Monday, 9 February 2015

A Dragon's Dawn, a field of spun silk & a house full of fire

An odd title perhaps but all will become clear. Yesterday was full of light, of bright Winter light but first came the Dawn. A Dawn of such intensity in its rich colours as to be almost unreal. I often miss the Dawn & was expecting to miss this one as we had friends over the night before. Much eating & laughing & merriment had taken place, so waking in time to witness the sunrise was not foremost in my mind. The bedroom was bathed in a cool blue light but at the edges of the two skylights the tone was warmer, a little peachy even. Before I turned to open the curtains to peer out I knew it was going to be a good one. I wasn't disappointed. The whole sky was rich & full & bloodied in red, edged in golden yellows & ragged oranges. It was as if a Dragon had belched across the sky. The land below, crisply blue with another of Jack Frosts visits & the lake, a shard of fallen sky hued deep salmon & rose pink. On one of the big Ash trees, two Buzzards sat high, silhouetted against the brightening sunrise. They sat there until the sun broke the lip of the horizon before deciding to go about their Buzzardy business. Birds sang with notes & tones that I hadn't heard since last Spring & Summer. Clues to Spring being just around the corner.

 After breakfast there was the morning after the night before clearing up to do but I enjoyed it, knowing that later we would venture out into the day, into the brightness of it & soak some of its radiance into our very souls.
At 3:30pm Jill & I made our way to the Towy, crossing the King's Bridge out onto the fields & along the river edge. The river meanders lazily through the valley but its awesome power is never in doubt. During the twenty two years that i've lived here I have seen the course of the river change so much, as it snakes its way through the land devouring fields & wooded banks & spitting them out along its course to make new fields & new banks.
In the bright yet warming sunbeams of this Winters day everything looked gorgeous but the best was yet to come. As we strode on, upstream, we admired whatever wildlife presented itself to us. Snipe sprung from the marshy ground, beautiful Teal flushed from small pools at the rivers edge, art deco little ducks, exquisitely painted & one of my favourites & Gooseanders scrabbled across the glassy surface like paddle steamers on speed.
As the sun was slowly sinking, fields full of gossamer silken webs of perhaps a million spiders carpeted the grass like discarded strings from Fairy Harps, translucent & beautiful. Absolutely stunning & rather than words i'll insert here the photos.

Jill sat amongst a field of silken webbed beauty

Jill haloed in the setting sun amongst the discarded strings of Fairy Harps

 Returning the way we came, the sun now lowering quickly, some sheep fat with lambs yet to be born were grouped in a field, naples yellow hued & reflected in the flat marsh pond, watching us & ready to bolt.

Stopping by Yankees' Pool to watch the last rays disappear over Llandeilo I watched some small insects, backlit as they danced upon the air, bouncing as if held by invisible strings. Mesmerising they were, with their little sun dance. At the exact moment that the last ray of the sun fell behind the hill, all the little flies parted & flew into the hawthorn hedge to settle for the night. How many of us I wonder are lucky enough to witness the bedtime of bugs.

Little dancing flies bouncing on the air just before bed.
Time to go & as we walked out onto the field which leads to the Kings Bridge a familiar hello found our ears. Friends from the evening before were also out for a stroll so tales from last night were echoed & the laughter resumed.
Some years ago I lived in a small cottage close to this part of the river & so i've walked across these fields more times than I could possibly imagine. So often when returning home I would see this house ( not mine ), a farmhouse which stands at the foot of a hill & when the sun set it would appear that the house was full of fire as its windows reflected the setting sun. I loved the intensity of it, the rage from within, golden & orange, like the sun had gone for tea. I always wanted to photograph it but never had my camera with me. Not a great photo I know but it gives you an idea.

So that was yesterday. A day of silken webs, of flushed ducks, of a sunrise & a sunset & what we were hoping for was the sight of an Otter. We didn't see one but that didn't matter, it was just great to be out. I'm out on the Towy at sunrise tomorrow with a friend, hoping to photograph some Otters. I'll let you know how we get on.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Stepping out onto a Frosty field.

