Monday, October 26, 2015

Glyph Totem

I feel like I'm back in the groove...

As you probably know I went art AWOL for a while and pursued my love for bicycles instead. Of late I've been trying to fit back into the land art groove once again but it seems I don't fit properly as I'd become all cyclist shaped.

But now autumn's coming so the groove has widened to accommodate me whatever shape I have become.

Since I was so prolific I moved house and I haven't acquired the depth of knowledge of what is growing and where, the location of really good thorns and where I can find vibrant colours to enrich my palette.

My art developed while I lived in my previous home and I learnt to use the materials that I found around there and so they became fundamental to my style of art. Dogwood, berberis thorns, reed grass and dark mud were all mainstays of my techniques. But where I am now it is more difficult. There are less public spaces and quiet woods in which I can trespass without being disturbed but instead there are many gardens that tantalise me with views of plants I wish to use but I'm not exactly going to help myself.

There are quite a number of trees that I regularly monitor to see what autumn will produce. I didn't move far away from where I used to live so I took a trip over there today to see what is going on with my favourite trees and to start to get my head together for all the colours this season will bring.

There are two particular maple trees that regularly produce the best leaves. One of them produces unique strong orange colours I've not seen elsewhere, it starts early and always begins on the top of one side of the tree, changes that whole side before the rest follows on and sure enough when I went there today that is exactly what was beginning. The other is a Norwegian Maple and it produces very strongly coloured and clean red leaves. When I visited that tree there was no colour other than green present.

There are two cherry trees in the local cemetery and the first time I worked with it's autumn colours the range was immense, every possible hue I have ever seen present in leaves, they were such a thrill to work with and yet every year since it has never happened again.

On my tour I went to visit a place very near to my old house where I made several sculptures, often harvested dogwood stems and had planted a small Rowan tree that had taken seed in a plant pot in the garden. Oh my how had it changed!

It was totally overgrown, so much so I couldn't get anywhere near the plants I used to use a lot, it was utterly impenetrable, I was amazed how much it had changed but also fascinated to see the power of nature in a place I knew so well.

As I was unable to collect some dogwood I went to another place where I knew a load of it grew and with it the leaves often turned a profusion of purple. Having not been there for a while I was excited to see what I would find.

And what did I find? A new housing estate that's what!

Sometimes I go foraging and then return to base to create something out of what I collected. When I knew where all my favourite materials grew if I needed something I hadn't collected to bring the sculpture together then I could nick off and get some. Where I live now I have to be more resourceful.

The core of the sculpture is a Cotinus coggygria stem (AKA Royal Purple) and I collected it near to where I live now. As it started to come together I knew I would need to support it on some sort of frame but where was I going to get suitable materials from?

I grabbed my rucksack, tucked my trousers into my socks and got on my bike to go hunt. I headed towards the shore as I knew reed grass grew down there and pedalled on my way.

It didn't take long to find what I wanted and soon I was scooting back to base.

It was at this point that I knew I was back in my groove. Just picture the scene:-

Guy on bike clutching a four foot bushel of reed grass in one hand whilst pedaling furiously somewhere or other.

Oh how I'd missed this eccentricity. Looks strange to anyone looking but I just didn't care as I know what I will produce will turn out right. And why does that feel so good? Because when I am not acting eccentrically, when I am just trying to be normal so no-one notices me I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb, that everyone's gaze is boring into me.

But here I am acting strangely and everyone really is staring and deservedly so! And I don't care! So liberating to be slotting back into that groove.

This whole mission is now carrying it's own momentum, the sculpture is making itself, I'm not thinking about how it should be and somehow when that happens certain things just click into place. I don't know how, I can't intentionally make it happen but when it does it is very satisfying.

"This does seem to be going very well? Have you forgotten how difficult it is to keep these ephemeral sculptures held together long enough to take it's picture? Errm, yes I think I have.2

I set off look for some evening sun, these installations come alive when back-lit after all. I'm rolling along on the buzz of good sculpture and in my excitement I'm careless and clumsy.

First I snap the reed grass frame and have to make a little repair, I tell myself to be more careful.

I clamber through the undergrowth looking for a suitable camera spot and spy one just ahead. I set up my camera ready so that the significant breeze doesn't have too long once I erect the sculpture to tear leaves and upset the composition.

Err, where has the sculpture gone? I was carrying it on top of a bit of cardboard and it seems to have disappeared!

A bit panicky I retrace my steps and find it hiding in the undergrowth and very gratefully I see it is still, mostly, intact.

I make a few more repairs and just pray that I haven't pushed it over the edge.

As is usual I chase the sun across the forest floor and re-erect the sculpture in multiple places as it only stays lit up for a minute at a time before the sunlight moves to another spot.

As I set it in a good spot it comes alive just for that moment and brings together the materials, that time, that place and the rays of the sun to finally, become complete.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

'Opposable Thumbs'

I resisted for a long time before I got a smartphone. I knew as soon as I did I would become its slave. Sadly I was right.

It seemed quite apt that on my way to photograph this sculpture that I was nearly run down by a driver yakking on his
phone and as I was looking for a suitable location that my other half was checking out Facebook on hers. After all the still, warm autumn air, the dappled light through the trees and the sweet smell of moss and pine needles don't go 'ping' when they share themselves.

That little screen of joy nestled in my pocket waiting for me to salivate when the little bell rings. If TV is the opiate for the masses then this is the full on mainline, jacked-up smack.

It's a relief when I leave it behind or when the battery is nearly flat and I have to put it into another room to charge.

And yet I wouldn't be with out it now. I look forward to the time when I can enjoy a live event by watching it on the little screen as I record it instead of just looking straight at it with my eyes. Seems the thing to do these days.

Anyway enough of all that, let's cut to the important...

What is stuff and why is some of it funny? These are the kind of things that would keep me awake if I wasn't already asleep.

How does one reinvent oneself when the question presupposes that you already have been invented and if so you have a patent registered in patent handbook and therefore *know what you are*?

I go bird-watching quite often, though really it is better described as nature sitting, listening and looking. It's not always birds but they are fascinating, colourful and charming. Remember brown is a colour too.

On the way back from an hour of that I drove to the supermarket to buy a packet of ham, past a pub and onwards. When reading I often transpose letters or syllables and turn a sentence into thingsome unintentionally amusing and tit-ter to myself. You may have just done that yourself reading that last one. But why involuntary comedy remixes? Is it just me?

