blackberry treats

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

I love this quote, and try to remember it every year when the leaves tumble into crunchy piles of a thousands shades of amber. Every new season always feels like an opportunity for renewal, but especially autumn, when the cooling, crisp winds which make us reach for our jumpers and hats breathe a haze of rich, gold-infused light over the heavens. And especially this year. Maybe because it came at the end of a wonderfully long, heady summer, or maybe because I have taken on new challenges and my brain is whirring as it learns new things. Or maybe it is because, as I head into my own autumnal years, I feel more of an affinity with this season which I have previously always approached with a sense of loss and longing, and am finding it can energise me as much as the sprightly newness of spring, or the carefree, lazy days of summer.

The children always love this time of year because for them it signals the start of the season of treats, fun and indulgence which starts around Halloween and peaks with Christmas, of course. They find the chilly days and dark nights exciting in a way which I, as one who worships light, have never really understood before. Even bonfire night usually fails to ignite a spark of excitement. However this year, the quiet, mellow joys of this mature season have infused my heart and pooled into its chambers with a surprising, juicy burst of delight – just like that first taste of freshly plucked sweet-sharp blackberries.

blackberries

yellow leaves

Felix and Flo picking blackberries

blackberry in hand

Felix and Florence on gate

red leaves

Flo eating blackberry

Felix at lake

© images and words by Emily Hughes, 2015

a fragment

I have been having a clear out. Sorting through drawers, boxes, wardrobes, cupboards, attics, and under beds. I am on a mission to cleanse and purge, making the most of a bit of down time before holidays and a new job in September. Such an unbelievable amount of ‘stuff’ we have acquired over the years as a family of four (and I guiltily admit to liking my ‘stuff’). It’s quite painful to get rid of things, I’m finding, and painful also just to come across things sometimes… when you sort and sift through the past, along with the dust and the stray objects long since forgotten and given up as lost – a treasured toy; a piece of misplaced jewellery; that key that fits that window you could never open or that vital lead that connects to something equally vital though you can’t remember what now… that tape measure you could never manage to locate when you needed it and replaced three times over; and such a miscellany of odd screws, buttons, paperclips, pens (where did they come from? What do I do with them? Surely it’s wrong to just throw away perfectly usable things?) – you stir up memories. Emotions. Lain dormant for a long while. Some things – especially old photographs I’m finding – I cannot even bring myself to sort through yet. I can understand how people become hoarders and prefer to live with their things all around them. It’s comforting to know that they are there, inhabiting their space like mute companions, without having to deal with them directly. Let them be. Let them gather dust and great significance in their rightfully-claimed-patch-in-the-world where they will languish until you are gone, and the fraught, messy job of ‘dealing with the stuff’ can be left to others.

But deal with our stuff I must, because our generously sized house is fast filling up with things. Books, it seems, are a particular weakness. Some things, though, it is joyful to come across. Some things make me smile. Like this little note from fellow photographer and blogger Cath Rennie of Settle and Chase. Occasionally, other bloggers send me things in the mail, and this was one such thing – small but delightful – which I have kept. Words to treasure. And the little photograph of the orchid she sent with it is pegged to my inspiration board above my desk, vying for attention between a scrap of original wallpaper from our study found by a carpenter building some bookshelves (a delightful discovery), an old postcard of the Eiffel Tower (from about the same period – late Victorian 1880s – discovered in a French market), and a polaroid-style instagram photo of some grasses blowing in the breeze. I think it was taken in Mexico about three years ago. I like to keep some of these little photographs dotted about the place and I often use them as thank you notes. I look at Cath’s little orchid often as I look at all of the things I peg up there, but I thought I had lost the note she sent with it and was happy to rediscover it.

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memory-2

© images and words by Emily Hughes, 2015

these watery things

My life is going through a lot of changes at the moment. These are changes which I have instigated. Things are shifting. It is exciting, but extremely unsettling, and there are times when I question my motives for stirring up the waters. I question why I am constantly compelled to confront what is real and safe and solid. Sometimes it helps me to express these feelings with my images and sometimes I write words too, which I cannot call as substantial as poetry or prose, but…. well, they are just something.

