For Loveday: A spirited young woman.

tyntesfield-something-about-dartmoor

Tyntesfield.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”  

The opening line to my favourite novel of all time – ‘The Go-Between’ by L.P Hartley.

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I guess this is a kind of early ghost story for Christmas – perhaps a love story too that spans a century or more. It follows on from my previous post about my Emily portrait; one idea always seems to ignite another within me.  It is dedicated to a spirited young woman called – ‘Loveday’.

Loveday.

Loveday.

I called her ‘Loveday’ because she came to me out-of-the-blue one day – and as soon as her face turned towards mine – I was smitten by her bespeckled loveliness. It was love at first sight. She has no provenance – other than what was imparted by the well-spoken gentleman who passed her on.  He said he’d bought her in Exeter at an auction in the 1970s – but that she’d always been a bit too creepy to hang-up in his house – although he felt that there was some immensely tragic story behind her face.  I think in one way he’d had a bit of a pang parting with her – because he’d enquired a couple days later about her fate.  He’d certainly hung on to her for several decades for a reason – and why did he bid for her if he found her creepy?  Creepy – and chilly – are words that have attached themselves to ‘Loveday’ – repeated by those that have seen her in the ‘flesh’ – including by my other work mates.   I don’t think their pairing was probably his choice – I think ‘Loveday’ chose him as a suitable custodian – so that forty years on she’d be brought to the right place – for me.   ‘Loveday’ has an etherealness about her – her face is strong with a piquant expression – yet her body fades away to light. She has a frozen quality about her and not just of time. She may well be a ‘post mortem’ photograph – it’s hard to tell – but what form she is makes no difference – it’s who she was – and is – that matters.  

When I removed ‘Miss Loveday’ from her bashed and crumbling frame – there were no clues written on her reverse side – as to her real name. This ‘nameless’ young woman has been asleep behind glass for possibly one hundred years – or more.  I think she is possibly Edwardian at the very youngest.

She came to me on the 10th November 2016 – a Thursday morning – whilst I was at work in the shop.  Her ‘bequeather’ – who is a regular giver and buyer – had brought her in for recycling – along with a handful of other old pictures that had clearly been gathering dust for a considerable time – possibly in an old barn or outhouse. My manager dealt with the gentleman’s donations – and gladly accepted them all apart from poor ‘Loveday’. In his eyes she was deemed to be “creepy” – and not thinking that anyone else would want her either – he dismissed her!  We get inundated with unloved and unwanted pictures – most of them are mass produced and of little monetary worth and are often broken – so sometimes it is necessary to be a little selective on such occasions. People more often buy pictures to up-cycle their frames – but in ‘Loveday’s’ case – her frame was beyond repair – and she herself was badly foxed and creased.  The gentleman who donated her wasn’t at all offended – and was happy to take her away again.

While all this was going on outside – I had been serving in the shop – and knew nothing of her arrival – or of her imminent departure.  Just in the nick-of-time before she disappeared from ‘sight’ forever – I entered the yard.  My manager was suddenly inspired at the sight of me to say to the gentleman – “Ah! Just the person! Melanie likes unusual, creepy things!”  My skull fetish is no secret at work – and they humour me about it – but they are the ones that don’t get it!  

While still in the boot of the gentleman’s car – he turned the subject’s face to me – and I was instantly struck by her spirited look. Her crooked fringe reminded me of myself when I was a young girl.  I always had a crooked fringe – and would often frown and glower from beneath it – I was always a rather spirited individual in my day! Suddenly I’d been confronted with a picture of a young woman that mirrored an element in me.  With no more ado – the gentleman was pleased to handover his custodianship.

For the rest of the day – she patiently sat in a spare chair in the manager’s office waiting for home-time.  At the end of the day – my manager said he was glad she was finally on her way – “She’s been giving me the creeps all day!” he said – as I spirited her away out of his office door.

The day after – I set about reframing her.  I searched through my store of old picture frames – for the perfect match. I have been collecting old frames for a long time now – and quite often they can lie-in-waiting for years before the right picture comes along – each is as important as the other in my eyes.  I tried several around her – but none were right – either in dimensions or looks – or both.  Then I remembered an empty frame that I’d bought in Church Antiques in Barnstaple – about a year ago.  I just loved the wavy shape of it – even though at the time I had no worthy picture to go inside; it was a necessary extravagance at £19!  I think it is mahogany – and it’s got ‘the look’.  I wanted to create something around ‘Loveday’ – that reminded me of her era – and there was no better place to inspire me than Tyntesfield in Somerset.  Ever since being spellbound by the opening bars of Dan Cruickshank’s insight into ‘The Lost World of Tyntesfield’ – (that I’ve watched on an old video tape many times since) – have I been so in love with a house! From my own experience of visiting Tyntesfield – I especially remember those areas with peeling paint and damp plaster – ‘forgotten’ rooms and corridors that housed a treasure trove of restoration projects and stored artefacts.storage-room-at-tyntesfield-something-about-dartmoorpassage-way-tyntesfield-something-about-dartmoorThese areas seemed to retain the greatest evocation – that for me brought the past to life.  It was as if an invisible cloud of sleeping dust had stirred all around me – and I can remember absorbing great wafts it. How I wished that the scent of that “foreign country” could be bottled as ‘Essence of Go-Between’ and sold in the National Trust gift shop – I’d have bought the lot!bedroom-at-tyntesfield-something-about-dartmoor

The above photograph of a bedroom at Tyntesfield – is the room that inspired the look for ‘Loveday’ – there was something about the elegant lines and atmospherics inside the room – that came to mind when I was deciding the tint and shape for her velvet mount.  If I could see ‘Loveday’ hanging on these walls – I was doing her existence justice.

