Sunday, 30 December 2012

Christmas Swan...

As December 2012 draws to an end and I tune in to Brian Eno, I feel relaxed yet hopeful of new pastures...
I have just returned from my first Christmas out of London in years and, reflecting on the past few days, realise how much I needed to unwind.
A good dose of beach walking and wilderness filled with enchanted woods and muddy puddles and paths, have evoked feelings of calmness.
It was wonderful to spend valuable time with family in the place where I grew up. To feel connected is a precious thing and something which I had lacked in the past year. Strangely though, through this link, I rediscovered a sense of freedom, and found inspiration which I had been seeking...
Perhaps my photograph of the Swan stretching out his wings was an angel after all...
Thank you for a lovely Christmas.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Christmas Wish...

I am in a strange place right now. I am blocked again. The worry continues and has become, at times, physical pain. It's as though there are no words to describe what I am feeling, so my body reacts with a feeling of nausea and piercing head pain.
I have recently taken another blow to my self esteem, another disappointment. I am so tired of the struggle which is forever present. Each time I think I am safe and can begin to visualise realising my dreams and goals, something or someone pulls the rug out from under me. I honestly do not know why. It induces a personal doubt in my abilities and hinders my journey. Is the universe endeavouring to hold me back again for progress in personal growth, maybe a lesson not yet learned? Or am I scared of success and the commitment and responsibility that comes with it? I am uncertain at this moment in time. It's like three steps forward and three steps back to where I began. A resemblance to 'Groundhog Day'.
For a while there, I experienced happiness and the bubble exploded.
Now, however, a new path will begin in January. I do not know what, but hope for something which enables me to reach goals.
I am tired. As I gaze at the flame in front of me, I wonder what will become of me. My little Christmas tree echoes a glimmer of faith and wishes of previous years. The faith in a new year around the corner and possibilities which may unfold. 2012 has been hard work, emotionally and physically. There have been some heart - wrenching moments, some creative splurges, a sprinkling of joy (usually a photograph) and some new skills - can make a perfect cappuccino ! Yet, weirdness prevails. A sense of loss and anxiety.
As I look into the flame again... I remember the Robin story and the miracle that occurred after some patience and a little faith and visualisation. I remember a quote I read earlier in the year about trusting your vision and staying true to yourself.
If only I could afford that truth. I think I will be wishing for just that, this Christmas. To that end, I wish you all a festive season which surpasses all your heartening dreams...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

To Be or Not To Be...

Well... reflecting on the past few weeks, it has been quite a learning curve and I have reaffirmed my belief in certain aspirations which were becoming distant. Dreams and goals of a personal nature.
 In the midst of working harder than ever before, to earn a living, concerns avail. I worry. I have always been a worrier. I do not want to get caught up in a rut again. My job is full time and all consuming. This is my worry. Why? I hear you ask. The answer, my friends, is losing sight of my true path. Work is a means of survival and discipline. Recently I was told that I didn't like rules. Does anyone? When something hopes to turn you in to someone removed completely from your natural self, then, I will have to agree with this sweeping statement. I have values and standards, which, I feel, show an integral person. I am honest, reliable and do a great job, when energised and focused.I have had very positive feedback from many customers and can say, without guilt, that I am skilled and talented in more ways than I ever give myself any acknowledgement or credit for. So... what am I getting at and what is the problem... why worry?
 I am an individual. A free spirit. So... imagine a Snow Leopard or Cheetah. These incredible and stunning animals have been designed to perfection. They have individual skills adapted to suit their environment and lifestyle. Now... imagine if the Cheetah was taken out of the Savannah and put in side a fenced off area. No prey to chase or hunt. No reason to accelerate to seventy miles per hour or to utilise its honed instincts. Take the Snow Leopard. Amazing climber. Evolved to survive in mountainous terrain. Its stealth and beauty is surpassing. Now... picture this... The Snow Leopard (actually, six or seven of them), wrapped across someone's shoulders. Its dense, soft tail - necessary for balance when climbing and leaping and for warmth. The tail wraps around the cat's body, when curled up, like a thick, insulating, 'super - scarf'. Think of this... draped around a human neck, like some trophy.
 The point I am trying to make, without meaning to seem pretentious or 'special', is that some of us are destined for something else. We are designed to create or express or heal... and, not to live by another's order. However, thankfully, we are all unique. Some folk are happy to follow a routine day in and day out. They do not have the courage or desire to question beyond just that. Sadly, ( or happily) this is why I worry. I do question. I do wonder. I do not like feeling restricted... I have much potential and need to run at seventy miles per hour... I do not want to be draped like some glamourous robot. I need the freedom to climb in my own skin.
 Darwin once said, "We are all exactly where we are meant to be... " Sometimes, though, I cannot help but argue that isn't it what we hope for. Most of us are not where we are meant to be.. But, maybe the brave strive to be where they want to be?
 That said, Just know this... never stop scratching the itch deep inside. Stay in tune with your instincts, for they will guide you back to your truth. And... all you have to do is listen.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

After The Storm...