There was a sign outside that pub and it said "Biker Pitstop". Okay fair enough, bikers like a refreshing pint of ale or two and are generally rotund enough to remain beneath the alcohol-driving-limit. But beneath the "Biker Pitstop" line were the words "Thirst Toilet."

What's that all about then? Is this particular pub a bit of a dive and this is a bit of honest PR "sorry it smells like a toilet but we've got some nice beers" or was it a slightly obtuse review on Tripadvisor? Perhaps if you are really strapped for pennies they don't mind if you drink straight from the loo itself? I'm struggling to think of alternative versions of this phrase with letters or syllables transposed that makes more sense than what I read in my mind's eye. I'm itching to go back and have a look at the sign and confirm what is written on it and if I read it correctly also find out what a thirst toilet actually is. It might sound grim but come on, I know you want to know too.

I suppose the longer more descriptive version of toilet would involve some inclusion of what it is a receptacle for. In the same vein as 'bread bin' or 'jam jar' I supposed you'd have 'wee toilet' and 'poo loo'. We all know what they're for so I suppose it is only polite to shorten them to toilet or loo. So 'Thirst Toilet' could well be a place to dispose of your thirst? Yes, that must be it, it being a pub is not quite enough.

It's got to be a bit like twitter, the modern way to describe something on social media: hashtag #overlydescriptiveadjectives.

The Red Lion Public #ThirstToilet

After I drove past the pub #thirsttoilet (see, it's catching on already), as I said (you were listening weren't you) I went to buy a packet of ham #packetofham #formysandwiches from the supermarket #placethatsellspacketsofham.

I parked in my usual spot in my usual way i.e. a bit wonky and on my way to the shop the car I strode past was a called a Citreon Cactus? It's a wonder I sleep at night.

It's a rare day where I live when you can make a sculpture like this and take a photograph of it. When it is still enough to make the world stop. The whole process tunes you in to the environment and the elements so you can feel a little bit more deeply what is really going on.

I pinned the top of this creation to a beech leaf with a thorn on the end of a very thin branch, the weight of it pulled the spindly twig downwards so it hung vertically ready for me to take its photo.

Had I been doing anything else I would have said that there was no breeze at all and that it was perfectly still and yet subtle eddies came and went as it gently bobbed the sculpture and twisted it in the warm air.

It was so very slight but in order to take a sharp image of this picture I needed it to stay still just for a few seconds as the sunlight pierced through it's rear.

I needed all these things to come together: soft autumn sunshine, very little wind, but still with those elements at play

I had to wait and wait. But that gave me the opportunity to stop my mind and see. To be afforded a glimpse into how it was at that very moment. All the world in a tiny breeze that tilted the sculpture to and fro.

That's all there is and all there needs to be.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Made at Lord's Lot Woods, North Lancashire 15-09-2015 from Holly, Laurel, Sycamore and Maple leaves, Paper and Tibetan Cherry Birch bark and Pear tree stems.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


The season of colour is rapidly approaching. I had to go hunting to see what the leaves are doing but time is on the very cusp and there were only a handful of leaves on the turn here and there, just enough to make this sculpture. But sure enough the plants and trees will draw back into their roots and trunks ready to hibernate until the days lengthen again.

In the midst of all this I am left asking myself so many important existential questions:-

Why am I covered in gnat bites and would I be able to feed myself if I lived on an island and the supermarkets were permanently closed?

I went sea fishing the other day for probably the last and definitely the first time.

I used to go coarse fishing as a youngster (it didn't involving swearing at the slimey ichthyoids, coarse fish are freshwater pond, lake and river dwellers)  but I gave it up eventually for a number of reasons: I was very bad at it; I spent many a summer day from dawn to dusk catching absolutely zilch: that's near enough 15 hours staring at the water's surface per session water staring fans; and a fair proportion of that time untangling line from tree branches, getting it stuck around an unseen submarine log, being a rich food source for the local insects and getting rained on. But the thing that really got to me was the abuse of the fish: the catching them at all thing, the throwing them back as it was only for my amusement thing, the sometimes swallowing the hook and needing to dispatch the fish thing, well the whole thing thing. So I gave away all my rods and tackle to someone who may be able to put those things aside.

Nowadays I live near the sea and I have been idly pondering what it would be like to fish in the ocean.

I live just to the south of the Lake District and on the northern edge of Morecambe Bay. The tide would come in only for a few short hours so I would need to be on my game.

I parked up on the promenade with the sea lapping at the base of the wall. I had been swotting up on the internet and watching how-to-fish videos, what could possibly go wrong?

I have a great deal of trouble concentrating when I am being observed, or where there are a lot of distractions. A spot of peaceful fishing would be just the ticket then as I remembered fondly those halcyon days of golden youth sat on a tranquil river bank whilst the water voles swum around in little circles, happily in denial about my seeming inability to do even a passing impression of someone who knows how to fish.

I put together all my kit whilst trying to ignore the heavy and noisy traffic a few yards behind me and carefully unwrapped the carefully folded newspaper bundle containing fresh bait, the innocuously named ragworm.

Oh god, the ragworm, these little critters really creep me out. They have mouth-parts that extend out and bite and they wriggle almost as much as my skin crawls in response. I dare you to google for a video on how to put a ragworm on a hook but believe me when I say it is entirely unpleasant both for me and the poor bloody worm. Nail number one in the will-Richard-go-fishing-again-likelihood-coffin. I'm still shuddering now at the thought of those little blighters. Euurggh.

Finally I hook up a worm and I'm ready to go, I'm not putting another one on so this one will need to get me a fish. Rod held aloft I make the first cast.

Not bad for a first go but I need more distance to get to where the fish are so I try again and for a third time.

Still not far enough so I start reeling in for a fourth try until the line went suddenly very tight. It seemed to be caught on something, I tugged and tugged and tugged as though I was struggling against Jaws himself but it just wouldn't budge.


I eventually cut the line and tied it off to the railings next to me so I could retrieve the tackle once the tide had gone out. This seemed to be going really well.

During all this a van had pulled up along side my pitch and the driver in between bites of his sandwich gawped at my attempts at angling. It wasn't helping.

I rigged up again: new hook, new weights and oh god, another ragworm and tried to cast again. On the positive side my casting was very consistent. I had the right skill level to cast the same distance each and every time. This would be very useful if I needed to cast 15 yards but it really needed to be 100.

