Feeling a tad discouraged recently, I stumbled across this quotation:
“In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.” Vincent Van Gogh
It reminded me of two things. Firstly, a mixed media piece I did a couple of years ago in which I tried to echo Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ through the trees in the foreground. Using rope and string for the trunks and branches, my fingers were rubbed raw as I sewed the strands onto the canvas before working on top of them. Finding myself wishing I’d never started the picture, it was only because I loathe not finishing something that I saw the project through. But I came so close to abandoning the whole thing.
“The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping-stones. Laugh at them, tread on them, and let them lead you to something better.” Enid Blyton, Mr Galliano’s Circus
The second thing that came to mind was a quote I read some time ago, and which I’d evidently filed away in the eclectic junk room that is my brain. It’s from my favourite author growing up (it was usually one of her books I read by the illicit light of my little yellow torch when I was supposed to be fast asleep).
I’ve been stumbling against one or two obstacles lately, and Enid’s words, along with Vincent’s decision to forsake discouragement, collided to stop me short and re-think my mindset.
There is little we can do to prevent obstacles and disappointments, but to remain discouraged is a choice I make. Or not. I choose not. And when I forget, I will remind myself. And when my studio is operational once more (long story), I shall hang my own starry night on the wall where it will serve to remind me of what I have decided.
I am older than my father lived to be; his death was more than half my life ago. My children, not yet alive while he still breathed, faces without form whilst he had sight, voices still unspoken while he still heard, are older now than I was the day his heart forgot to beat again, the day my heart broke into its new rhythm. Bereaved. Bereaved. Bereft.
And now, it’s Father’s Day once more. I still mourn the cards I no longer send. But the sun that warms my skin, once drew freckles on his arms. The moon that lights my nights with silver, frosted his yester-skies. And my sometimes cloud-swallowed stars are the same that sometimes hid from him. And I see him everywhere. And I hear him every day. And my heart beats with the rhythms he taught me. And I thank God for every heartbeat. For every breath. For every moment. And I know that there is no bereaved in eternity.
An interesting writing exercise is to turn on the radio and write about whatever you first hear. When I did this, the topic under discussion was raspberries. Great big ones. Here’s my attempt at flash fiction, liberally sprinkled with alliteration.
Robinson’s Raspberries were a local legend and I counted myself blessed to have been born Ronnie Robinson. Amongst my community, I was akin to a king; Raspberry Royalty they called me. Proudest day of my life when they named the new children’s ward ‘Robinson’s Raspberry Ripple’. Entrepreneur extraordinaire, charmed life. What more could a man want? A little love, maybe?
Like magic, Rosa entered my world and I fell under her spell. I don’t know what she saw in me, enchanting young girl like that. But reader, she married me!
Months passed and business boomed. We opened a shop; Rosa’s idea. It proved particularly popular with passers-by who couldn’t get enough of Rosa’s Raspberry Jam, Rosa’s Raspberry Honey (how those bees loved Rosa’s bushes) and everyone raved over Rosa’s rosette-winning Raspberry Tea.
That last summer was perfect. A bumper crop that just kept on giving. The more we picked, the more the berries grew. The more those berries grew, the bigger they got. Couldn’t believe it when pick-your-own punters were still filling their punnets weeks after the season should have finished. We even made the BBC news: “Fruity Facts: the phenomenon that’s sweeping the North of England! Robinson’s Raspberries, fluke or feature of the future? Global warming or menacing mutants?”
I had raspberries coming out of my ears! When Rosa opened the restaurant, ‘Raising Raspberries’, we couldn’t keep up with the bookings. The menu was a triumph! Rabbit with Couscous and Raspberry Coulis; Raspberry and Roquefort Fondant; Rosa’s Raspberry Roulade; Rosa’s Raspberry Tart. And who could resist Rosa’s Raspberry Fool? We even added our own vintage of sparkling Raspberry Rosé to the wine list. The Chronicle’s article, ‘Raspberry Review’, described the recipes as: “refreshments of repeating raspberries”. Rosa even branched out into wedding breakfasts that catered for all pockets, from the budget ‘Raspberry Romance’, to the super-deluxe ‘Rhapsody in Raspberry’.
Months passed with still no break in the season. Those raspberries just kept on growing richer and rosier.
It was spring when I first started to feel a bit off. Nothing I could put my finger on, just a bit flushed and sort of seedy. When a couple commented I was looking rather red in the face, Rosa was great, insisted on brewing her grandmother’s raspberry remedy.
When the rash first flared up, Rosa referred to her granny’s almanac. Bless her! I’ve never see anyone look so relieved when she read that my symptoms were perfectly normal! Grandma’s tonic was taking its course. When pinkish-purplish spots spread across my torso, Rosa made me a lovely bed in the barn, catered for my every need. Who’d have believed quarantine could be so comfortable? I took root in there. When the man from the Guinness Book of Records confirmed that Rosa had the biggest raspberry ever recorded, I thought I would burst with pride!
These days, people flock to see Rosa Robinson’s Giant Raspberry. They say it’s the biggest in the North of England.