Winter is a time for quiet reflection. An empty space. A season when nature sleeps under a dark earth, preparing itself for spring with its promise of sunshine and growth. It is a time when we need to nourish ourselves, to stave off the cold, to sit by fires with loved ones.
Which of course we have taken the opportunity to do …all our children flocked home this Christmas (like the Canada geese that arrive in December, flapping and noisy on the Dart!) and we shared many beautiful moments with them, making memories to warm us during future winters.
Mike and I saturate ourselves in nature whenever we can. We love to wander in wild places and winter is no exception. On the moors with their icy skeleton trees, silent cool earth and low grey skies, often with a hazy golden sunlight filtering through and also along craggy clifftop paths with the sea crashing on the rocks below, echoing in our ears and the taste of salt on our lips. These days have been heart-warming soul food. It is where many of my paintings are dreamt.
However, I know for many the winter months can be a challenge, particularly to those who are feeling fragile and I have seen this with my own mum this season. She is a feisty Irish woman full of Celtic spirit and determination, a force to be reckoned with, yet even with all her energy and passion she was knocked for six by a cough, which settled on her chest and lingered, forcing her to be cared for instead of being the carer. Her illness has been a wake-up call as it has reminder of how much I love her, how deeply precious she is to me. I need to value every minute I get to spend with her.
My Mother, Cathy
My mum has been an enormous influence on who I am today. Her creativity and zest for life is woven into the fabric of my being. She is a great gardener and I paint how she plants! Kooky and free with a mysterious magical alchemy that creates a simple wild beauty out of seeming chaos.
Her name is Catherine, or Cathy as she is known. She was just a girl when she had me, only twenty and her youthfulness was wonderful to grow up with. She loved country and western music, adored dancing and taught me to jive at five!
It has been very difficult for me seeing her so unwell, but also a privilege in that I was able to give something back and repay her for her constant love and support. It was exhausting in much the same way as caring for a sick child is. You love them so much and it hurts to see them in pain. There is the constant worry they are getting worse, the feeling it is never going to end and the need to do something, anything to try and alleviate their suffering. So I looked after her, cooking nourishing organic soups and making sure she was comfortable, doing everything from making cups of tea to filling her hot water bottle! Ensuring she felt nurtured and safe.
Life is fragile; we live and then we die. It is a universal truth and my mum’s illness has been a loud and urgent wake-up call to really live! To take any opportunity I have to cherish those I care about and to be kind when at all possible. After all, when it comes down to it, what is more important than love? My painting celebrates this, rejoicing in all that is good in the world and making a stand for open heartedness. I believe that this is needed now more than ever.
Flowers for Mother’s Day
So all of this, and more, is poured onto my canvasses. The work becomes is full of raw emotion and a gentle poetical quality. It is a celebration of the light that shines in us even in the depth of winter.
Today there is a hint of spring in the air, the pale, lemony sunlight pushing through the clouds and the delicate snowdrops that surround my studio nestled deep in the Devon hills. Mother’s Day, which this year falls on March 26th, is a wonderful time to celebrate those maternal souls who nourish us. Whether celebrating someone who is a mother in the traditional sense of the word or not, it is an opportunity to acknowledge those special women who radiate love without even trying and, moreover, have the ability to make us feel unconditionally accepted. Mother’s Day gives us an opportunity to say an extra special thank you. This thank you can take many forms, but I believe that a unique gift of flowers for Mothers Day is such a sweet and tender token.
Before I go, just to let you know, my mum is so much better … and of course I will continue to love and cherish her.