RHYMES&REASONS

Observations, Thoughts and Reflections on 21st Century Life

The Rhythm of Nature

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Acceptance must come, to deny the end of summer’s gift is foolhardy.  It was but a fleeting moment in time, when all seemed possible, when heat and heart soared.  But as in nature these dizzy heights cannot be captured and held suspended in time.  We have to let go, move on with the seasons, face a new chapter of life.

Few things end abruptly: more oft there is a gradual passing, a fading of that which was held in high regard and despite our best efforts the saturated colour, intense and bursting with life cannot endure the whisper of breathy frost or a shoulder coldly turned.  Disbelief turns it’s attention to weary acceptance that once again we allowed ourselves to be smitten, to believe the summer was forever, that we had finally arrived and would be allowed to stay.

The garden decays before our eyes,  fruit unripened calls out for late warmth; lush trees which short weeks ago danced in gentle breeze, now shed their leaves in nods of brittle shards impatient to bare their boughs and be at rest once more.  When the party is over, we need to withdraw, to reflect and maybe even hide a little until we are ready to emerge once more, to show ourselves, exhibit our work, declare our love.  In an era of instant disclosure withdrawal is a bid for freedom, to hide under the covers, to ensconce ourselves in the studio or walk the cliff edge.  It is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside interference.

Real loss is to find ourselves stuck, unable or unwilling to embrace the new.  Time and again we look back, ruminating, regretting.  If only we would turn our attention to the rhythm of nature, to that which new seasons and chapters offer.  For beneath the protective cover of leafy decay, we will find hidden beauty, small tender, formerly eclipsed by summer’s glory.  Ready, waiting to unfurl towards the future.

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http://www.rebeccapells.co.uk

Changing of the Guard

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I woke this morn and sensed the changing of the guard

Summer’s twilight slipped into autumn’s first dawn.

Reluctant to cross this threshold once more

Au revoir summer’s promise unripened by drought.

And let go the dream sustained by hope

  Release that which can no longer be held.

Fade to autumn, the hue I must reside

And cherish sweet memory with wistful smile.

Painting ‘Antique Roses’ by Rebecca Pells

available from https://www.artfinder.com/product/antique-roses-fa34/

 

21st Century Introvert

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Quiet. Introvert. Solitary.

All words which have long since borne negative connotations. In 21st century life, where sharing our every movement and every meal online has become the accepted way of behaving, social media has become the extroverts dream paradise, the introverts hell.  Underestimated as a way of being, introvertism is neither prized nor offered as a path to tread, shunned in favour of over-confidence, extrovertism and ubiquitous over-sharing.

But a world in which every one is a Donald Trump or a Boris Johnson would not succeed – thankfully!  Our species needs it’s philosophers, it’s artists, scientists and geeks.  It needs it’s witnesses as well as the witnessed.  They are the ones who step back to view the bigger picture or delve deeply to see the oft missed yet crucial detail.  Introspection provides the opportunity to practice, to cultivate and examine from every angle before we hit the share button.  It is the first necessary step in the consummation of a new idea, the space in which to sow, till, nurture and reap until the young sapling is strong enough to face the limelight.

It prepares us for the conversation, tentatively invited when we finally stick our head above the parapet:  it will buffet us in the maelstrom of social media, straining against our every grain and fibre of being, our private world exposed in the harsh glare of publicity.  Carried as the wind in the trees our inner souls are transported across countries and continents, to shores so distant our physical being will never set foot upon them.  As the shock of the first tectonic impact settles, we begin to find a new way of being and to join in the conversation.  Our vulnerability becomes more robust as we emerge from our inner world and engage with the tumultuous, shifting noise of the online world.

As an artist I have reluctantly had to embrace the world of social media, the list is growing –  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Artfinder, Fine Art Seen, as well as my own website and of course WordPress.  It certainly has it’s benefits and I have come to realise that unlike the extroverts who seek constant attention, the introvert retains the ability to retreat at will, we are masters at the beautiful art of withdrawal, where once again we can resume a conversation with ourselves; where we can tend a wound, cradle our disappointment and nurture our imagination until we are inspired once more.  To seek solace, to retreat from the white noise, is to find space in which we can ask more of ourselves, raise questions that can re-shape our thinking and perspective of the world we inhabit.

It is quite simply, an exquisite place to reside.

Oil painting ‘The Bench’ Rebecca Pells

available from https://www.artfinder.com/product/the-bench-47d9/

 

 

The Somme 100 Years

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The Somme 100 Years

1st July 1916 marked the start of this bloody battle

57,470 casualties

19,240 died

And that was just the British

In a single day.