I unpacked my folding chair and sat down deflated under no illusion that I'd catch anything except some nasty ragworm-borne virus with my bait only 15 yards out from the shore. Especially as the tide had receded for 5 of those.

It was a showery and blustery day and the wind whipped up as a large black cloud threatened overhead. I imagined myself stoof proud on the prow of a fishing boat, complete with beard and yellow sou'wester, the plumes of spray carrying away my words as I shout 'thar she blows!"

My reverie was dashed on the rocks as an especially large gust blew straight underneath my chair and lifted the newspaper parcel beside me before depositing the wriggling ragworms all down the sea wall.

I actually thought this was quite funny. I now clearly remembered the real reason I gave up fishing. Fish welfare was the least of my issues. Ineptitude was a much bigger barrier to breach.

A couple of minutes after this an old guy in a clapped out car parked even closer than mr van man, wound down his window, perched an elbow on the sill and pointedly shot a toothless grin right in my direction.

Call it ESP but I could hear his thoughts in my mind: "what you caught then? Anyfing big?"

By this point I was pretending to actually fish. I'd reeled in the tackle I had left, put it back into the tackle box and retied the stuck tackle to my rod and line. All I was doing now was waiting for the tide to go out so I could retrieve the stuck mess and go home.

I wondered to myself how I would like to spend the next cringe-worthy hour pretending to fish in the sea? Well for starters I would like to have at least two people watch me do that and one of them in particular should be found to be staring at me every time I turned round to catch his eye, with a grin and a nod as if saying "eh, eh, fishing, hmm, eh?"

Yes those things would make time absolutely fly by and being a very nice way to spend one hour that would actually feel like several decades.

And finally when the tide did eventually go out I'd want them to witness me go an retrieve my tackle snagged beneath the tiniest of pebbles as if that is what real fisherman do.

Sea fishing? Nah.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

High Summer Petal Colour Wheel

I sat down and meditated this morning for the first time in quite a while. The relief from the rut I was in was almost instant, the knot in my back unwound and the cloud of malaise, tension and distraction started to lift as the sun shone through.

When I make sculptures I find it opens me up. I have to write down my thoughts within a few hours of finishing or else, like a flower at sunset, my petals curl up and I am closed again until the sun warms me up another day.

If I wait too long the flow of ideas and consciousness are gone right up to the point where I am unaware I had them in the first place.

I made this sculpture over a month ago and as is normal I involuntarily hooked up with my unconsciousness, the dam was breached and the river of thoughts poured out of me.

I never find it hard work writing what I do, it just tumbles out of me and seems to write itself. I simply need to listen to the dictation and jot down what I hear. But I waited too long and the lock gates slammed shut, the tide held back and from that moment I have been unable to write, create or do anything but spend all my energy trying to avoid myself.

Sometimes a day, a week, a month or even a couple of years pass before I stop and realise that there is even a well within me that needs to be unblocked and left to flow. When the dam wall is holding back the flood a general feeling of stress and anxiety pervades.

If at that point I don't take the chance to check into myself then instead of the sluice gates being opened every now and then to relieve the pressure, I issue a diktat to the little crew of men who maintain the dam to build it a little higher as that will hold back the flood. As the wall grows ever higher it soon becomes so tall that I can't even see there is flood water being held behind it. And soon after that I *forget* what the dam is even for, it's only purpose is to grow taller and taller.

There's a few things in my life that I've done that have given me clarity but many thousands that have had the opposite effect. All of the latter seek to distract me from my anxiety with the unfortunate consequence of being temporary, increasing the low level stress and malaise I experience and moving me ever further from any clarity at all to the point where the distraction techniques need to be even more ruthless and destructive, none of which deal with the root causes at all.

The result is inaction, procrastination and fear and an inability to even be aware that you are descending in a spiral further and further away from the life giving rays of the sun.

Eating crap, eating too much, drinking alcohol, taking drugs. Interacting with your laptop, iPad, smartphone all at once at the same time as watching telly, reading a book and flicking through a magazine. Spreading your attention all over the place, like a micro thin smear of marmite on toast, never concentrating on any one thing entirely whilst the grains of your life fall out through your fingers as you squeeze tighter and tighter.

As I said earlier, this morning I sat down and meditated for half an hour for the first time in a few years and within seconds there was instant relief. The dawn sun peeped over the horizon and the petals felt the first kiss of warmth. As the earth slowly rotated and the sliver became the hints of a disc the core of the flower began to thaw and the petals unfurled like a clenched fist gripping tight onto its tension and fear.

And then I felt it, like the flower bathed in sunlight, I could see clearly once again. The workers marched up to the rusty wheel at the base of the dam and armed with metal bars wrenched it open with a loud squeak until the water began to trickle through again.

As the flow increased a pool of these words gathered below the dam wall and here I am watching the whirlpool dictate to me and typing out all these sentences as they swirl round and around.

It is with palpable relief that I am writing this and feeling a moment of clarity, the knot in my back is still gone and I feel lighter than air.

I must grasp this opportunity wholeheartedly. All I need to do is sit down and meditate again tomorrow. It's all too easy to shut up the sluice gates again and forget myself entirely. What a terrible waste that is.

There's a couple of times a year where I feel the need to take action and for me they are around the cusp of spring and autumn. Perhaps there's something that has evolved within us that in times past drove us to prepare for the growing season and to harvest and prepare for the upcoming days of darkness.

In the last couple of weeks I've felt the oncoming of autumn and with it have been delivered a gift. A moment to pause and reflect and take stock and ponder on what is to come.

Over the last few years I have created much less in total after a long period of almost obsessive prolific-ness. But during those less productive times I still felt compelled to create something to mark these two times of the year. It feels organic and something physiological drawn from within.

Thank **** there's a bit of me deep down in my core somewhere that's in cahoots with nature and the real world! Even if I sometimes I lose it down the back of the sofa and forget I even had it until I go looking down there for some spare change, it comes knocking to wake me from my slumber and slaps me round the face before calling me 'idiot!'

Or else I may have spent another year becoming ever more blind, getting fatter and feeling like my only connection to what's out there is through the diddy screen on my smartphone, endlessly waiting for a bell to ring like a dog under the tutelage of Prof Pavlov.

How much more fulfilling, compelling and thrilling it is to start drooling when mother nature rings her bell instead. The flowers have turned to seed and the days are shortening and at last I can see the trees in the forest once again.

And not a single bloody moment too late in the day!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How very bloody ironic. 

