The Long Walk Home

The Long Walk Home (40 x 40cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

My loyal companions are consumed by wanderlust.

My chickens are always on the move, their bobbing heads often thrusting their bodies forward, onto the next location. They never stay in one place too long.

But like any concerned parent, I always ask them to write, and they have always kept this promise.

I hear the whistle of the postman, and my letters brushing through the envelope slot, landing softly in the hallway. My pooch hears this sound and, wagging excitedly, fetches this for me. As I am finishing my morning coffee, I flick through boring bills and arid advertisements before coming across a postcard.

I see the billowing sand dunes, with the pointed blades of grass waving to me. I see the orange sands warmed by the glowing sunlight which is dipping downward at the end of another day in paradise. I flip the postcard over, and begin to read the next chapter for the chickens who left my garden two summers ago.

They tell me of their experience at the edge of the world, with many other humans present on that gorgeous summer’s eve. The air was smoky with family barbecues (vegetarian friendly they hoped!) and blue cooler bags and flying bottle caps as far as the eye could see.

They frolicked joyfully in the cold sea, before drying out on the warm sand as the sea air ruffled their feathers just as I would after bath times.

Their journey home was one through the most beautiful fields, full of freely overgrown flowers interspersed with passionately red poppies.

The chickens missed me.

I hold the card tenderly in both hands, yearning to join them.

When the next chronicle of their journey is sent in a postcard, I hope to be featured in such a tale.

**Article continued on Page Two**

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.

**Articles continued on Page Two**

The Feeling of Neutral Buoyancy

Neutral Buoyancy (87 x 113cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

‘Neutral buoyancy’ is neither sinking nor floating.

Another world lies beneath the sea, its darkest waters as unknown to us as the unexplored galaxies. It is so quiet, your exhaled breath bubbles toward a yellow veil above the water’s surface. Each sound is muffled, so as not to break your focus. This balancing act, with your flippered feet in motion, leaves you with your thoughts.

Whilst remaining calm and focused on breathing, you also feel the silent dread of your own mortality creep into the vast ocean. But in this cushioned, anti-gravity sphere, you can fly slowly and capture your surroundings. You save the memory for later nostalgia.

The light above is safety, whilst the depths below are full of fear yet curiosity. As you continue to focus, those bubbles take with them your anxiety. You are a silent presence in a world far from security and comfort, but full of promise.

You allow yourself to explore, but with the scuba diving instructor still in your vision.

**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**

Reunited Once More

Paula & Chris’ Village Wedding (70 x 100 cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

A joyous wedding scene, with no masks or social distancing in sight.

A historical scene from our lives before the life-changing pandemic that has eclipsed 2020 and 2021 (so far).

The invisible enemy, which dominates all media coverage and conversation, has often left us feeling as if there is no end in sight.

England has made incredible leaps in medical science with a vaccine, the chance for the most vulnerable in society to be protected from the unpredictability of COVID-19. There is a steady progression, with the government hoping to vaccinate fifteen million people by mid-February.

A small but growing light shines in the dark.

Hopefully there is an end in sight, and with that lots of celebrations to be had. Whether that is the revival of a lockdown birthday, or a wedding without a restricted guest list. There may be no special occasion in mind, it may be as simple as hugging your loved ones without fear.

On our hands and knees, lost, our eyes have adjusted to the darkness. On our feet now, we slowly follow a guiding light to the door of the future.

Normality will no longer be something taken for granted, but something that is cherished.

**Article continues on Page Two**

Up The Garden Path

Up The Garden Path (30x40cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

There is nothing quite like the sheer panic of forgetting someone’s birthday, more specifically a birthday card, to truly mark the occasion.

Luckily, an artist works well under stress. As someone so often used to the pressures of meeting deadlines for clients, she quickly make haste; She grabs her art supplies and throw them down onto her work surface with an anticipatory thud.

This is no regular client, and there has been no debrief in this instance. But with her husband as the recipient, she knows him well enough to paint something of his taste.

Using a piece of paper, easily folded into a card, the artist begins to plot her canvas just in time for this important day. In her mind, she fondly envisions the summer garden.

The buzzing bees and singing birds are an orchestra in this quiet corner of the countryside. The wild flowers grow with such a vigour, they often overstep into the pathway. This is the pathway which the artist’s husband will walk after the working day. Crunching gravel underfoot, the bright bulbs are thrust forward by the wind and kiss his feet. The artist imagines his pace quicken upon his excitement of seeing balloons, or a colourful banner in the archway perhaps; His mind is animated with what surprises may be awaiting behind the front door of their home.

The artist plays out this warm and happy scene inside her head as she paints. Almost as if the mental image has been scanned onto the paper, it is complete. The artist reviews the finished birthday card, with the long, overreaching stems of the flowers and the path seemingly built around them. With dots of sapphire and rouge to imitate their swaying, she leaves the darkened doorway, as the beautiful, ambiguous end of one’s journey up the garden path.

**Article continues on Page Two**

The Rose-Red Gesture

Smudged Lipstick (30x30cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

It is a romantic deed rooted in our history.

Red roses are part of a universal language which expresses endearment.

In Western culture, they date back to Greek mythology with red roses growing from the tears of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.

In Eastern culture, roses are titled the ‘Queen of Flowers’ for their uplifting and medicinal powers.

These roses are nurtured and grown by humans, to be gifted and exchanged between humans. The deeper the shade of red, the deeper the commitment.

This was no special occasion, but rather felt like any other morning. I dozily walk down the stairs, but the sensory surprise awaiting quickly nudges me awake: my kitchen is in full bloom. An exotic, powerful scent reaches my nose before my eyes lay upon these flowers.

My blushing cheeks and upturned lips match the roses that were lovingly wrapped and tied with a sapphire bow. I lift them from the counter, their jade stems heavy in my arms, like a sleeping child. I stroke their velvet petals and am further enveloped by their scent.

The roses are an arresting colour, which demands to be seen and admired by those around them. As light enters from the kitchen window and I turn to face the sunrise, the colours of jade and scarlet are imprinted in my mind.

Whether they are invited to live in our homes, or in our gardens, the bright crimson colour and sweet fragrance draw us to them. I am always asked who the flowers were from, as if that person can be credited for the beauty of such a flower. Regardless of who bought the flowers, it is a reminder of simplicity in love and feeling.

**Article continued on Page 2**