Gentle Reflection

Gentle Reflection (60 x 60cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

The gentle reflection of the water, and of the mind.

Exercise has become so integral to lockdown life, with countryside walks becoming a social visit to those outside of family.

We walk for hours and chat along those canal paths, takeaway coffees and dog leads in hand. Our furry companions are so happy that we work from home, their need for affection and fresh air satisfied.

Most of us have struggled under the bizarre circumstances of a worldwide pandemic, often feeling like characters of a dystopian novel. Everyone has made sacrifices, but so rare is it that we share the same reason for doing so. There is a strange comfort in unity. Each begrudgingly slow step of the past year has now led to enormous leaps in modern medicine, and a new compassion within the community.

The end appears nigh, as we hope to throw our masks up like the graduation caps and celebrate a long, carefree summer.

As autumn returns, perhaps we should hold onto the masks from the bitter wind, and a bittersweet memory which we battled through.

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Sunlit Tree, Summer Dreaming

Sunlit Tree (30 x 40cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

This kind of weather prompts us to leave our homes and toward any nature within the vicinity. In a city filled with sparse areas of green, I am fortunate to live in the bountiful countryside where Mother Nature hides around every corner. She takes my hand on a wildlife adventure, transporting me back to my youth and endless curiosity.

Each time I visit the canals, there seems to be new colours, new life, found there. It tickles the leafy trees and runs along the lazy river. I choose today as a mission for myself to find the perfect picnic spot, my basket swinging excitedly, giving me momentum.

Travellers in their moored boats will soon join the steady stream downward, towards the local pub and café, for leisure and nourishment. Rather than following the general crowd, I cross a rickety bridge and settle down near the sunlit trees. As I lie on the patchwork rug, the warm air weighs on my eyes and sends me into a dream. I dream that I am outstretched on a cloud, with the rays of sun lighting what appears to be a racetrack; With chalked lines in the grass, there is a chicken scuffing their feet in anticipation. There is a distant but high-pitched whistle, just as a siren calls the sailors to shore. The chickens run excitedly, their plumy wings at their sides and their heads thrust forwards. They cross the finishing line in quick succession, before huddling together excitedly, feathers flying. When I awake once more, my skin is rosy and my open book has cascaded onto the floor.

I collect memories of this place to keep me warm in winter.

**Article continued on Page Two**

The Breakfast Surprise

Breakfast Surprise (40x40cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

Breakfast is important. In those first moments of your first meal, it sets the tone of the rest of your day. As a child, breakfast was crafted with fascination, from animal-shaped pancakes to intergalactic cereal; It almost felt like a small window to eat, before the contents of my plate would make their escape.

My favourite meal was a boiled egg, with regimented soldiers placed alongside and ready for combat. It is a ritualistic meal – tapping my spoon against the egg, removing the top and dipping the soldier into the salivating, saffron yolk. It is seemingly a quick meal, and I was always eager to start my day and escape from the ordinary into my wild imagination. But this was a moment that I would savour, leading to an unusually quiet morning in a house of frequent, chaotic energy.

To eat soldiers felt fit for a soldier, an occupation that I manifested for myself that day. But that could wait. I placed my cowboy gun nearby, ready to go should an epic battle present itself in the middle of my breakfast.

**Article continues on Page Two**

When Spring Calls

New Beautiful Day (61 x 61cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

White roses are traditionally associated with new beginnings, as white as a bridal gown. They may not be as loud as their coloured counterparts, but their understated beauty flaunts in their layered tones of white, playing with light and shadow.

On the first day of Spring, there is no overcast to be seen, but rather an empty sky and a scorching sun. The artist sees this from her studio and, after a long winter, is eager to capture the changing seasons. As if stealing a palette from the sky, her background is sapphire. In her ever-flourishing garden, the muted white roses provide that dramatic contrast that the artist desperately seeks. With a bed of sun-lounging roses below, only the fighting few climb upwards, their tightly closed buds unravelling, their faces exposed. She uses a thin brush to trace their intricate stems, before sculpting her white paint into oval shapes on the canvas.

When the seasons change once more, and we return to shorter days and colder nights, these white roses are a gesture of remembrance. A farewell to summer, but a promise to return, their purity expresses a quiet optimism for the future. This painting says, ‘I’m thinking of you’.

**Article continued on Page Two**

Winter Wellies and Hens

Winter Wellies and Hens (30 x 30cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

I look through the frosted window of my front door, to see a blanket of snow resting on the chickens, soft but icy. Only their red beaks peak through, contrasting to the perfect white, as bright as the blank page of a new chapter.

Once the door is opened, the warm air is sucked out of my home into my glacial surroundings. The cold air pinches my cheeks, and rises in pearl clouds from my mouth with each breath. My wellies greet me at the doorstep, offering to protect my feet from the cold and slippery ground. Like Cinderella, they perfectly fit for the occasion.

The clean slate from the snow is marked with my brown boot marks, as I gingerly walk toward my velvety-plumaged companions. The hens look up and see me, with their fluffed-up feathers shielding the cold. They gather around my feet, and I lean down to pet them with my gloved hands.

I am reminded of snow days as a child, listening eagerly for news that schools were shut and the day was ours. I scoop a handful of soft snow, pressing my palms together until I have created a solid white globe. I throw aimlessly, as if in the midst of a snowball battle, and it lands in the white abyss. It is a day of quiet bliss, with only the muffled creaking of snow underfoot.

