Connections

Barbara Hepworth's "Mother and Child"

Barbara Hepworth’s “Mother and Child”

The core of my being is focused on Simon’s return to Scotland tomorrow after six years working in Peru. I’ve spent the evening chatting to friends, in my living room, online and on the phone, writing in my journal and doing some very basic housekeeping. This latter is a miracle, since it included a trip to the bin area outside with the first lot of recycled paper I’ve been able to carry outside since my illness began 4 1/2 years ago. Seems pretty mundane, but not to me.

I am able to take the church bus along the road on Sunday mornings now. One of the perks is a stop at the pier on the way home to pick up Sunday newspapers. I’ve just worked my way cover to cover through this weeks “Observer”, remembering how much pleasure I used to get from reading it, even though it was usually delivered on Monday, before the ferry timetable was ‘modernised’ to allow for Sunday delivery.

This week a wonderful article about the work of sculptor Barbara Hepworth caught my full attention and I found myself cutting out a photo of her sculpture “Mother and Child” to put in my beautiful little “Journal of Beautiful Things”. I could feel the power of it in my solar plexus and related to it immediately.

"Single Form" Memorial to Dag Hammarskjøld

“Single Form” Memorial to Dag Hammarskjøld

I have only recently re-read “Markings” by Dag Hammarskøld, the Swedish Secretary General of the United Nations who was killed in a plane crash in 1961 when he was on the way to broker a peace agreement in the Congo.

That may be why her other sculpture “Single Form” had such an effect on me tonight, so stunning in its simplicity. I don’t remember seeing it when I visited the UN building in 1966, but maybe I wasn’t ready for it then.

It was commissioned as a memorial to Hammarskjøld. She captured the spirit of “Markings” exquisitely.

We are so fortunate to have artists whose talents can express the essence of the things we take for granted in daily living, and express the momentous, such as this memorial.

I’ve always tried with my weaving to go beyond the yarn and express the things that I feel passionate about and it was great to be reminded how much pleasure I get from being creative and being inspired by such people as Barbara Hepworth.

Things will change tomorrow. I will no longer have a “younger son working in Lima”. But I can celebrate that and know that the changes in his life will be another adventure, and I can experience and distill it into my being as all mothers do.

First of May – Excitement and Anticipation

The first day in May reminds me of beautiful and exciting things. There’s the custom  that if you put a posy of wild flowers under your pillow you’ll dream of your true love. On Mayday morning if you bathe your face in the morning dew, your skin will look more youthful and you’ll find your true love, if you don’t already have one.

It reminds me of living in Stockholm taking part in the Första Maj political parades as a somewhat leftie student and equal opportunities advocate. On Arran, I’ve been told by experienced gardners that you can safely plant things after Mayday which would otherwise perish earlier. “Ne’er cast a clout till May is oot” is a word of advice which means you should wear every conceivable layer of clothing until the end of April to keep out the chill. Very sound advice for the weather we’ve had in the past few days where the mountains are dusted with snow again and one of my poor wee tomato plants died of the chill wind the other night – I obviously forgot to heed the experienced gardeners.

Speaking of gardeners, through a friend I’ve discovered a new plant for my collection kerria japonica. I fell in love with it’s golden yellow flowers in an arrangement in the church hall the other week and the person who did the arrangement brought me a root cutting (not sure that’s the technical term, but you get the idea.) Now I have one among my shrubs.

My most exciting memory of the 1st of May is 40 something years ago, when I was waiting for the imminent arrival of my first child. She was due on the 3rd and characteristically arrived on the 3rd, but the days before for me were as they are for every soon to be mother for the first time. Fear and anticipation in equal amounts.

For me the 1st of May was the beginning of an adventure which is still exciting and rewarding as my life, my children’s lives and my grandchildren’s lives interweave and bring all of us a sense of connection and of being cherished.

kerria japonica kerria-japonica-flowers-in-full-bloom-192609932

“Catastrophe” – the Comedy and Salvador Dali

 

Dali's Christ of St. John on the Cross

Dali’s Christ of St. John on the Cross

Don’t know about you, but I’ve been laughing my way through the series “Catastrophe” on Channel 4 and 4oD about an American guy and an Irish women living in London who meet at an airport by chance, have an amazing week of sex and then separate never to meet again.

But Fate intervenes. Girl gets pregnant. Boy stands by girl and moves to London and as they adjust to their new situation the series twists, turns and has me laughing out loud every few minutes. To be recommended.

Tonight’s episode along with the laughter, handled an issue that is still very close to my heart after nearly thirty years. Should I or should I not have an amniocentesis. I was 40 when I had the surprise of my life when I found out I was pregnant after a 10 year gap since the last baby. A geriatric mother.

The risks of Down’s syndrome and other complications were higher than if I’d been 10 or 20 years younger. One way of finding out is to have an amniocentesis test well into the pregnancy. We thought long and hard about whether to go ahead because there is a  risk of miscarriage from the actual test, which involves a needle going through the abdomen to take a sample of the amniotic  fluid looking for chromosome abnormalities. I knew it wouldn’t hurt, but the thought was daunting.  What to do.

In the end, I decided to take the test, because I had two other thriving children and if there was going to be an issue, I wanted to be prepared. I knew from previous experience that I could never personally decide to have an abortion. In the end, all was OK and I had a healthy baby boy.

The hospital in Glasgow was at Yorkhill, near the Kelvingrove Art Museum. I remember the test was scheduled for the afternoon and we had some time to wait, so we went to the museum and there was Dali’s painting “Christ of St. John on the Cross”, one of my all time favourite works of art.  I stood in front of it and knew that I would be OK whatever decision I made, and that gave me the courage to go ahead with the test.

I had first seen that painting in a gallery in New York as part of a Dali retrospective. I went to the loo and passed a gentleman with a silver tipped cane and moustache gesticulating wildly and discussing the work with a colleague. I thought to myself “There really are some weird people in New York” and didn’t realise until I rejoined my friends that I’d seen the artist himself, touring his exhibition.

So I’ve always had a fondness for that painting and it was most appropriate that it should offer me comfort and protection in one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

 

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