Merry and Bright

©Angela Porter 2018

A Christmas Greeting

Wishing everyone who visits this little space on the interwebs all the very best blessings and wishes of the season.

I also wish to thank you for visiting, for sharing my posts.

However you spend this day, whether with friends, family, at work, or by yourself, I wish you well and the best.

About this image

I woke early-ish this morning and had an idea that involved creating this mandala/wreath design, so I had to do it!

Unusually, I drew the motifs in colour! Yup. No black line, just colour.

They’re all very simple with simple colour gradations. The black lines were created by removing colour so the dark background would show through.

I think the outer ring of leaves could be a little lighter, but then it does give a sense of the outer ring bending away, with the hearts and mistletoe on the high point of the ‘wreath’.

Adding texture to the design helped to scuff up the perfection of the colours.

I really enjoyed doing this, as simple as it is.

I am really grateful that I used an insulated mug for my gingerbread mocha latte this morning – I forgot all about it for over 3 hours, so engrossed in my art as I was, and it’s now just the perfect temperature for drinking!

My tools were Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. Yes, this is a digital piece of art.

The rest of the day I intend to spend in arty/creative pursuits, including finishing off my knitted cuddly triceratops (yes, I know yesterday I incorrectly said it was a stegosaurus).

Winter Solstice 2018

©Angela Porter 2018

Winter begins! It’s the end of one astronomical cycle and the start of a new one. Winter Solstice is one of my favourite days of the year, along with All Hallow’s Eve. There’s always a feeling of excitement on this day that’s associated with ending and beginnings. Time to lay to rest that which is completed to make way for the new that replaces them as the Sun symbolically ‘dies’ on this day and will begin to ‘grow’ again in the days that follow until the Summer Solstice. It’s also a time to be grateful too.

I know there are many endings and beginnings; every moment in our lives is both an ending and a beginning. However, I feel that days like this, where we can focus on this never ending process in a bigger, more symbolic, more formal way, is important. Traditions are important as they bring a semblance of order to our rather chaotic lives.

I spent some time yesterday drawing this mandala to go with today. The dull gold represents the weakness of the Sun, relatively speaking. I’ve included mistletoe, holly and ivy as they’re traditionally associated with this day. I’ve also added berries as symbolic of the fruits of gratitude I carry for all the days since the last Winter Solstice. And, of course, there are plenty of sun-ray-like motifs and patterns. And stars. Plenty of stars, which from a distance look like snow drifting down.

Yes, I can say I’m rather pleased with this mandala. That’s not something I say often as I’m highly critical of myself and my work. But this one I really do like. I like the more graphic nature of the motifs. I like my hand lettering. I like the rhythm and flow of the design with the rings of designs radiating out.

So, I wish you all the very best that comes with the Winter Solstice, for today and all the days ahead of you and yours.

This was created using a Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and a gold texture purchased via Creative Market.

How I spent the last three days…

I have to admit that I, like so very many others, spent the Christmas period alone (except for a couple of hours playing Trivial Pursuit at my little sisters on Christmas night).  It’s not the first Christmas that this has happened, but it’s one in a very long succession of solitary Christmases.

I feel the pressure from society and the media greatly at this time of the year; the pressure to be in a happy family, showered with gifts and food and company and loving intimacy.

The image we’re sold that we can’t possibly be happy unless we’re part of a big, loving, happy family and in a meaningful, happy, loving relationship is a trigger point for my mood, for unlocking the kennel of the black dog that can nip at my heels all too often.

This year, though, I’m happy to say that the black dog didn’t visit as often or as long as it has in the past many, many years.  Oh, I’ve had my moments, but I’ve survived better than I have for a very long time, most probably 20 years or so.

What helped is indulging myself in my coping strategies – creating art, making music, reading, cat cuddling and generally being creative (which currently means knitting baby blankets for my neice who is expecting twins in 3 to 4 months time).  Also, avoiding social media – facebook especially – has helped too.

Reminding myself that I’m not at the point in my healing journey from the cptsd (complex post traumatic stress disorder) that I experience that I feel able to have healthy relationships has also helped.  It’s a work in progress, the healing that is.

Another sign of my recovery from the trials and tribulations of the cptsd that I experience is that I made a little effort to add some ‘decorations’ for the Winter Solstice/Yule/Christmas season, which include a trio of small, knitted christmas trees, which kept me a little occupied in the days/weeks leading up to this time, as well as knitting and needle felting some bacteria and viruses for a pharmacist I met at an event I attended as a Time to Change Wales champion.