Miss Loveday on the wall behind me.

Miss Loveday on the wall.

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A couple of weeks on – ‘Loveday’ is on my wall looking suitably lovely. She hangs on the wall directly behind me; it was the best space available for her impressive surround. When I’m sat here writing or browsing – I feel her eyes boring into me but not in a nerve-tingling way – I adore her sweet face – and her presence.  Late at night in the early hours of the morning – when I’m the only one still up – I’ll suddenly become aware of a coldness around my back and neck for no real reason.  No doors are open and the wood-burner is throwing out a good heat still.  It is a phenomenon – or fancy – that has only happened since ‘Loveday’ has been at home.  I myself do not find her creepy.  On the contrary – it is her perceived chilliness that warms me. I’m happy that she found her way here – so that I could preserve what is perhaps the only visible memory of her – at least for my span of time. I think old things have that within them – an ability to navigate their way to their chosen custodian. cracked-and-broken-stained-glass-panel-something-about-dartmoorTo me – ‘Loveday’ glows like this piece of pomegranate-shaped stained glass – which has suffered multiple breaks in its lifetime; I don’t see the cracks – even when the sunlight highlights them more. What I pick-up – is a sense of memory -of that foreign country that L.P Hartley wrote so powerfully about. It is the only way I can logically reason to myself as to why I have such a feeling for these outwardly fragile, half-broken yet still lovely things. They possess an extraordinary other strength that endures like the soul.

It’s long gone midnight – and there is nothing remotely chilly about Loveday’s presence in my room – in fact the only chilliness is outside – as the temperature sinks below freezing. Although having said that – I do detect something.  A spirited young woman behind me – has tapped me on the shoulder – reminding me it’s time for sleep.

Night night. 

Icier and icier - but only because it is Winter.

Icier and icier – probably because it is Winter.

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Loveday.

A Ghost from Christmas Past.  I bought this fine bone-china tea-cup yesterday – 1st December 2016 – in our ‘old curiosity shop’ – recycling centre.  It is cracked – but when I put a tea-light inside – its translucent beauty shines forth like it is levitating.  It reminds me of Miss Loveday’s white frills – and perceived Winter chilliness.

Emily Bronte: An inspiration. ‘Bonnets & Paper Lace.’

 

emily-bronte-detail-from-a-very-clearly-and-boldly-drawn-pencil-sketch-of-emily-by-charlotte-bronte-something-about-dartmoorFall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Poem by Emily Bronte.

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Yesterday – Saturday 26th November 2016 – was one of those November days when Emily was floatin’ around…

In the ‘moment’ I reached for my little green book of her poetical works – I especially love her poetry.  Opposite me – there is an impressive canvas of a much smaller original drawing – of a young woman wearing a bonnet – I call her ‘Emily’.  Often we meet each other’s gaze – and I feel challenged by hers – I feel the young women in the portrait has set me a task and she won’t rest until it’s complete.   After flicking through Emily’s passionate poetry – (I wasn’t truly in a reading mood) – I suddenly was taken by an undeniable urge to get out – and visit a place that I must have driven passed about a thousand times on my journeys to and from work.

When I snake down the long hill on my morning runs (always in a rush) – I’m intrigued by a steep path I see through a deciduous wood – it looks like an aisle in a cathedral – only one of God’s making.  After years of passing the ‘doorway’ – I determined that it was time to enter in.  I didn’t feel the need to tell anyone where I was going – I just dropped everything – including Emily’s volume – and breezed-off in my car.  Ah such freedom! Emily would get that – only she’d have grabbed her bonnet instead of a car key!

Fall. leaves, fall...detail from a beautiful watercolour - signed J.H. Wilson 1932 - perhaps inspired by Emily's poetry too.

Fall. leaves, fall…detail from a beautiful watercolour – signed J.H. Wilson 1932 – perhaps inspired by Emily’s poetry too.

It is rare for me to go for an afternoon walk – but today was a special calling.  To hear the sound of leaves whooshing through my feet – and to smell earth’s sweet decay.  I too love the dreariness of Autumn – heading into Winter…

The way through the wood from a newly discovered perspective...

The way back through the wood from a newly discovered perspective…

Once inside the wood – I was like a ravenous pig on the hunt for truffles or acorns – although I wasn’t purposefully searching for anything.  It wasn’t long before I’d grown tired with the path and I’d strayed off to explore the rougher areas on either side.

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A bowl full of sweet decay.

A bowlful of sweet decay.

I scrambled between tall trees – impatiently stumbling up-to the top of the wood – where I could see light through the tracery of black trunks and branches at the edge; I discovered that the wood bordered open fields.  old-forgotten-ways-something-about-dartmoorThere were several rusty gates used as fences – and the space had that feeling of neglect and forgotten ways – I was in my element.

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Tracery of trees at the edge - I see 'Emily' again!

Tracery of trees at the edge – I see ‘Emily’ again! (See the image at the bottom of this post.)

