RHYMES&REASONS

Observations, Thoughts and Reflections on 21st Century Life

Category: Photography

Lusitania – a life before and after the tragedy

 

 

 

On the 1st May 1915 Cunard’s RMS Lusitania, the fastest and most luxurious ship in the world at the time, set sail from pier 54 in New York headed to Liverpool, UK. On Friday 7th May it was struck by a German torpedo off the coast of Ireland. Of it’s 1959 passengers and crew on board 1198 perished – my great uncle and aunt were among the survivors.  Their three month old son John was not.

An account of their trauma is taken from statements made by both Anita and Elmore upon their eventual arrival in England.

“(Cyril) Elmore and (Mary) Anita Pells, travelling with their infant son John from Canada to England where Mr. Pells was to join his regiment, despaired of ever leaving the ship safely. At the time the torpedo struck they were dining in the second class salon and returned to their E Deck cabin to retrieve John, and Elmore made a second trip below for lifebelts. Not expecting to survive, they took seats together somewhere on one of the upper decks presumably on the port side, to wait for the end. When it came, they were pulled down deep with the ship, and in the torrent John was wrenched out of his father’s arms and lost. Elmore and (Mary)Anita surfaced and were able to pull themselves atop an overturned lifeboat.”

Following a short period of recovery, Elmore spent time at a military camp near London training the young recruits and Anita worked as a volunteer nurse stationed in Birmingham. Upon receipt of his commission Elmore joined his regiment in April 1918.  After receiving a brief note telling of his safe arrival in France, Anita never heard from Elmore again and he is documented as having been killed in action during the Battle of Aisne-Chemin des Dames on May 27th 1918 just five weeks after arriving at the front.

My interest in researching their story was sparked by an old photograph album passed to me from my father six years ago. It documents the young couple in their lives together in England and Canada prior to their fateful journey, enjoying life as a young adventurous couple, blissfully unaware of the series of tragedies which were to unfold, spiralling their fates in directions they can never have imagined.

 

Elmore and Anita met in the UK and following their engagement they emigrated to Vancouver, British Columbia, where they joined Anita’s sister and husband.  They married at North Lonsdale in April 1914 and lived at Vedder Crossing a beautiful undeveloped area surrounded by tree covered mountains fifty miles inland. Their son John was born in February 1915. 

After the war Anita returned to Canada but this was just the beginning of her story.  Despite the tragedies she’d experienced and now a young childless widow, Anita found strength and forged a life for herself, which took her from Canada to California, from New York to Nassau.  She nursed the sick in a tuberculosis sanatorium and sailed the Caribbean aboard the infamous yacht the Carlsark and took to the skies on the first Pan Am flights alongside the wealthy. But she never forgot her roots in an Edwardian laundry in London, or her brief time as wife and mother.  Hers was a life lived, a story to be told . . . 

 

The Garden Party

The Tennis Party

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using copies of photographs from the album I have created paintings to bring to life the images.

Rebecca Pells Fine Art

Rebecca is currently researching Anita’s story for a book

 

©️Rebecca Pells

 

Thresholds and Threads

Everywhere you look there are thresholds. And I am drawn to them as a moth to light.  They have become the premiere focus of my painting and writing.   There are obvious thresholds like stepping from the kitchen into the garden or crossing a border from one country to another; tactile thresholds – holding hands, exchanging a kiss, lovemaking . . . and emotional thresholds as we shuttle on the vine of life from enjoyment to sadness and back again.

Some thresholds we have no choice but to cross as in birth and death.  Others are imposed against our wishes like redundancy or the end of a relationship.  And yet so often it is within the tangled web of ensuing chaos that growth and wisdom are woven.  What we resist is actually the very thing which will take us forward if we find the courage to make the step; if we cease wondering what life would be like, cross the threshold and allow ourselves to experience it.

Windows, doors, gateways, pillars and paths – all fascinate and pull me, like an invisible thread tugging, weaving it’s way between the weft of the physical and the emotional warp, between the real and the imagined.  A tangled knot of thresholds, examined from all angles, picked, pulled and tightened by thoughts spinning beyond control.  Only then it seems, in frustrated desperation am I  ready to spool words forth or paint, carding the thoughts from entwined mass, teasing onto canvas until an image – and a way forward – begins to reveal itself.

And thus another threshold has been crossed.

‘The Bread Oven’  watercolour

To see more of my paintings click here

Images in Time

Images in time, do you still see

the girl who was lost or the woman flown free?

