Saturday, 23 November 2013

A Red Letter Day

After the stormy week and the high tides and grey dull days, to wake up to a beautiful calm day was most welcome.  The sky was completely  blue,  not a single cloud  and the views just beautiful.  A perfect day for a walk.  We knew it was cold after many hailstone showers through the night and the white tops of some of the Lakeland mountains.
My newly knitted head and ear warmer, wrist warmers and  my new duvet jacket were all to be given their first airing.  And off we went to enjoy the day.  The first thing to make me stop were the gorgeous branches of red berries on one of my favourite hawthorn trees.  Many of the berries had been caught in the frosts and were blackened but the rest so beautiful against the sky.
We walked on and I could see the other trees covered in berries and  rose hips along the roadside.  The hailstones were still covering the grass verges where the sunshine had not reached.  I remembered collecting the rose hips from here on the first day of this year,  recording them in a long line in different stages of  being frosted and showing the change of colours as they start to decay.  On that same day the reds were so bright as it was a grey day and  I saw the red postbox glowing.  It is very natural for us as we have grown up with our little metal  red post boxes, you post your letters and they are collected each day by the postman in a red van.  Some are now positioned on  posts, others are in old stone walls.  I thought I would share  this one.
We saw so many lovely bright red berries, in the hedgerows and on the ground.  Lots had been half eaten.  The next lane we walked was leading  up to the old quarry workings, the ground was muddy but had so many different layers of leaves that it felt like we were walking on a soft carpet.  Of course I had to collect.  I always  take a long time to choose,  so many lovely colours and shapes.  The sycamore with the black spots, oak leaves with the orange spot fungi and the the little brown hawthorn leaves were added  to my bag.
The same things I see each year and yet I still love them, I still want to draw them.  I poked deep down in the thick layers finding the little red berries everywhere as they had  fallen onto the ground between the gaps in the leaves, and then I discovered the layers of  the tiny brown hawthorn leaves.  They are so pretty and delicate with their dancing shapes, a whole hand full of berries and leaves went into my bag.
I was now alone,  someone had carried on without me.  I realised just how quiet it was,  just the sound of my  foot steps in the leaves.  It was much cooler here,  lots of white patches of frozen hailstones, the cold grey slate walls and the towering hills of the slate waste.  Alone with my thoughts of how many times I have walked here. Memories of being  a little girl,  it seemed so steep.  This uphill incline was once the railway line transporting  the slate from the quarry down into the village.  On a summers day it seemed such a long way, so hot and tiring, I would gladly take an icy cold drink from the fresh water spout which came directly out of the rocks.
 Today the  water gushed out of a wall making this part of the  lane very muddy, the grey slate dust coloured this sloppy muddy mire.  I started to walk up the old stone spiral steps, now mostly reclaimed by nature and carpeted in thick moss.  A branch from the oak tree had  fallen on the steps making it difficult to pass, perhaps not a good idea to climb as I snagged my new jacket. Then I saw something at the top of the rusty hand rail.  I know what I thought it looked like, something so small and  it was sparkling in the sunlight.
I thought I must be wrong,  my eyes told me it was ladybirds but my head said no it couldn't be.  As I struggled up through the branches I realised I was right,  two tiny ladybirds.  Who would believe they could glow and sparkle so brightly.   Then such a surprise,  over eleven others in the groove of this old rusty metal handle and more on the ground.  I was totally mesmerised.   It was a moment I will never forget as I have barely seen any this year, now so many together.
The day was actually  the Sunday, the day of Remembrance in England,  a day we all wear red poppies.  At this very place I was standing there was once a monument with names of the men from the village who died in the war, workers from the quarry.  It has since been moved to another place in the Quarry.   I could not help but think it is a strange place for the ladybirds and yet it seemed such a fitting symbol of this special day, red and black like the poppies. We used to read out the names when we visited,  an uncle of my mums was amongst the names on the list,  he went to the war and never came home, Thomas Addison Bell.
It is here I like to collect acorns but only found  some acorn caps, a few half eaten acorns and noticed the strange growths of the oak galls on the branches.  I kept going back to see the ladybirds,  now huddled together as the sun dips and it is getting cooler.  The view from this high vantage point  looks down to the shore in the distance,  it would soon be sunset, the sun was dipping and the temperature dropping.  I was glad of my warm jacket and pleased to feel so warm and cosy with my handmade knits.
Walking home the red berries glow in the hedgerows. It has been a plentiful year.