I can just hear it now. "Ooh isn't that so very zen." "I love those pebbles in such perfect balance."

Well this stack is the very essence of everything that isn't zen, this is it's antithesis. This is the anti-zen.

There's what I want my art to be and then there is what it is. The better I get at it the harder it becomes. I want to up my game, I want the things I make to be well, 'better', more accomplished, more *worthy*. I casserole these feelings while sat at home, creating stewed dumplings of desire, intention and enthusiam. "I'm going to try harder", "I'm going to put more energy into it", "I'm going to get better at this stuff".

And then I'm there. Standing in some place ready to begin. Now what?  

My art and me have an identity crisis, neither of us know who we are. We recognise each other but we don't identify with ourselves at least not when the actual art is taking place. I am an artist when I'm not actually doing any and someone else entirely when I am. I can look through my back catalogue of creations and say "I made that" yet when I am actually trying to create something it's a maelstrom of doubt, inability and confusion. And then the chaos ends and I grab my camera and photograph whatver it is I have made.

I have a feeling that there's a lot of this about. The veneer and the chaos.

On the way to the beach I said good morning to the dog walkers and discussed the chilly July breeze and flashed smiles and greetings to everyone I passed. The cheery fellow off to do his work with his polished veneer.

By the cliffs I was alone and I scanned to the left and right for fear of being disturbed by anyone passing through. What a revealing word 'disturbed' is.

Now people are at a distance my mask is not active or available to hide behind so my reactions are true to myself once again. As I see a family clamber down the rocks I internally plead 'please don't come over here, please just go away, leave me the hell alone!"

I wander up and down the beach looking at the pebbles, 30% of my attention on the ground and 70% directed randomly to imagined threats and worries and things all around me. I would think Yoda would have a word or two to say about that.

In the midst of this I'm trying to relax and balance rocks but all I do is pace up and down hoping that my unconscious will do my frontal lobes a favour and deliver up some ideas and inspiration.

What of the other conundrum? How do I know if whatever I've made is any good? Is it good if I enjoyed it? Is it good if I struggled through the creation instead? Is it good just because I made it? How hard exactly do you have to try?

I'm starting to wonder if we have a finite amount of 'trying' energy. You might want more, you might *want* to try harder but you only have a certain amount to expend before a recharge needs to take place. My techniques have improved which allow me do more with the same effort and time. I don't think I've managed to be able to try harder one little bit.

My sculptures come out like they do and it is them that decide what they'll be. Whether they'll come easy or with a struggle, are a success or are a little bit meh.

I don't know how to do better or try harder, they happen in their own way whatever. When I look at work I admire and aspire to I think "I want to do that" but when I try I end up being me all over again, it's like talking or ranting or whinging. It's comes out like me everytime without fail.

But is this a cop out? Shouldn't I just *try* harder?

I wonder how much veneer and core there is about, how many people say "good morning" out loud and "leave me alone" on the inside.

Everyday on (two)Face(d)book I am bombarded with trite quotes and pearlised nuggets of wisdom about how I should spend the rest of my day, with such gems like:-

"Don't be afraid of opposition, remember a kite rises against not with the wind"

"We do not remember days, we remember moments"

"If you want to be trusted be honest, if you want to be honest be true, if you want to be true be yourself"

Sure there are kernels of truth in these phrases but to be brutally honest (and true to myself) everytime I read one of these quotes on FB I want to repeatedly beat myself in the face with a frozen leg of lamb until it all goes away :-)

Well so bloody what? 

Life is so much more tumultuous than a photo of a rock balance or the facebook persona of someone with the 'perfect' life. When I peep at what I don't have, and stare into the face of what I should be I should remember that not everything is quite as it appears.

As someone wise once said then got quoted and shared on Facebook. Tomorrow is another day. And maybe the angst will be forgotten then. Until the next time anyway.

And yet this sculpture contains all that. It probably looks like I just grabbed a couple of pebbles, stacked them up, took a pic, wandered home. What it doesn't show is the hours of pacing, the failed sculptures that didn't make it, the scratching around for ideas, the wanting to go home, the tension, the self doubt and quite how long it took to find a selection of nice round pebbles that would actually balance together without falling over, over and over again. 

So there it is again. Beneath the peaceful surface lies turmoil.

Oh how very zen...

Just a little something I made in the garden this morning...

I wasn't sure if I could have made anything today. You see, I often have a peculiar affliction and I wonder if any of you experience it too.

I've heard many different opinions and with mine I think a lot of what people tell me is based on how they experience the world rather than how I do.

Let me explain: nearly every single night I dream vividly. It feels like I have been dreaming all night and upon waking I can accurately remember 5 or 6 dreams and little details about each.

One person suggested I may have a sleep disorder and should get it checked out. Another said that I was only sleeping lightly and must be doing so all night, whilst others suggested that I should avoid caffeine and cheese before bed.

Now some of those things might be factors and explanations for why I feel a little bit wasted, like a zombie and almost strangley bereft after a full on dreaming session.

The thing is my dreams are eventful, enjoyable and quite thrilling. Even when I meet a dangerous foe I normally come out fighting and then winning. My dreams are not often frightening or frustrating, in fact they are a lot of fun.

But when I wake up I can't seem to think straight, it's not just tiredness it's something else. I feel emotionally wasted, edgy and unable to engage with the world. It feels like I've done all my living while I'm asleep and now I'm awake I need to retreat to recharge.

In the midst of all those explanations I think there is something they're missing. It's the curse/blessing sandwich of being sensitive. I think I'm just wired to dream in hyper-stereo and rainbow-technicolour.

Trouble is I can't run away and hide behind the sofa when I am overwhelmed in dream world so I awake having started my day the night before.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Song Number 2

 Let the gibberish commence...

A couple of years ago I had a kind of synaesthetic vision. I was listening to some music which included different female vocalists and then I started to drift off to sleep and the music began to weave itself inot my dreams.

As the melodies seeped into my brain I started to see them as colours and shapes that flowed and warped and changed. Each different singer would have their own particular shapes, colours and movements and I was filled with the sense that just like each variety of Bird of Paradise has their own song, colourful plumes and mating dance, each singer displayed their song like a beautiful array of multi coloured feathers.

I felt like I was the dull brown male bird being entranced by the female siren, beguiled by her myriad of majestic colours, her dance and her song.

I can still see those shapes and colours in my mind's eye and the strong feeling that human beings singing is so very much like complex animal kingdom displays, has stayed with me too.