It's the end of August... everything is relaxed.. the wind is a mere, gentle, warm breeze and the recent storm has cleared the air.  An almighty crack of thunder was directly over the house last Saturday. I was in my room, when suddenly the house lit up with a streak of lightning. We were missed by just inches! I saw the lightning hit the ground straight in front of the window... phew... not my time yet. But, somehow, it felt like a warning from the heavens.... But that's just me... I like to read nature...especially when it is so dramatic. I guess it makes me feel alive and full of vitality. You see, it's not yogurt, but takes a violent storm to have this effect.... ( only kidding ). Then... the rain... bashing on the windows and making us feel safe in our homes. We all love that feeling. Cosiness and yet a little excited about the chaos outside.
 So... the electricity is discharged and we all lose our tension. The anticipation and headache have been removed, enabling us to see the fresh new world with clarity... I love the light after the storm. As the sun peeks through the drama and lifts the landscape in all its lushness.. then, a mellow sepia, washes over the eyes. Everything is moist and refilled with hope...
 The garden fox appears, tentatively walking across the wet, greener grass... the flowers raise their colourful heads and a sweet, mossy scent fills the air... All is well... After the storm.


Monday, 13 August 2012

Positive Thinking...

Ever since beginning the new job, little miracles have occurred. It's hard to explain but I believe it is the force of positive thinking coming in to play. It takes practise and the ability to hold on to something which is not yet tangible or reality. The evidence is in my recent photograph, which had undertaken considerable patience and imagination. Sometimes the moment happens and with a speedy response, one can capture an image to be frozen in time. Being in the right place at the right time with camera on standby... Other times, we hope to have the opportunity bestowed upon us by wiling something into the frame. Generally, though, this can be a very long wait and requires a very strong will. However, I think the will does have some role in the outcome. It seems that I am babbling on a bit, but this brings me to my point...
 I have spent everyday in our secret garden, at work, familiarising myself with a Robin. Probably not that amazing to some of you out there. Yet, to me, he feels like a little miracle. He seems wise and looks directly at me when I chat to him... From time to time he is quite playful and jumps from table to table.... into the flowers....he may perch on a bag or cheekily grab a little cake from your plate. He likes people and never fails to achieve a smile... He is very sociable and responds with beautiful melody... Have you ever heard a robin sing? Its really tuneful and full of joy. So.... you would think, naturally, an easy shot! Alas, not so easy... This little fella knows the camera. When I am out there alone with him, he is happy to grace me with his presence and mischievous character. Then, I begin to bring out the camera and.... he is off like a shot! This has gone on for a few weeks but my image in my mind had to become a real photograph and I would not allow myself to give up. I knew exactly what I wanted and had already composed the picture. Strangely though, this did not seem to be working.
 Then, the robin adopted the name Antonio (a long evolved story..) and he disappeared for a while... I was worried and thought that perhaps he had died or found another person to beguile. Nevertheless, I continued to watch out for him just in case.
 So... there I was last week, quietly eating my lunch on a ten minute break... when I suddenly heard a little russel in the trees and took in a breath. Nothing showed but I quietly put the camera in hand and said, "Please, Saint Anthony, let me have a picture.." Then, he flew in... Landing on my table... he turned around and looked right at me! I gasped and said "Antonio... hello!" Without hesitation he flew across to the table in front of the mirror and straight in to the position I had composed in my mind... Following three shots, he turned and bowed his head and I thanked him with a beaming smile...



Robin by Helen Ratcliff



So... You see....positive thinking and a little patience equals a little miracle...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Lion's Tooth...

Dandelion by Helen Ratcliff




Okay, so... the humble dandelion. It grows in our gardens and common land. The weed. Taken for  granted in the wild and removed if imposing our lawns. Yes, the weed. But, this wild one is an intelligent and complex plant. Not just a weed. 
 Remember all the golden, hazy, summer afternoons where the fluffy, soft, balls are ready to be dispersed and carried on a gentle breeze. A slight blow and the little parachutes take off in to the air... These seed - bearing parachutes ride the wind until they reach their new habitat, and gracefully land to begin a new cycle of preserving... the persevering parachutes travelling across the meadow against a back drop of mellow sun... Country walks and dappled days... 


This quietly confident plant offers an abundance of healing powers and nutrition.  The dandelion is indeed a valuable herb that can be used as food and medicine. In fact it is a rich source of Vitamins A, B complex, C and D. Vital to sustaining good health. It also boasts important minerals such as Iron, Potassium and Zinc. The leaves are frequently used in tea and salads. And, of course, the actual nectar from the flower- not just honey... but wine.