  We saw a wrens nest full of moss, exposed as the hedge had been cut.  Then a brightly coloured tree covered in Rowan berries with the last few yellowing  leaves clinging on.  It shone so brightly behind the grey stone wall.  The walls which stand as a testimony to the skills and craftsmen of the quarry  workers.
It was  a week before I opened my bag of finds. Although I knew the contents of the bag I had the delight of opening it and again selecting some leaves and berries to draw.  I washed them and arranged them on a dish, all wet and glossy.

 This is my little arrangement. I sketched seven leaves.
Then chose ten berries,  some single and a double and two treble groups.  I actually had fun finding all the numbers up to eight hanging in groups together.  I love the variety of shapes and berries hanging on the trees.
First I painted the berries before my eyes became too tired. I used my acrylic inks and a fine brush.
 Them mixed different browns for the lovely shaped leaves. They always seem to dance on the paper.
We had our first sprinkling of snow this week, but it soon went as the sun shone all day.  Then today we woke up to a really white frosty shore and a very cold day.  Keeping warm by the cosy fire and wearing lots of layers.
I have almost finished my sewing project and will share that next time. Hope you are all keeping warm.
Thank you for visiting and for the lovely comments which I always enjoy reading.              
Hope you all enjoy seeing my world and what I have been up to. Bye for now.                  Millyx


Valerie Gardiner said...

Thank you Molly for another lovely post.It's so nice to see the nature in your part of the world and hear your memories of your childhood. I especially enjoyed your connection of the ladybirds to remembrance day.

Frances said...

Milly, I have so enjoyed your Red Letter Day post. I felt as if I was also all bundled up and walking alongside you as you made all those discoveries of natural beauty.

(I also liked that glimpse of your knitted wrist warmers...they are pretty and also look like they would keep your wrists nice and cozy. Perhaps you will also give us a peek at the hat?)

Those bright spots of red along your walk really do give a welcome accent to the landscape as winter nears, don't they? I love your dancing leaves with the red berries, and encourage other views to click on the photographs to see more of the details in your drawing and painting. It's fantastic!

I am wondering if I want to bundle myself up later this Sunday afternoon for a walk...the temperature is well below freezing with a generous wind adding to the outdoor challenge!


Tammie Lee said...

so many lovely photos of your autumn leaning into winter.

loved seeing the ladybugs. i remember one time, walking in a forest in California seeing a red log in the distance, went to take a closer peak and it was covered in lady bugs! i did not have a camera, but oh what an amazing sight.

lovely to see your dancing art.

David P. Allen said...

Milly, Love reading your blog all the way over here in the American south..Tennessee. I have also been reading lately a new book on artists houses. It prompts me to ask if you might ever post a few pictures of the rooms you create in, for those of us interested in the tender surroundings of artists like yourself. thank you for the beautiful posts, sincerely Leslie

suz said...

thank you for sharing your walk - it sounds like you live in a wonderful area. Your paintings are so pretty and delicate.

Feathers said...

Bright little Ladybird Beetles--I wonder how they survive such bitter cold, yet they do--Some find their way into the house, and often not found till spring, hard and dry (guess they don't do so well in the warmth) Your new knit mits look attractive--please tell me what is a duvet jacket? Sorry to hear that you snagged it.
Thanks for the interesting walk and paintings.

acornmoon said...

Looking forward to seeing your sewing project. I wonder if it will feature some of your lovely fabric designs?

Debbie Nolan said...

Milly - such a lovely peaceful post...I always enjoy my walks with you and all the lovely finds along the way. Your red mailbox is delightful to see...ours in the rural area here are not as colorful...I love that red. Your leaves and berries are so beautiful as always. Your post is just what I needed to relax and settle me friend. Have a wonderful start to Christmas.