My only apparent company was an old cock pheasant – who despite the sound of distant gun shots – was unperturbed by my arrival. the-old-cock-pheasant-something-about-dartmoorIt wasn’t long before I was gifted a beautifully weathered skull that had a soft green ‘verdigris’ to die for – I love unearthing old, forgotten treasure.  Its layered structure was so paper thin – that I felt if I’d dropped it – it would’ve crumbled to dust.  paper-thin-skull-something-about-dartmoorI was ‘lost’ in the wood for a couple hours – exploring ‘paths’ that I had no idea where they were taking me – it was an exquisite experience.

By the time I’d ‘navigated’ back to the start – I was treated to a most glorious sunset on my homeward journey.

Remembering 'Beautio Beautio.'

Remembering ‘Beautio Beautio.’

It was on this very stretch of road that I found – ‘Beautio Beautio’ a Devon Buzzard – and was inspired to write a piece of poetry – to remember his passing.

I’m circling ever higher – beyond my usual limit – where I can see myself lying at a roadside – crying tears of blood.

Higher and higher – until the fields and moors that are my hunting ground are lost from sight – beneath a veil of cloud.

Onward and upwards nearer the Sun – I’m disappearing into light.

Free.tears-of-blood-road-kill-buzzard-something-about-dartmoor

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When I arrived home and got out of the car  – I picked up a windblown leaf that I’d just driven straight over! Even though I’d been trampsing over thousands of leaves all afternoon – this one had spoken to me.  And despite its undeliberate pressing – its delicate structure held fast – and it looked for all the world like a piece of century-old thread-bare lace from the sleeve or collar of a Victorian lady’s dress.autumns-decay-lace-like-leaf-something-about-dartmoor

It was the perfect keepsake – to remind me of my Emily inspired – impromptu ramble.

Again – thoughts of Emily drifted into my head – and of the mysterious eyes that search me from under a frizz of curls and a bonnet brim…

Hither and thither.  Like the wuthering wind – no-one knows where she has come from or where she goes…

When held to the light – she looks like my windblown leaf; the watermarked paper is stained and brown with age yet somehow she has survived for a hundred years plus; her intrinsic beauty shines forth.  She is monogrammed C B – artistically disguised in a wisp of hair.  She also has a striking resemblance to two known ‘Bonnet Portraits’

Emily on canvas.

Emily in the shadows –  on canvas.

Treasure as strong - or as delicate as paper lace - it's in the keeper's hands.

Treasure as strong – or as delicate as paper lace – it’s in the keeper’s hands.

Emily Bronte

‘Emily’ – the trees speak bliss to me.  Simple relief image of the trees at the edge of the wood – they really do spell out her name.

The Axeman Cometh.

familiar-trees-something-about-dartmoorWhen I’m out on my ’rounds’ – there are certain trees that I notice more than others – because they stand afar on a hilltop – or a hedge-top – or at a crossroads. They have become familiar friends – and I can’t imagine a time when they won’t exist – especially as trees outlive us humans by centuries even millennia.  I silently talk to trees – and if I can reach them in a physical sense – I lay a hand on them too – I’m an undemonstrative tree-hugger I guess!  

From here – where I sit at my computer to write – I can ‘see’ a familiar tree – a Eucalyptus I think it was?  

I’d often lift my eyes away from the glary screen and look out beyond the high fence to the sky and the straight lines of power cable that crossed its space.  I confess – I probably took it a bit for granted because it was so readily – and comfortably in view.  Apart from its obvious lankiness – its other noteworthy feature was as a visible parameter for measuring the gentleness of the Wind; even on the stillest of days ‘The Gangly Tree’ murmured and sighed.  In that sense – its constant companion was the Wind – and together they’d sing and dance – and sparkle – and never more noticeably than two Saturdays ago…

I was here doing ‘nothing’ again – a combination of internet browsing and intermittent daydreaming – when suddenly I really ‘sat-up’ and took notice of my gangly friend – enough to reach for my camera and take a couple snapshots…

From gangliness to a vision of loveliness.

From gangliness to a vision of loveliness.

 After years in its neighbourly presence – I suddenly felt impelled to capture the light – the movement – and the feeling I had of great upliftment on an otherwise sedentary afternoon.   In that transitory moment – I could not know what was to befall my gangly neighbour only a short time later… 

Tuesday – 15th November 2016 – someone somewhere had made the decision that the ‘Gangly Tree’ was to be axed – and by mid-morning the whine of the chainsaw was the only audible sound carried by the now weeping Wind.  I found myself thinking what it must feel like to be a tree and to suddenly feel your branches being cut off ‘slowly’ one by one – I’m sure I could hear it screaming for mercy – for light.  I was ‘glad’ I was home to witness it’s slow dismemberment rather than coming home and finding it had just gone.  I painfully watched the ‘axe-man’ as he methodically went about the task – risking his own life in its execution.  The ‘Gangly Tree’ lived up to its name right to the very last – swaying uncontrollably with each controlled movement of the tree surgeon.  I don’t think the ‘Gangly Tree’ was a push-over in tree-felling terms – and in that way I greatly admired the agility and strength of the man wielding the saw; it was a morning of mixed emotions. These are the only other pictures I have of the Gangly Tree’s existence – taken through my window on the fated morning.

Going, going…st832135-something-about-dartmoorst832140-something-about-dartmoorst832143-something-about-dartmoorst832146-something-about-dartmoorst832147-something-about-dartmoorst832148-something-about-dartmoorst832149-something-about-dartmoorst832151-something-about-dartmoorst832152-something-about-dartmoorst832153-something-about-dartmoorst832154-something-about-dartmoorst832156-something-about-dartmoorst832158-something-about-dartmoor

Gone.