A gathering lining of rich silver hue

clouds part once more to capture anew

one step at a time reluctant to stay

accept at last that time goes away.

The moment has gone, now do you see

the girl who was lost or the woman flown free?

The Bridge

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You wake one morning and sense a change, a slight shifting of the sand,

a murmured whisper, the faintest touch upon your hand.

Was it the waking from a dream or the mourning of a death,

was it joy anew of passion found or the drawing of first breath?

Was it the void of emptiness or vast realm of possibility,

was it the final release or acceptance of futility?

With a backward glance I view the bridge where yesterday I stalled

until the night stepped forth and accepting as it called

I gave surrender as it carried me across.

http://www.rebeccapells.co.uk/

Photographic Memories

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The past is never just the past, it is recalled in the now,

a visual invitation to step into a life.

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Memories laid down in layered pixels of existence

moments in snapshots faded by time.

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photography by http://www.rebeccapells.co.uk

 

The Journey

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Yesterday I rose before daybreak to return home to Shropshire from Dorset in the UK, where I had been staying for a few days to attend my 92 year old father’s funeral.  The usual four hour journey became six due to fog, intense wind and rain and flooded roads.

Weather and thoughts seemed to merge and reflect each other’s mood with each slow mile I travelled.   At times I could not see my way forward but neither could I return.

Reluctant to rise this December morn

at once willing, wanting to be gone.

But to leave him behind yet I am torn.

Out into the light not yet born

for it holds still death’s time done.

Hours are long, the road is short

veiled as I too by dense dark haze.

The wheels turn as my mind too, wrought

with turmoil as child and I fought,

cradling the infant with gentle gaze.

Refusing to be settled, the infant made cry

even as I soothed the adult joined child

“depart not my father, you cannot die.

Leave us not with questions why”

in unison now with sentiment wild.

“You cannot leave, not yet, now not.”

The question hung, then tore the fog apart –

“did you love us or did you not?”

The infant lay back in rocking cot

once more quiet, carried in my heart.

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Patterns

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Patterns are everywhere.  Life is made up of them.  We are their product.   From the extraordinary beauty of a single snowflake to the relative simplicity of the double helix which forms our DNA, patterns dominate life.  Nature produces them over and over, evolving yes but still within the boundaries of a recognisable pattern.  Man has replicated them from ancient times, everywhere you look you will find a pattern, not always obvious, sometimes we must seek them out.

There is a comfort in patterns, familiar, predictable they have boundaries and therefore a certainty about what has been, what is happening and what is yet to come.  Patterns dictate our behaviour too.  The rebellious teenager who pushes the boundaries of parental control and wisdom, wanting to forge their own path, unaware that they too are following an age old pattern.  They do not, however always work in our favour.  Behavioural patterns can be destructive, like a mutating cancer replicating it’s ugly cells the pattern forges forth, carried by belief that we are right, ignoring all evidence to the contrary.

 I recently visited an installation by UK artist Carl Jaycock in a local church.  Photographs of all the men and women from Shropshire who lost their lives in the First World  War – including Shropshire born poet Wilfred Owen – were formed into the shape of shell cases.  Alongside the beautiful floor tiles this human pattern was a haunting sight.  All those involved in that dreadful war unwittingly became part of the pattern of history.

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In recent weeks Germany has lead the way welcoming those seeking refuge from Syria and other ravaged countries.  There is a collective will to break the historical dysfunctional pattern of their homeland and create a new one – for some perhaps a form of absolution.  But scratch a little beneath the surface as one journalist did and the old prejudicial pattern is soon revealed, veiled but by no means dormant.  Collective will is shunned when reality challenges the pull of our individual autonomy  and the old destructive pattern snaps sharply back into place. Like the rebellious teenager we refuse to listen to wisdom even when we know the consequences may be devastating.

Why do we repeatedly do the same things and yet expect a different outcome?  Most of us are driven, controlled even by our ego, our immaturity beckoned and  seduced toward false havens – a flawed, myopic  isolation of the present suspended from historical context.  We witness the arctic melt, we see that prejudice leads to conflict, we feel when our repeated actions damage our personal relationships.  But still we resist the fluid, less unilateral stance which maturity demands of us, safe in the false belief that it is another at fault, another who must shoulder the burden of change.

   If we are to liberate ourselves from the cancerous, cyclical patterns born of short-sighted self interest, we must learn to cross familiar thresholds with a different, more determined intent in our step.

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“Courage was mine, and I had mystery    

Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery.”

Wilfred Owen

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