Why is a woman like a hollyhock?

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I write this blog.

A friend once said that it’s all nonsense. That my life…no-one’s life is like the pages of this blog, all sunshine and lovely images and happy outcomes. I think the words he used were, “get real.”

Real? Real is where I have to be and real hurts. Real is life and all the messes and sadness and miscommunications and spelling mistakes and loud, angry run-on sentences.

But translate that to this space, to these few thoughts per post and suddenly there’s spellcheck and censoring and run-on sentences become poetry and this whole massive unstructured expanse of problems in front of me becomes a myopic view into a small but lovely part of that massive unstructured expanse; a place to focus, a sanctuary.

These past few days I’ve printed some lovely prints and got the hang of printing. But I’ve also had two nuclear meltdowns, cried myself to sleep, spent several sleepless nights listening for the slightest noise and generally waited for something to happen, had arguments with my love and been completely emotionally unstable, headachy and probably hell to live with.

Lately, each day dawns as this massive expanse of problems.

The Oxfordshire saga:
– Some of you know that my beautifully restored mini, which has been stolen almost a year ago, will most likely never be returned. Robert’s work of love to me. A £500 shell we restored to a £5000 thing of beauty. And nothing can be done.
– Robbie says let’s build a new mini, a new cherished car, but to me it’s like trying to replace one’s beloved pet, I know that doesn’t translate quite as well as I’d like it to, and I know, I KNOW, it’s just a thing/possession/meaningless in the big – I’m healthy, Robbie, my children, mother, loved ones are healthy – scheme of things, but, no matter how hard I try to adjust, to wrap my brain around the concept of a beautiful new mini, I just can’t seem to go there right now and I can’t seem to let it go either. I am trying.
– There are very few external forces here. The phone isn’t ringing, workmen aren’t coming and going, there are no meetings; it’s a very quiet country life. The quiet becomes wildly uncontrollable in my mind.

Vancouver saga:
– The house is still in restoration mode, way behind the time line restoration mode, and, as much as I’m the client and make all the decisions, Chloe is there, on site, living with the mess and displacement and temporary loss of our serene space, and having to handle it.
– Most early mornings British time, C calls needing a talk and support. It’s evening in Vancouver, C’s had to deal with a multitude of uncomfortable things, and things are not easy for my girl, and, as much as I want to talk to her and offer as much support as I can, I’m concerned that she’s not wanting to wake us up so waits till 6:30am-ish to call, which means it’s already 10:30pm-ish in Van, which means that before she feels better and manages to get to sleep it’s practically midnight, which means her tomorrow is going to be twice as hard for lack of a proper night’s sleep.
– Then, when C finally gets to sleep, I’m grateful that we could help her calm down but it’s my morning and she stays on my mind all day till 5pm-ish British time/morning Vancouver time, when she wakes up and I hear from her again.
– Switching from Vancouver to Oxfordshire and back again in my thoughts and worries is exhausting.
– I’ve been out of touch with Kerstie and Jonathan and I miss them so much it hurts.

My shrink tells me to focus on what makes me happy. At the time she said it, I wasn’t doing much art and nothing I could think of made me happy. She advise I do something creative every day…it’s almost impossible for me to make myself do something creative if I want to be in a dark place. It’s very hard to climb back into the sunshine if I let myself fall down the hole of depression and it takes days and days. So I force myself to pick up the camera and at least take some photos every day and sometimes specifically for a blog post. As time goes on and I start to feel better, I can pick up the pencils and brushes and do more.

A couple days ago I sketched a hollyhock flower on a page of the old dictionary while I was talking to Chloe, who was feeling poorly with some 24 hour bug and was worried about her health and going to work and workmen and students and her last year of uni…etc. I talked to her off and on for over two hours and I completely overworked the hollyhock.

Overworked it to mud.

And then I hated myself for doing that, because I should be able to draw a hollyhock in my sleep, and I felt useless as an artist.
I showed Robbie and he said, “maybe deepen the colours?” And I made a motion like I was ready to rip it into two pieces, and he said, “No, don’t do that. How are you going to realise what you label the good without having a reference to what you label the bad?” He had a good point. He always does. And so I put the drawing on the dresser to look at it afresh in the morning.

The thing is I wanted to draw it on the page of the dictionary that had the word hollyhock on it, but I didn’t remember I sketched Theo on the other side of that page, making that page unusable, and so I drew it on the page which had the word woman. The one precious page of the dictionary that had the word woman. (No I don’t know why I think this is the last ever old dictionary I’ll ever find to sketch in.)