Today

in a fractured  Great Britain

on the cusp of cutting ties of friendship with Europe.

Least we forget the terribly consequences of political failure.

Peace must be prized above all else.

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(Installation by UK artist Carl Jaycock)

Life – Where is Thy Meaning?

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‘Afternoon Blues’

One of the most asked questions ever.  And well into the 21st century it remains unanswered.  Even Google falters at this one in an age where image and instant reign on a glorious and exalted unsatisfying high.

For the last six months I have been slowly but surely dismantling the material elements which made up my late father’s life.  The process is almost complete, a few final loose ends to tie up and then all semblance of his daily life will be gone and only memories, photographs and a few small heirlooms will survive.  You would have to look hard to know he had lived and breathed on this earth for 92 years.  What meaning did they have for him – perhaps his four children, three marriages or his Christian religion stoically observed Sunday after Sunday. I will never know.

Both parents gone and you seriously begin to think about your own mortality – the creeping weeks and months which so rapidly descend into years.  Don’t let anyone tell you that time doesn’t speed up the older you get – I so does!  And yet, with my father’s genes and a brisk prevailing wind I may well see one score year and ten more.  Thirty plus more birthdays, thirty plus New Year resolutions to make and break.  Thirty plus more chances to live meaningfully.

The thought both elates and alarms in equal measure.  On days when things are going well  that doesn’t seem long at all –  just over half as much again as I have already skipped through – not long into which to squeeze the rest of my life!    On others when all seems bleak the time stretches gloomily into a distant grey horizon – oh my, at least half as much again as I have already stressed my way through –  how will I fill those long hours and days, keep the anxieties at bay, avoid the blackest clouds and stumble my way to my final hour.

We are cajoled, coaxed, coerced and consumerised into believing that a state of constant happiness is our goal.  But the foundation stone of capitalism has become our stumbling block as the constant seeking of happiness proves forever elusive.  We try to access it with things, we view it as a destination to be reached and once there we can reside for ever and a day.  But I suspect that state cannot be sustained, and is unlikely to provide the meaning for which we search.  I don’t think I would want it that way.  The meaning and purpose of our lives can often be found in the darkest corners, in those hours which seem the most bleak.  But when we eventually emerge into the light once more oh how much sweeter.  Like the colours in a painting, the light shines so much more brightly when placed next to the darkest hue.

The meaning is in the doing, in the striving, the anticipation and in the possibility. When we push ourselves beyond our comfort zone, when we are prepared to take a risk, when we allow ourselves to step beyond our familiar threshold and let go.  Those times we spend alone, absorbed by our activity and undistracted we truly live the moment.   These are the experiences which paint our emotional memories.  Sometimes they burn us, sometimes elate but they are soaked into our soul just as the warmth of the sun will transfer the image from a negative onto the salt paper, the fine details captured for posterity. These are the ones which we will recall when we reach our eleventh hour.  These are the details which give life meaning.

‘Afternoon Blues’ by Rebecca Pells

available from https://www.fineartseen.com/product/afternoon-blues/

Lusitania 101 – a Life before the Tragedy

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On the 7th May 1915 the British liner RMS Lusitania, the fastest and most luxurious ship in the world at the time, was struck by a German torpedo off the coast of Ireland.  Of it’s 1962 passengers and crew only 764 survived – my great uncle and aunt were among them.  Their one year old son John was not.

An account of their trauma is taken from statements made by both  Mary 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 surfaced and were able to pull themselves atop an overturned lifeboat.”

Following a short period of recovery in London, Elmore joined his regiment as originally planned but after receiving a brief note telling of his safe arrival in France, Mary never heard from him again and he is documented as having been killed in action during the Battle of Aisne-Chemin des Dames on May 27th 1918.

The human element of this disaster, which has largely been lost among the controversial nature of the incident together with the passing of time, is now coming to light, re-surfacing along with the personal stories.  I have researched Elmore and Mary’s accounts with the benefit of the internet and personal family history.  However, I am also in possession of a wonderful photographic record of their lives in Canada prior to their fateful journey. The images long since faded, document a young couple in love.  Elmore met Canadian born Mary in the UK and following their engagement they emigrated to Vancouver, British Columbia and and were married at North Lonsdale in April 1914.   Their son John was born in February 1915.   The images tell a story of a vibrant life together, socialising, fancy dress and tennis parties and picnics on the beach with friends.  Just one image remains of their infant son John.

