Friday, October 12, 2012

Create or consume? Some autumn snaps and snips anyway.

Creative flare. Careless pointing of the camera into the light can sometimes have quite agreeable results.  And of course it is 2012, and not quite the end of it, so if you like you can believe those iridescent globules of light are something to do with the Mayan calendar. 

Creative flair.  I don't seem to be able to muster very much. I miss the small computer, find it hard to apply myself to sitting at the desk.  Further research discourages me from the whole idea of a tablet device, tempting little shiny widgets though they are.  Apart from anything else I don't think many of them, perhaps the undesired I-pad aside, would be much use for blogging or for commenting on blogs, which though I am less assiduous than I used to be, is still one of my main requirements. One or two of my betters have chuckled a bit at my pretentious parroting of reviews which say that tablets are designed for the consumption rather than the creation of content.  'Won't do for you,' said Tom 'you are a creative spirit.  Wherever you go in the world something is created.  Usually mess and mayhem.'  Or something along those lines.

The impulse when on my couch I lie in vacant or on pensive mood, usually vacant, to reach for an electronic device and graze has to be satisfied by the Kindle, but I resent paying any money for stuff on that.  It's fun seeing what you can get for nothing though. Carlyle is a good companion on Novalis (the link is to a cheap e-book but I think I got it free), since he more or less says don't worry, I find him largely impenetrable and slightly bonkers too, but stay with it and you won't regret it.  I'm coming to like Carlyle. wryly lamenting the laggard intellectual ways of 'the Scotch philosopher and the English unphilosopher'.  

Lowering the tone significantly I've also been reading Elinor Glyn's Three Weeks, which might seem a little desperate, coming across it I was roused to curiosity by the rhyme that my mother used to quote, and which my friend H is always slightly surprised and tickled that I know, since it dates from her youth too:

Would you like to sin 
With Elinor Glyn
On a tiger skin?
Or would you prefer
To err
With her
On some other fur?

Poor bloody tiger, you died in vain, it really is a dreadful book.  It's not like I don't have any decent things to read around either, electronic or otherwise.

In fact too many, I am threatened by drowning by the tide of good reading matter, books, magazines, blogs, and I'm not getting round half as many of those as I should, even though blogging in general seems to be a little quieter than it was.  And as I say, creative activity on my own part seems to be at something of a low ebb; I do wonder if perhaps whatever force I had is pretty much spent and if giving in to being mainly a consumer of others' creative output might be what I ought to be doing anyway. Consumption and acquisition are such negative ideas, but someone has to be the audience after all, and there's just so many lives and talents deserve one.

Supposing I said I was going to stop trying to turn out any worthwhile content here, limit myself to commenting on other people's blogs and answering the several e-mails I seem always to owe peoplewith the thought and promptness they deserve?   In both instances I often seem to find I have more of apparent interest to say for myself. But if I did that, I know I'd instantly regret it, find I had something desperately important I wanted to say, perhaps experience a sudden burst of creative fervour and start writing three poems a day or something, then have to go through the fraught business of reinventing myself, which I suppose then might make it worthwhile.  But if that didn't happen, what would I do with all my holiday snaps? 

So in that spirit here are a few snaps and snippings of the season.

The sunflowers continue, though many have gone over and been blown or battered down by wind and rain.  But they are still a feast for green- and goldfinches.  I was tidying up the veg beds the other day, and went to clear out the cold frame, which has been invaded by nettles.  I lifted the clump and a small newt and a midwife toad looked up at me balefully from under them, to say nothing of the spiders.  A group (or a charm, if one is being accurately lyrical) of goldfinches chided me with impatience from the eucalyptus tree, as good as saying I was keeping them from their lunch, and indeed, as soon as I walked away they were on the sunflower heads.  I'm chased out of my own veg patch, which I suppose is how they feel.

So I took a walk, there are some late butterflies about, more really than we've had through much of this apology for a summer (yes I know August was three hot days and a thunderstorm, and I don't really mind cool summers, and those of you who are sweltering and gasping under rapid desertification elsewhere on the planet will chide me, but it really has been fairly lousy).

There was a peacock on Marcelle's shabby chintz Michaelmas daisies,

and a comma on the bramble leaves.

