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.

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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.

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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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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.

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