In the foreground are the bare branches of my equally dead Buddleia - slowly poisoned by next door's leaky oil tank.

In the foreground are the bare branches of my equally dead Buddleia – slowly poisoned by next door’s leaky oil tank.

Even though the butterflies didn’t come this Summer – and Autumn has witnessed a sudden death – the magic of light and colour combined – will raise my spirits through the dark days of Winter.  If I pan back from the vacant space and greyness outside – to what is inside – there is a little stained glass panel that hangs in the foreground that fits as a perfect epitaph for a tree that I’d mostly taken for granted just because it’s always been there. 

Bought earlier in the year from stained glass artist - Rachel Ravelle.

Bought earlier in the year from stained glass artist – Rachel Ravelle.

I'm glad I listened.

I’m glad I listened before it was too late.

The Giant Fisher: A walk along the Tarka Trail near Torrington.

On Friday 28th. October 2016 – I joined my two sisters and ‘The Whippets’ for a walk along the Tarka Trail to Beam – birthplace of Henry Williamson’s ‘Tarka the Otter’.

"His cubhood was ended, and now indeed did his name fit his life, for he was a wanderer, and homeless. Already his mother had forgotten, and perhaps would never again remember, she had loved a cub called, Tarka."

“His cubhood was ended, and now indeed did his name fit his life, for he was a wanderer, and homeless.  Already his mother had forgotten, and perhaps would never again remember, she had loved a cub called, Tarka.”   From ‘Tarka the Otter’ by Henry Williamson.

We rambled over Torrington Commons to where two Hawthorns entwine – they reminded me of the moralizing fable of Baucis and Philemon – a love story that exemplifies the virtue of being kind to strangers. 

baucis-and-philemon-hawthorns-torrington-commons-something-about-dartmoorphilemon-and-baucis-torrington-commons-something-about-dartmoorIt was a walk of many stops and starts – a chance to revel in Autumn’s coat of many colours – my sister suitably dressed in matching attire.my-beautiful-sister-caitlin-in-her-multicoloured-autumn-coat-something-about-dartmoor

Soon we were on the trail itself – where the water of the Torridge was in reflective mood befitting the sleepy afternoon – and Season.

river-torridge-from-the-tarka-trail-near-torrington-something-about-dartmoor

We enjoyed looking up into the tree-tops at some ‘Giants in the Forest’ – this one a kindly face in a mighty Ash.giants-in-the-forest-tarka-trail-something-about-dartmoor

At Beam Weir – ‘Old Nog’ was standing in the white water – I love how my camera has captured an eye in the shadow of the bank – an elemental being – another Green Man.there-saw-i-midway-in-the-water-standing-a-giant-fisher-something-about-dartmoorWe walked on to above ‘Owlery Holt’ – where the view of the viaduct brought thoughts – and discussion – of the migrant children that have sought peace here in the heart of Tarka Country – across the bridge – at Beam House.  All three of us are now in our fifties – yet we can’t begin to truly imagine what horrors they have seen and suffered.  We hope they can draw strength from the beauty and tranquility that we are so lucky to have on our doorstep – at least as a temporary stepping stone in life’s river.  owlery-holt-river-torridge-something-about-dartmoor

On the way back – ‘Old Nog’ was still fishing.there-saw-i-midway-in-the-water-standing-a-giant-fisher-something-about-dartmoorWatching the Great Heron standing in the mercurial water – our thoughts turned again to the Syrian refugee crisis – I found myself inwardly recalling lines from another proverbial work – this time by Martin Tupper – a powerful poem called – The Giant Fisher.the-giant-fisher-by-martin-tupper-something-about-dartmoor3-sisters-2-whippets-torrington-commons-something-about-dartmoor

We noticed this crumpled leaf gripping the bridge railings by a thread; a metaphor for life’s struggle against adversity – and the “sheer weariness” that many people feel in this troubled World.autumn-leaf-caught-on-the-wire-of-the-bridge-across-the-tarka-trail-something-about-dartmoor

And so The Giant Fisher watches and waits...

And so The Giant Fisher watches and waits – and so the river flows on…

Dedicated to the memory of Henry Williamson and Martin Tupper for their inspired writing and poetry.pond-torrington-commons-something-about-dartmoor

A Dartmoor High!

Woweeeeeeeeee!  Sunday 23rd. October 2016 – Dartmoor was WILD! The North Wind was so powerful that it was almost impossible to stand up at times – and I’m no lightweight!  No hat – no gloves – just me trying to stay balanced.

Free-falling on Roos Tor.

Free-falling on Roos Tor.

When I stretched my arms out it was as if I was free-falling – the noise of the roaring wind passing my reddened ears – was bloody deafening!  While I struggled to keep upright – the massive Tors of Staple and Roos – stood still – even the logan stones balanced on the granite piles of Great Staple were ‘strangely’ unbudgeable  – despite the wind blowing a force 10.  I think it was quite one of the most invigorating walks that I have ever experienced on Dartmoor.  By the time I got back to my car – I literally felt drunk on oxygen – it was intoxicating.

Getting high betwixt the Staple Tors.

Getting high betwixt the Staple Tors.