***

In these moments, when the frayed ends of a tightly wound skein begin to unravel. When the warm, solid earth beneath my feet seems to shift. When I look up, and even the clear blue sky wavers and shimmers, teasing like a mirage in the temperate desert heat. Watery things are playful things; beguiling and dissembling. They steal the light and scatter it joyfully like pebbles, skimming this way and that. Dodging and darting here and there.

Impossible to gather in my arms.

Every time I look, things are different… as if my eyes are shifting. A pair of aqueous orbs.

Every time, it is new.

Don’t confess your secrets to those watery things. They will suck them in greedily and and then spit them out like polished cherry stones.


sometimes I daydream3sometimes I daydream...sometimes I daydream2

 

© images and words by Emily Hughes, 2015

how to make a daisy chain

First off, I’m sorry for the misleading title (it is about daisy chains, but there is no set of instructions I’m afraid). And whilst I’m at it, I would also like to apologise to regular readers especially for the overload of family pictures recently. I hope it’s not all too saccharine for your tastes (but you know I can do acerbic just as well as I can do sweet, I think). It has just struck me with some force, this spring holiday, how they are at such a magical age; on the cusp of knowing, discovering the world – their world – through their own eyes as they are. So many questions and misunderstandings tumbling from their tongues. At once categorically assertive and desperately unsure. I’m painfully aware also, as they bow their heads and giggle about private jokes and shared experiences which are theirs and theirs only, how much I am no longer a part of that; how every troubled thought, or stubbed toe nail no longer requires a kiss and a cuddle and soothing words as they learn to regulate their own emotions. Don’t get me wrong; I’m also glad for this. Very glad, that they are learning to forge the paths of their own world and navigate through thorny issues like fears and friendships. But along with that comes a distance. A gap. Only small just now, and still easily overcome when troubles spill over into tears and I am needed. But it is there in the closed bedroom doors and the occasional quiet withdrawal of hands from mine. In the silences to my many questions about their day. And then there are the rolled eyes, the But mummy, you wouldn’t understand, and Don’t take that tone/attitude with me! altercations which are now part of our daily patter.

But still they want the hugs, and sometimes stories at bedtime. Still they want to laugh and dance, and share silly jokes with us at dinner time, even though I’m embarrassing in front of their friends. So those precious in-between moments – the ones without the sulks and the temper tantrums and the arguments and when I’m not so tired I don’t have the energy (and then I kick myself for missing them) – I just need to reach out and snatch them, every so often, and hold them close by to my heart. I guess the camera is just the way I know how to do that.

So, last week, we were enjoying the beautiful spring weather at their great-grandfather’s house in London. His unkempt garden had a rich crop of fine looking daisys, so my seven year old asked me to help her make a daisy chain, since she didn’t know how. I thought, Oh my goodness I can’t believe you don’t know how? It seems like something every seven year old girl should *just* know how to do. And then I realised, how would she know if no-one showed her? So I did. And we had fun picking the strongest, tallest specimens. I took pictures, and then after a while on her request I put the camera away, and we carried on until the sun got too warm and we went off to find some shade.

There may be some kind of tenuous connection in all of that, between daisy chains, life, family and instructions, or lack of. But it’s a bit hazy. And I’ve never really been one for tying up the lose threads into a perfect bow. I’m happy to leave some questions unanswered, and accept that sometimes problems cannot be neatly solved, like algebra. Life is a bit like hair, really (those of you who are female and/or have daughters will appreciate this) – no matter how hard you try to create the perfect style and tie it up all neatly, after a while some tendrils will always work their way lose. And really, in the end, it doesn’t matter at all.

 

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Edited to say: I intended to post this over a month ago, just after the Easter holidays, and somehow it never made it past ‘draft’ version. So apologies for the delay! I’m so jealous of that sunshine now as I type with my thick fleecy socks on, and a hot water bottle in my lap!

© images and words by Emily Hughes, 2015

full of the joys

Jostling, whirring and bouncing in to town. A pair of dizzy bumble bees on the first sunny day of spring!

