1st February. Early morning walking as the light falls slowly into the day. Cold wind and whispers of a promise of snow and the clouds are banked high, but fall away to a clear deep blue. The crescent moon rides high in the morning sky with a veil of cloud. Beautiful. Bright sun on ginger cats.
2nd February. For the feast of St Brigid, a poem to be part of a web of poetry spreading around the world. A favorite, but sad.
Write, for example,'The night is shattered
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
The same night whitening the same trees.
I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
Another's. She will be another's. Like my kisses before.
I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
4th January. Weekend of painting then Monday morning drive to Haverfordwest for five minute interview on BBC Radio Wales about a new graphic novel that is being used in Germany in classrooms to teach German children about the holocaust. Then to the dentist where the injection has led to half of my nose being temporarily numb. Surreal start to the week.
Meanwhile another commission came through for artwork for the Terry Pratchett Disc World calendar, so I find myself painting dragons, reading Robin Hobb and listening to Terry Pratchett's Interesting Times and Pyramids on cd. Multi-tasking! Oh, yes, and still looking for the time machine.
But, with the Terry Pratchett CD's also came The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico, a wonderful story, but this version is illustrated by one of my very favorite illustrators, Angela Barrett, and very beautifully produced by Hutchinson on lovely paper and with elegant type. A treasure of a book with the most wonderful and tender paintings and drawings.
5th February. Hunting for snowdrops at Pointz Castle, but so far only emerald green leaf tips show above the dark soil. Cliffs are gold in morning sunshine.
12th February. Half term already and still steadily painting the dragon whilst thinking of Starlight and reading Robin Hobb and listening to Terry Pratchett and trying to come up with a rough for the MBF Christmas card and get ready for another exhibition.
In moments of tranquility barn owls fly in slow flapping flight across the hedge top behind the house. Beautiful. Feeling a little like I am on the road to madness. And meanwhile The Snow Leopard sales seem to be picking up in America maybe thanks to the power of the New York Times, and it has just clinched a Korean edition, which is wonderful. The Red House Children's Book Award shortlist has been announced and although Snow Leopard didn't leap her way on to it it is lovely to see The Tear Thief, stunningly beautiful,on there, published by Barefoot, written by Carol Ann Dufy and illustrated by Nicolette Cecclli.
I have an exhibition coming up in Marlborough and the invitation has been beautifully designed for me by Julia Worth. All welcome. I should be there most of Saturday before hand, hanging the show too, but hope to head off in search of ancient monuments and hares at some point.
14th February. Days go by. Searching for snowdrops again but still they are mostly only small spears of green and those that have swelled to white flowers still hold their blossoms tight. Frost on the early morning hillside but in the sunshine it is warm like early summer. Evenings are clear and sunsets burn the beach with bright colours of fire and the moon seems always in the sky. Shadows by day and shadows by night.
Took a day off the dragon painting to try and unwind with what I thought would be an easy piece for Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb. So painted a fish, and at the end of the day looked at the monstrously ugly piece of work I had done and realised that I had to start again. So next day started again and this time applied my brain. To see work in progress click on the brown trout below.
Always difficult to photograph the gold leaf paintings but at least this fish looks like a creature with a soul. I had put the first attempt to one side and looked at it again when this was finished. Oh dear. Some days are good painting days and other days, well, not really a waste of time as they have to be worked through to get to a better stage. But I wish I knew when those days would be so that I could do something else instead. Unfortunately life does not work like that. But I did have the joy of getting my first load of washing dry on the washing line this week. It always feels and smells so much better when stroked dry by the wind and the sun.
15th February. Exciting adventures with the cat today.
17th February. Frosty morning and the cathedral valley was painted with silver and sunshine. Walked the dogs from Ninewells to Solva and back along the cliffs and saw buzzards and chough and raven and jackdaw. Hoping sometime to see otters. At one time as common as foxes now they are elusive. Moon in the daytime shines pale white and almost translucent. The sea was blue and the old wreck of the tug by the side of Tugbeach showed how time and tide had eaten away at it. Bright orange with rust in the sunshine, shattered and split, the engine stood out of the water like a bizarre castle.