**Article Continued on Page Two**

The Bursting Buds of Spring

Bursting Buds (30x30cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

The moment I’ve been waiting for.

The squeaky wheels of my friends bikes down the street and then, ‘Are you coming out to play?’

In my worn denim, only on the arches of my feet do I reach the windowsill and pull myself on the seat. I look out onto our garden, hoping to see the bright and beautiful colours of Spring.

The yellow daffodils and tulips are the first to bloom, firmly rooted and drinking in the sunshine. I look over to the orange roses, my favourite flower, and noticed their buds are still closed. Today brings the possibility of change, of growth and opening.

I look back to the gravel pathway and notice two new bicycles strewn across carefreely. I rush down the hallway, catapulting myself down the stairs using the banister. My trainers are placed by the front door tactfully by mum, which I put on whilst sitting on the doorstep, greeting my friends. After a lengthy debate, we decide to play hide and seek. Without warning, one child puts his hands over his eyes and we quickly scatter, the overcrowded flowers brushing our legs.

I lean against the large, ancient oak tree, with my fingers feeling the grooved bark. I slide down the trunk, making myself as small as possible.

There is a unique silence of this Saturday afternoon, with only muted counting in the distance. It opens my ears to the blossoming garden, closed buds pending. The orange roses behind me finally burst open, causing my head to swivel. Their bold and fiery petals fascinate and draw admiration, specifically a childlike wonder.

**Article continues on Page Two**

Rose and Sage: The Curiously Colourful Canals

Rose and Sage: 30 x 40cm

**Words by Amber L-J**

Green is the colour of rejuvenation.
Rose is the colour of gratitude.
Together, much like the stream of water, these colours slowly drift downstream with a steady sunrise to guide them. Bouncing off the rosy canal boats, the combined pigment floods the pathway. In the glistening water, I see the abundance of life and energy here.

As if admiring their reflection, the trees sway merrily above the water, with the rhythm of rustling leaves as their accompanying music. They join branches with the equally arched trees on the other side of the water, forming a natural pathway to be voyaged by the inhabiting squirrels.

I walk underneath and listen for their morning chatter across the information (and physical) highway, with their speedy commute to either side as an affectatious display of agility.

As I reach the bend of the pathway, I see the boats moored. Free from civilisation, the community on the canals wrap up warm on the decks. Their gloved hands are enlaced tightly around a mug of tea in conversation with their neighbours, or a solitary fishing rod in sport, hoping to catch their next meal. The rods animate the water, as it ripples and merges various blocks of green.

Breathing in the fresh air, we each exhale small, white clouds which soar into the atmosphere.

It is almost like living inside the polychromatic dream of a painting.

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The Hens of Homecoming

The Homecoming (30x30cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

Everyday, the hens come home to safety before dark.

I call for my hens in high whistling tones, bent down and patting my thighs eagerly. With a bucket of chicken feed in one hand, and a steaming camomile tea in the other, I wait on the pathway at the bottom of the meadow.

The yellow rose bush grows outward, distinguished from the verdant landscape. Reclining upon the railings of the fence, they welcome me back whilst refusing to be ignored. The warmth from their open petals cause my smile.

I soon see red feathers and orange beaks peak over the top of the hill. The chickens find happiness in their freedom to roam far in these fields, with the exception of feeding time.

These hens leave their haven and rush towards me. With the wind entangled in their feathers, thrust backward and creating resistance, some fall behind. However, a steady stream flows downward.

In the low sun, my squinting eyes make out dark shadows on the green pasture, with their legs strutting at such a speed they seem to disappear.

With their initial stealth achieved on the soft grass, the pitter patter of their claws is soon heard overlapping on the concrete path.

I scoop one of these hens in my arms, both of us making mutual noises of glee. Once she is placed down, I reach into the bucket.

I tentatively hold my hand out, with a pile of chicken feed cupped inside, to be gently pecked at by the hens at all directions, encircling me.

**Article continued on Page 2**

Braving the Bluebell Woods

Hens in The Bluebell Woods (50x50cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

Annually, the russet floor of the woodland is flooded with a sea of violet bluebells. In their most natural setting, they flourish and flower for humans and animals alike.

Where the woods thinned, a farm was awoken by the shrill crow of a small, white-feathered cockerel. The farmer sleepily approached the hen coop as the sun slowly climbed over the hills, bearing light on the locked door. Upon lifting the latch, the farmer was greeted excitedly by hungry hens. Once they were fed, the door was left open to endless possibilities before roosting at dusk.

On this day, one hen gingerly stepped onto the bluebell path. Inspired by one’s courage, the other hens trickled into the wood, clucking in low tones of caution. However, as they ventured further into the purple haze, the brood quickly fell silent.

The enchantment of the bluebell forest stole their voice, and caused the hens to pause in silent awe of their surroundings. The woodland air overwhelmed the senses with melodious bird calls and fragrant flowers.

As the hens continued, they could see an area in which the gleaming sunlight above was concealed by formidable, towering trees. Mistaking this as night-time, or risking danger ahead, many began to turn back. The first, brave hen marched to the edge, with only a few followers remaining. Looking at the path ahead, the hen glanced back to see the safety of the collective lingering behind her, unable to follow her into the darkness. Her unfledged desire to explore was quickly triumphed by the sensible majority.

Maybe tomorrow.

**Article continued on Page 2**