Swimming into Summer

Koi Study No. 7 (50 x 50cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

Like most mornings, I walk to the bottom of my garden with a sense of purpose.

The winter garden has now thawed, and I feel the sun coaxing me out of my dormancy long before I step outside. I gingerly step as to not disturb the chatty birds or the wandering bees. I begin in my slippers, but the temptation to feel the grass underfoot soon becomes a compulsion. I enjoy the tickling sensation on the soles of my feet, and being connected to my surroundings.

I finally get to the fish pond and struggle to make out the dull, distant shapes. I too enjoy the immersion of the water, often thinking to my childhood summers of white sands and clear waters. My eyes scan the water’s surface, as I sprinkle a thin layer of fish food and wait. I watch the orange blur at the bottom of the fish pond manifest into the koi fish who snap up their breakfast hungrily.

The interaction is soothing for me, as a simple relationship which requires so little. In exchange, I receive a private performance of twirling orange bodies reflected in the tumultuous water. The tiny dancers are aware of their talents, and they never fail to parade their beauty for my own enchanted eyes.

**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**

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.

**Article continued on Page 2**

Restless Orange in the Calm Blue: A Koi Fish Study

Koi Study No. 10 (50 x50cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

During the winter months, I cocoon myself in fluffy and fur-lined clothing, with a tangerine orange scarf wrapped around my neck. Before I leave the house, I can already hear the chilling gust of wind whistling through the trees, as their branches tap impatiently on the windowpane. I see it as my invitation to come outside, my gloved hand opening the door.

I step from the cold, hard tiles of my kitchen onto the soft, damp grass. I cross my arms as I walk, wrapping my coat around myself even tighter. With my winter boots on, I look downward and imagine my toes sinking with each step, barefoot as I was in summer.

I finally reach the bottom of my garden and sit down on the welcoming, ligneous bench. In enduring the elements, the splintering paintwork reveals the aged wooden planks underneath, encased by steely iron arms. Once raised from the ground and in prime position, I take the fish food from my pocket, sprinkling it over the surface of the pond.

I stare into the deep, petrol blue water, overshadowed by the stirring trees, and search for a reassurance of life.

I begin to make out shapes of orange before the koi fish reach the surface, slowly then all at once, their mouths open to feed. My eyes flicker between each fish, watching their rhythmic tails dance with excitement. Their eager movements disturb the once still water, creating vast ripples which travel to the edge of the pond.

I may battle against a bitter breeze as I return home, but my soul is warmed by feelings of contentment and relief.

**Article continued on page 2**

A moment in time – Foxton, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, England

IMG_6425

A quick painting last week on paper of the canal close to my home – I wanted it to sparkle with light and the weather was dull so I had to use my imagination quite a bit!!

This painting is now framed and for sale in the ‘On Paper Exhibition’ at The Open Door Gallery on Church Street in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.