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It is their own record of their life together, each photograph carefully entered into the small album by their own hands, unaware of the tragedy which was shortly to unfold and change their lives forever.  Faces reach out from the faded images, ethereal and yet full of life, crossing the threshold of a time long since gone and reaching into the 21st century in an effort to be remembered.  A reminder that they lived life to the full during their short time together:  there was life before the Lustania and for Mary a life after but very much changed.

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Through the remainder of the war Mary served as a nurse, and she was awarded a sum of $1089.15 for the loss of her personal property and Elmore’s medical expenses after her return to British Columbia.  For a time she lived in California, where she continued to study nursing, before returning for a third time to Canada, where the trail is lost in time.  However, somewhere along the way she maintained a connection to the Pells family – in 1936 she received a legacy from Elmore’s mother upon her death.

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Elmore – ‘lost in action’- has no known grave but is remembered at The Soissons Memorial located in the Aisne département of France. The memorial lists 3,887 names of British soldiers who were killed in the area from May to August 1918 during the Spring Offensive.

And somewhere, somehow, this little album has found it’s way from Canada back to England, passed down my family and  following the recent death of my own father John, who was named after his young cousin, is now one of my most treasured possessions.

 

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Soulmates in Time

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The connection we prize,  betwixt friendship and love,

more precious than either, the fit like a glove.

Elusive to seek and nebulous when found,

no sudden discovery, a revealing of lives bound.

A sense of arrival of something long sought,

like the missing jig-saw piece long since bought.

The vista of life’s shadow cast into light,

 my own wounds you touched, inner turmoil and fight.

Your essence reached out from long hidden time

parallel depths in recognition of mine.

You called out to me, I responded in kind

I cradled your pain for you mine to find.

Suspended by time, the connection a fine thread,

it sways with the seasons to others all but dead.

Poised for nourishment the possibility resides

the strengthening vein the longer it bides.

Two only in my lifetime thus far in time

too precious to waste, oh soulmate of mine!

Painting ‘The Writing Table’ by http://www.rebeccapells.co.uk/

Easter 1916 – Was it Yesterday?

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‘Was it Yesterday’ by Rebecca Pells

available from https://www.artfinder.com/product/was-it-yesterday/

A few moths ago I attended the launch of a book written by the father of a friend.  First published in 1928/29, ‘Was it Yesterday?’ by A M Bown recounts his experiences in France during the First World War. For many years it remained out of print until his son and daughter, themselves now into their 80’s, realised that his story would be of interest to many others and so they set about the task of re-publishing.

‘When  he volunteered in 1914, A M Bown was a twenty year old scholar at Oxford (university) studying science.  He became an artillery subaltern and remained one throughout the First World War, being wounded twice and gaining the Military Cross for bravery.  This book, although fictionalised, grew out of his personal experiences and is a vivid and authentic account.

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He tells of ordinary day-to-day incidents, some amusing, some frightening, and gives a sense of real lives – and real deaths.  He keeps throughout a respect for his fellow soldiers, saying:

“So this little team in khaki stood waiting for the starting gun . . . in the greatest game of all, and whatever share the fields of Eton (college) may have had in any winning of it, the same share must be credited to the back alleys and the cinder patches, the parks and the recreation grounds which had been the nurseries of most of those who stood together in that forward line, picked to play for England.” ‘

Inspired by Bown’s story and with his family’s permission, I painted  ‘Was it Yesterday?’  The opened book sits upon a table from around 1916.  Original wallpaper tinged with ‘forget-me-not’ blue symbolizes the fading of memories of a time long since gone but which also bears witness to the present – a jug of fresh spring daffodils and bright scarf cast aside in a hurried moment. So intense are the events of which the author writes, that they feel like they happened only yesterday.

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‘Was it Yesterday?’ by A M Bown

available from

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Was-Yesterday-M-Bown/dp/1909644595/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459161959&sr=8-1&keywords=was+it+yesterday+a+m+bown

Lighting a Candle to Mum

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To mark this Mother’s Day, I felt the best way to remember my Mum was to hand this space over to her.  Twenty years ago I asked her to write some memories of her early life and the following extract is taken from her own words.

Until I was fourteen years old, although by then we had electric light in the home, I still went to bed by candlelight.  My mother thought it was cheaper, so electric light was used only downstairs and then sparingly with low watt bulbs which made reading or needlework difficult.  To this day I ‘put out’ the light in one room before going into another.  It was thought very wasteful to have more than one room with a light on.