It was as if I’d had my head stuck out the car window at high speed again – my hair was messed-up, my eyes were watering and bloodshot – yet it felt so alive.  Most of the photos I took were out of focus because I just couldn’t keep my hand still against the force. When I sat at the wheel to drive home – I couldn’t feel my hands because they were so numb with cold – yet my face burned like it was on fire – I probably should have been breathalyzed I was so drunk!

Oh God! I love Dartmoor even greater on a windswept day. 

Happiness; horizontal hair, bloodshot eyes and stinging skin! Roos Tor - Dartmoor.

Happiness; horizontal hair, bloodshot eyes and stinging skin! Alive on Roos Tor – Dartmoor.

Hart and Soul.

Friday – 21th. October 2016 – I took delivery of an expansive canvas print that I’d ordered of Tip’s skull suture.tips-cosmic-suture-something-about-dartmoor

The one that I’ve simply turned inside out as it were – so that it seems as a negative. It is fantastic – cosmic man – if I say it myself!

I have hung it over the portal to my Red Room – and it is absolutely brilliant – like the stars themselves.  It’s like having the Milky Way stretched out across my double doorway.  What do all those funny joined up characters mean? It’s a question that I find myself puzzling – as I gaze up in awe from my armchair – at the infinitesimal intricacy and connectivity of the pattern.  To me it looks like Tip’s personal code for his path through “Undying Life” – it’s his individual gateway where his soul leaves and re-enters each earthly existence. As he goes on and grows into his next physical form – so one more character will be fused into his ‘soul signature’ – and so life goes on…

My guess is - it spells INFINITY.

My guess is – it spells INFINITY.

The other striking thing about it is the way it doubles as a heart trace – or ‘Hart’ trace in Tip’s case. 

No one knows how long Tip had lain in that cold bog – but now that his earthly remains are here with me in the warm – he’s breathing inspiration and light through his very Being.  So much so that his trace has become the new background image for my website – Something about Dartmoor.  

Tip has filled what was once a big, empty – blank space with his ‘soul signature’ – so that from this day – 22st. October 2016 – he will literally run through all that I think and write here.

"Undying Life" - from 'No Coward Soul is Mine' by Emily Brontë - a daily inspiration.

Hart and Soul – and Inspiration.   My beautiful, ghostly Tip.

(“Undying Life” – borrowed from ‘No Coward Soul is Mine’ by Emily Bronte – another daily inspiration.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 ‘Strangely Beautiful’ by Amethystium 

Dark Rainbow.

Wow!  Earlier tonight – 17th. October 2016 – I saw a rainbow in the dark – a ghost of a rainbow – or Moonbow.  What a super, natural phenomenon! The Moon was just passed full and incredibly bright. Opposite on the western horizon – I could see a beautiful grey arc in the sky ending right where my Mother lives in Torrington – it must have been raining there.  I had planned to go out earlier while still half-light – but with one thing and another – I was late venturing out at about 9:30-ish. If I had gone out at my planned time I would have missed the Dark Rainbow – and would now probably have to wait another fifty odd years to see another one – my lifetime.  Somethings I guess are just written in the stars – they’re unavoidable.  While tinkering around late at night with this site – and suture detail from Tip’s brow –tips-skull-detail-something-about-dartmoor

no-coward-soul-is-mine-tips-skull-detail-something-about-dartmoorI was amazed how like the Milky Way it appeared when flipped its-all-written-in-the-stars-tips-brow-suture-something-about-dartmoorand simply solarized.  If you click on the dark image to enlarge it – the similarity is even more astounding. I wish I could decipher what it all means other than everything is connected and happens for a reason – I know that much.  Sorry no images of the Dark Rainbow – ‘just’ in my head. Wow!

‘Tip’ an Exmoor Stag.

Posted on the 16th. October 2016 – to honour the date of the Hunter’s Moon – or Blood Moon.
tip-an-exmoor-red-deer-something-about-dartmoor Where I live – hunting, shooting and fishing are a way of life.

Wildfowl. Shooting, hunting and fishing - a way of life and death - in the country.

Wildfowl. Shooting, hunting and fishing – a way of life and death – in the country.

I have a good friend that I call the ‘Squire’ – because he shoots small game – like wildfowl and pheasants for the table. He assures me that he is a very good shot but he doesn’t shoot Deer – as he loves them like I do – and welcomes them on his land to graze.

Tip's friends. Red deer herd happily grazing out in the open. Image courtesy of the Squire himself.

Tip’s friends. Red deer herd happily grazing out in the open. Image courtesy of the Squire himself.

In fact – he tells me that as he gets older – he shoots less and less because he doesn’t have the heart for it anymore.  His main sport is freshwater fishing.

Beautiful Salmon caught on the River Mole - and let go again! Image courtesy of the Squire himself.

Beautiful Salmon caught on the River Mole – and let go again! Image courtesy of the Squire himself.

Really – we probably ought not get on so well – because he also occasionally shoots the very birds that I love – magpies, rooks – crows – it’s land management apparently.  He has other people that come to his land to shoot – it’s his business – it’s just a pity he’s not able to control them like the so called ‘nuisance’ birds!  You will understand the meaning of this statement when you read his poem later.

