Why is a woman like a hollyhock?

July 31, 2013

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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.

Vintage market day in Oxford
Would you like a print? (AKA a tiny little giveaway)

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19 Comments

  • Reply Martha July 31, 2013 at 6:27 am

    Hi Veronica: I have been a follower of yours for such a long time. Today, I must say, you melted my heart. I sometimes have thought, I wish I had your problems. To me, they were problems, people with money have. My thoughts were, you could not even imagine what it would be like not to have extra money. I am sorry, but I have been so wrong with those thoughts. I am asking you for your forgiveness, even though you were unaware. My heart is broken today for you and I can feel how much pain you are in. I think what I did was compare your problems with mine and I should not have. Pain is pain. I know what it is like not to be able to help your daughter or to lose something that you love so dearly. I know what it feels like to be so far away that you feel helpless. I have committed myself to pray for you everyday. I read your blog faithfully, I will pray each time. Maybe one day, I can tell you just what I have been through. What I can tell you is that God is faithful. He can help you though anything. Please do not stop posting your thoughts. I have always so enjoyed your blog, even with my such lack of understand of who you are. What does come out so clearly is that you love your home, your husband and your family. I think it is that love, that is what draws me to your post daily. You makes us look at things with an artful eye and I love that. Please know that I am praying for you. I wish I could have written this in an email, but I could not find one. Please feel free to email me, if you need someone to talk to or just to vent. I will be here for you. Please also feel free to remove this comment. I know it is something I should have said in private, but I could not find a way. Know today, that I am praying for you and that a stranger in California cares about you. Sending blessings your way, Martha marthasfavorites@aol.com

    • Reply Veronica August 1, 2013 at 7:06 am

      Martha, you’re my dear friend and a treasure to me. I value everything you have to say to me. 🙂

  • Reply Sara v July 31, 2013 at 10:19 am

    First, let me just say, that if I drew/painted that hollyhock (and I am an artist but not with your amount of talent) I would be singing “Good Day Sunshine!” and showing it off to all my friends. Posting it on FB, writing a poem about it…you get the idea. Second, I was just listening to a song this morning and one of the verses is a fav–(of course I can’t remember it perfectly…) something like “reality gets in the way” (and does it ever, some days) And third–love your blog, love your photos and your art and love your views, wit and humanity. It does get better, just takes time and it’s REALLY hard to wait. Hugs –Sara v

    • Reply Veronica August 1, 2013 at 7:07 am

      Thank you so much Sara. It really helped me to write this stuff out and put it here. Very cathartic. Today is already better than yesterday and so it goes. Much love to you my friend. 🙂

      • Reply Sara v August 1, 2013 at 9:44 am

        It does feel good to just throw it all out there, doesn’t it? One of my best friends and I have a joke about that–we call it emotional vomit (gross, I know, but so true….) Very glad you were able to release it and have a better day today 🙂 Love back at you!

  • Reply Ronnie Hammer July 31, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Hi; i found your blog through Celi, who I’ve been following a long time. It’s nice to meet you and follow your blog. The hollyhock is beautiful against the text. I love what you did there.

    • Reply Veronica August 1, 2013 at 7:09 am

      Hi Ronnie, I think I was called Ronnie for a while in grade school too. I’m so very happy to meet you and also so very happy that you’ve left your blog addy because now I can come see you. 🙂

  • Reply Kate North July 31, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    What a thoughtful, thought-provoking post. I haven’t been following your blog long, but when I came across it, it appealed to me because it’s beautiful and well-written and because it presented to me a place of serenity, where I could dip my toes and relax, sometimes after a normal day, but sometimes after a stressful, tiring day. I never imagined you were a person with no problems, whose life was always perfect and everything came out wonderfully, but who wants to blog that all the time? When I thought about it – if I ever articulated it at all as a thought – I would have assumed that you kept your blog peaceful and beautiful because that creates an island of rest and calm in your own life and perhaps reminds you that actually, there are many lovely, beautiful things amidst the rest of your life – a life which might range from the pedestrian (sorting workmen, running errands, keeping the house tidy, paying bills) to the complicated, to the downright stressful. Having a blog full of teacups and sunshine and flowers and painting gives you a little oasis to return to when things do get tough or tiring. And perhaps reminds you just what there is on the plus side when things are dark, scary or depressing. I hope you pass through this slough soon; in the meantime I am sending good thoughts your way…

    • Reply Veronica August 1, 2013 at 7:10 am

      Aw thank you so much Kate. I’ve decided that I def. need more tea cups and sunshine. 🙂

      • Reply Kate North August 1, 2013 at 3:52 pm

        I think we ALL need more cups of tea and sunshine…

  • Reply Patricia A. McGoldrick July 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Hollyhocks grow in the backyard here along with other perennials. Enjoyed your post–food for thought! 🙂

    • Reply Veronica August 1, 2013 at 7:12 am

      Hi Patricia, hollyhocks seem to me to be so grateful for any bit of space to grow on, don’t they? I’ve seen them in junk yards and on the edges of parking lots. I have those lovely dark purple ones in Vancouver but we don’t have them here at West Cottage. I’m going to buy some seeds. 🙂

  • Reply Angela August 2, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    Life really is a roller coaster isn’t it? Some days are good and some are challenging, and without the challenges I don’t think we’d truely experience the elation. I love your Hollyhock, ok maybe it’s not perfect in your eyes but aren’t most of us our own biggest critics. I think its raw, beautiful, fragile and transparent in places, yet still standing tall and proud and full of colour …. just like a woman if you ask me. xx

    • Reply Veronica August 3, 2013 at 5:26 am

      Hello Angela sweetie, how are you. I missed you. Thank you for your lovely kind comment. Off to see what you’re up to now. 🙂

  • Reply KathyB. August 5, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I appreciate this post. I always love seeing a bit of the true person behind blogs I love to read, and like you, I don’t often share my deeper feelings anymore, realizing there is only so much a woman wants to share, and only so much others care to read. But once in awhile….this is refreshingly honest. Thank-you.

    BTW, I love the hollyhock !

    • Reply Veronica August 5, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      The more I think about it Kathy, the more I believe that’s true of me too. I also love to see into my friend’s private thoughts and feelings. It somehow brings us closer, makes us more real. 🙂

  • Reply julochka August 14, 2013 at 4:01 am

    i’m catching up, can you tell? i think we all have days like that and it’s true that it’s hard to share them on our pretty, shiny blogs. i think i like my blog to be a place of refuge, tho’ i used to share every stray thought there, now i keep more to myself. sometimes i can feel that, because let’s face it, blogging is cheaper than therapy and writing it all out is how i work things out. i imagine you’re the same and that you felt loads better about all of it after you wrote this – both for getting it all out and for the support from your bloggy friends. it’s surely good for all of us once in awhile with a healthy dose of the real.

    xox,
    /j

    • Reply Veronica August 14, 2013 at 8:51 am

      I did feel much better Julie, it’s true. 🙂

  • Reply Ann Ritter November 3, 2013 at 3:20 am

    Yes, your in a great measure of God s perfect holy light or you would not notice the darkness for it is in His light that the darkness is made known ( or manifest ) And is that not where you want to be ?…….Ann

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