Ever since I have wanted to express those synaesthetic visions through my art, backlit translucent sculptures would live up to the vividness of the colours I saw but I did not know where I would find the colours. Also the shapes would be very difficult to emulate when constructing fragile structures from only materials I find nature.

Over the last couple of years these ideas have continuously been doing lengths, backstroke, up and down in my mind-pool in the backyard. Sometimes it was widths if I was bored with thinking but the splashing continued nonetheless.

This morning I wandered into the garden and saw a carpet of petals on the grass beneath some corn flowers and then someone pulled the plug out of the pool.

For some reason I have very seldomly used flowers save for a couple of times when I used a load of dandelions. Somehow I felt that using flower colours was cheating, too easy, not difficult enough so I would have to immerse myself deeply in the environment. But here were the colours I needed, the hues that matched up with my vision. Art is full of arbritary, self-imposed rules but sometimes you need to break them to move on to something new.

As I searched for different colours I started to see the variance in structure and colour in petals. How buttercup petals are very shiny on one side and corn flowers are different shades of blue on each side. These would help me move one step closer to expressing my vision, of bringing my Song into life.

Sometimes I wonder whether some of the things I talk about here ring true to you or whether they sound embellished to fill out my artwork into something more fulfilled. I never do that, they are what they are and I jot them down as real as I can and express them to you how I experienced them at the time.
Just the same as my sculptures are real and only photographed to extract their essence, there's no trickery beyond bokeh, shutter speed and aperture and it is the same with my words too.

So, just what the hell am I going on about?

Last night on the local news they talked about the last flight of the majestic Vulcan, a cold war era long range nuclear bomber, delta winged and very, very loud. A stalwart of airshows, it really is a sight to behold, thunder held within aluminium, perspex and rivets.

The very last one is about to be decommissioned and it was to make it's last flight this very afternoon. It would set off from Carlisle at 2.30pm and land in Manchester at 3.

Very much the end of an era and I reckoned we might be near it's flight path. I looked at the clock in the corner of my screen and it said 2.45. I jumped up and crashed down the stairs and said to the missus, let's go outside and see if we can see the Vulcan.

As I opened the door, immediately I could hear it's roar and disorientated for a second I scanned the sky and there it was directly overhead, straight up, 12 o-clock on the dot. We watched her disappear over the horizon and felt a little sad to see her go.

I said to Julia "well, how about that, there it was as soon as we stepped out the door and it was flying directly over our house."

"It must be something to do with doing some land art today, things always happen when I do as though someone knows I need material for my story."

I like to pretend I believe in fate, it is generally a nice thing to do. I don't really though, although everything is intertwined and interconnected, I do not believe anything in life is predestined or determined.

But I'm happy to pretend that they are, it is satisfying to think that I opened my mind through my work today and the Vulcan flew over to say hi, just for me and, just because. It's a nice thing to believe even if you are just pretending.

Nature had a hand in this sculpture too. The stems sunk a little as I put it into the water and the surface tension grabbed some of the petals and separated them from the discs they were stuck onto with spit. Of course mother nature plays a big hand in what I make, indeed in everything you and I ever do. But the slow spread of the blue and yellow petals revealed her calm hand gently moving the passage of time along one more tick of the clock.

Song Number 2 by Richard Shilling - Leighton Moss, Silverdale, Cumbria 27th June 2015

Made with pear tree branches, discs of bark and cornflower, poppy, rose, wild rose, geranium and buttercup petals

Thanks to Marcin for his work with flowers and for the inspiration.

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Song Number 1

It's been a while but it's time to share some new work. The beginning of a new project: Song.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Annapurna Forest Colour Diamond

Before the waffling starts I will tell you a little about this sculpture. It was made in the rhododendron forest in the entrance to the Annapurna Sanctuary in the Nepal Himalaya. I sat on a rock and made diamonds of the coloured leaves I found on the forest floor, whilst the dappled sunlight danced on the dusty path. I stitched them together with berberis thorns that grow naturally in the Himalaya, I use them at home too but I am only able to due to the plant collecting Victorians. A tree, some sunlight and camera. Job done.

Sew (I've always been told to not start paragraphs and sentences with 'So'), just where have I been? Same place as you have, out there somewhere in the world.

Sow (female pig or scattering seeds?), what have I been up to? Same as you out there somewhere doing stuff.

If I was trying be self-important then I'd probably say I've been having an identity crisis. But that isn't really true. 

For a while it seemed like I should be a card-carrying, union-represented 'Land Artist' as though that is a profession that your school careers adviser says you should be when he's asked you a barrage of questions, crammed the answers into a computer before it spat out a dot-matrix  print-out with a route map for your life.

Careers Advice Super Computer - has spoken
Richard will be, one (or more) of the following:-
Land Artist
Computer Programmer
Phone Answerer
Sympathetic Ear
Computer Keyboard Tapperer
Grammar/Spelling Pedant
End of Life Path Prescriptor

And to be fair it was pretty accurate, I have indeed been one or more of those things at one time or another. But it did miss off something very important:-

You see, what I really am is one end of the telescope looking in or out. In fact all of us exactly that, nothing more, nothing less but it is everything.

I am the moment when picking a blackberry, when watching the squabbling cloud of comedy sparrows on the seed feeder in the back garden, the breathless exultation when reaching the top of a hill on my bike. I am the sharpness when I stab my finger with a mis-directed thorn while constructing a leaf sun wheel, I am jolt of the thrill when the setting sun is ever-so red. We are all those things over and over and over, every moment of everything, always.

Creating sculptures is that, riding my bike is that, drinking tea is that, doing any and everything is that.

So what? You say!

I'm not a Land Artist. Making sculptures is something I sometimes do.

I'm not a blackberry picker, it is something I sometimes do.

I'm not a professional sunset watcher, it is something I sometimes do.

I'm not a cyclist, but riding a bike is something I sometimes do.

I'm not a professional waffler or rambler, but if there was market for it I would try to be :-)

I went through a prolific period of making natural sculptures pretty much everytime I could. It drove me, it obsessed me, I loved it.

Then I stopped being obsessed.

The obsession evaporated as miraculously as it arrived. And so I did something else. I got a bike and rode it for mile after mile and explored everywhere I could and I loved that too. And I still do. And sometimes I make sculptures but neither of those activities define me.

The product of my activity may have changed but everything else is the same, I'm still standing on tip toe peering into the end of the telescope to find out what I can see.