 Dandelions have been used by humans throughout all recorded history. I believe the milky syrup inside the stalk can also be an important ingredient to produce rubber. Although this apparently would only be found in the Russian dandelion. Nevertheless, quite remarkable.
 This generous plant can also benefit humans by its natural healing properties. It can aid the recovery of liver infections and works well as an antioxidant - flushing out the system and acting as a diuretic. You could say, parts of the plant (the root I think), have effects as seen with caffeine. It stimulates and promotes well - being.
 So... Intelligent? Yes. I believe that something which had evolved about thirty million years a go in Eurasia and managed to travel as far as North America and settle ( with a bit of help from first human migration ), is a strong species that has survived against the odds. It continues to adapt and is an important part of our survival. It is the weed with attitude and inner beauty. It is a beauty so complex and evolved, that I wonder... Why do we insist on calling it a weed? 
 It is The Dandelion... A wild flower reminding us of our childhood days in the meadow and providing us with colour, nourishment and wisdom... It connects us. Consider the first time you picked the dead flower yet could not resist to blow the seeds in to the wind and innocently observe the splendour of evolution as the golden sun enhanced the fairy - like parachutes... A memory we all share.
 Maybe the next time you are out walking or even enjoying the garden. Spare a dandelion. Appreciate the unexpected. The one that doesn't shout or stand out. The one that gives you  the good stuff. Believe it or not, Mother nature always provides. This clever, unsung hero is our gift. And... there's plenty to go around.  

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Once I Was A Drifter...

Drifting Balloon By Helen Ratcliff

Some people, who know me well, would probably describe me as a drifter. I have, for some time, been searching. Searching for something real. On my journey I have met characters from all walks and experienced many splendid things. But, nothing has held me as tightly as my trip to Africa and waking up at dawn, in The Serengeti, to this vision above... I wanted to capture the essence of being a free spirit. Not just the amazing wildlife in their natural habitat. But, the feeling of, well... drifting. 
 I believe that I am anticipating my imminent future and returning to full - time employment. Not wishing to be misunderstood, however. I am very grateful for the work, but have embraced my freedom within the last few weeks and actually enjoyed my 'self' immensely. After enduring much heartache, worry and stress, I owed it to myself to like being me. Recently I have met up with old friends who have commented on me appearing lighter... I think I have learned how to let go of unnecessary (emotional and spiritual) weight. It feels good and peaceful.
 I hope now to embark upon a more fruitful and pleasurable journey - filled with creativity and making a difference. I am a drifter by nature, but know it is time for some structure and focus. I begin my new job on Friday and will be able to get back on track. A little piece of me is naturally scared of  feeling trapped but I am looking forward to new knowledge and something very real...



To be continued...


Thursday, 28 June 2012

Wild and Wonderful...

Lion by Helen Ratcliff

Yes... wild and wonderful... yesterday I went to an exhibition called Art In The Wild. Stunning photography by Roger Hooper. A Man after my own heart... Passionate about wildlife and preserving it. His work reflects the fragility of our natural world, but captures the essence and sheer beauty of the animals. He is also an artist, with an eye for composition and light... This, I really aspire too. One of the images which I was attracted to, showed three cheetahs composed in a triangle against a backdrop of stormy deep grey cloud... the foreground, naturally lit by a golden sun light... Mother nature's cats, captured in all their glory.
 Some of his 'fine art' work showed water - colour paintings over black and white prints, encapsulating the earthy tone with each individual. Such precision, yet insightful understanding of the 'untamed', the importance of preservation and those animals, who are born to be wild and free...


I would like to dedicate this blog to Clarence (Foofy or Loofy). He was a 'larger than life' and very special puss... much loved and adored by The Ratcliff family. He died, sadly, on 26/06/12 at 11 years of age. RIP puss. xxx


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Sponteneous Scooter...







        


         




After the solstice storm...