Too many ideas flap around my brain all cawing for attention like a mad rookery. Wandered off to Marrakech while waiting for paint to dry.
18th February. Cold, bright, bird filled morning. Walking around Porth Celau and the stream is lined with ice fingers.
Later we all went moon watching again, waiting for the full moon and the eclipse on Thursday morning at 1 am and hoping for clear skies.
21st February. Woke at 2 am to watch as the shadow of the earth moved across the face of the full moon. All this week and last had been waiting and watching the moon grow in clear skies. Each night the moon a little brighter cast beautiful shadows that deepened with the passing of time. Each night the bright light of the moon obscured more of the patterns of stars in clear skies with not even one cloud. And tonight the moon hung in an ocean of cloud, silvered by its failing light but beautiful bright in the islands of clear sky. Like watching a trout underwater, dappled by the light, the moon did an elusive dance as the shadow of the earth fell across and ate all its light. Swiftly the shadow moved and as it did I became aware of the furious, fast rhythm of the planets, the speed and the turn of the universe and the ultimate glory of my own insignificance in the world. As the shadow left only a fingernail of light the disc of the moon could be seen, red and shadowed, primitive and magical and it felt as if the world held its breath for the shadow to release the light again. Dragon moon, lion moon. All around the world moon gazers watched. The darkness was so rich and all became shadow and above the stars of the caribou shone down. A light wind stirred the bone branches of the winter trees. High above a fiercer wind blew clouds fast across the sky. All was hushed . As the last sliver of light held tight to the edge of the moon and the shadow glowed a copper colour I thought I heard the distant howling of wolves, right on the edge of hearing, a rising song of wildness. Maybe just distant dogs, maybe the ghost of the wolf pack from centuries past.
Later in the day and feeling tired ( I wonder why? ) a short walk on the beach leads all the way to St Davids Head in the gray light of a dull day. Could it be that I am drawn out by the flat gray sea, the threat of imminent rain, or merely trying to avoid the studio and finishing a difficult picture before moving on to all the other work that clamors like a nest of rooks waiting to be done?
24th February. Last week was such a mixture. I was sent a beautiful present from Cynthia, from America, a snowleopard to watch over me, from a wonderful woman who sculpts in felt. I love it and she will come everywhere with me when I work in schools with The Snow Leopard book. So lovely to get presents.
We have lived in this house for 16 years now and I have never done anything to it (except clean it, occasionally!) I have always worked in rooms or spaces that were compromises, and so decided it was time to try and make more space in the house, whilst getting work done to stop it falling down around our ears. So, I asked a friend and architect to come up with a view to drawing up plans to make a studio space in the attic. Unfortunately he reckoned that the space is not high enough and that to make it work we would have to remove the roof, lower the ceilings and spend a fortune. So, not having £80 000 plus in my back pocket it was time to think again. As the children get bigger, the house gets smaller and is filled up with paintings and books. Mark has gone away with measurements and numbers and I am hoping that he can work a miracle and I can start a studio blog, and move my house towards a state where it is less shambolic and I have a space where I can work and have room to swing a cat, should I wish to swing one.
The cats were curious about the men with the measuring tapes, and delighted when they heard the ladder moved into the house and put up for them to gain access to the attic. They flowed from all the corners of the house like a river of ginger and up the ladder where they looked in every corner for creatures. it was not long before they all wore hats made of cobwebs.
28th February. Only one day left to finish a piece of work so instead of getting up early and getting on with it I went off in search of snowdrops again, and found them in all their pale glory. Flower heads had swelled and dropped and white clusters shone under the trees. And I found another ruin, a small house in the wood with a carpet of snowdrops.
29th February. Too long a drive to Marlborough. In the morning the weather was calm but as the day wore on the storm began to breath and then to blow and then to howl. All the way the visibility was so bad, apart from the huge traffic jam at Cardiff. Arrived at Tessa's house to find the cat longing to come in and no dog, which is a bit of a worry. The house is warm and cosy and full of books.