I chose that page specifically. To me, the hollyhock has always been a strong representation of a woman more than any other flower. I know all the romantic notions of fragile flowers such as roses or lilies for women, but what good are they? What good is vulnerability or fragility even in the most beautiful package? No, give me a hollyhock any day. Hollyhocks are not susceptible to too many diseases, they bend in the strongest gale without breaking, and, drop something on them, suppress them with a ton of weight, they will seed and carry on in a new location as shiny and as beautiful and as tall as before.

So I’m looking at my overworked sketch on the page which says woman and thinking how absolutely accurately I portrayed myself right now. It hasn’t gotten any better over night, or even over three days, even with the wind blowing it off the dresser and onto the floor several times, but I have grown to love my little flower. No matter how many times this week the wind has blown me over, I’m still standing just like the hollyhock, trying to bloom with all that pressure on me, and, with time, the tears will stop, the weight will slide off and life will be sunny again.

Round here on a Monday morning

Everything is gray and it’s a bit chilly in the house. I didn’t sleep very well last night and I think the barometric pressure has dropped because I’m feeling a bit headachy. Everyone is out except for the cats and me and I’m just hanging around today.

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Hanging around like a little kimono-bear and I’m all snuggled up in my father’s old sweater, which I’m wearing to death.

Everybody is snuggled up. Morgan is with me in a basket under the kitchen table and Milo has wiggled his way under a blanket on the sofa where he’s likely to stay till late afternoon.

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I made myself a second cup of tea in one of the bowls I brought from France. It’s a clever thing to drink your tea from French bowls. You need to use both hands at the start and this makes you lovely and warm, and by the time the bowl is light enough to hold with one hand, you’re feeling rather French and chic. Look at you French girl with that French bowl in your hand. Très sexy.

I’m contemplating planting the last of the paper whites today but also have that “I can’t be bothered” feeling. I’m looking at some paper whites already sprouting happily in a pot and just now I had this thought: “Who will live and who will die?” Oh god, I can’t believe I’m thinking of a series of paintings of bulbs. But first I want to finish the map I started before Christmas.

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Yesterday I got the loveliest email from Japan from the parents of a charming girl staying with us for ten weeks. Bless their hearts. It made me get all teary reading it. I’ll post it for you. Today the mail came and in it the water rates bill, (groan). That reminds me: time for some good mail. I think I’ll finish my tea writing to some friends and before I know it good mail will be coming my way.

Oh and good mail can come your way from me if you like. Steps you have to take include: emailing me your addy so I can send you something and entering my giveaway so I can send you lots of somethings.

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Much love to you my friends and thank you so much for the lovely comments you’ve been leaving for me on Saturday’s post. I want to reply to each and every one of you but can’t because of this random generator thing. (Actually will have to delete my comments first) I’m the luckiest girl to have you in my life, my warm and supportive friends.

A little email from Japan:

Hello. This time there is a relationship in the situation called the host family and has you keep it, and thank you for daughter.
As a matter of course, it is the first time that she lives apart from a family for a long term, and there is the problem of words (the linguistic ability is low, too), and the daughter feels it when she will live a life in strain and the uneasiness.
I want to entrust all it to Veronika (as for the period of the homestay) during this short-term studying abroad period.

I think that I learn most including the importance of the family, the splendor of the relation with the person and the warmth of the person by living I am separated from a family life.
The eldest daughter stays in the same way in Canada (Vancouver) three years ago, too and feels it when I grow up in a good meaning and came home.

Is a daughter naive by all means, but is a glance same as a family; if have spend it, is happy. I believe that I think that it was very lucky that Veronika became the host family of the daughter heartily.
Remaining period, daughter, thanking you in advance.

*p.s : We live in the place called Uji of Kyoto, Japan. It is enrolled in a world heritage, and, on the immediate side of the house, there is “Byodo-in Temple” which is drawn on the Japanese currency coin, and it is in a sightseeing spot.

When I come to Japan by sightseeing by all means, I feel very glad if I have you drop in.
I am sorry that dispatch of mail was late deeply.

If anything happens, please transmit an email to this e-mail address willingly anytime.

Excuse me.

A’s family

(couldn’t you just die? so sweet!)

A fourth journal entry for Folk Magazine with love and understanding.

The Folk Magazine Journal entry for this week asks for influence. To write my American story as part of a giant American story, the tapestry of our lives, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

I’m Czech by birth, German by heritage, Canadian by chance, British by choice. My Austrian grandfather was in love with Vancouver, the land, the ocean, the mountains and, when it was evident that our family would not be safe in Russian occupied Prague, my grandfather decided we would immigrate to Canada and here I am. I have a dual citizenship and speak several languages. I’ve lived in Europe, (Paris, Geneva, Austria, Prague and now Oxfordshire UK) for very long stretches of time so I can say that while Canada is my country, Europe is generally my home town.