Photo by Helen Ratcliff

 Whilst walking home last Sunday evening, the wind and rain gave way to a calm, blue sky. A few soft clouds appeared relaxed above the tree tops... I love skies like this...just moments before the sun begins its pink decent...
 Then, last evening, one of my housemates suggested going out for a ride on the scooter. "It's a lovely summer's evening!" She exclaimed. So... without any pause for thought, we excitedly ran out, jumped on the scooter and drove off towards Putney and the setting sun... Okay, so it's not The Amalfi coastal road, but, after the rush hour (hours)... on a summer's evening, there is nothing quite like being on a bike (scooter), with only long sleeve t shirt, jeans and Birkenstocks. Oh... and a helmet, of course. It gives you a sense of freedom and rebellion! I do not mean in a negative way, err, in a fun way. Or, giving one a feeling of youthfulness... or just being on holiday... which I am.
 Then we chilled for a while and had a drink by the river, before impulsively deciding to ride across London towards the east... Again, like squeaking teenagers, we jumped on the scooter and headed off.
 We went as far as Gabriel's Wharf, Tate Modern. After parking up, we walked back to the river, directly opposite St. Paul's Cathedral. How stunning the dome appears - perfectly spot lit and defining a familiar skyline which always beckons a gasp.
 We found a suitable viewing point, sitting at the end of one of the nearby piers... Wow! Such a vision... The night was clear and the skyline full of light, colour and drama, displaying the city wonderfully. Miniature buses ( like toys), crossing the bridge, were very animated.  Stupidly, I didn't have my camera on hand but found some new inspiration... Whilst observing the city from the pier, my head was filled with new ideas, which will slowly be unravelled to tell another story...
 Suddenly music was filling the air... A pianist was playing a simple but mellifluous little tune, making us want to dance... (would have been a perfect scene for romance!) the piano was positioned outside and a small group of people stopped to enjoy this rarity. It was quite a unique moment...
 Time slipped away... and we hopped on the scooter to return home. As we passed Big Ben, the hour struck one o' clock and... I was beguiled. Funny how London with all its stresses and strains, can have quite the opposite effect. The city really can cast a spell...


To be continued...

Friday, 22 June 2012

In The Mood For Cake...

Slice of Pink
Photo by Helen Ratcliff



 It has to be said, last night was quite unusual weather for this time of year... the wind was really blowing the rain through the windows. We had lasagne... followed by milky coffee and chocolate... (cosy food) whilst being entertained by the elements (and George Clooney). With the back door open... the neighbours cat, Smudge, was doing backward flips as the blustering wind was sending gusts of excitement into the room. I had to restrain myself from going out walking, after all, I do love a summer storm - especially post lasagne... lots of warming energy - I felt happy and rejuvenated. 
 Today, the weather continues to blow strong gusts and the sky is a deeper shade of grey with opposing baby blue patches...The clouds are moving at a considerable pace. And, from time to time the sun gives moments of illuminating hope... So... off for a refreshing walk on the common and then back in time for a pot of tea and cake! 



To be continued...



,

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Summer Solstice!

Sunflower
Photo by Helen Ratcliff



Well, it is time to celebrate. The longest day, following the shortest night. All the fairies, pagans and druids will be casting their seasonal spell...
 21st June and the sun reaches the highest point in the Northern Hemisphere. Throughout this de-light-ful duration, defining the beginning of our summer, the sun, in relation to the earth, does not appear to move. Hence... The Solstice ("sun stands still"). Then... the very slow decent and the days gradually shorten. So... let's turn our faces to the sun and let the shadows fall behind us (Maori proverb) and embrace this magical time of year...


To be continued...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Walk In The Park...

The Tree Line


   So... today... a walk in the park. I followed the tree line to stay out of the lunch - time heat, and, keeping cool, I enjoyed the breeze which made a rustling sound in the leaves and gently blew across my cheeks. The air carried a slight scent of damp moss and a subtle perfume... possibly Chanel No.5. Well... that's what I sprayed this morning...
 Then, I began walking towards the bandstand - evoking thoughts of lazy, summer afternoons... the string quartet creating the soundtrack - whilst the small party looked on... over smoked salmon sandwiches and champagne... err, Anyway...


Delicious Green...



I began to feel quite soothed in the dose of lush green. I particularly like this park, Battersea... another gem (emerald) in South West London.
 Oh, it's that time... the medicinal aroma of lavender. French or English. How we love lavender. Pulling  between the thumb and forefinger... and wafting under the nostrils... arrr... the multi - tasking plant of miracles. And... that colour...


Sweet Lavender

Then... on the way home... a little treat with a pot of earl grey... Summer tart!

Berry Tart

"Any single cream?"

Photos by Helen Ratcliff



To be continued...

Monday, 18 June 2012

Fate Behaving Badly...


