A woman I studied with on a degree course in the 1980s is now a very fine and successful artist. With her love of nature, almost all of her paintings are of landscapes or animals, and I have a big and beautiful print of hers on my bedroom wall. Entitled ‘Evening at Sweetbriar’, it’s a calm and atmospheric painting of a fishpond, with trees and the rising moon reflected, and two koi carp swimming in the depths below. It’s a magical and, for me, a rather comforting picture.
Last week, my partner Angie and I discovered that a neighbour of ours has a wonderful fish pond in her back garden, and the fish are impressive: large and graceful, some orange and others of different colours and patterns. We took photos of them at the weekend, and behold! – the results are very like Rachel’s paintings. I spent a couple of happy hours editing them on the laptop, and cropping them into pleasing compositions. One of them I’ve posted above, and if you imagine it created in paint instead of pixels, you’ll have a good idea of Rachel’s work.
Working on my photographs is very therapeutic for me, all the more so because like Rachel, I tend to focus a lot on nature and wildlife. Being at home a lot of the time because of my disability, I can get isolated, anxious and occasionally depressed. I have to work quite hard to stay positive, especially when I’m in a lot of pain. So just looking at nature, even if on a computer screen, lifts my mood because I’m focussing on beautiful things. The fact that I’m being creative at the same time – doing my best to create a beautiful thing – helps even more.
There’s something meditative about these new fish pond photos, I think. I need to remind myself to slow down a little, because I’m on a high at the moment after winning an appeal against a decision last year that I was able to work and therefore ineligible for state financial help. Now that all the anxiety and stress have subsided, I want to get out and experience new things – but I also need to remember that my body can only cope with so much. So right now, I’m working on these photos and enjoying the sight of the cool colours, the bright fish, and the reflected sky. Thanks to my camera and a helpful neighbour, I can enjoy these even without having fish of my own.
After this experience, I would love a fish pond in our garden, though. I could sit there and breathe gently, mindfully aware of the ever-changing movement and colours of the gentle scene below me. And every photograph I took would be different.
There’s just one problem: our darling cat Tally. She’s definitely a fisher cat, because she sits on the edge of the bath and reaches for our toes! So I wouldn’t trust her with no fish. She’s too slow to catch insects or birds – although she manages earthworms and the occasional moth. But I wouldn’t be happy to see her jump through the cat flap with a bleeding, chunky koi carp in her mouth. Although judging by the size of some of them in Val’s garden, she wouldn’t need another meal for days…
Sometimes you can’t have everything you want. I’m quite happy to sacrifice a fish pond as long as I can keep Tally!
PS: You can see Rachel Lockwood’s art at http://www.rachellockwoodartist.com/