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Archive for September, 2013

In Memory of Hattie, a Beloved Pet Cat – and the Gracefulness of Letting Go

This is Hattie, born 1996, who died on 21 September 2013, at home, in her basket, peacefully, in a deep sleep.

Happy memories of Hattie, beloved family pet 1996-2013 (photo credits: Abigail Robinson)

Happy memories of Hattie, beloved family pet 1996-2013 (photo credits: Abigail Robinson)

When a much-loved family pet dies we need to decide what to do next.

But we kept Hattie lying in her basket for a day and a night, nestled in her blanket, where she died.

And it was not macabre, but beautiful, and consoling.

There is something sacred about being in the presence of a peaceful death, after a life well-lived.

Lying there in the stillness and quietness of letting go, her fur still felt soft and her body pliable, and I imagined several times that she was still breathing.

She has filled 17 years of our lives with fun, laughter and affection. She has beguiled us, outwitted us, annoyed us, delighted us and demonstrated something powerful: absolute persistence wins.

I blogged about Hattie a while ago. There, I wrote about the perpetual fascination of cats.

And now Hattie has again demonstrated something powerful about this life.

The gracefulness and the quietness and the beauty of letting go.

Then, all that’s left is love.

Cutty Sark Uplifted and Renewed – Fantastic Transformation

It’s been twelve years since I last visited the Cutty Sark at Greenwich – and what a fantastic transformation.

The Cutty Sark 14 Sep 2013 (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

The Cutty Sark 14 Sep 2013 (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

Greenwich and its neighbouring Woolwich in south London are part of my family background, and so this area has been familiar to me from childhood.

This made my return to view the Cutty Sark even more inspiring.

I found the whole visit very uplifting – appropriately so, as the Cutty Sark herself has been uplifted in the most amazing way!

The exhibition area beneath the ship is excellent, with its collection of ships’ figureheads.

Collection of ships' figureheads at the Cutty Sark (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

Collection of ships’ figureheads at the Cutty Sark (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

And we were later delighted to find ourselves sitting at cafe tables with the ship apparently hovering just above us.

Everything about this attraction is first class, and it is a credit to London and to our British heritage.

The Cutty Sark uplifted (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

The Cutty Sark uplifted (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

The high standard is maintained in the shop, too, which is full of stylish souvenirs for sale. How could I, as a writer, resist buying myself an attractive cream and gold spiralbound notebook with the motto on the front: Where there’s a will, is a way.

This motto, carved into the ship’s elaborate decoration, is a play on the surname of Jock Willis who commissioned the Cutty Sark (launched in 1869).

For the twenty-first century transformation of the Cutty Sark can certainly be seen as a perfect illustration of this motto in action.

And You Will Be Like a Watered Garden…

Enjoying a shady 'small enclosed space' in a private Kenilworth garden open for the National Gardens Scheme 1 Sep 2013 (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)

Enjoying a shady ‘small enclosed space’ in a private Kenilworth garden open for the National Gardens Scheme 1 Sep 2013 (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)

A well-watered garden is a powerful image of creativity, abundance, fruitfulness.

When asked to describe or picture heaven, I often see it as a garden.

The Prophet Isaiah, wrote these words:  And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

Isaiah’s choice of a garden for his image here is perfect, as are many of the images he chose for his prophecies: an image which is profound and powerful.

A few months ago during a visit to Hidcote Manor Garden, one of the National Trust’s greatest gardens, we heard the Head Gardener say that because we’ve had a late spring this year, 2013, the plants, like people, benefit from “a good long kip” and so later on, when they flower, they will be more plentiful, more colourful and more abundant.

And so it has proved in three outstanding gardens I’ve recently visited: Upton House, near Banbury; the garden at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon; and a private garden in Chase Lane, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, part of the Open Gardens event  run by the National Gardens Scheme.

flowers in Upton House Garden 23 Aug 2013 (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

flowers in Upton House Garden 23 Aug 2013 (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

As I spend time wandering around these gardens I reflect upon what engages me most in gardens I love:

* a series of small enclosed spaces which are like outdoor rooms – little ‘dens’ where you may sit and contemplate or dream or write or do anything else creative, which are shady, secret, beautiful, tranquil, hidden;

Spending time in the garden - contemplating, dreaming, in a little 'den' (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)

Spending time in the garden – contemplating, dreaming, in a little ‘den’ (photo credit: Abigail Robinson)

*  a number of vistas and points from which you may glimpse things either near or distant which may intrigue or surprise;

* in a grand garden with a stunning planting scheme, I’m most enchanted by combinations of depth & colour & shape which evoke different emotions in the beholder; low misty feathery plants in front, then the tall bold gold shapes behind, and finally the purple spiky angular plants at the back: a profusion of different contrasting and complementary shapes and textures.

This is what I saw in the gardens at Upton House when I visited on Friday 23 August 2013.

A predominance of pink and gold with occasional glimmers of white, lilac, purple, burgundy.

A gentle, warm fragrance filled the air; butterflies flocked to the lavender, bumble bees feasted in every direction I gazed.

Upton House Garden 23 Aug 2013  photo credit Abigail Robinson

Upton House Garden 23 Aug 2013 photo credit Abigail Robinson

The whole  was in dynamic motion, appearing to me as a vibration of life, shimmering above and around the blossoms.

We are all indebted to those whose gift is to design gardens, select plants, and work hard to create paradise on earth: surely the goal of all the great garden designers. In this life, there is a place for all of us; those who work, those who act, those who  are practical, and those who come to see, and to drink deeply, who dream, who draw inspiration, who see visions, and who believe.

Great gardens are places that feed the imagination, provide a source of inspiration, nurture creativity, enrich our dreams, lift our hearts to the divine.

For paradise is a garden.

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