Romeo & Juliet... Destiny or Fate?
Photo by Helen Ratcliff


So... Once again I am itching to get stuff written down and expressed. Yet, sometimes it's as though there is nothing to be said. Oh, I am sure many of you would agree that I am no expert, but there is a constant craving which needs to be nurtured. A small voice which niggles with guilt and keeps prodding at the back of my mind and in the pit of my stomach. What is it? I can tell you that it is likened to a yearn to finish. Perhaps this is related to my studies (which I can only complete when I am earning once again), but it feels like I am being pulled by my gut (gently).  Maybe it is what one calls... destiny.
 Well, there's a subject. And, is there such a thing? Are we all branded in some parallel universe or are we really the masters of our path? Oh, what can I possibly be thinking to take on a question like this? Crikey!
 The predetermined course of events are generally called fate - a concept born of needing something to believe which makes life purposeful. To have faith in a fixed, natural order of the cosmos. Although fate and destiny are used as meaning the same; they can actually be distinguished.
 Fate defines events as ordered, inevitable and even unavoidable. Destiny is kindly used to determine the finality of events, giving a sense of destination. It is mostly related to the natural ebb and flow of life. You could say, organically unfolding, for example... falling in love.
 it would seem, then, that fate implies no choice and destiny suggests that the real existence is participating in achieving an outcome that is not random (like a fateful accident), but is directly related to itself. Destiny happens wilfully.
 Moreover, it is the will to live. To adapt and survive in a better way. I think fate is a word we use to replace blame or the unexplained. It can help us to accept that bolt of lightening... However, destiny keeps the form of Amor fati (love of fate), through the will. And that is the basis of human behaviour... And... there's another question??


To be continued...

Friday, 15 June 2012

In The Mood For Summer...

Bumble by Helen Ratcliff
Well, of course I would love to be sipping coffee in Provence, stalking lynxes (to photograph) in Alaska or camping in the wilderness with the wolves... But, I am actually blogging and sipping tea in South West London.
 This is my holiday. I spent the first half of the year dealing with stuff and searching for work, and now, I finally and happily have the job offer... I can indulge in 'peace of mind'. Sadly, with no funds to take my self away... I need to make the most of my rest and relaxation time before I am back in full time work. Strangely, I feel a sense of freedom and cosiness (I think), it's quite a nice place to be. No urgency, just resting in my environment. Usually, this would drive me crackers after a while. However, this time, the difference is that I feel happier in my space and in my head... Phew!

In the mood...


Giant Daisy by Helen Ratcliff

Grasshopper by Helen Ratliff

Drinking Nectar by Helen Ratcliff

Wedding Rose by Helen Ratliff

Bugs by Helen Ratcliff


To be continued...












Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Beanz or Lions?

The other day I wrote a little bit about a subject which continues to break my heart and reaffirm my loathing for killing wild animals. Canned hunting, a 'so - called' sport which needs exploring, so that these bored, rich, ignorant little people can be exposed as cowardly killers and stopped. The shooting of semi - tamed animals in fenced enclosures...

                                         The Beast is Dead.. Google Image 06/06/12


The original piece I had written was lost in virtual space... I had pressed the wrong button and all my work just vanished in the blink of an eye... Perhaps the virtual editor was displeased, I can tell you, I was, when my effort had become invisible. Hmmph!
 Anyway, a friend sent a link to a well - known wildlife photographer, who has just published a book on Big Cats... Seeing some of the spectacular images, inspired me to rewrite something on this cause. It is an important one. We have such a connection with these beautiful animals... imagine a world where the Big Cat does not any longer exist. How devastating would that be. You see, dinosaurs would be hard to live with but Cats do not consciously strive to kill humans. They do not want confrontation. They behave instinctively to protect their species. We can live along side them. We need to be intelligent about it though. They are here for a reason. To teach us their wisdom, if only we are prepared to watch and listen. They maintain a healthy eco system and deserve a fair chance at life. What gives humans the right to play God?
 In June 2007, a story on CNN detailed canned hunting in South Africa and included a video of a canned lion hunt where the animal is shot against the fence (CNN -"Shooting Lions in South Africa"). They call this fair? The animal doesn't stand a chance. It is exhausted, terrified, confused and has unknowingly faced its killer. There is no hope, the animals death is meaningless. And, all because some rich person wanted a trophy to feel better. To feed the ego. Selfish and twisted. If someone can shoot a defenceless animal in cold blood - what does that tell you? A lion may have teeth and claws, but these weapons are for natural hunting and killing of prey for their survival. Hopeless against a rifle.
 The beast lays still, eyes staring out, cold like marbles. the killer is proud and wipes blood across his brow.... He stands tall, in his own mind. He has paid around £10,000 or $15,000 for this moment.
 I believe a legislation had formerly been introduced to the American government, but fell on deaf ears. Anyone in possession of an exotic animal for the purpose of allowing the killing or injuring of that animal for entertainment value, should be prosecuted and imprisoned for at least one year. Some may argue that the funds are put back in to research and preservation of endangered animals. I disagree. It is these very people who are endangering the wildlife, because they can. The law cannot touch private land owners and their enclosed animals. It is their property and their business.... a dirty, ruthless and rich business. It is a very resourceful and powerful world they live in. Sadly, it is still growing and canned hunting is becoming more and more popular amongst wealthy and bored holiday hunters.
 So... how do we stop this growing industry? I say, by raising awareness and continuing to show the truth which lies beyond the exciting safari. The blood - shed, the greed and disclosed and unctuous manner in which these trips of a life time are conducted. It is up to us caring folk to keep stoking at the canned hunting and poaching embers. If we let our voices go out, theses animals will soon follow. Take down the fences and stop the killing. What good is a world where we teach new generations to destroy our wildlife?
 Then, when all the animals have needlessly become extinct... do we turn in on our own species. Do we put the weak and sick in to a cage and shoot them? Would that be okay?
 Then, it would be safe to say that, the animals, with which we are blessed to have bestowed upon us, could, in fact, just vanish in the blink of an eye. One shot... that's all it takes...and that cannot be rewritten.


