3rd March. Drove to Marlborough in the teeth of a storm and after five hours decided that I would head for the haven of Chalice House instead and deliver the work the next day. Saturday was washed clean by the storm and Marlborough College was a welcoming place, the gallery a wonderful space and the art department must be the envy of every school. The facilities here were better than I had at art college.
After hanging the work we diverted to Avebury on the way back. The stones were shining in the late evening light. A strange and mysterious place, we wandered around the now broken circle, over the ditches and through the stones. In the trees the random architecture of birds showed clear as spring has not yet come to cover the winter branches.
On Sunday the exhibition was busy and I signed books and met lots of people of all ages. The sun shone through the windows and the gallery looked lovely. Tired after only a few hours we drove back to Pipehouse and this time it was a little later in the evening. We stopped to walk the short rise to West Kennet Long Barrow, used for a thousand years where the remains of 40-50 people had been buried, a sacred and magical earthworks from a time long ago. The sun was just falling below dark clouds and the rooks were heading for their nighttime roosts. Everyone had gone. A cold wind blew. A charm of birds flew past and they sang a song that sounded like a music box. As we walked up the rise we talked about who could have been buried there, princes, kings or holy people. The place has a magic, a resonance, an atmosphere, especially at this time of day in the gloaming. All around the bare fields stood, waiting.
We walked together into the entrance of this ancient burial chamber, guarded by huge stones. So dark. I began to try and photograph it. My camera wouldn't work.
"The stones won't let me take a photograph in here," I said, in awe of the place.
"Maybe if you take the lens cap off you might find they will allow you,"said Robin. Bless him, I do love that man.
5th March. Looking for hares yesterday, on a wonderful muddy walk with Cath and Evie. No hares but plenty of mud. Went to see Cath's studio, on a farm in a valley. The soundtrack of wind in the trees and buzzards overhead with the odd lowing of cattle is what she works to. We are exhibiting work together in the refectory in St Davids Cathedral in May/June and it was lovely to see some of the work she will show, images carved from rock and stone and smoothed. Beautiful. Evie was a wood elf with mud in her wellies.
6th March. A slow day, thinking of Starlight and a story creeping in from walking in the woods with Evie. Cathy and I had a business meeting on a long walk by the river in a valley where the sound of traffic could not reach. On the way there yellowhammers flitted in the hedgerows and pheasants stood out bright in the dull brown fields. In the valley down the end of a track, by a river with a stone bed and clear water, was a dream house with barns, derelict, no roof, beautiful. A gray heron lifted with heavy wingbeats to perch on a tree branch and watch as we passed, and the dogs played in the water. We talked about the exhibition to come in St Davids and I realised that moving stone is more difficult than moving quantities of framed paintings. Looking forward to seeing how the work fits together.
Later we went to look at where we were both at college, Corsham Court, and I was pleased to see that the peacocks are still in residence.
Still later, when all that is left of the light of day is held in the reflection of a woodland pool, the tight closed flowers of wood anemones and the hush wing feathers of a barn owl's wings, night is almost here.
Invited to the first meeting of Pass on a Poem in Bath and for a few weeks I have been reading poetry and trying to choose something I want to read, not too long. I settled on a poem by Rebecca Elson, "What if There Were No Moon?" and looked forward to the evening. In awe of the barn owl's beauty and feeling tired I then convinced myself not to go, not because there are times when I feel utterly socially awkward, not because I was shy and scared of meeting new people, not because the thought of standing in front of strangers and reading this wonderful woman's beautiful work made me feel ill, but because I did not want to drive at night. Fortunately for me Tessa phoned to say could I bring the apple juice that she had forgotten, then there was no wriggling out of it. And so it was that I had an evening so very well spent, listening to people who love words reading poems in a beautiful house full of art where a small drawing of Ted Hughes held my eye for so long. And I did read and I did feel sick and shaky, but I also met a friend of the poet, who spoke of her with love and it turned out that he had written the obituary of Rebecca Elson that I had been reading earlier. Wayne Hill, softly spoken, and the poem he chose was "One Train May Hide Another".
Ordinarily I would not just take a poets words but the only site I could find this on was covered with advertising and strange noises, so my apologies to Kenneth Koch. There is too much "borrowing " of poets words, so my advise is if you like this buy the book. Also Rebecca Elson's "A Responsibility to Awe". I first came across her work when a friend gave me a copy of her book. If you like words and the stars and the moon and sensuous lyricism, this is the book for you.
Next day walking and looking again for hares. I found fieldfare and buzzards, kestrel and wren, treecreeper. In the hedgerows the last wisps of old man's beard whispered of autumn while primroses and shy violets and delicate wood anemones heralded spring.