I've always just followed my nose, lived from day to day and whatever happens, happens, I rarely plan in any detail but just go with the flow. From the very first days I can remember it was always so, obsessive-always-doing-it-land-art was just one small chapter in a multi-season box set always constructed around the same theme. 

It's what I see through the telescope that defines me not what ideas I bring to the seeing, at least that is what I hope to be.

A blog writes itself up to be a platform for you to share your life, thoughts, musings with the world. The word 'share' naturally implies that someone else is on the other end of the sharing and you imagine they naturally agree with you. But really it is just a virtual soapbox upon which to stand and shout. Passers-by might point and laugh at you or perhaps there aren't any passers-by at all. 

These days there are vastly more of us standing on soap boxes all believing we have something important to say and probably vastly fewer listeners. But it offers us the illusion we have a voice whether or not the output enters an ear, and I like that. 

It's all out there somewhere if you choose to look for it, and one person's dross is another's wisdom. In the end none of it really matters, all that does is each moment peering into the end of the telescope.

This is my round-a-bout way of introducing my new blog - Art of Slack. Ignore it, wander past and point and laugh and throw a few rotten tomatoes if you like, or whatever you feel is appropriate. I feel like writing about it is a subject, despite it not appearing as a subject line on my Career Computer Print-out Prescription.

All the waffle above is only about mindfulness, not a new concept of course but a fundamental one all the same. I'm not sure I practice it in the true sense of the word, as practice implies training and it not coming to you naturally. Whereas I think I do it automatically to some limited extent and I am very fortunate to do so. I am not unique in that respect as all us sensitives who marvel at everything around us and value peace and quiet will testify.

The Art of Slack, however, is an idea I've seemed to always know about. I thought I'd read it somewhere but cannot now find its origin but no matter, wherever it comes from I think there is something tangible that I feel the need to try and explain, to myself more than anyone, but feel free to eavesdrop if you like.

A hint at what it is, is what happens when you can't remember a word or someone's name. The harder you try the harder it is to conjure it up. But as soon as you stop trying (not pretend to stop trying but actually forget you were trying to remember) it pops into your head. But, with the added bonus that if it doesn't you've forgotten you were trying to remember anything so you no longer worry.

Anyway that is just the tip of the iceberg. My term 'The Art of Slack' is the art of not-trying, not-doing or perhaps tapping into the unconscious mind or perhaps it's something magical, who knows! It isn't being lazy or callously uncaring but letting go to allow something to be. But I think its power extends into many, many things.  I could well be very wrong but I will have some fun finding out one way or another even if I find out nothing at all. 

All the while I will be peering into the end of the telescope...

Friday, November 30, 2012

New Calendar for 2013 and Blurb Christmas discounts

My calendar for 2013 has finally arrived! 18 months ago a publisher asked me if they could put one together using my images, I was chuffed to bits and to now have one in my greasy mitts, well how cool!

Amber Lotus Publishing are a lovely fluffy company based in Portland, Oregan and they were an absolute pleasure to deal with, I had great fun sorting out the images for them and lots of excitement anticipating what it may look like. And finally it arrived the other day!

Larger than I thought, think of a vinyl album cover (though sadly it doesn't play a tune when you slap it onto a record player but it might ruin your stylus) and printed on dolphin/tuna/donkey sanctuary/hedgehog friendly paper. I can only imagine how many wonderful forests have been planted just to offset the printing of this calendar. I am expecting a massive kick back from the squirrels. They now owe me big time...

I have a few knocking around should you want one (that'll be you people with Paypal accounts and not any squirrels even if you have a PaySquirrel account), about £8 each give or take shipping and where you live in the world, drop me a line if you want one, there's a contact whatchamacallit on my website. You can get them on Amazon too should that mean you can get one cheaper wherever you are. They don't ship to squirrel land so take note nut munchers. You can get them plenty of other places too apparently but you'll probably know better than me about that.

Oh and finally should you want a book for Chrimble, Blurb are knocking £7 off until 13 December, just enter SAVE7 at checkout. If you squirrels want one then you'd better ask Blurb if it is alright to pay in hazelnuts.

Monday, October 08, 2012

I miss you most of all when autumn leaves start to fall

I feel your loss so much more when the autumn leaves start to fall by escher is still alive

I sincerely believe that most of the decisions we make, especially the important ones, are not made consciously. I'm not talking about whether you fancy carrot or fruit cake with your cup of tea, but the choices upon which the direction of your life hinges. There is so much to ponder and process that any conscious decision made is an illusion. The unconscious mind is required to process all the complexities.

During the time you try and make the decision if you continue to feel turmoil then you aren't ready to choose, your unconscious mind has not finished it's job. One day it will cease to be a decision anymore where you have to choose at all. One day you'll just know what is right, you'll feel it in your core without necessarily knowing why. I've been witness to this happening in my life at several key points on my journey.

I've not been one of life's copers, 'you're too senstive!' they'd all say. Where shyness seemed to be the culprit and being forced to confront your sensitivies the solution, I would try and retract myself away from difficult situations. Sensitive people aren't necessarily shy, indeed I can be the life and soul, what we need is space to breathe, when we feel overwhelmed, which is difficult in the midst of a non-sensitive world, so often the urge is to retreat and to hide and to build a brick wall around oneself.

In my early twenties I had my heart broken and I had never felt so shattered and bereft. It brought on the mother of all retreats, outwardly everything was normal but inside the maelstrom was devouring my soul. Contact and vulnerability was dangerous and I tensed every sinew to make sure I could not endanger myself again. Hideously damaged on the front line I ran backwards as fast as I could.

A couple of months later I took on two cats who needed a home - their names were Lottie and Gizmo - and we three became a little family, we needed no-one else but ourselves. I poured into them all my vulnerability and love and as long as it would go on forever then I'd feel safe and happy and reassured. This wasn't a healthy place to be.

More than ten years passed and the wall I had built was solid, high and impregnable and yet I wanted someone to breach the defences. But it was far too high to throw the keys over. I was stuck behind ramparts of my own design.

And then events took another turn and someone managed to scale the ramparts and find their way in (wow! this sounds proper corny! But hey it's all true so I'm just gonna have to carry on). She loves me back the same way I love her and she's my rock. Just by being there she allows me to step outside of myself and grow and mature, without her I'd still be an emotional cripple, although I still have to walk with a stick!