The brambles themselves offer colour, though the berries are finished,

 there are late flowers of knapweed and hawksbit,

and pretty leaves of this and that.

To me, umbelliferous plants are like wading birds, an area where my taxonomic awareness and smart-alec need-to-know identification skills let me down, getting vague and hazy, consequently I miss out on foraging opportunities, some  of them are delicious, it seems, others toxic. 

I believe these things which seem to flourish most of the year, rather coarse and rank but with  interesting lines and forms and geometries, are hogweed, which are not edible, maybe toxic, except they're said to yield a seed which resembles cardomon in flavour, but I hesitate to risk it.

Even the commonplace bracken, as it begins to turn to yellow, becomes more apparent and pleasing in its forms,

and more delicately translucent.

Another creature joined us, walking always ahead of us;

despite its being put into this landscape purely to be blown out of it, and despite that I was a human with a dog with pointing a black mechanical device at it, it didn't bother to fly away or even hide, but trotted in front of us like a barnyard fowl.

It turned out to be a black pheasant, though I couldn't be sure of this until I enlarged the photos.  I've not seen one of these here before.  Though pheasants are introduced game for the hunting season (which seems to be depressingly and oppressively noisy and well-subscribed this year) a number do survive and breed; I was delighted back in the early summer to encounter a handsome red, gold and green cock pheasant with a brood of chicks pottering along by the side of the road as I was driving past.  Someone told me some years ago in the UK that this newer strain of black birds tend to unsettle and stress out the older multicoloured ones.  Likewise, the white-ringed ones apparently drove out and displaced the original smaller ones without the white neckband.

Back to the vegetables:  pumpkins, or rather winter squashes, the real pumpkins aren't on stream yet,  and pink onions are furnishing the kitchen.

Tom has tried his best but had to admit that he just can't really get to like pumpkins; he'll eat them in soup with some enjoyment but that's all. Oh dear, there go my plans for a pumpkin based cuisine and diet.  Molly really likes them though, so Tom will have to have pease pudding or something and the two of us will thrive on a beta-carotene cucurbit rich regime.

You can't go wrong with pink onions, though.  We've eaten most of them already, so the celebrated Roscoff rosés' keeping qualities remain largely untested.

And what better in which to cook these delights than this cast iron enamel, not quite Le Creuset pan in the most sublime shade of deep violet, posing here with one of the runts of the pumpkin litter and sundry other items of autumn produce?  A snip from Noz at just under fourteen euros.  I have such things already, in dark green, butter yellow and black, but you can't have too many cast iron enamel pans can you, and I didn't have one quite this shape and size, and certainly not this colour... oh OK, so I'm a feckless spendthrift, an unfettered consumerist junkie with no conscience and an obsession with bowls and saucepans.

Fed up with rainy days and damp air, though it wasn't really cold, we lit the first fire the other night.

A sawn up beam, Tom's been busy, and a branch of rosemary.  The rosemary was bullying everything else in the vicinity and getting sprawling and ungainly.  I miss it in the kitchen but not in the garden, and it burns with a friendly and fragrant flame.

Enough already.


Beth said...

I'm way behind here, but somehow spotted this post immediately with its (as always) fabulously beautiful, sensitive photographs. I really don't know how you could feel you have little to contribute -- I love your blog, Lucy, and your whole sensibility. And, for what it's worth, my husband dislikes pumpkin too!

marja-leena said...

Lovely photos and post, as always, Lucy!! Don't stop.
Interestingly we too lit our first fire a couple of nights ago, just to brighten the mood on a darkening that comes sooner and sooner - must try some of my equally overgrown rosemary next time - sounds great!

Today we have our first measurable rain in well over two months. Husband turned the heating system on the first time this fall, just to chase the sudden feel of damp but it's not that cold yet.

We love most squash but some varieties are too watery and bland including pumpkins, unless you get a pie pumpkin. We did have a delicious pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.

Zhoen said...

I have been unimpressed with the pads and tablets, because I need a keyboard. I agree, they are for eating off of, not cooking on.

I thought it a turkey, until you said pheasant.

christopher said...