I must say that I don’t know a lot about American history. I know of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but only understand his basic premises and I hope that’s enough for me to talk about what I would like to talk about in this post.

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I have a story, a beautiful American story to tell.

Over twenty years ago, my then husband and I drove down the American Pacific coast on holiday. I was pregnant with my last child and so over the top emotional…you know how that goes. We were at Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco and I just stepped out of the car when a man ran past me shoving me violently into the side of the car and another man ran past me directly after him chasing him with a knife. I was shaking and completely inconsolable and we got back into the car and drove to Oakland to the hotel we were staying in.

I gathered my strength after several hours, and after much persuasion, and seeing the lights at the Oakland Coliseum, we decided to go to the baseball game.

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Now please know and understand that I was never, NEVER, EVER going to set foot in San Francisco ever again. But then we found our seats and beside us were the most wonderful, loveliest, most loving people I had ever met in my life. Some of them invited us to stay with them, all of them sympathised and many told us of the wonderful and beautiful San Francisco I had given up and abandoned forever without ever giving it a chance.

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So this brings me to my MLK Jr. story. It’s so important to know and understand your whole community, everyone, whoever they are. Look thru understanding and loving eyes. Having been a political refugee, an immigrant and living as I do in different parts of the world, I come across prejudice sometimes but I truly think that, by knowing and accepting without judgement people of all nationalities, races, sexual orientation, religious/or not persuasion and welcoming them into my life, these prejudices can be dispelled and the vitriol neutralised.

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What would I do without my writing group Wordsmith Studio, (mostly made up of American members) who support me and love me and accept my quirky ways? Where would I be without my Seattle friends and closest American neighbours who I impose on each year? Who would I be without those generous Oakland A’s fans who held my hand and helped make San Francisco one of my most favorite and romantic places to visit?

So, on this third Monday in January, I would like to wish a Happy MLK Jr. Day to my lovely and loved American friends, I’m so happy you are all in my life. I hope to keep learning your stories and continue to be a part of the tapestry of America in my own Canadian way.

Journal 1 entry here, journal 2 here, journal 3 here.

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Where she goes on and on about beaches and children and red roses.

My birth certificate says I was born in Prague. Inland. Not beside the sea. Sometimes I think this must be a mistake.

I feel my best at the sea. I do my best thinking at the sea.

This Friday I had lunch with all of my children. It’s very rare these days that I can get them all together apart from Christmas. Kerstin, Adam, Chloe and I drove downtown to met Jonathan on his lunch break.

We walked to Gyoza King on Robson. It seemed like a good idea.

At any rate, any one of the thousands of restaurants downtown would have been just fine. No one paid much attention to the food. Everyone was grateful to be together.

I’ll tell you why.

Sept 1st I got a 2am phone call from Kerstie. She was hysterical. Her father had just died.

I can’t describe the feeling of helplessness that came over me trying to comfort my daughter across 5000 miles. The next phone call to Jonathan was even worse. Then a quick check on Chloe to see she was ok. Though not her father, her heart was breaking in sympathy, feeling the pain her brother and sister were feeling.

But my children are strong, they are brave, they are resilient, they rallied. They organised that part of their family, the memorial, the funeral, and began closing down their father’s life step by step.

Talking to them separately, seeing them separately something didn’t dawn on me.
It wasn’t till lunch on Friday that I noticed that they both had that deer-caught-in-the-headlights haunted look in their beautiful brown eyes.

Today I went to the beach to think.

I sat at the beach and did my usual thing…built a fantasy sand castle with the found objects around me.

Built and thought.

I thought about my children, their father, how changed their life is, how changed their life is about to be.

I thought about my feelings…you know…as their mother. I tried to come up with any way that I could take some of the pain from them. How can I protect them from it all? I can’t. They have to live thru the pain and come out the other end…eventually…in time.

And, I walked on the beach.

As I walked I found red roses wrapped up in seaweed. Lying there on the rocks.
I wondered who lost the roses in the sea and, I wondered why, except for the concern and love I feel for my children, I wondered why I don’t feel anything.


Nothing at all.

Everyday life…What? Fit into a form? Me? Tough, tough WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

I’ve fought and fought with this challenge. What I wanted to do is express my everyday life with images and then I realised that, being a true Bohemian, well everyday life just has to fall into place as it can.