Firstly an apology. Its been sometime since my last blog. I think that was way back in October, towards the end. Much has happened since then but I won't go into that other than telling you that I got engaged just before Christmas. I'm a very happy man at this moment in my life.


This morning, early, I woke to a land filled with magic. A land of tiny ice crystals & crisp delights. Darkness was taking its time to make way for day but already there were clues that Jack Frost had paid a visit. A blue light within the room & at first a reluctance to leave the comfort & warmth of my duvet. Downstairs I peered out, my car white with ice & all around, still & blue. After ten minutes the car was warm & driving the two & a bit miles home from Jill's place I could more clearly see the overnight makeover by the good hands of Mr Frost. An Ash tree, tall & grand, its branches, every one coated in a billion tiny ice crystals, backlit by the slowly rising sun. Hazy yet bright, the tree rigid in the shock of Winters breath.

A beautiful Ash, tall & defiant in Winters embrace.
 Reaching home there was no time for coffee. On went the woollens, camera ( really should have been a sketchbook ) stuffed into a bag & out into the garden I went. My breath like a Dragon, warm wisps & puffs, tobacco hued & illuminated by the sun. Looking across the garden into the fields beyond, that is where I wanted to be. Passing the Ash tree which stands at the corner I paused to see if the Tawny was in residence within the box I had put there two years previous. It was, a quarter of its round feathered face & one eye peeped at me momentarily before dipping back down into its wooden roost.
The field was bright with frost, the grass brittle, crunching beneath my wellied feet as I strode out into Jack Frost's playground. Gone now the washed out verdancy of a muddy Winters field, pitted & pot marked with brown puddles from the Horses hooves. Instead the putty like consistency of a few days earlier replaced with sugar coated grass, concrete mud & each round Horse hoof shaped puddle, a spiders web of ringleted ice.

Slicing the field in two, a cold clear trickle of water.

 A narrow snake like trickle of cold clear water, verdant with plants, slices the field in two, its edges crisp with tiny shelves of suspended razor thin ice, fragile & glassy. Following this tiny channel of water towards the lake, a flock of Wigeon take flight from the only patch of lake unfrozen & circle overhead for a minute or two. I stand still & wait for them to alight once more, enjoying their calls of pe-ou pe-ou, so evocative of days spent sketching them on Dinefwr ponds more than twenty years ago. Moving away from the lake as I don't want to put them up again I continue to follow along the side of the brook & eventually down into the trench of it & at this point realising that I have put the wellies on with the leak & my right heel feels the shock of freezing water as it rushes in.

 The sides strewn here & there with thistles & Bramble, the latter scarlet in the morning sun, edged in pin pricks of ice, a coating of Fairy dust. In the shadows, cool greens with echoes of sharp blues & purples. Against the sunlight, now bright & yellow, backlit little ferns & leaves of Bramble, beautiful & frozen & still, so still. Even a whisper would hang in this mornings thin air for an eternity.

Like the vermillion fins of a Rudd in the murk of a pond, Bramble in Winter.

 I adore frost & all its qualities, the way it completely changes the landscape. Its not like Snow which blankets everything & even changes the form & shape of whatever it falls upon, although that too is very special & has its own wonder & magic. Frost coats the landscape but the landscape is still definable under Jack Frosts breath.
Photos are snapped as are twigs beneath my feet, brittle & bone like. Some paintings will come from this mornings wander, subtle hued & restricted palette yet full of light & with luck some of the atmosphere of the day.
On returning back up the field after rounding the lake, careful not to put the Wigeon up again, through the garden gate & indoors, ready for a coffee. On boiling the kettle I found that I had run out. Nevermind, anything hot would do but somehow Nettle tea doesn't quite cut it on a day like this.

I'll leave you with one of my favourite paintings that I did some years back of Dryslwyn castle on a freezing Winters morning. It was painted in oils on canvas & was 1metre square.