My goodness but I love moving about the house and country with you!

the polish chick said...

i posted a well thought out comment and it was eaten by the interwebs. i don't think i have a second one in me. sigh... sorry. in a nutshell: write when you will, rest when you will. your kitchen scrap photos are beautiful. and finally, we also love bowls.
now imagine those three thoughts wrapped up in a more careful package and there's my initial, eaten, comment.

Jean said...

I see others have already jumped in befoe me to say, you won't really stop will you? I firmly believe that this ebbing and flowing is a necessary part of creativity and not at all a sign of its waning.

Some really beautiful photos - I adore the one of the pheasant in silhouette on the road.

Jean said...

Oh, and I meant to say, I too am unattracted by tablets. I have a little Acer netbook, the size of a slim paperback, which I love and which does everything a larger laptop does except play CDs and DVDs. I chose it, from the range at rock-bottom price, on the hopelessly stereotypically female grounds that the case is a pretty translucent aqua colour. It turned out to be an excellent small machine - not such silly grounds, perhaps: good design is often a good indication of quality.

Roderick Robinson said...

I don't want to intrude on this elegiac ramble you're engaged in. After all you've got on well without me for some years now. But why not try half-a-dozen limited-length blogs over six days.. Having only, say, 300 words to play with tweaks your mind, changes the nature of the raw material. You start off with three related ideas, write 150 words, realise you'd need another 450 to complete your treatment of the first idea and conclude quite rightly this is something different. And, no, I'm not talking discipline any more than saying Holbein's Thomas More is a disciplined version of Frith's Derby Day. Try it, succeed, and then tell me I can now go and emmerde mon chapeau. Or take up the recorder.

Bruce Taylor, a.k.a. Catalyst said...

Oh, please don't stop blogging, Lucy. Your photos alone are worth the price of admission. Well, yes, I know but still.

Doesn't Tom even like pumpkin pie, rich and sweet?

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

I'm with Jean on this one. Creativity ebbs and flows. It's a part of the natural, tidal process. I too have times where I think about throwing in the blogging towel, but the moments pass and I'm up and away on another post full of ideas that have been nudging me to share them. As others have said, you have a talent for life, and the writing and camera skills that facilitate the sharing of it here at Box Elder. Don't force things. By all means consider a break, and write and post when the spirit moves you. We'll all keep checking.

Anonymous said...

I love this whole post. "You have a talent for life" is the absolute truth, and probably why half my comments on your blog are along the lines of "Could I live your life for a while, Lucy?" The cast iron pot, the rosemary fire, the pumpkin-based cuisine. . . you are the perfect mix of detail and humor and wonderings. Thank you, Lucy.
- alison

Lucy said...

Dear all, thanks so much, I really didn't mean to do one of those blogging-angst-fishing-for-compliments type posts, which in principle I don't have much time for. I never cease to be gratified that you all still come around!

I suppose I was more by way of apologising for my desultoriness! I have no intention of stopping, it's just sometimes my life, while very pleasant and satisfactory to me, seems a bit smug and inconsequential when I report on it here, compared to the things other, more valuable people are doing in the world, and though in theory I ought to have a bit more time on my hands to follow up more substantial creative activities, I don't seem to get around to doing so. It's nice to know that my life seems enviable, and it's certainly nothing to complain of, but I sometimes do feel, as I suppose most people do, that I'm not making of it what I should.

But there are always the photos of course, which I shall continue to take, even if not quite so many as I used to, and who's got time to read lots of great long wordy posts anyway?

Jean - I probably will get something like that, in fact that's more or less what the Dell mini I had was like, but it was perhaps just a bit too small and not really up to all the use it got. I like the look of those little Acers, or the HP that RRobinison mentioned previously looks good too. I'd quite like a break from Dell machines. One of the problems is getting one sent out here, I have to have an anglophone OS, and perhaps even more importantly, a qwerty keyboard; azerty ones make me feel as if I've had a stroke, but not many companies will send out from the UK, which limits my options rather. I suppose I could wait till I next go over. Your translucent aqua case sounds delightful and would be a real selling point for me too!