So, now the next event that can cause the black dog to find some strength is New Year’s Eve…

…which I can survive by using my super-power of being creative to help me cope.

The piece of art above has been done over the past 3 days.  The black outlines were drawn first, followed by a base layer of Ranger’s Distress Inks applied with Clarity Stencil brushes.

I then used the Distress Inks as watercolours to intensify the colours in various places as well as to add the colour to the berries/seeds/buds.

Next, I used Cosmic Shimmer’s Iridescent Watercolour paints to add some shimmer in large areas, before adding detailed patterns using coloured pencils (I chose to use my Mitsubishi Uni Pencils for this).

Finally, I added metallic and ‘glittery’ sparkle using Sakura’s Gold Gelly Roll Metallic pen and a Clear Star Gelly Roll pen.

I was rather restrained for me by leaving areas just coloured, not embellished to high heaven and back! The areas I have added texture/pattern to stand out more and it’s not quite so overwhelming.

This could mean my artistic skills are maturing a little.

The most important thing, however, is that I enjoyed the process of creating this large (for me) piece of art. The paper I used is A3 in size, and the drawing is approx 9.5″ x 14.5″.

When I finally figure out how to price my art (any one wishing to offer help/advice/suggestions on this, then it will be gratefully recieved) I may put it up for sale on Etsy.

Season’s Greetings 2016

winter_05_coloured1

Sending each and every one of you all the very best of the wishes of the season. May each of your days ahead be filled with love, joy and all things bright and good!

Thank you to all who have supported me and sent me such kind words too.

Drawn on my Surfacebook, coloured in via Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

 

Winter Wreath Coloured

The second of the templates I posted yesterday has been coloured.  I went with a cooler colour palette than I would usually choose.

Coloured using Caran D’Ache Luminance pencils and a blending solution was used, which actually brought out the colours beautifully!

I also forgot to mention that these wreaths were drawn in Autodesk Sketchbook on my Microsoft Surface Book.

Crimble card making time again!

I’ve been keeping myself a little busy at times in the past few days making this years crop of Christmas cards.

The materials I used:

  • Kraft cardstock and ready cut 4″x4″ Kraft card blanks
  • Watercolour paper
  • Spectrum Noir sparkle pens
  • Zig clean colour real brush pens
  • Perfect pearls
  • Cosmic shimmer metallic and iridescent paints
  • Nuvo crystal drops by Tonic
  • Sakura glaze pen in black
  • Inktense pencils by Derwent
  • Gold glitter cardstock, matte gold cardstock and mirror gold cardstock from Crafters Companion
  • UHU glue
  • Glue dots
  • White fun foam

And here are the resulting cards; they all shimmer and shine to one degree or another!

Winter Solstice 2011

Today is the Winter Solstice, well the astronomical solstice at least.  The Sun left Sagittarius and entered Capricorn at 05:31GMT this morning and that is the exact point of the solstice.

The Winter Solstice has long been marked as a special time for many millennia.  Our ancient forebears built stone monuments that tracked the passage of the Sun across the sky as the seasons changed; to them it was important to know when it would soon be time to plant the fields so that food would be plentiful once again.

The pattern of observing the Winter Solstice, and other festivals throughout the winter, and indeed throughout the rest of the year, is set in the fabric of our society, though the names of the celebrations, and the precise date of them, have changed over time, and what was once a religious celebration has become, for many in Britain, a secular celebration involving the exchange of gifts, the consumption of food and drink and time with loved ones (though this is not the case for all – let us not forget there are many who have no friends or family or home at this time of year).

There are plenty of places on the world-weird-web where you can find out about the origins of the various traditions that people observe at this time of year in the many cultures that have winter festival.

It has become my own tradition on this day that I spend time in the morning writing in my journal, reflecting on where I have come from and where I’d like to go in the coming months.  Well, that’s the plan, but that rarely happens as my pen gets hijacked by my unconscious mind and lots of things flow onto the paper, many insights and things to consider and ponder, much of which I won’t share with others as it is for me.

Part of my musings I will share concern the passing of time and the meaning we put on various events to help bring order to our lives, and some kind of certainty to the future amid all the seeming chaos and randomness of our lives.  I realised, that it’s important to me to understand why something is celebrated or why a particular traditional activity is done at any particular time of year.