The house we lived in until I was about ten years old had gas lights.  The gas-pipe came down from the ceiling.  A delicate gauze-like ‘mantle’ was lit with a proper paper ‘spill’ lit from the fire.  A glass globe shade spread the light around the room and two chains enabled the gas to be ‘put up’ or ‘down’.  Usually ours was ‘down’ unless reading or writing demanded a brighter light.  And then one sat at the kitchen table directly beneath to obtain the best possible light.  The ‘front’ room had a similar light but was only used at Christmas. The back-kitchen had a light on an arm on the wall but was never used. For evening chores – washing up and the like – the door of the kitchen we lived in was left open and jobs were done in the gloom.  This also applied to bathing in the zinc bath on Friday evenings.  It was bitterly cold in the back-kitchen and sitting in the bath in the gloom the mice would run out from the pantry – which was the cupboard under the stairs – and the odd black beetle.

Ready for bed, a tin candlestick holding the candle, I had strict instructions to get straight into bed and blow the candle out.  I never did!  I used to play at making shadows on the faded wallpaper.  And best of all making ‘warts’ on my hand. I sat in bed, took the candlestick on my lap and tipped it slightly until the melted wax ran in hot blobs over the back of my hand where they set, looking – to me at any rate – like proper warts.  Once cooled and set I would pick them all off one by one.  Then my Mother’s voice – angry as usual – shouting up the stairs that if she had to come up to make sure the candle was out ‘there would be hell to pay’.  A quick puff and it was out before her foot was on the stair.  I often wonder if she ever thought of the hazard of sending a small child to bed with the naked flame of a candle.  At that time I would have been about seven years old.

When we moved to a new house, when I was nine or ten, there was electric light in each room and probably a power point , although no electrical equipment.  Even the iron was a gas one.  It was not until the Second World War when I was fourteen and my Father died in The Royal Navy and we had to take in ‘war-workers’ to make ends meet, that we finally gave up candles to go to bed by.  The bathroom had electric light but up until then we bathed with a candle standing on the floor.

I still keep a stock of candles in a jug – just in case.  J.K.

I too switch off the light before leaving a room and keep a stock of candles.

I will be lighting one this evening in loving memory.

Joyce Kathleen Pells nee Davis 1925 – 2004

Goran Haven 1963

                                                      Gorran Haven 1963

Witness and Solitude

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To witness and to be witnessed is a form of acknowledgement of our own and others’ existence.  It is the sibling of ‘belonging’  identified by Abraham Maslow in his hierarchy of basic needs as crucial to our emotional well-being.  Few are able to live entirely in the absence of either.

As I approach my mid-fifties, I suddenly find myself without parents – officially an orphan as one friend stated!  Neither uncommon or unexpected.  And yet I was unprepared for the sense of aloneness I experienced, even though I’m not from what you would describe as a close family either geographically or emotionally.  It has surprised me, since I live and work alone I’m used to and comfortable with my own company.  But parents or carers are our primary witnesses, they watch over us when we are young, validate our efforts as young adults and observe  from the sidelines as we progress through life.  And then at some point the witness becomes the observed as we in turn keep an eye on them in their advanced twilight years.

The threshold over which we take our first steps into aloneness is often experienced as abandonment.  Many will step back in fear and seek distraction, the company of an unsuitable partner or live at the edge of other people’s lives, rather than allow the space and time for a solitary life to flourish.  Alone we are faced with nothing but our own reflection, our repetitive inner voice, no-one to be impatient with but ourselves!  Tired of our own story, we eventually begin to tell it in a different way, we no longer need to filter it for the ears or expectations of others and we can live our life as a question rather than a fiercely guarded certainty.  Sooner or later a fresh complexion begins to appear, the gentle re-weaving of our inner and outer forms.

In the 21st century to seek solitude is considered odd, others feel rejected and offended by it.  But to allow ourselves – and others – to be alone, whether for hours or days or weeks, is to live something that feels like a choice again.  In this space we can experience our own truth, not to sink into despair of a mis-spent past or regret a decision made long ago, but to inhabit the space in a fresh way, to navigate the movable frontier between what has been and what we are about to become.  Self-knowledge allows us to adopt the manner of the fledgling novice once more, humble and gracious in our attention to ourselves, others and life.  It is good to remove ourselves from time to time from the chaotic flow of a world which never stands still, to find our place within it once more.

Painting ‘Field of Dreams’ Rebecca Pells Fine Art

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