On top of the hill I sat on an old stone wall and sulked for want of a hare and for all I knew there was one a hare's breath away but I saw none and then I stopped sulking and opened my ears to a sky full of lark song.
And in the wood I chased a story, stalking it and creeping around, and found another, by the side of the path. Here was an incongruous pair of pink high heel shoes. They were nailed to the floor, alone in the wood, with nothing and no-one around.
13th March. I should be working on Starlight and Dragons, and indeed though it took me a little time to settle I have finished the roughs for Dragons and two pieces of artwork ( the snow dragon and the fierce and snaggletoothed) and posted them and almost resolved small roughs for Starlight. But I am haunted by another story that needs to come out, of "Little Evie in the Dark Woods". Sometimes things shout too loud and put a stop to all else until they are resolved and this may be one of those things, for although I have a long list of things needed by yesterday this one pulls at my head, demanding attention like a small child.
Oh, and over the last few days it has been a bit windy here, bit of a storm. I have been tucked away warm in a book called "Ice Land" by Betsy Tobin, a book of magic and transformation with a woman who has a cloak of falcon's feathers, a book of love and loss and life, a book that kept me reading far too late in the night when my eyes fell shut only to wake again and continue, following dreams of flying. Wonderful.
14th March. Outside my studio, all day, the unintelligible language of birds fills the still air. Working through the day on Starlight until it is late. It was quiet all day. Only when I went to make a phone call did I realise that there was no signal on the line. On Monday someone will come and try to fix it. Until then no email, no phone, no blogging, no updating of website.
17th March. For a few days we have had no phone line and for a short time also no electricity. But the lights are back on and the loose wire connected now. The sun is shining, the jackdaws are building nests in the chimney, dropping down twigs that clatter from first light until dusk, down into the fire place.
Painting Starlight and at last beginning to get somewhere.
19th March. Steadily working on Starlight Journey. Skylarks sing a soundtrack from high above, and Robin sent me "The Boy Bands Have Won" by Chumbawamba. It is amazing where music can lead you sometimes and I followed one of the songs to a story of a man in prison in America, land of freedom and justice(?) Years ago I worked for Amnesty International and it is time I returned to work like that again.
23rd March. Easter, egg hunting with cats, listening to Hem singing Rabbit Songs, painting hares. The other day I watched a chain of rooks fly over winter trees. Too much work to do, too many different directions to face, all at the same time.
27th March. So, I woke in the morning with a poem caught in my mind, dreaming. The day, beautiful. I remembered. It was a day like this sixteen years ago that I traveled to Pembrokeshire from Bath, by train and bus and boat, to an island and a man that I loved. Inside a bright baby, three months young turned and slept. From the island I could almost see the small cottage I was buying that would be our home. The sun was on my face and my heart was warm. Sixteen years later I feel time run like a river. When we fall and hurt ourselves we can remember the time but the pain has gone, so why when we remember emotional pain does it still have the power to squeeze the heart with such pain.
On waking the taste of the poem lingers but the words and the meaning are lost. Tom sleeps upstairs, 16 years old this year. The sunshine is as beautiful as ever and I think I can hear that the jackdaw chicks in the chimney have hatched. My heart aches a little for lost things.
Maybe listening to Glen Hansard and the Frames is not helping my melancholy mood.
Later, walked the dogs over the hill and far away to Maes Y Mynydd and the cliffs. So quiet you could hear the sound of birds' wings. And later still my neighbour, John, sent me an image from a glass plate, taken by his Uncle Henry Evans, of the village when the houses where lived in, a timeless moment trapped on a glass plate, magical.
29th March. Walked over the hill in the midday wind with cats and dogs to get a photograph of the cottages as they stand now. It is years now since I worked on The Seal Children, a love story set in the ruined village. Through the rest of the day I painted gently and then headed off to babysit for a friend. Beautiful children, a pile of my favorite picture books, reading until their eyes began to close and talking gently through the sound of cathedral bells and the wild wind blowing around the rooftop.
30th March. Perfect day, working, walking, in the morning with cats and dogs and Robin to the top of the hill where the sun was warm and the wind was cold, in the evening with dogs and Robin stretching out and walking further. Found crystals on a rock that reminded me of the ice fingers in the stream at Pencarnan last month. Home and weary and looking forward to peaceful late evening reading. Bliss.
31st March. Email from publishers today to tell me that The Snow Leopard is on the Highland Schools Book Award shortlist. So pleased because it means that I get to go and visit the Scottish Highlands, which is a place I have always wanted to see.