I am finding that as I grow and develop as a person, as a spiritual being, that what I once did no longer makes sense to me; rather than beating myself up about abandoning something that once made sense, worrying that I was being too lazy or turning my back on things, I’ve realised that things do change as I change and understand more.  That is, for me, an important realisation.

Of course, I feel the pressures to conform and I make sure I respect others’ beliefs and traditions and do as they would wish at this time.  However, I have to feel comfortable in my own skin, in my own view of how the Universe seems to work from my point in it.

Another important realisation to come from this mornings musings is that it is most important to remain open  minded about all kinds of things; even though I may have my own views, ideas, theories, experiences, observations and so on at this time, that may change as I experience more and grow and develop.  Being blinkered to other possibilities, to there being no other ways may be what underlies so many of the world’s problems (and greed, never forget the power of greed …).

As I’ve said, there was much more and it made sense to me.  Maybe I’ll share more once I’ve worked through and processed it all.

What this leaves me with is to wish you all the very brightest blessings of the season, the most wonderful wishes for the next cycle of the seasons, no matter how you celebrate or why you celebrate!

Seasons Musings 2011

The end of the Autumn Term is always one filled with very mixed feelings for me, if I allow myself to dwell on things or to notice the differences between myself and others.

I usually am quite different to others in the way I seem to live my life, that’s for sure. At this time of year, with all the messages from the media, retailers and society I feel the separateness even more. The materialistic nature of our society, and at this time of year the materialist selling machine kicks into overdrive.

The main message seems to be that you can’t possibly be happy and loved unless you are in a relationship, surrounded by family and friends and have spent a small fortune on gifts and food and drink and decorations, wear a particular brand of clothes or perfume or aftershave or jewellery, look a particular way (impossible unless you are air-brushed and digitally altered or starve yourself silly) or, or or…

Also, let us not forget the pressure to not disappoint others by not getting them the latest gadget or gizmo or designer clothing or accessories, whether you can afford it or not, and this is overwhelming, unless you are aware of the pressures upon you.

Another message is that if you have this or wear this or smell this way then your life will be magical and ecstatic and filled with love and you’ll be irresistible to others portrayed, others portrayed as the ultimate beautiful people.

The main selling point is that of an ideal partner, family, friends and life; a perfection we can’t possibly maintain except for fleeting moments; life is a series of good times and not so good times, even for the incredibly wealthy. Neither money nor fame bring happiness; if they did, we’d never hear of depressed and suicidal wealthy and/or famous people. No matter what things we own or how we dress or what we do or where we go, they cannot bring inner peace and contentment, not for more than a little while.

We’ve become a society, generally, which says I love you by how much we spend on someone, not by on how we treat others.

It is at this time of the year, when businesses whose business is to get you to part with your money, get you to buy into the belief that nothing says I love you more than spending a lot of money on you.

Am I cynical? Probably. Oh, I know that not everyone is like this, that there are people out there who understand what gifting is about, but the majority have been infected with the consumerism/materialism virus.

Being a long-term single person, one who has blood family that she’s not close to (which equates to having no real family) and friends who have their own families, then this time of year can be very difficult. Add to that the bad memories of the past that can surface as various events or pressures are felt related to this season, and a deep tiredness that saps me of my emotional resilience, I can find it very difficult to cope with this particular holiday.

I associate this time of year with huge childhood disappointments. This disappointment wasn’t with what gifts I had or how much money had or hadn’t been spent – I was always appreciative of the gifts given. No, the disappointment was always connected to my hope that Christmas would bring a wonderful change to my life; that there would really be peace and love and goodwill to all, including me.

It never happened.

By mid-morning the magic of waking and finding the house be-decked with fairy lights and decorations overnight by Father Christmas’ fairies that lived in the central heating system and the surprise of the presents at the end of the bed were replaced by arguments and name-calling, destruction and bullying, which only intensified as the day went on and tempers became more and more frayed by tiredness and food and drink.

By Boxing Day everything was back to normal, the only difference were the twinkling lights, tree, tinsel and trimmings.

Christmas became a season of false hopes and false promises.