I can’t help but like ‘The Squire’ – because every now and then he gives me something really special from his land.  He doesn’t really understand why I get so excited about skulls and bones – he says “But they’re just some old bones!” – but he indulges me nonetheless. Once he gave me a startling white skull in a black box – that had a label attached with a story about how it was that of ‘Jed’ the feral cat that the gamekeeper had accidentally shot! Of course I took one look at it and said – that’s no cat – it’s a fox! But that’s why I like him because he has a fertile imagination – and he is very, very funny. When you live in the country like I do – and work in a small market town like I do – you meet lots of interesting people from all walks of life.  I used to have a horse but I’d never go hunting – but it doesn’t mean I don’t like them that do!  jed-the-feral-cat-or-fox-something-about-dartmoorAnother time – he and his wife – gave me a single stuffed Magpie in a beautifully wrapped box for Christmas.  christmas-all-wrapped-up-magpie-in-a-box-something-about-dartmoorThey are a generous couple – who give occasional work – and a free lunch – to my younger son in the holidays; casual labour I suppose. Very casual from all accounts!  He loves spending a day helping them out on the land – and around the outside of the house.

The Squire bought the Magpie on Ebay – so it had been professionally cured and stuffed!  He was unaware of the rhyme – “One for sorrow – two for joy.” despite the fact that he lives in the country! Later mortified by his ‘ignorance’ – he offered to get me another one to make it a lucky pair – but I declined as I don’t really like taxidermy.  It looked for all the world like a dead bird I’d found as a child and buried in a shoe-box come back to haunt me! Having said that – I’ve grown very found of ‘Mercury’ my stuffed magpie – but I make sure I always bid him ‘good day’.  I love how he has his beak wide open – he always looks so animated as if he’s telling a secret.mercury-my-stuffed-magpie-something-about-dartmoor

This reminds me – how once I bought an antique book of poems by Emily Bronte – and the seller kindly put a bookmark inside – a peacock’s feather!  My house is full of wild feathers that I have collected on my walks but one feather that I’d never bring inside is a peacock’s feather because of superstition that they are unlucky.  But because the feather came in by stealth – in a volume of Emily Bronte poems – I’m happy for it to stay – I call it ‘Emily’s feather’ – it’s like an all seeing eye. emilys-feather-the-poems-of-emily-bronte-something-about-dartmoor

Getting back to the ‘Squire’ – his latest gift to me is an Exmoor Red Deer skull complete with eight points – a Spring Stag.  He found it on his land knee-deep in a bog.  The thing that caught his eye was a white tip of one of the antlers – so I have called him – ‘Tip’.  The Squire offered to bleach and mount the head on a wood-shield but that would have involved cutting and screwing the skull – sacrilege in my eyes! He emailed me a picture to show me how it looked not long after it had been lifted from the bog – the underside looks like a face that is almost human. tips-underside-something-about-dartmoor

Of course I ‘screamed’ back at him – “DON’T TOUCH IT – I LOVE IT JUST AS IT IS!” and I hoped he’d heed my words. 

The next day – Thursday 11th. August 2016 – just as I was leaving work – The Squire pulled-up in his big green farmer’s truck – and brought with him – ‘Tip’ on the backseat.  I was so excited – my manager said he didn’t think he’d ever seen anyone that excited – especially over some bones!golden-tip-on-the-red-garden-wall-something-about-dartmoor

Oh the joy – the colour!  ‘Tip’ is absolutely beautiful – golden – no way could anyone ever reproduce his rich depth – in more ways than one.  He is completely natural – untouched – preserved – just as the Squire had lifted him from the bog.  His antler tip acted like Excalibur – Tip was asking to be lifted from his watery grave. tip-an-exmoor-stag-something-about-dartmoorTip is shown here lying on a woven blanket laid-out on the grass – but normally he lives inside – where he isn’t cold anymore – and where he is deeply loved.

‘Tip’ has been in my ‘red room’ now for over a month – and at first my family were uneasy about his presence because he had died in a bog – my Mother especially voiced her concern.   She said that I should return ‘Tip’ to the land because she felt that ‘Tip’ had died a horrible, slow death – and she was worried by me bringing him into my house.

I myself have thought the same thoughts regarding the way in which ‘Tip’ must have struggled so desperately before surrendering to his murky fate – but all I can say is that having had ‘Tip’ home for well-over a month now – I get an overwhelming feeling of peace when I see his noble profile caught in the half-light of my lamp-lit room – suddenly he looks so alive again.  Late at night when the rest of the house is sleeping – I find Tip’s presence very powerful – like the crucifix of Christ’s suffering that hangs also on my red wall.  crucifix-on-my-red-wall-something-about-dartmoor

Getting back to the Squire – he followed up ‘Tip’ with a poem he’d written for my ‘birthday’ – which he’d forgotten and later remembered because of our friend – Sallykins!  It’s all about the nature of Tip’s sad demise.  Original or what – and no money spent either!

Close to Tip's 'Death Bog - with river near. Image courtesy of the Squire.

The area of Tip’s ‘Death Bog’ – with river near.  Image courtesy of the Squire.

Poem for ‘Tip’ – for me.  Written by my good friend the Squire.

At your request – I viewed today 
The death bog of poor “Tip” the Deer –
My photos show where he passed away
In a swamp with river near.

Who knows the cause of his demise?
I think the answer is near –
A foolish farmer out with his gun
Did not wait, for a killing shot clear.

Poor Tip ran off with lead in his guts
So terrified was he –
Until his blood loss brought him down
As he struggled to get away free.

He sank a little in that cool bog
His breath in urgent gasps –
Until relief did come at last
One last and final rasp.