 

joy1

© images and words by Emily Hughes, 2015

birdwatching (II)

I don’t often photograph birds, mainly because I’m not a fan of big unwieldy telephoto lenses. It is not because I don’t like birds; quite the opposite in fact. Although I don’t confess to being an expert, I can spot a few more common varieties, and I appreciate their beauty and grace. More recently, my six-year old daughter has become obsessed with birds, and enjoys spotting and painting them, at the keen instruction of Alex – nature lover and regular bird expert. We spend a fair amount of our free family time at RSPB reserves, and more recently at this WWT wetlands centre in Slimbridge (which is well worth a visit). It was a beautifully clear, ice-cold frosty day and the light was pure gold. Perfect. Quite the most beautiful light I’ve seen in a long time, actually. Usually at these places I’m content to busy myself with photographing the scenery, or getting up close with my macro lens, but the swans, ducks and geese were abundant and friendly, so I managed to get close enough to steal a few decent shots.

I named this part II, because I realised I had done another birdwatching post in Easter 2013 (although there were no birds in that one – just an egg!).

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© images and words Emily Hughes, 2015

her mama sang

her mama sang

she waited whilst her mama sang
songs to strangers
for sweet blow-kisses
only to her

© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014

My grandfather’s faces

It’s been a while since I posted any pictures from my grandfather’s house. Here are some from last August I have only just gotten around to sorting through. My grandfather is a man who has loved and treasured beautiful things all of his life. He is a collector, and he has been fortunate to have the means to surround himself with beauty. When we are young we try so hard to distance ourselves from our roots; to assert our independence and turn our faces outwards, fiercely, towards the future we want so badly to carve out for ourselves. But as we get older we realise that the past has so much more to teach us, and looking back is not to be dismissed as shameful, or wallowing in nostalgia. After all, how can we really know ourselves without understanding where we come from?

I have always loved things. Trinkets, treasures, knick knacks. When I was small I made collections of marbles and rubbers and dolls – all sorts. I would line them up and categorise them obsessively. I began to understand, as I grew up, that I lived in a family that valued things. I didn’t appreciate that for a long while, but when I began to emerge from the secluded oyster of my world I saw that it was not so in every household, and now I find it is important for me to make my home a place where things are allowed exist, and not obsessively tidied away. I enjoy the gentle chaos of a home life which I grew up with, where there is comfort in the incongruity of mismatched objects, each of which holds meaning for us as a family in some way, and which live happily, haphazardly, side by side.

Many peculiar faces haunt my grandfather’s world. I’m sure he barely notices them now, but when I go there the wonder of a child froths up inside me as if I am seeing these things for the first time. And as time ticks on slowly, inevitably, they seem to want to tell his story more urgently to me.

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night:
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls ensilvered o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard:
Then of thy beauty do I question make
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake,
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing ‘gainst time’s scythe can make defence
Save breed to brave him when he takes thee hence.

Shakespeare, sonnet number 12

clock face

Cat

Cherub boy

horse head

Chinese lady

Broken statue

Winged archer_edited-1

Ivory girl

Grandpa2

You can find out more about my grandfather’s house in previous posts on my blog here and here, and here.

© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014

These wilder things

And I will waste my heart on fear no more
I will find a secret bell and make it ring
And let the rest be washed up on the shore
They can’t be tamed, these wilder things
No they can’t be tamed, these wilder things

From “These Wilder Things” (album of the same name) by Ruth Moody

***

It was like these wilder things grew wilder
and more serious
sparkling in their electric world
relaxed in their sun-drenched skin
inhabiting that sweet groove
which skates between joy and recklessness
polished granite
a surface to flip, skim and fly
a tarnished penny
carelessly tossed aside

They felt safe to tumble freely in their imaginations
shrugging off the scrapes and the bruises
(I envied them that)
laughing and shrieking with abandon
they found solace conspiring in clandestine business
bowed heads sharing furtive words

A pavement is a stage for drama
dodging yawning caverns
molten lava traps
they rustle and pop around me noisily like static
enticing me to act in their superstitious fantasy
but I am already seated for the show

Like vines they grew
plasticine limbs stretching longer
bones denser
and their toes tiptoe cautiously
around the confines of  our adult lives
sparrows snatching at stray breadcrumbs
but all words to them are pingy, elastic
just like them
so they play and stretch and tease
until their world becomes a little bigger
a little wider
a little taller
to accommodate them

But there were also dreams which were darker than before
and they found to their surprise that it was possible to hate, as well as love;
to feel shame as well as pride,

these wilder things

***

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© images and content Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2013

Presence

Florence 2

A portrait of my daughter, age 5.

© images and content Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2013

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