small things

A little snuggly cosy for a favourite handthrown beaker of mine that gets too hot when the tea is new. Six rows of double crochet in a tweedy Rowan yarn. Lovely.

Just one of the few small things I've been doing this rather spare and barren week. I had hoped to have more to show you from my list of creative plans, but the emptiness I wrote of last week is still in residence for the time being. However, I'm attempting to accept this period of quietly observing and taking in, during which I have to trust that there will once again be a time of pouring out and expressing. It's not easy to announce that once again I've not got much to show for myself, but deep down I would prefer to be honest, and art is about life, and life goes in phases and gets filled with other things.

What's really good is that a kind of miraculous interconnectedness often happens at times like these. You will read about something interesting somewhere and then, lo and behold, someone is talking about it the very next day, or you find mention of it in a blog or newspaper article.

This has happened to me a lot this week, for instance on the subject of bees, the fascinating art of bee-keeping, and more especially, the terrible, partially unexplained dying-off of more than a third of the beautiful, hard-working, pollinating, honey-making bees in this country and around the world. This programme is still available for a few more days to watch on BBC iPlayer if you'd like to find out more.

I have also been reading and re-reading Roger Deakin's marvellous book Wildwood, in particular the wonderfully descriptive and evocative chapters about the fertile, fruitful area around Kazakhstan, where there are wild fruit forests and all the walnuts and domestic apples in the world are believed to originate. The book is 'about the element wood, as it exists in nature, in our souls, in our culture and in our lives'. Roger Deakin is so intelligent, widely read and knowledgeable, but wears all this very lightly, making it a joy to read. He often quotes from another favourite book of mine, Thomas Hardy's The Woodlanders, and in doing so connected with my own thoughts:

"Copse-work ... an occupation which the secondary intelligence of the hands and arms could carry on without the sovereign attention of the head, allowed the minds... to wander considerably from the objects before them..."

I love this description of the hands and arms having an intelligence of their own which is valuable and profitable: a sort of memory, perhaps, of repetitive work and the feel of the materials in the hand, the sound of the tools, the sense of satisfaction as a little pile of work begins to grow. For me, this is exactly how I feel about crochet: picking up the yarn, turning it in my fingers, hearing the slight crunchiness of the wool as I hook it and pull it, the simple choice of the next colour, the manageable size of the square yet the knowledge that I am creating a part of something much bigger. All of this frees up my mind to wander away from anxiety and worry for a time, perhaps even allows some healing, certainly nurtures and settles me. It's not 'art', that's for sure, but it is what I need quite often at the moment. Simple creative choices within a given framework, nothing too demanding.

This is what I'm working on at the moment (still!).

Several other people have been writing and thinking about these quiet times when creativity goes to ground, and Mal's post has been especially encouraging. Once again it's helped to get out and about, too, and yesterday, despite the shockingly wet and stormy 'summer' weather, we went for a magical drive around beautiful north-east Wales, over wild moorland, past tumbling streams, romantic ruined castles and abbeys, and through fresh dappled woods full of aromatic wild garlic:


Gilly said...

I love that beaker, and some of her other work is absolutely, completely desirable!

Is she the potter who was behind your stall at Styal that time??

Sue said...

Well remembered! She is indeed :-)

Frances said...

Hello Sue,

Keep those hands and arms going. I do agree with the thought that they do have a "mind" of their own.

Your crocheting is so beautiful, and that bee on the brilliant yellow flower tells me summer is near.

Thank you also for the two woody book recommendations. I will see if that marvelous library might have them.

Best wishes! xo

Pipany said...

You blog so beautifully. Enjoy the quiet times x

Anonymous said...

Oh what a lovely post. Love your crocheted 'sleeve' idea...I might nick that idea for a couple of earthenware beakers that I never use for the same reason. Wish I'd been clever enough to think of it myself! Lol! :)

Lucy said...


I'm not sure how you found me, but I am so grateful you did...

Small things, quiet times. We need them in order to cope with the rush and madness of their flipside.

I've often wondered about Deakin's book (surrounded by trees and forests of a different, Antipodean, ilk) but am ordering it straight away. As for wild garlic - whoopee!! I can ony dream.

kate fern said...

I love the quote from the woodlanders, this is how I feel about seems to loosen the brain! lets it wander too.

Your crocheting is beautiful.
best wishes

Hollace said...

The squares of colors knit together are breathtaking. They are the colors of earth and sea. I love the gray and blue and green together. Is that the blanket you had on your blog before your grandchild was born, when you were hurrying to finish the green blankie?

Sue said...

Thank you so much everyone! The current crochet is different to the earlier photo, I started it in October and wrote about it here.

caireen said...

I have just been through a very strange fortnight of this kind of emptiness, and I have identified it with periods of 'brewing' in that although it seems nothing is happening, it actually feels like your energy is elsewhere. I reckon this happens just before a major move forward creatively, like giving birth to something invisible. I think the signs you get show that you are in the flow, even though you think you're not! Hope this helps - be patient xx

Jackie said...

We all have these times, and you have had 'recent' events to dwell on and drain you emotionally. Maybe when the sun comes out ...?
(The Woodlanders..I love it. But its so sad.)

Jackie said...

PS I meant to say I love the subtlety of your crochet colours. I am envious of your control.

N. said...

More lovely things to look at! Are you sewing in the ends on each square as you go or are you waiting until they're all done to do it all in one go?