Oh joy for the fox and badger near,
As his carcass was free for all –
And many a meal from poor old Tip
Was enjoyed by creatures small.

They gnawed and ripped
His tender flesh whilst he was still just warm
And then – by day the insects came
And on it they did swarm.

As time went by poor Tip sank deep
Into that soggy mire –
By now his skin – his flesh – his guts
Were taken as if by fire.

A year or more passed by that scene
And only his bones were left –
Until the day the Squire passed by
And found Tip’s skull at rest.

So from the bog he pulled away
Until Tip’s naked skull came free –
Complete with antlers oh so fine
Especially for – Melanie!

So as you gaze upon this beast
Proudly so displayed –
Think well of me your shooting friend
That life has aimed your way!

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There is not room for Death Nor atom that his might could render void Since thou art Being and Breath And what thou art may never be destroyed.

“There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.”   From ‘No Coward Soul is Mine’ by Emily Bronte.

On the wings of a Buzzard.

A poem for ‘Beautio Beautio’ – a Devon Buzzard.on-the-wings-of-a-buzzard-something-about-dartmoor

On Thursday – 13th. October 2016 – I stopped on my way home from work to pick-up a roadkill; sadly it was a beautiful Buzzard – already cold at the roadside.  If there is one bird that I could choose to symbolise the spirit of Devon – the ‘Land of Two Moors’ – with its patchwork of small fields spread-out between – it would be the Common Buzzard – (Latin name – Buteo buteo). Everyday on my walks – I see and hear Buzzards circling and mewing overhead – and now I had the sad duty of recovering one that had been killed on the road.  I hate to see wild animals squashed into the road until they become unrecognisable.  I didn’t want to see it become a pancake of dried matter and feathers stuck to the tarmac on my journeys to and from work – it’s too matter of fact.  I brought it home with me – and at the time of writing this – it is resting under the Mulberry tree in my garden.  

Before laying it down – I stroked its soft feathers and cupped it’s bloodied head in my hand – and took some photos to remember it. roadkill-buzzard-something-about-dartmoorroadkill-buzzard-talons-something-about-dartmoor A couple days have gone-by now – and I find myself thinking about the Buzzard often – so I have written a short poem to remember its passing.  
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I’m circling ever higher – beyond my usual limit – where I can see myself lying at a roadside – crying tears of blood.

Higher and higher – until the fields and moors that are my hunting ground are lost from sight – beneath a veil of cloud.

Onward and upwards nearer the Sun – I’m disappearing into light.

Free.

death-of-a-devon-buzzard-view-from-the-road-home-from-work-something-about-dartmoor

As I placed its stiffened body under the Mulberry – I noticed one small feather outstanding from all of its other magnificent plumage…heart-of-a-buzzard-something-about-dartmoorso I plucked it. heart-of-a-devon-buzzard-something-about-dartmoor

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Detail of a Buzzard from a gravestone in my local churchyard.

Detail of a symbolic Buzzard cut into a gravestone in my local churchyard.

Every Seventh Wave.

every-seventh-wave-something-about-dartmoorWith my eldest son ‘home’ for a few days – we’d ‘planned’ an outing to Torcross in the South Hams district of Devon – via Exeter!  Younger son chose Torcross – while elder son chose an urban ramble around Exeter – while birthday ‘girl’ – me – had little say in deciding the matter.  I just went along for the ride – consigned to the backseat as ever – where I imparted my usual pearls of backseat guidance – and got slightly nauseous! 

We’d got our wires crossed a bit – thinking younger son had suggested Starcross rather than Torcross which is slightly closer to Exeter by a considerable number of miles!  And so our grand de-tour of South Devon got off to our usual, predictable – haphazard start! 

Sunday 9th. October 2016.   Our day didn’t get started properly until elder son arose – and graced us with his presence at about two o’clock in the afternoon.  Approximately 25 miles later – Exeter was an ‘unexpected’ Sunday treat beneath a clear blue sky.  As ever I found myself snapping pictures of contrasting lines either above me or below me – as the chain shops between were of lesser interest.  All snapped in – or just off the main thoroughfare. guildhall-shopping-centre-exeter-something-about-dartmoorlantern-exeter-something-about-dartmoorrapunzels-tower-near-the-cathedral-yard-exeter-something-about-dartmoorjohn-lewis-building-exeter-something-about-dartmoorqueen-victoria-atop-marks-spencer-building-exeter-something-about-dartmoorcobbles-cathedral-yard-exeter-something-about-dartmoorpaving-cathedral-yard-exeter-something-about-dartmoor

At the far end of Exeter High Street into Fore Street – there is a small church with beautiful angels inside called St. Olave’s. Outside on the pavement wall is a place I always stop at – to be still for the briefest of moments in a city that’s constantly moving.  I touch his feet and rejoin the throng.  He’s very special.

At the far end of Exeter High Street there is a small church with beautiful angels inside called St. Olaves. Outside in the wall there is a

Another place I often stop – without going in – is the open portal of ‘Jack Wills’.  Their skull-cap display on terracotta reminds me of my own ‘red room’.  jack-wills-exeter-something-about-dartmoor

I love how many of the High Street shops have taken the British wildlife theme as inspiration for this season’s latest lines; Deer, Badgers, Hares etc – are prolific – on all-sorts of merchandise.  For once my red room is in vogue and I’ve hardly spent a penny – my collection are all foundlings or magical gifts.

