Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Two new artists

Art Soufflé is growing from strength to strength. Two new artists signed up today and I now represent them: Sussex artist, William de Wilde and French artist, Pierre Chalory. Both will be exhibiting at upcoming soufflés at the Brambletye Hotel and The Kingscote Estate. Please watch this space!

Copyright William de Wilde.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The season of falling leaves

Today in the woods the squirrels pelted me with half- eaten beech nuts and empty chestnut casings and I swear I heard them giggle with delight. As I looked up, I saw a bushy tail disappear into the canopy of golden leaves. Suddenly and out of nowhere, a strong gust of wind tore through the woods covering the hound and I with falling leaves. Soon after, the pelting by mischievous paws resumed.

Autumn may be grey and windy but it is also the season of new beginnings.  Some say spring is the symbol of starting again but for me it is many months before in the autumn when the planning and preparation take place. The culmination of efficient planning is the rebirth we see in spring. Nature demonstrates almost military precision in the way it organises life: each season has a specific purpose and all are reliant on each other. The concepts of teamwork and preparation have their roots in the natural world. Words like symbiosis and synergy are demonstrated in the relationship between living things- whether plant or animal based. The spider devours the moth and one could not exist without the other. The bee pollinates flowers, which turn to seeds and so on. Interestingly, human beings since their creation have brought havoc and chaos to the natural world, which is completely reliant on harmony in order to survive.
Philosophers have written endlessly about conducting self- examination for the purpose of understanding. Words though, cannot communicate what one feels by observing the extravagance and simplicity in equal measure that exists in the natural world. A walk in the woods re-enforces a wide-eyed amazement at how all life is miraculous. This acceptance of the inevitability of all things brings solace to weary souls. Nature cannot be all things but rather focuses on specific objectives instead. The tree comes to leaf in the spring then flowers. From the flowers, fruit form and the leaves die as the tree must concentrate all its nutrients on the developing fruit. The fruit disgorge their seeds and the cycle of rebirth becomes inevitable. If the natural world were to deviate from accomplishing set aims, chaos would descend and ultimately, nature would cease to exist as we know it. The balance on which all living things rely is fragile to say the least.

As I watch the falling leaves I am reminded of the past, present and the future. This is where life has led us- where we've been and where are we now. The lessons of the autumn are the same for all of us. Making decisions, reviewing one’s life, cleaning out the cobwebs, we are all familiar with these clichés. Yet without these much-needed actions on our part, we will not be able to make sense of the future, which comes soon enough. Everything we need to learn in this life is available for free in the woods near you.

Photos copyright SvD.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Things I saw in the woods today, part 94

The glorious woods, mysterious, mystical and welcoming (if you share the same spirit):

The luscious yew berry; seductress, inviting and death in 20 minutes flat: 

Mushrooms thriving in our unusually warm Autumn. Don't eat them! The rains of the last few days mean that the mushrooms are full of maggots and taste of rain- insipid and wriggly- two bad combinations!

Any my favourite:
The spider in his lair with lunch:

All photos copyright SvD.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Gill's latest painting

Literally finished today! A very pretty scene that is familiar to anyone who has driven through West Sussex on a summer's day.
"Summer poppies in a Sussex Meadow", Oil on canvas. Photo and painting copyright Gill Bustamante 2014

For all of Gill's paintings currently for sale, please click here: Gill Bustamante Portfolio represented by S van Dalen

My latest article on The Huffington Post

October 13 2014

Photo copyright SvD.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Things I saw in the woods today, part 93

How many of these can you eat? I'll give you a clue- all except one.


Holly berries.

One half of a pigeon.

Rose hips (of the dog rose).

All photos copyright SvD.

PS Mr. Fox was very wasteful and should have polished off the whole pigeon! Proves that all species share a similar trait in times of plenty.

Note to Mr. Cleese: How I forgave my mother

John Cleese has been in the news lately for his autobiography which has the critics in agreement on one thing: how can a 74 year old man still harbour such bitter resentment towards his own mother? Answer: very easy, really.