Lion Cub Yawning by Helen Ratcliff

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Good Times Ahead...

                                           Rose Wall Pink by Helen Ratcliff




At last, I have been offered a job. Life has changed for the better. Weirdly though, this was a position I had previously been hoping for months a go and had not been successful, after a very long process. Now, things are different, clearly the right time for progress. The same company but a better, more - suited location and much closer to my nature... I am delighted! Quite an artisan and nourishing environment... Just what was needed. You see, in my recent blog about the 'law of attraction' - I mentioned being ready to receive...
 And, todays picture, the beautiful, scented roses growing around our front door... The garden is just amazing this year. We have been really blessed.  It has been my number one for some time, but roses  always fill the senses with deliciousness, a little of Mother Nature's luxury.
 So... June. The month of the rose... a little dose each day... breath in... and enjoy... happy days!

To be continued...

Monday, 4 June 2012

Clarity Prevails...


                                          Summer Fruits by Helen Ratcliff




What a difference a day can make. Today, I have been inspired.  I visited the Tate Gallery to see the exhibition of works by Yayoi Kusama. What a lady. She has been on a phenomenal journey over the decades with her art. She has survived poverty, homelessness, drugs and by working obsessively, has become Japan's most successful living artist. Some of the work reflects a woman searching for something very extraordinary. I felt like I was able to see inside her mind, at times - complex, dark and mysterious.  But as you were drawn further in to her world, you were able to grow with her strange and magical vision. I think her best pieces have been later in her career. She reflects someone confident, committed and precise. Bringing your imagination to the fore with her colourful artwork, installations and forests of light... "Filled with the brilliance of life..."
 Then, after drifting through some of the other geniuses of the art world and dabbling in a little Man Ray and Salvador Dali, we were lucky enough to witness the most vivid rainbow I have ever seen. As we walked along the Southbank... suddenly, people were turning and gasping... Then, as I turned to see what the crowds were looking at... let out a huge "Wow!" Really, the colours could have been painted in acrylic across the sky. Each separate one as bold as it could be. I have never seen such strong colours in a rainbow. It was as though my eyes had been washed... such clarity. Suddenly, everything appeared clean and clear. The tide had been particularly high, so buildings such as The Houses of Parliament, were sitting on the water. The light, with a subtle lilac -sepia tone, was softly enhancing the view. How could this be? Is this what new inspiration looks like? Everything was its usual grey tone before - I am sure of it!
 Sometimes, when in search of inspiration. To observe another's journey and engage with their determination and passion,  can open a window, where the shutter has been blocking out the light. To suddenly realise that you are not so different from another and allowing yourself to receive something as simple and pure as colour, can really bestow a new image of the world in front of you. The rainbow happened because the drops of water are mirroring the sun's rays... I know this, but isn't it more pleasant to imagine something more spiritual or magical? Couldn't we all benefit from that pot of gold? I know that I could...
 And the summer fruit? Well, it's seasonal. I have no rainbow pictures yet, but I like to dress the page with something visually stimulating.... and, they're filled with the brilliance of colour...





Sunday, 3 June 2012

Quest For Self...



Photo by Helen Ratcliff


Sadly, I do not know the name of the flower in the picture above. However, the scent was so strong that I was drawn towards the tree and just had to photograph the pure source of perfume filling the air. I think it may be related to the tuber rose or, even, gardenia. the white succulent petals remind me of them and the scent was a heady, sweet, aroma, which really had my senses all in a delicious frenzy. Then, I noticed a true relative of the rose family...