Robbie, I will think about it. I don't know why you are so apologetic. I'm flattered that you are interested enough, and take what I say seriously enough, to make such constructive suggestions, and you may or may not have noticed that I have taken them up and been pleased with them more than once (the changing banner sub-title, 'saved nuts' - picking out old posts of interest...) The 300 word challenge is an interesting one; I think perhaps something like that might provide a kick start. It may be a bit dull of me, but how do you recommend I keep track of the number of words? Do you use an on-line counter, or does your journalistic experience and training give you a pretty good sense of how many words you've written? It's not something I'm very good at, and feel I would struggle a bit to know where I was with the word count. But leave it with me, I'll see what I come up with.

Roderick Robinson said...

I was secretly pleased when you dropped "dilettante" but didn't acknowledge it in case you thought I was crowing. It was potentially a six-of-one decision: you cover many subjects and yet you cover them well, often with a depth of knowledge that rules out any suggestion you're dabbling.

And you are right about responding. I fought for a repeat of the déchetterie post which you gracefully granted. I had in mind a compliment which I eventually witheld but now, given I cannot see the piece being re-repeated, it would be churlish to hold back: "feature journalism at its best" since it was a beautifully balanced mix of facts, informed opinion, humour and (quite a rare thing in blogging) vox. pop. quotations. Well, as far as I can remember.

Anyway. All my posts and most of my comments are done in MS Word and then copy-pasted because I prefer being able to see sentences in full. It's a rhythm thing which encourages varying sentence length. Hence I always have Word's word count, bottom left.

After a while one begins to have a feel for 300 words: notably that it's bad news if the exposition isn't complete within 100 words. Adjectival jeux d'esprit are not absolutely precluded but you will find yourself fighting on behalf of nouns and precisely chosen verbs. Adverbs tend to get short shrift as does any tendency to become lapidary.

I mentioned Holbein but the noun "miniature" isn't the most apt since it carries the smell of decoration. The aim should be completeness. The greatest pleasure is non-instinctive. You over-write, you cut, and you're still 12 words over. You're in despair. Crying your eyes out you cut your best sentence.

And it's better.

Crafty Green Poet said...

wonderful photos! I agree about umbellifers, i wish i knew which are the ones that are edible, I've got two foraging books now and am really intending to learn, but umbellifers like mushrooms seem to need a lot of care and expertise to avoid disaster.

Creativity and consumption of other people's creativity go in cycles i think, they inform each other too to some extent.

Jean said...

Oh god, azerty keyboards. It took me a good year to learn to touch type properly on qwerty and all these years since to build up a decent speed. I doubt very much if I could change. When I worked for an international organisation and we travelled to other countries to organise conferences, we used to take our own computers even in the pre-laptop days when these were hefty cube-shaped Apple Macs. Trying to type on an unfamiliar keyboard admidst the panic and exhaustion of running a big event, churning out successive drafts of vital documents always needed unfeasibly quickly... it just wasn't possible.

I'll always remember the time when a very uptight and full-of-herself French woman politician commandeered a desk in our conference office and banged out her speech, read it through... and found that, having never used a qwerty keyboard, she'd typed gobbledegook. I looked at it and then, in some trepidation, at her face and we both got violent and unstoppable hysterical giggles.

How daft that you can't easily order a computer with English OS and qwerty keyboard in France - so much for globalisation.

Laura said...

It's still so colorful there! I came to check in on you and your life (by the way, thank for the recent comment on my blog and the Lost Passport Tale of Woe)--and I was uplifted, cheered, and otherwise nudged out of some doldrums I was mired in.
Oh Lucy, oh Tom, oh Molly. I'm so glad you're there.

Rouchswalwe said...

Yes! So very glad!

marly youmans said...

One feels like stopping sometimes . . . and maybe those are just times to fill the well, drip-dropple up!

I think you have a real following (including me) and are an important shard in the big stained glass window of community. So there!

HKatz said...

I agree with the others - post whenever you want, whatever you want, as long as it isn't forced. Your posts always have something beautiful, interesting, thoughtful... even if on the surface it's the garden growing or food in the kitchen, it doesn't matter, because there's beauty in the day to day details too.

The High Holiday season has just wrapped up for me, and I haven't gotten a chance to blog as much or visit other blogs, but it's part of the rhythm of the year. Sometimes I write a week in seven words and I think to myself "there has to be more to this week! Where did it go?" Or I'm so busy with non-blog work that I don't give it much thought. Then other weeks I feel more motivated to post...