I know a thing or two about difficult relationships with one's parents. Whilst my father and I got on very well and nearly all of my memories of him are endearing, I can only think of one fond memory that I have of my mother: when I was four or five, she placed me on her lap and put her arms around me. She then opened the Oxford Dictionary which she was balancing on one knee against the dining table and proceeded to show me how to use a dictionary. Oh, there was one other time I can recall: my mother put me to bed and kissed me goodnight. That act of parental affection happened just the once. So two scrawny memories that will eventually fade altogether as I age.

Just today as I was relishing in my solitude on this grey and chilly Sunday, I set about sorting out long abandoned cupboards full of spiders left undisturbed for several years. I found a cardboard box taped shut. I couldn't for the life of me remember what was in it. I tore off the brown tape and peered inside. Leather camera cases, lenses, my old Ricoh camera. And at the bottom of the box in sealed plastic bags, reels of film that I recognised instantly- these were taken by my father and contain moving images of our family life when I was a young child. I instantly saw those images in my head- my brother, sister and I together laughing as our father shot that old black and white film. I remembered too when the projector would come out and as a family we would watch scenes of the past. I also recall my mother's unsmiling face in all of them.

I rummaged further in the box and found around fifty photographic slides which I recognised by the racks they were wedged in and knew them all to be of my mother who my father adored and at every opportunity would take photos of. My mother was an exquisitely beautiful woman and she photographed very well. Without even looking at them, I put all of the slides and memories of my mother back in the box, resealed it and slid it back into the recesses of the cupboard.

I've pondered on the issue of happy families all my life. My own opinion on the matter is that there is no such thing. Human beings are so complex that it is clearly impossible to fathom what truly is going on in their heads. A bit like absolute truth in philosophy- it doesn't exist. The two absolutes in life are death and taxes. The rest is relative to all else. Just as that statement is obtuse so too is the human mind. One thing is for certain- our disposition never changes. One cannot change who one is. One can appear to change but that is all.

Returning to the subject of families- the family is where we learn what we need to in this earthly life. Crazy, dysfunctional, unhappy parents produce crazy, unhappy children who will remain so unless they make a concerted effort to break the cycle of being nuts and sad. It is possible.

Two things have helped me in my own life: a belief that our time here on earth is a journey towards something where the present is essentially more important than the future. Plus I have wept enough tears for the past and decided I can't keep sobbing forever over what could have and should have been. I wouldn't call this process resolution, I would call it an acceptance of the things I have no control over, an act of 'surrendering to the universe'.

The second thing that helped me is a realisation that our expectation of happiness is an unrealistic concept. Hollywood, glossy magazines, the end of everything, of all experience, has to be happy, pleasurable, decidedly wonderful. The truth is, life is bloody hard. Most of life is spent preparing for the next crisis. That is unless you are in a coma in your head and wandering around thinking thoughts of nothing. There are many, many people, in fact, the vast majority of the population who focus their brain cells on things that don't matter and are blissfully incapable of having a philosophical thought. An absence of thought means that the ability to cope with life will always be guided by impulse resulting in being a self absorbed slave to one's ego. In other words, a narcissist forever gazing at their own reflection.

The truth is I have nothing of my late mother- not a single piece of her jewellery, not a scarf or hairpin or anything. And I am glad that I don't. The acts and words of my mother towards me will forever be the hardest experiences I have ever dealt with in my entire life. It is difficult not to matter to one's mother. However in family dramas, no one is entirely blameless. I wasn't around in the critical years of my father's decline and death. I never returned home often enough because I couldn't bear to be around my mother. In a sense, I abandoned my mother because she made me feel miserable.

Time has passed never to return. We cannot recapture a moment in time and seek to change it. I remain grateful to my mother for giving birth to me and because of her I am the opposite of what I felt she denied me. I finally understood that our destiny was written in the stars but we can change it.

My father's mother died when he was around 68. After the funeral, as tears welled up in his eyes, my father spoke these words which I shall never forget. 'My mother never loved me, Sam, she never loved me.' The sight of my strong dad crying broke my heart. As fate would have it, I experienced that same feeling too. But in spite of everything, I'm grateful for what my mother did and didn't give me because it made me who I am.

Photo and painting copyright SvD. Mother, oil on canvas.