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“I have no cats, perhaps because I am one,
tiptoeing gingerly through life
or gathering myself into a glossy ball
of indifference and self-sufficiency.”
– Edmund White
We had a dear friend over for a long evening of great conversation and good food and drink on Friday. Along the way he mentioned some self-doubts which most truly creative people have from time to time, or sometimes a lot of the time. “What if my writing/painting/poetry/fill in the blank is mediocre, or has been done better by someone else. I see the ideal in my mind’s eye but it never comes out like my ideal. Yet it feels like it comes through me from a Divine hand. But why should I bother? “
Well I have news for you Buddy, for myself and for all of the other Creatives who struggle with this very same thing. What we make will never match the beauty and perfection and exquisiteness of our Ideal. Even the most accomplished Creatives have doubts about their abilities and output. But the struggle to put that beauty, perfection and exquisiteness into our work touches it with the Divine. And those who experience it are similiarly touched. And that’s a good thing.
I recalled, found and shared this quote from the American dancer & choreographer Martha Graham:
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is,
nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions.
It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly,
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.
Keep the channel open.
No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction;
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes us more alive than the others.”
- Martha Graham
I feel that the ‘commercial’ art world is very cynical, soul-less and competitive. People who don’t make it there are made to feel as failures, which is wrong. Our artistic creativity is a gift and a blessing. So whatever art or craft you practice, keep doing it and share it with at least one other receptive person, someone who can see the divine in it. And then make another one.
I came across this quote the other day and have been holding it in my mind as I contemplate the night time forest.
“Color! What a deep and mysterious language,
the language of dreams”
– Paul Gauguin
It feels great to have gotten back to work painting the back of my ‘Forest of Dreams’ headboard quilt. I always feel like a ‘real’ artist when I paint, although I don’t really know what I’m doing half the time.
I’m using an assortment of fabric paints. I managed to get some colour and tonal gradations with my brushes, then I got out my wooden stamps to put some texture onto the surface of the ground and between the trees. First, I blocked off the tree trunks by pinning paper to the quilt.
Then I stamped the fabric.
Really pleased with the result!
Once I finished painting in the background, I took it off of my studio wall and into the kitchen. Partly because I thought I was going to do some screenprinting onto the surface (which I decided not to) and partly because I started painting my studio yesterday and ran out of workspace!
I’ve given some thought to what a dreamer might require when she enters the forest at night. Entities to light her way, but not to illuminate too much the mysterious darkness, for this is where she will find what she seeks.
I’ve been filling in some of the details, like the luminous primrose flowers,
gently glowing fireflies,
some more background foliage,
and the sweet surprise of the beautiful crescent of a new moon, glimpsed from behind the tree trunks and leaves. Here, I’ve ‘auditioned’ the moon in paper before painting it in a silvery-white.
Next, I’ll put the quilt onto the headboard so that I can determine where to place a hand lettered poem I wrote for the back of it.
Remember the Mary Engelbreit craze in the early 90′s? Little collections of pleasant thoughts and gentle reminders to look on the bright side to share with anyone who needs a little pick-me-up on everything from greeting cards to fabric to ‘home accents’? I’ve always remembered this one -
I love the Co-op market in our village. It was refurbished just before we moved to Moretonhampstead, looks very smart and has a pretty good selection of food and wine. Although it can be feast of famine at times. For instance, there were no bagels for weeks, but there is currently a special on 500 ml squeezy bottles of Heinz Ketchup which can be bought by the caseload. So we’re flexible in our menu planning and when we go shopping.
The other day, punnets of cherries were reduced to 50 pence! From £4.00. So I picked up four of them and made our first meal at home, as husband and wife, based around cherries. I love cherries! The saying ‘Life is just a bowl of cherries’ means that life is pleasant and simple – just make sure not to swallow the pits and you’ll be fine.
I’ve made a cherry sauce for pork before with dried cherries and port, which was great and had a slightly tart twang to it. But I looked out a few fresh cherry recipes and cobbled this one together. It was very juicy and fresh . . . . . . succulent! I got the pork medallions sliced to order from Michael Howard, the butcher over the road from us.