Dog Rose by Helen Ratcliff

This, by comparison, was delicate, soft and unassuming. Scented but not shouting... Back - lit by the early evening sun, whispering gently.... innocent and wild beauty.
 So... Quest for self. What on earth is she talking about now? She....err... I, me, self. Yes, in search.... a quest! A few months ago, It was recommended to me to read 'The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne.  I avidly printed off sheets of A4 covered in quotes from the above - named author. At last! The answers to life, a revelation, I am here because... And, so on. Well, here are a few examples - I quote, " You are the one who calls the law of attraction into action, and you do it through your thoughts." Err..oh, "You will attract everything that you require... You're going to be attracted to things and they're are going to be attracted to you". Okay, interesting... "Ask once, believe you have received, and all you have to do to receive is feel good." Sounds pretty easy and straight forward, don't you think? I thought so...
 Then, I began the mission to accomplish all the things not yet achieved by my good self. Well, then it got me thinking about the bad stuff such as not being the perfect Sister, Daughter, employee, person. Negativity was seeping in through the cracks, becoming more and more influential to my very existence. Not hearing from potential employers, tough love from the family, a pigeon crapping on my shoulder whilst out walking, falling over whilst crossing a really busy road and quietly sobbing all the way home...
 However, something kept me going and is still. I do believe that there is something in the law of attraction. It is definitely a test of strength of mind. Of being the 'top cat' in your own life. Making your own luck by being truthful and positive. Now, I find it difficult to keep focused on my goals. Especially when there is always someone or something to remind you of your failures... pulling you in... like the heady scent.
 As a young teenager, I had many dreams of being something extraordinary. Not unlike most teenage girls. Yet, negligence can be a result of addiction. I was the daughter of a very dear, kind, generous and sensitive woman, who enjoyed a tipple, a little too frequently. For some time it was her respite from a life she did not dream of as a little girl. She longed for romance and an easier journey... Unfortunately, I think her drinking sometimes disabled her and was all consuming. At times... Although, always present for her family in the physical sense, not necessarily able to engage, show interest, respond or give attention, when needed, in the mental or emotional sense. Without wishing to appear ungrateful or cruel, I do think I am a product of my Mother's weakness. I have always found it hard to succeed and commit. I am easily distracted and able to disengage from reality.... There, I've said it... phew, exasperated!
 So... this has me thinking again, past catching up to be forgiven... I have. My Mother was a beautiful, nurturing, soft, innocent woman... a little like the Dog Rose (wild rose). She loved, cared and healed.... that was her role.
 I have learned in reflection of the past few months, that I have been blessed with "time". To appreciate one of my favourite things, which always makes me happy and grateful. The 'on - going' subtle miracles of nature. I have been able to stop and witness the details. The splendour of late spring and early summer.... The unique and natural perfumes of short - lived blossoms, The playfulness of a twilight bat, the surprise visitor in the garden... A woodpecker! (I had never seen one in real life before). Not forgetting the jumping fish chasing mayflies and, of course, the goose family. I have new friends in the house, who have given unexpected support during my time of change. And, always a constant in my life, there, giving unconditional love and affection... Jaffa and Otto, my feline companions.
 Perhaps, then, my attraction to nature, has indeed, made me the attraction to these creatures. It is, after all, the law... The law of nature.
 Let us forget and forgive. There is only one law for me and it's a positive one... I am now feeling good and patiently waiting to receive...


.















Tuesday, 29 May 2012

In The Garden...

A poem...


A white feather rides on a breath of air
And decends with grace,
Perhaps the utter of an angel's whisper,
Falling on a special place.
The dance of the daisies commences,
And the wind ushers the leaves on the trees,
The red breast of the little robin,
Expands to her playful song...
The blackbird answers in tune,
And the wood pigeon adds rhythm and percussion.
The garden hymn is sung.



Oh sweet, sweet rose,
Your perfume carried gently upon the breeze,
You with petals luxuriously soft,
Embelish the essence,
Of this glorious day in late spring.

By Helen Ratcliff.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Heaven Scent...

Despite all the ups and downs recently, the month of May has brought plenty of inspiration. As some of you are already aware, the vagaries of weather, work (or lack of), emotion and cash flow, have just about been rescued from the brink of oblivion. Well, I do honestly hope so. Things are definitely, slowly changing for the better...
 For example.... check these out.... in the garden...
 All that's needed is a pot of fresh tea...



Rose Wall by Helen Ratcliff


Yes, after the rains of April.... the flora of May.

And, once again, by the lovely pond of Wandsworth common...

                                               Wild Iris by Helen Ratliff



... Then, a new friend emerges from the reeds...


                                            Swan Pond by Helen Ratcliff

I begin to suspect that all will once again be joyful. This has been a long journey, which is not over yet. But, I find it heartening to know that a little patience, faith and allowing Mother Nature to beguile...Are just the ingredients one needs for a small dose of hope and even success...
 So... it would seem that the dance of a swan, wild Iris dripped with gold and  the scented roses, were, in my opinion, sent from heaven...

To be continued...

Friday, 18 May 2012

Jumping Fish & Wisteria...

