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**

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**

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**

Reminiscing in the Warm Fields of Autumn

Warm Fields (63 x 63cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

My boots crunch on the autumn leaves as my light-footed companion rushes forward eagerly, his lead pulling me in tow.

As we reach the top of the hill, he pulls me toward the creaky gate. Our decision is finalised as the gate swings abruptly shut behind us, with a loud clang.
We are now down on the tow path which follows the canals as eagerly as he does; With his tail in the air and his nose on the ground, he traces my route ahead.

As we walk, the sun comes out from hiding behind the cloud-covered sky. With one hand gripping the dog lead, I extend my other hand in front of me, the daylight bouncing off my painted talons.

It is all so familiar as I stop briefly during our walk, out of habit, and begin to reminisce.

We are at the place where, in the spring, I had admired the resting swans.

During the summer, they would sit on the bank and I would eagerly throw food offerings in their direction. Both fearsome and beautiful, the swans glided across the water, their long, snow-white necks snapping into the water hungrily. The surrounding trees now appeared to make space for the absent swans, arching outward, with their near-empty branches eclipsing the water.

I look behind the trees to see the wind sweeping up their fiercely orange leaves in the field beyond, further saturated by the low Autumn sun.

Blown forward, as I am now, into Autumn, I imagine the field that was once lime green with its new Spring growth.

I pull up my collar and forge ahead, focusing on the crunch of the leaves and their golden hues.

The abundance of summer, in all its forms, will return again.

**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.

‘Neutral Buoyancy’

Neutral Buoyancy

‘Neutral buoyancy’……weightlessness, feeling suspended, neither sinking nor floating.

A state of calm & balance, focusing on your own breathing and mortality, allowing you to fly slowly in a mainly silent, multidimensional, cushioned world. If sound comes, it comes from all sides, muffled and unsure of direction.

The light above is golden, the depths below are terror and intrigue. Slow steady breaths dispelling the anxiety of silently entering an uninvited other world….

 

I learnt to scuba dive in December and the feeling was so extraordinary I came home
and painted it. The words above describe how I felt and what I painted. I thought the painting needed some explanation as it is a little different from my normal style but I also thought that you don’t have to be a scuba diver to recognise some of these thoughts & feelings. I would be very interested in any feedback on this painting, I did give myself free rein & was a little surprised at how it turned out! Please feel free to comment.