Pork Medallions with Fresh Cherry Sauce
- 2 -3 pork medallions per person, cut from a pork tenderloin
- Sunflower oil for frying
- 1 cup flour
- ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
For the Cherry Sauce:
- ½ cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup of cherries, pitted and halved
Cut the pork tenderloin into 1/2″-3/4″ medallions and place inside a zip top plastic bag one at a time. Pound with a rolling pin until the medallion is 1/4″ in thickness. Repeat with remaining medallions.
In a large skillet, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan and heat over medium high heat.
While oil is heating, mix the flour, salt and pepper to a plate. Dredge the pork medallions in the flour mixture and place in the hot oil. Brown on both sides, cook for about 5 minutes and remove from pan. Keep cooked medallions warm under a foil tent while preparing the sauce.
Add the wine and vinegar to the skillet, stirring constantly and loosening up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Add brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the fresh cherries. Cook until slightly thickened. Off heat, add butter and stir until melted. Spoon over the pork medallions.
We had this with roasted potato wedges and steamed haricots vert. Boy, was it ever good!
For dessert, I made a clafoutis. A clafoutis (cherry flan) can be made from other fruits, but it is traditional in the Limousin during cherry season – peasant cooking for family meals and about as simple a dessert to make as you can imagine.
- 1 ¼ cups milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup flour
- 3 cups cherries, pitted
- 1/3 cup sugar
- powdered sugar
In a blender blend the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in a buttered 7 or 8 cup lightly buttered fireproof baking dish. Place in the oven until a film of batter sets in the pan. Remove from the heat and spread the cherries over the batter. Sprinkle on the 1/3 cup of sugar. Pour on the rest of the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about for about 45 minutes to an hour. The clafouti is done when puffed and brown and and a knife plunged in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, serve warm.
“Life is just a bowl of cherries, dont take it serious, its mysterious.
Life is just a bowl of cherries, so live and laugh and laugh at love,
love a laugh, laugh and love.”
- Bob Fosse
PS I probably won’t ever base a meal around Ketchup
The fourth and final runner that I made for our wedding feast was the element of earth.
From ‘Water, wind, earth, and fire: the Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements’ by Christine Valters Paintner:
“Earth stands for what is material and solid in our being. It is the element our bodies are made of, breathed into, lit on fire, with blood and water flowing through our veins. It becomes the container for the other elements. Earth as an element symbolizes the commitments and necessities of our lives. It represents our limitations as well as our possibilities. When we are deeply rooted, our branches can reach far and wide.”
When Steve and I were in London purchasing his trousseau, I found the perfect brown silk dupioni to use as the base. I used cream twill for the backing and added a middle layer of cotton wadding. I wanted my earth runner to be very solid. I screenprinted gold leaves with metallic fabric paint onto the silk. The runner was 130″ x 13″ and made for a table to seat eight people. This photo was taken post-wedding feast and has the impressions from someone’s wine glass on it.
When it came time to do the stitiching, a single line of gold metallic thread was all that it needed. I wanted to keep it very simple, restful and quiet. The design felt Japanese.
O Earth! O Earth! When will we hear you sing,
Arising from our grassy hills?
And say: “The dark is gone, and Day
Laughs like a bridegroom in His tent, the lovely sun!
His tent the sun!
His tent the smiling sky!”
How long we wait, with minds as dim as ponds,
While stars swim slowly homeward in the waters of our west?
O Earth! When will we hear you sing?
Today is the day that I will receive the 200,000th visit to Inspiraculum. I thought of what to write about, how to mark the occasion, what to give as a special offering. Yet it is really just another extraordinary day.
Yesterday, when I was at work, I turned to pick up my glass and have a drink of water. A shaft of brilliant sunlight had fallen on the spot where it sat. The glass and the water and the sunlight all played together to make a beautiful sculpture transmitting concentric rings and beams.
It was so beautiful. I paused and looked and felt grateful for the brilliant sunshine after a cold, rainy week and the coming of spring and the beautiful luminescence cast by the water and glass and sunlight. Then I had a drink and went back to my task. But somehow more in the present.
So this is my gift to you, today and everyday. A reminder to stop and be wherever you are . . . now. To look and see what wonderful thing or moment or person, plant or animal is right in front of you. Yes, maybe it is ‘just another day’, but there is extraordinariness to be found if you look for it.
Nothing is worth more than this day.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe