of Exceptional Splendidness?
We do. For more days like this.
Most certainly.

Monday, 2 July 2012

The Leave-Taking.

There is a little house that sits on a spit of land between a marsh and a sea, a place with jackdaws in the chimney, where lizards hide in the grass with the tiny shrews, where swans glide overhead and murmurations of starlings loop through curlew cries, and at dusk the bats swoop in their beautiful dance as herons skim the tops of the reeds against the sunset. There are countless birds that throng the marsh here, among them terns and mistle thrush and finches, lapwings, even occasional owls, and in the evening pheasant wander in the garden, and sometimes, somewhere beyond the reeds, a peacock calls, his cry across the marsh sending a tingle down your spine.

I have written so many times about the weather here and how it changes the shape of this place, about the seasons and how each one blooms and swells, brings dustly moths on the walls, spiders along the windows, stormy seas, sea mists, dancing sunlit grasses, endless blue skies, and sunsets that take your breath away.
I did mention big changes around here, didn't I? Big changes that we have been studiously ignoring the possibility of for rather a long time, now.

You see, our golden age is over.
For the sixteen years we have been living here, I have been in a little bubble with my babies, cocooned in this most magical of places, like some little creatures from the Wind in the Willows, the seasons rolling around us as we burrowed in, and we grew into this land, the green and the salt seeping into our blood and bones, from the very formation of my babies. Our Eldest was barely four months old when we moved in, and the following three were born right here in the living room with windows to the sea, and windows to the green and the mountains, pulling all combinations of seasons and weather and time of day into their beginnings, all manner of the elements that make this place so miraculously special, into the weave that is our little family.

As the years have passed, they have grown, we too, myself and Jay, have grown, this place like a paintbrush against our skin, each night touching up where it did not find us in our day, a tender reassuring like a fine mist that layers, and over the years has become our skin, as though we are this place and this place is us. But now it is at an end. When the year turns, together we will pack the little pieces of us, the myriad of little things that have been put together to form our home, the collections of Us, and we will move. And though nowhere will ever match this place, with all our hearts we know it will be somewhere beautiful. I do need green outside my window.

We are on a rollercoaster of emotions about it all. Some are excited, some wholeheartedly against it, but it is out of our hands, regardless, and because of that I have decided to embrace this change, the timing of which I can't complain about. I no longer spend my days embraced in this magical cocoon with my babies and toddlers, now that our Smallest is in school, instead I am out in the world more, looking at what I want to do with this next phase of my life, and this makes it easier to accept.
So, this summer will be about making the most of this remarkable place, a summer of gatherings of friends and loved ones, of Celebrating, and later in the week I will share with you, one such gathering that we had this weekend.

Photo by Líosa.

And who knows what wonderfulness is just around the corner, for I know there is a place for us.