Wisteria Wall by Helen Ratcliff

After applying for five or six more jobs yesterday, I gave myself the afternoon off to let go of the deafening silence... It is not the fact that I am not working at present which is lowering the self esteem, but the simple case of no response from potential employers. There should be some law against not answering someone's application. Okay, I get that the working folk have no time. However, they have the security and confidence that the rest of us need, to keep trusting and keep going... This is not easy. When I have put positive energy into letters, up - dating and honing my C.V., walking the streets of London until I have blisters and am weeping with tiredness and loss of will... waited and waited, kept believing, kept smiling, et al... Isn't it only fair that I receive some acknowledgement in return? Anyway, enough of the sad stuff.
 It is of no wonder that I communicate with animals. That nature brings me back to my 'self'. And, being in green spaces, smelling flowers and observing creatures in their natural habitats, is like a hug from heaven. The wisteria growing at the back of my house is abundant this year. I believe the rains have nourished well. The scent is sweet and slightly aromatic, almost medicinal. After inhaling the wisteria goodness, I set forth on my walk to the big pond at Wandsworth Common...
 May is a beautiful time of year for the natural world. And the amphitheatre is just buzzing with activity. All the birds are busying away - building nests, feeding their young, disciplining the babies, beaking, coohing and even running across the water.The comical landing of the ducks... So entertaining, they never fail to make me chuckle. Then, a larger than life crow appears. He is 'majestic - looking', shiny and proud. I greeted him ( like you do), and he responded with a squawk and took off into the lush green... Suddenly, an almighty splashing sound came from the centre of the pond. I thought it was ducks or couts...  then, blinking into focus, I saw a massive silver fish! He jumped out of the water and dove back in... and again.... he was huge, with big lips... he twisted his body upwards and then spiralled back into the water... I believe he was a Carp catching flies. It happened so quickly, but, like I have said many times... nature always manages to bring a smile, gasp of amazement or some inspiration... And, I always feel better...
 So... if a fish can jump out of water and a duck can add some humour to the mix... then, surely, someone out there can employ me...

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Lifting Spirits...

Goose Family by Helen Ratcliff


Okay, so after last week's sadness... I went to one of my favourite spots for a walk, to help bring some clarity... And, this goose family strutted across my path and brought a smile to my face once more... This is a a place where I did a photo story - in a previous blog... "By the Riverside", near the 'sacred space' in Battersea. Then, I visited the church which also featured in my story and discovered something quite interesting.
 I have always been inspired by William Turner and William Blake. So, it was randomly brought to my attention that they both use to visit this particular church and had influenced the design within, mainly, the stained glass windows... Strangly, I went all goose bumpy and felt an inner glow...


This may seem weird, but at that moment the light came through this window and my heart seriously missed a beat. I stood, gasping... could this be a sign? I know, I know what you're all thinking, but sometimes the universe synchronizes and it is okay to allow yourself to believe. Especially when life has just been sending challenges, trials and disappointments for so long. I then moved on to the next window and...




This also spoke to me and I remembered the quote...

" Love seeketh not itself to please,
  Nor for itself have any care,
  But for another gives its ease,
  And builds a heaven in hell's despair "

William Blake 1757 - 1827.

Then I remembered a poem I had once written in my moment of despair...

" In the darkest moment,
  In the eye of fear,
  When all has abandoned
  And nothing is clear.
  Then and only then,
  The light will appear...
  Clarity prevails in one who believes,
  No matter what,
  Physical or faith,
  It is true to say...
  One will always find their way.

To be continued...

Saturday, 7 April 2012

By The Riverside...

I recently had an idea about a story set by the riverside... Perhaps an eco - friendly, raising - awareness and funny kind of story... Starring a cat named Tunafish. Who, together with his 'River' friends, began a mission to clean up The Thames... I was inspired, whilst out walking one day and meeting a very robust - looking moggy, to illustrate this vision and tell tales of Tuna's adventures. The Heron, The Black - Headed Gull, The Bass, The Duck and The Crayfish....are all on this important mission.
 Tunafish lives on a barge with his adopted companion, Ms. Denim. She Feeds him his favourite sandwiches of Catnip, sardines and marmite and keeps the wood burner glowing... Tuna's cushion is always puffed up on the chair, and in return, Tuna gives unconditional friendship and keeps the barge free of rodents.
 So, whilst out taking photographs for research... I (by default) Discovered a vibrant and beautiful Riverscape... I stumbled across a part of London to fall in love with again... And, through my lens, saw The Thames in a different light... The space between Wandsworth Bridge and The Albert Bridge has completely opened my eyes again... or maybe it's just in search of Tuna's story...

A New Photo Story :

By The Riverside by Helen Ratcliff.










So.... This was a particularly grey day in South West London. But, it gave me an idea.... I love the mix of old with new. The urban with a slight twist. History juxtapositioned by contemporary... And, this place, St Mary's Church, in Battersea, appropriately named "A Sacred Place"...
 Then, it got me thinking about the wildness within again and how we need to keep preserving not only Tuna's river friends but the river that is their source of survival... And, with that in mind.... the sun came out...

By The Riverside (cont.)...






To be continued...