That never changed as I went through adulthood. Oh the parties could be fun, but generally ended in drunken fights – verbal or physical – between other party-goers always spoiled them

The expectation of sitting and watching Christmas TV with no conversation after dinner was tedious and boring for me. Or the annoyance at the long ago ex-partner turning up drunk and late for the first Christmas dinner in our new home together. I’d spent all morning preparing and cooking the meal, and by the time he got home it was all dry and over-done. I’d nibbled my way through my food waiting for him (and got through half a bottle of very good port). He wolfed it down, dashed upstairs to be sick and then spent the rest of the day in bed sleeping it all off.

Not all have been sad or bad.

I had a good day a few years ago when I volunteered to help the chef at a half-way house run by the Salvation Army. There were lots of laughs that day.

There was also the year where I ‘rescued’ a friend from a long walk home after his fiancée had chucked him out at 10am on Christmas morning because her son had complained that my friend hadn’t shown enough enthusiasm for the son’s gifts. I ended up cooking an Indian banquet before taking him to his lodgings in the evening.

And last year, heavy snow meant it wasn’t possible to go anywhere, and so the pressure was off me. I spent the day engrossed in art and reading and music.

There’s also my acceptance that Christmas, as a religious thing, means nothing to me. It’s allowed me to be happier at this time of year than in the past. I still feel the pressures from outside.

This is a turning point in the year; Christmas more-or-less coincides with the Winter Solstice which heralds a return of the light and the possibility of growth in the coming months. The Solstice brings change and the opportunities for personal growth. The Sun is at it’s weakest at this time, though its strength is gradually reborn and grows in strength over the coming months. It’s a good time to let go of things that have ‘died’ in our life in order to make space for new things to come into our lives. My attitude towards this time of year is one of those things that needs to change, my resilience to the external pressures needs to be strengthened, and there are some things I need to let go of in order for this change to occur.

Despite all the work I’ve done on myself, on how I view things, becoming comfortable with who I am and my life, I still find this time of year difficult. All the comments like ‘Oh, it must be so lonely for you at this time of year, with no one to spend Christmas with’ (what about the rest of the year?) or the avoidance of the subject (by me as well), and seeing people in large groups eating and drinking and laughing and I’m on the outside looking in, or that’s how it feels.

It’s not the eating or drinking that can get me sad, more the lack of human company. However, that is a feeling that isn’t confined to this time of year – it’s an all year round thing.

I know I tend to keep myself distant from people; I’ve been hurt too often in the past. I do need to learn how to risk a little of myself in order to form connections with others. That is a longer term goal than just for one day of the year, however.

I think that this year I will revel in my solitary time, take the time to rest and recuperate, to do nice things for myself, learn to give to myself for a change and look at where I need to learn to accept from others too. It’s time to remind myself that I am comfortable in my own company, that I’m not lonely, that my life has meaning and purpose and it’s a good time to look at what I do have in my life and to be properly grateful for it. It’s a time to find the strength to avoid noticing what is missing according to the fairytale the media weave for us surrounding what happiness is and what we must have to be happy.

Perhaps, it would be a cathartic exercise to write my own version of A Christmas Carol – past, present and future – maybe calling it a Solstice Carol or a Yule Carol. 

Lammas

Today is Lammas, a name that derives from the Old-English hlafmaesse, which means ‘loaf-mass’.  August 1st is also known as Lughnasadh or Lughnasa, particularly among the modern Pagan community, and you can find loads about it on the world weird web.

Anglo-Saxon church records from the ninth century onwards show that that Lammas was the festival of ‘first fruits’ with wheat, corn and bread to celebrate the corn harvest.

The first ripe cereals were reaped and baked into bread which was consecrated at a church upon that day.  A book of Anglo-Saxon charms advised that this holy bread be divided into four pieces, each of which was crumbled in a corner of a barn in order to make it a safe storage-place for the harvest about to arrive there.

Certainly, the arrival of the time when the first harvest could be gathered would have been a natural point for celebration in an agrarian society, and the importance of the first day of August was already so well established by 673 that Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus decreed that the annual synod of the newly established Church in England should be held then.  It seems very likely that a pre-Christian festival had existed among the Anglo-Saxons on that date.

Although not one of the official quarter days, Lammas was a regular day for paying rents, settling debts, and changing jobs and houses.

It’s position in the year also contributed to its key role in the organization of rights to common lands.  Where common or church land was rented out by the half-year, or where common strips of land were apportioned annually, Llamas was often the time that the business was carried out.