Despite this my feline coven remained and I had not prepared at all for their inevitable passing, I just couldn't contemplate having my heart broken again.

And then Gizmo died quite suddenly and once again I felt snapped in two. I felt she'd been snatched away from me. I felt cheated and angry and desperately hurt. I wasn't prepared then for the realities and harshness of life. it knocked me sideways and I dreaded every single day after that I would lose Lottie at any moment too.

That was six years ago but Lottie's feisty character and vitality lived on and on, never quite quelling the dread I felt but filling my life with many magical moments of comedy and companionship. What a fantastic little character she was.

But I knew the day was coming and I knew I couldn't hide from it. One day soon she would be gone.

She became ill several months ago and it was the beginning of the end but despite this I was going to ensure that her final days would be fantastic and she would have quality of life to the end. I did everything I could for her, and I suppose for me too but I also wondered whether I would be brave enough to know when her time had come.

A week ago she took a turn for the worse and I knew the day was galloping towards me. I felt like things were okay whilst I could do something, make things better, make her happy and she'd let me know that she was okay too. But now I'd run out of things I could do, I'd become helpless in the midst of inevitability and I already felt grief piled upon me.

And then I had a dream:-

I was at the bottom of a sea cliff with another rock climber. I climbed up the face to the top and then it was his turn to follow. Half way up his grip loosened and he fell off breaking the fingers on one of his hands. I lowered him on a rope to the bottom of the cliff and attempted to phone for an ambulance on my mobile phone, but I couldn't raise a signal.

I shouted down to him, "don't worry, I'll go and call for help! There's a building over there, they'll surely have a phone!"

I ran over the building and it was a large office full to the brimwith people working. I frantically went from desk to desk picking up each phone but I couldn't reach the emergency services. I was thwarted at every turn. I tried and tried and tried but it just wasn't going to happen. I could do no more for my friend, my attempts to help were now futile and the gradual realisation was upon me that it was time to give up and let it go.

When I woke up from the dream I knew what it meant, in fact I knew what it meant whilst I was dreaming it too. Lottie should not suffer more than she has to, it was time to let her go.

Today was the day I'd lose her, that day I had dreaded for six years. But I just knew it was time to say goodbye, it felt right, it felt necessary, I wasn't torn. Her spirit remained until the end and it was peaceful when she did go.

I had tried to imagine this day and the very thought of it made me sick to my stomach but now it was here an inner strength bubbled up from within me and I felt able to cope and to do the right thing. I found peace with the decision I'd made and I knew deep down it was right.

Of course I am sad and bereft but my unconscious mind had been working overtime and through all this I'd reached a point of acceptance. I wasn't to be tossed around in the hell of having my heart broken as I had before, this time I had a chance to come to terms with a little more of the realities of life, when before they would eat me alive. Without my rock looking out for my welfare I don't know how I would have come this far.

Within us all, us non-copers and the rest, an inner strength can appear when we need it. It makes subconscious decisions for us and carries us high on its shoulders exactly when we need it the most.

Perhaps we owe it to ourselves to tap into this inner force at other times too, when we aren't so painted into a corner. Building walls can be a necessary short term solution but you must dismantle them before they get too high. It's not healthy to go along otherwise. But then hindsight is a wonderful teacher, I can only hope I heed my own advice in the future.

I haven't made anything for quite a while and it was about time that I did. This is for you Lottie, I miss you but all ends are a beginning too.

And to the twonk who thought it necessary to drive his Subaru Imprezza WRX at over a ton through the lanes today. Don't worry, you can get penis enlargement surgery these days, I know I get emails about it all the time. And There's Viagra if you don't have the time.

And finally: Today's land art was brought to you by the words 'pretzel' and 'butterfly'.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jungle Leaf

Jungle Leaf by escher is still alive
Jungle Leaf, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

Here's another excerpt from my Nepal trekking journal:-

I expect if you heard the sound of your own kid's noise, the way someone else without the built up tolerance might. Or you could fully appreciate and empathise with those who's peaceful idyll had just been disturbed, then you'd probably go stark-staring, cockle-bonkers mad.

So, dear reader, (always love to begin a paragraph with a so) I am writing this beneath a blue tin roof of the Dhampus Holiday Home trekkers lodge in the foothills in the Annapurna Himalaya in Nepal.

The last of the sun's rays lick at the cold glacial ice cream tumbling down the flanks of the impossibly pointy peak called Macchapuchre or 'Fishtail'.

If the professor of mountains from the mountain's guild and the head of the mountain university had got together to design a peak that would be the mountain to end all mountains, so that hills would have to skulk off in a sulk, then surely this would be it.

I am surprised it hasn't torn a hole in the sky. Its razor sharp edges would surely cut through and rip the most tightly woven oxygen molecules. It should be able to cut a line all the way around the earth as it spins, loosening the top of its scalp like a soft-boiled egg.

In the distance I can hear a farmer goad his oxen to continue their furrow and dig deeply into the parched soil. The shrill peep of an eagle pierces the air and the terraces cascade everywhere like endless staircases.

Truly Shangri-La, what could taint or spoil such tranquillity and wonder at the savage beauty of the mighty Himalaya.

Well how about eight children under the age of ten trekking with their half deaf, two pair parents. Screeching and fighting and running rings around me and my tranquillity.

Now don't get me wrong, I like children but I couldn't eat a whole one. Being a sensitive type, the abrupt transition from peace and quiet to screeching is just ever-so, a-little-bit jarring.

I have a tendency to offload any extra stress by whining. It can feel like I am bobbing along in a little rowing boat, oars up and prostrate, staring at the sky. When a speedboat full of squawking infants draws alongside and their wake fills my boat with unwelcome water and unless I bail furiously, I'm gonna sink without trace. To save myself from a watery demise I have to mutter under my breath “bloody parents, can't they not hear the noise their own children make? And at least ask them to quieten down a little?” But alas surely you'd go a particular nutty type of nut, that would get stuck between anyone's teeth if you really could take in their noise, full-force, unfiltered by the numbed brain of parenthood. And murdering your own children, though temporarily satisfying is probably not a great thing to do.

What's life about if it's not about doing what enthuses you. It matters not what it is as long as it drives you, it's the motivation that's the key.

For a good few months now land art has not been my thing. The drive it once saturated me with, boiled dry and evaporated into the ether. I didn't know where it initially came from and once it had gone, I didn't know where it went.