So here is a small idea of my everyday:

My everyday is exotic. Yes…terrifically exotic. Unusual, extraordinary, one of a kind exotic.

It’s beautiful and fragile. Very fragile. Cut down with the tiniest cold draft fragile. Handle with extreme care, be careful what you say fragile.

(Just ask R, he’ll tell you)

It’s strong and resilient. Weather any storm, stay in the flow, circulatory system, Dunkirk spirit strong.

There’s art. There’s always art. There’s a sliding scale of traditional to way out there art. It’s ever changing, ever evolving, ever opportunistic will-make-art-of-anything art.

And there’s magic and whimsy…there’s always and most importantly magic and whimsy.

That’s everyday life round me.

Not easy being around me…or being me for that matter. Just hang on for the ride. :)

What comes from listening to a CBC discussion about happiness while painting

Sometimes I feel like finding happiness is hard. As hard as smashing into the granite rocks. I feel like I need to summon a force inside somewhere to find the happiness and that force is equal to the force it took to pile this driftwood up on this beach.

My heart is soft, like fragile spring growth, and it doesn’t take much to crush it.

Sometimes happy thoughts are ephemeral and fleeting. Like each rose blossom. They only last the day and are gone.

Someone I love and admire occasionally reads a post like this and gives me a talking to.

“You have such a negative view of yourself. The things you say about your life will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.” He’ll say.


“And what about the good things in your life? Why don’t you focus on them?

More silence. And then: “Maybe you’re right.”

Podcast on CBC Tapestry. (Warning, do not paint paintings while listening to it.)

And then…a break in the clouds

What was that shining thru the curtains this morning?


Girl’s got to get out.

This was a good idea

On this rainy, rainy Tuesday it seemed like a good idea to bake some banana-walnut bread.

It was!

Finding peace

Yesterday, on a typical rainy and windy Pacific day, I walked down the path to the ocean with a heavy heart, eyes cast down to the soggy path. At one point I looked up and saw fresh green moss. A bit further, the forest opened up to the cliffs and there was the ocean. Often Sometimes I wake up with heartache, especially when I haven’t seen the people I love for some time (R). But then there are moments when the path opens to the ocean and heartache changes to peace and I understand that I can’t have complete control over my life or the things that happen to me. Sometimes I suspect that I can’t even have a very small fraction of control. Those are the times when I give up that burden and feel fresh like the green moss and open up like the path to the ocean, and I know in the depth of my soul that everything is going to be fine.

I took too many photos which I wanted to share with you, so I put them in a little movie.

the link is here:

Finding peace

I hope it helps you to find peace.

Where she pulls herself out of the murky waters.

You know how a pebble, if it’s the right shape, can skip five, six, seven, (I think my record is eight) times in calm water? How it can skip across a whole body of water? But if the water is rough then the first ripple catches that pebble and sinks it straight down.

Straight down to the murky bottom.

Where it sinks heavily into the mud with no hope of ever being nudged along by the current or returned to the shore.

Boy, let me tell you that Cosco on a Sunday afternoon is rough water.

Before you ask, No, I don’t know what I was thinking, and, Yes, I did have to. You see, I promised my mother I’d take her to Cosco and Sunday was the only day I could.

Now I care too much about you, my gentle one. Too much to put you thru the experience because I’m convinced you share my no- limits imagination, so I’ll use this alternative.

The cars in the parking lot looked like this:

Inside the store things looked like this:

This is how it felt to shop there:

I got out as fast as I could and drove to the river for a walk.

I staggered out of the car like a dark stormy petrel of gloom, hands in pockets, zero energy, beating useless wings in a down-spiraling flight, heavy, drained, heading straight into the murky bottom.

But then the river and trees and meadows and the day filled me up with so much life my eyes and my heart started to open and I paid attention. The trees poured sunshine thru the branches. I could feel the air swirling with spring warmth. Sparrows were rustling in the bramble bushes and a heron was doing his crazy stretch-neck dance between the gentle waves at the river’s edge.

I tried to see the world around me fully.

Above me three eagles turned lazy circles, in the river boats cast sparkly rainbows, a lone clump of daffodils shone gold in the protection of elderberry bushes, a black lab puppy was running after his yellow ball bringing it back to his man again and again, front legs flat on the ground, bum in the air, tail waggling his whole body in anticipation and, some distance away, a girl galloped her horse along a path across the field. She was laughing.

I saved this moment. Saved it and enveloped it in warm, golden amber and turned it into a jewel which I’ll share with you. I’ll wear it over my heart to help lighten the load on heavy days.