Lammas was also a popular day for fairs, for example at Exeter and York, and local feasts and revels, such as at Combe Martin in Devon.  Temporary rules and regulations were in force during the time of a fair, it was important that everyone knew when the fair opened and closed, and impressive civic processions and readings of proclamations were often reported, along with the use of highly visible symbols that were displayed while the fair lasted.

Another name for Lammas is ‘the Gule of August’, and this phrase was in use from at least 1300; it also was in use in Old French and Medieval Latin.  One suggestion is that ‘Gule’ derives from the Welsh ‘gwyl’, or ‘feast’, but it’s not clear why or how Norman English or Old French picked up such a word.  It is more likely that the word is derived from Latin.  For more about this read ‘The Stations of the Sun‘.

References:

  1. The English Year, Steve Roud
  2. Stations of the Sun, Ronald Hutton

Lammas thoughts

The new wheat of the year and the first loaf baked with it.  Wheat and other cereal crops are one of the western world’s staple foods.  Agriculture, one of the major innovations of the Neolithic peoples, allows us to grow vast quantities to ensure we are all fed, we all have bread to feed our bodies.  How many of us take this for granted?  How many of us pause to consider those in other parts of the world who do not have enough bread to sustain their bodies, bread being an analogy for essential food?

Today is a day, traditionally, to give thanks for the harvest that will feed us, but it would be nice for us to think of those who struggle to find enough food to feed them, whether it be through environmental disasters, societal turmoil, war, or man’s inhumanity to man.  We could also send thoughts to the animals and plants who are suffering as much as mankind, often far more, through natural and man-made disasters and atrocities.

It is a time for community.  In the past, communities would come together to gather the harvests in as quickly as possible so little was spoiled and all was safely stowed away to last through the coming year.  It was a time of hard but necessary work.

This takes us back to the thoughts about those in the world and how the paradigm needs to change to a world community where we help one another to ensure all have enough for a decent life.  Take time today to consider those who do not have enough food or any other necessities of life, and consider making a commitment to donate regularly to charity to help these people, if you don’t already do so.  Of course,  the world community includes not just humans, but all other living things, and the very Earth itself, for without these life would not be possible, would it?

These are the general and worldwide issues that come to mind in connection with Lammas; but what of the more personal, more symbolic messages that come with the first harvest of the year?  What spiritual bread is there?

We all sow symbolic seeds – new beginnings, new projects, new ways of looking at ourselves, new ways to interact with people, and so on.  These seeds will germinate in fertile ground, where we nurture them, and eventually they will bear the fruit of our efforts.  Today is a day when we can look back at the seeds we planted in the spring and see what ‘fruits’ are ripe and ready to be plucked, and which need to be left to grow more before they will mature.

Another meaning is transformation.  Wheat must die for it to give us sustenance and also so that new life can spring again from it when it’s seed is planted in the Earth.  The life of the wheat is sacrificed to make way for new plants in the Spring.

So it is with our lives; we need to ‘sacrifice’ situations, projects, tasks, and so on that have reached their conclusion, let go of those that will not grow or have not germinated, and we need to do this in order to move onward, to allow new things to enter our lives.

Change is never easy, but it is necessary if we are to grow and realise our potential in all things.  Lammas marks the start of the time when we can savour the fruits of our efforts.  A time when we can experience the sweet taste of success, or the bitter taste of failure.  Either way, Lammas is the time to start to let them go from our lives as it is the first harvest, the start of clearing the land of the crops that have either matured successfully or failed for various reasons.  Lammas is the time to look within ourselves and in our lives to see where this is also the case.

This letting go of what has ended, no matter if it is a success or a failure allows a symbolic death of that which has come to its end.  This is echoed in the increasing period of night that we notice at this time of year.  The nights are drawing in, and while the days are still hot and balmy, there is a feeling of change in the world as we move to the Autumn Equinox.  Yes, nature still flourishes and grows and fruits continue to grow and to ripen, but with the first harvests we begin to see nature coming towards the end of its yearly cycle of growth, the fields being laid bare ready for sowing with new seeds.

For now we can celebrate our successes, learn from our failures, and mourn letting go of what is complete, knowing that as one thing ends something new is on it’s way, just as a bare field means new growth will come in the Spring.

Whatever you consider today, whatever you think about Lammas, enjoy the day!