Having made this statement – I did succumb to a lovely folk art style ‘Hare’ cushion in elder son’s emporium – ‘NEXT’.  next-emporium-exeter-something-about-dartmoorWith Christmas on the horizon again – there were so many pretty things to buy – especially in the glittering home department – plus elder son has staff discount!  I couldn’t resist a leaping Hare cushion – even though my boys voiced their concern that my armchairs no longer function as armchairs because they are too full of cushions with no room left to sit!   This isn’t true of course – how they do love to exaggerate!  I took no notice of them and willfully made my purchase – enjoying elder son’s staff discount into the bargain.  I know when I like something – and I loved it!next-hare-cushion-something-about-dartmoorwitch-ball-exeter-highstreet-something-about-dartmoorpiddly-stairwell-shadow-john-lewis-carpark-exeter-something-about-dartmoor

We finished our Exeter leg with a walk up the piddly stairwell back to elder son’s car in the multistorey – where I have to say – I was pleased to get out of the city and back to wide-open space and fresh air again! 

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lifebuoy-celtic-cross-torcross-something-about-dartmoor

Our ETA – on elder son’s sat nav predicted that we would arrive at Torcross by about Sundown.   All I can say is that with the blinding Sun low in the western sky – the journey on the A38 went by in a blur especially when viewed through the back-seat side-window! There was a brief respite – when a fifty mile-per-hour speed restriction was enforced but alas it was only on a relatively short stretch. Needless to say – my pearls of backseat guidance were not appreciated – as we sped on regardless to Torcross and Slapton Ley.

Although elder son did mention en-route that he is looking forward to the day when younger son can drive and he’ll be able to join me in the ‘backseat’ where together we’ll be able to offer an even greater guidance service – even funnier – younger son thought we were kidding!

Thanks to elder son’s expert driving we predictably arrived before our ETA – and watched the sunset behind us – while we ate our M&S picnic on the seafront…

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ms-salmon-and-cucumber-sandwich-at-torcross-something-about-dartmoorms-lemon-whitby-bun-something-about-dartmoor

After our delicious takeaway – we stepped out of ‘our’ cosy cocoon into the fresh evening air for a walk along the shingle beach by moonlight – and the intermittent flashes of the lighthouse on the head. As fate would have it – our late start meant that we’d arrived at the best time of the day – it was serene.  torcross-beach-by-moonlight-something-about-dartmoorEveryone else had gone home or headed to the pub – all bar two patient fisherman and a couple of promenading crows.torcross-fisherman-and-crows-something-about-dartmoor

At this point – I left my sons to their own amusement which was mainly throwing pebbles into the sea including a heart-shaped one that I’d just found and given to elder son for keeps!  He explained that he’d kept it for a moment then tossed it into the sea because it belonged there – although he promised me he’d never forget where he’d put it!  I was just warming to his philosophy when he added the rider – that he doesn’t do symbolic or spiritual s**t anyway!  

I continued my journey walking along the tideline in search of magic – watching and listening to the water come-in – and pull-back-out again – hoping that something would show itself to me – a keepsake of a happy day spent with my sons.

tideline-at-torcross-something-about-dartmoor

I couldn’t believe my luck – or eyes – when literally washed-up at my feet upon the Seventh Wave – came this. lucky-number-seven-stone-something-about-dartmoorsharing-my-magic-torcross-beachA gift from all the Seven Seas together – a lucky Seven Stone washed up just for me; this gleeful picture says it all! lucky-find-at-torcross-something-about-dartmoor

With the excitement of someone whose lottery numbers had just come up – I called my boys over to witness this gift from the Cosmos. “Look what I’ve been given – a lucky seven stone!” I beamed.  

Elder son took one look at it and said with deadpan aplomb “Or a one!” – much to younger son’s amusement!   How they do love to rib their Mother!  It is definitely – infinitely a Seven.

And if  ‘Lucky Seven’ wasn’t lucky enough – I also brought home the ‘Torcross Moon’ in my pocket – or a “potato shaped stone” depending on what wavelength one’s on.  Elder son sees things differently to me at the moment – while younger son falls somewhere between.  torcross-moon-something-about-dartmoorBefore we left Torcross – I took this fuzzy picture of our location and all the lights in the darkness – it came through my elder son’s iPhone; kinda magical.  lights-in-the-darkness-a-fuzzy-satelite-image-of-torcross-by-night-on-my-elder-sons-iphone-6s-something-about-dartmoor

When finally we got home long after dark – we enjoyed a couple pizzas together and settled by the fireside.    I sat contented in my comfortable armchair supported by a multitude of cushions  – apparently doing ‘nothing’ whilst holding my magic tablet.magic-tablets-something-about-dartmoor

In the other fireside chair – with fewer cushions – I noticed elder son was engrossed again with the apple of his eye – his iPhone 6S.magic-tablets-something-about-dartmoorA magic tablet of a sort – but on a completely different frequency to my Infinite 7.  One day he’ll ‘upgrade’ – it’s just a matter of time and tide – and waiting for a Seventh Wave to break upon another level – of his own consciousness. That neither son has any interest in ‘gaming’ makes me a very happy Mother while I wait for them both to catch up!

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Every Seventh Wave.   My 'inseparable' sons born seven years apart - already on their way.

Every Seventh Wave.   My ‘inseparable’ sons born seven years apart – already on their way.

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Just rollin’ – ‘my’ song for the day – as heard several times on Heart from the backseat…