I only wanted to travel to wild places and be myself within them. Nothing inside of me wanted to commune and express nature through little sculptures at the mercy of the wind. I still felt the buzz for life and Mother nature but through other things, other activities and ideas. I was not cast out or stranded or lost just not artistic or motivated to create. But still I felt like part of my identity was missing. Did I care? Not really, but I did care that I didn't care.

I was left in a little quandary. Would it ever come back and if not what then?

Today a little of it came back and I wanted to make something once again. I didn't have the right tools or the time or opportunity to gather ample materials but I did have the most wonderful landscape in the world to gawp at and a whole gamut of of new plants and trees to feed my soul.

Most importantly of all I had that little flame lit within me and I wanted to feel the warmth of its flickering light. It is that that's all important, the rest is just fluff and nonsense.

Of all the tools I need to create something, it's that that sits at the top of the pile. The result might not be all that, out of practice and away from things and places I know. But whether the image is striking or not, I felt it inside.

Then again it might be gone again just as quickly as it re-arrived. Something else will drive me ever onwards and I may never make anything again. Or I may do nothing but, who knows?

But for today I created something and it made me happy just for today. And really that's enough until tomorrow. And tomorrow is just another day.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Annapurna Leaf Colour Discs

I've just come back from another fabulous trip to Nepal, some trekking, some chilling, some peace. She surely is my spiritual home and I was so very glad to visit her warmth once again. Whilst trekking in the Annapurna Himalaya I made some things next to the trail. Here's an excerpt from my journal on the day I made this little sculpture:-

Nepal isn't like anywhere else I've ever been. It seems to change me on the inside, it's not just the outside environs that are different.

Other places in the world have left my soul untouched. It's as though I've simply taken the me from home and travelled with it to a foreign land. I'm still the home 'me', stood somewhere else.

But Nepal is different, it seeps through my pores and changes me to what I should be. I feel at peace, confident and full of joy. My sensitivity becomes a blessing and never a chore. It's as though my sensitivity was designed to live in and appreciate the multi-faceted beauty of this place.

It is much more than the mountains, the landscape, the trails, the walking. It's the people, the magical encounters, the just about bloody everything. But most of all it's the way I can open my heart and soul and let all the world pour in. Without cynicism, without fear, without shyness, without worrying about difficult emotions and how I will handle them. Without the need to manufacture situations so I can sheild myself from things I can't cope with, all and everything that holds me back, makes my sensitivity difficult and taxing and sometimes the bane of my life. Here I am free, unleashed, filled with joy and happiness.

I can let my sensitivity fly free and grab onto every wonderful flower, tree or bird and to experience the rhythmic magic of simply placing one foot in front of the other. This is where I am meant to be , unshackled and home at last.

Now don't get me wrong. I have a rich and fulfilled time at home. But the mundanaties of life push spikily against my psyche and make some everyday tasks and relationships difficult. To feel every nuance can render you often vulnerable, confused and overwhelmed. Aching to hide from the world and to launch my vessel into the river of my own inner thoughts. That's why I love to cycle, to run, to walk, to climb and to create. The sublime lives within these things and I go looking for them to release my soul on a long leash and to let it stretch its legs for a while.

But being in Nepal is not simply a holiday, a break from those taxing minutiae of everyday life. I am not free of those things through simply being away, when I've travelled to somewhere in the States, Europe or South America I've brought a lot of those things with me.

But here I've stepped through the secret door in the back of the wardrobe into another me and another realm.

It's only when I'm here that I remember. It's only here when I am totally me once again. All those times when my innards soared skywards when climbing a snow covered mountain at home, when I've cycled to a long toiled for hill summit or lived the moment when a sculpture resonates, becomes vibrant and electric, when it is more than the sum of its parts. All those times join together with all the months I've spent in Nepal, connecting together all the sublime times in my life.

Another existence running in parallel, rich and diverse and perfect. Perhaps that's what Buddhist enlightenment feels like. Where you can ride the waves and ripples of life. It does not matter what happens, it only matters how it affects you. If the rough feels as important and as interesting as the smooth then maybe you've found the secret to how you should live your life.

I cannot manage to live in this enlightened way much of the time but I am so very grateful to have as much of it as I do. I hope to extend the length of these moments and tie the ends together with little knots in the strands of experience. And maybe one day I'll have a very long length of tightly woven cord, stretching from one side of my existence to the other and nothing, and everything will matter all at the same time.

Aside from how this place makes me feel it is brimful of brilliant in such a wonderful myriad of ways. Today was an experience of a thousand different treats.

We waited for the sun to warm us before shouldering packs and trudging into dense bamboo forest. We entered a deep gorge that is the gateway into the Annapurna Sanctuary and the trail cuts a path along the steep gorge walls like a wound.

Laim, Bamboo and Rhododendron forest dapple the light onto our faces and beneath our feet is a carpet of fallen coloured leaves while massive, savage peaks cut holes in the fabric of the sky.

Julia was a little way behind so I stopped awhile and sat on a warmed, sunlit stone. I collected up some red, orange and yellow leaves and cut circles around a five rupee coin. I stripped some sedge grass and pinned them on with Berberis thorns.

Unusually I could step off the trail here and pin my sculpture up in a tree. Normally the drop offs, either side of the trail, are so steep that you can touch the top of the trees. Nepal is so very corrugated and dramatic but not so good for setting up a little sculpture amongst the foliage. But here was perfect with plenty of room to pick a good spot with bright sunshine and plenty of contrast. Within a few minutes it was positioned and set against the dark trunk of a Rhododendron tree. The breeze swung the branch it was fixed to so I snapped away hoping for something good and sharp and clear.

My land art comes in thirds. Every third attempt just seems to click. All the elements combine just as I imagine they may do if I had had a plan in the first place.

A quick stop on a rock in the sunshine, surrounded by beautiful hued leaves. A quick circular route with scissors and a construction was soon created. Everything combined as I would want it. The place, the materials, the sunshine: click, it was all there.

So this was the third of the three and how I would want it to be. All the pieces fell into place without me really trying very hard.

If you live your life without expecting anything and then are happy with whatever life dishes up, then surely that's a better way to be. If you can conjure up that carefree existence, go with the flow and live from moment to moment it just seems to come together how you may have wanted it to if you'd spent any time wondering how you will want it to be. But the key seems to be not wasting any time pondering on what you would wish for and grasping gently and just letting everything be. Maybe not everything will be just how you would like it, but surely you'll settle for one in three!