I used an old Ordinance survey map of the Lake District dated Dec 1977 - The North West sheet, because I wanted a large canvas and I had a newer version of the map. This represents my ‘roots’ in NW England where we settled after the Army years and my introduction to Hill Walking (A. Wainwright and his Pictorial guide to the Lakeland Fells) - my stomping ground. I wanted to think/ dream/ imagine what the future might look like in 5 years time. The picture is the outworking of this process ...
I had sketched out a basic idea of a path leading to a cross roads and a decision to go up the slow, steep track to the left up the mountain into the unknown or to the right into the woods (also an unknown path). Which one represents for me ‘the road less travelled?’
I wanted a lake in the foreground on the right and something representing family in theforeground on the left. I had the idea of my two hands being visible - in one a hiking stick and in the other a compass. So the scene in front is what I would be looking at…. I intended it to be purely symbolic with no words.
I collected a pile of magazines which inevitably represent today’s interests – Time, Ramblers, Emirates In-flight magazine, Family History, Gardening, National Trust, British Heart Foundation, iCreate (Mac Mag) A Rocha - and I tore out anything that struck me. I later used 3 images from a Van Gogh calendar which are scattered throughout the picture.
I started with the empty hands, a rough path and then did the mountains – They are Alpine (Swiss) and Himalayan – a mixture of West and East. Somehow it is the mountains that draw me – and they dominate the skyline. There is a group of Ramblers making their way to the foothills to start the ascent.
The Lake came next and boats surrounded by trees and flowers. The Lake is a place for ‘messing about in boats’ and there is a mixture of a Swiss Lake steamer, and a working fishing boat and canoes. The oriental trees - cherry blossoms represent the East and my fascination with things Oriental.
I liked the words: ‘Your space’ (from a National Trust mag) so added them at the side. Birds, bees, butterflies were overlaid. A grebe on the water, a Great Tit feeding and the last thing I added - a Falcon (Peregrine) soaring high in the mountains (my blog/motto is: wandering4the love of God – ‘Peregrinate pro Dei amore’)
The Natural world represents a breathing space… a place to reflect. And water offers the perfect reflecting space. The 3 people sitting on a bench looking somehow reflect that. They look like Artists in their straw boaters. The water is also a place to explore and enjoy. Other words appear in the mountains: ‘The heavens are high and the mountains are far away’. At the edge, on the fringe, there is more freedom….
The Van Gogh image added to the night sky so I ended up with day on the left and night on the right. I found a moon for the top right (twilight/ stars /eternity) and made a strong sun from Van Gogh’s sunflowers on the top left (hope/ light/ life). He also provided the field on the left and I added others, representing ‘discover your local countryside’. I liked the ‘work, rest and play’ but ( reminded me of ‘A Mars a day helps you…’ - I always took a MARS when hill walking) and the idea of famous art, so added it as an easel, thinking about Van Gogh painting in the fields around Arles.
I also liked the man looking wistfully off the edge to the left, a mackintosh draped over his arm. He was part of the image with the words: 'Here I am … in my own private space’ I just kept the words ‘here I am ‘ as a sort of prayer, writ large in the sky (a prayer of submission ‘be it unto me according to your word’ - the missionary response from Isaiah 6: ‘Here I am, send me’)
Family in the foreground
I filled the foreground with images that connect to family - a couple with children (representing future marriage and possible grandchildren) I added sunflower heads to make them more symbolic and represent a gift from the source of life. Simple produce, a healthy heart (Jo and medicine) the farming (Andy and Ag Dev?) And also the word ‘Development’ (I would have preferred the word: transformation). The camera (Jonny and professional photography). I don’t feel I have represented Tim and business – but there is a small beehive! Maybe capturing micro-enterprise – certainly ‘busy bees’ and a ‘hive of activity’….
In the end the pathway leading to the crossroads and the signpost looks very cruciform, with a hanging Christ-like figure dominating the centre. And I accentuated this with a bowed head shape (and crown of thorns- maybe a little too overt!) Leaving it more subtle would have been better. I used oil pastels to bring some continuity to the picture, sky, mountain, path, water, hands…
The crossroads does not just offer two paths: the left one up the mountain with the Ramblers and the right one to the beach and the Lake and the trees and gardens. (Maybe the left is my masculine rugged Mountains (my side of the family) and the Right more feminine - water, gardens, flowers and sailing boats (my wifes side). And I want both to be integrated… But there is also a third way, behind (even through) the cross, along the Great Wall of China to the Orient… where ‘the heavens are high and the emperor is far away’
Back to the hands. In the end I had a folded map in the left hand– a guide to the journey (a very local map) rather than a ‘walking stick’. I wanted a compass on my iPhone in the right hand, but left it with a drawing app: ‘Draw, play, share’ (3 very good words) the electronic devise is important since it represents connectivity to the wider world wherever I am. I also added the iCreate logo as a title, representing my own creativity as well AppleMac’s! I added more words to cuffs on the hands, one with Ramblers and the other Heart Matters, representing that healthy outdoor life style.
I used the inside of the folding cover for more words: ‘Go share the gospel with the world’ - and the ‘missio dei’ (mission of God) which I orient my life around.
… ‘Open your eyes to a distinctly different ….’ On one level simply a matter of open eyed wonder at the world around, and at another deeper level representing Enlightenment. Yet the Buddhist eyes are closed (in meditation?) And the natural world (‘eye of the Tiger’) eyes open. Maybe even more than meditation, it is natural revelation (The scripture of Nature) that is my main spiritual gateway…
I liked the Octavia Hill (1883) quote:
‘We all need space; unless we have it we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently….(and we need) places to sit in, places to play in. places to stroll in and places to spend a day in’
I HEARD THE VOICE OF JESUS
And finally it is all held together by one of my favourite songs/hymns: ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say … come unto me and rest’. I particularly like the Eden’s Bridge Celtic version. And I have recently, been asking myself the question: ‘Are my travelling days done?’
I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk, 'til traveling days are done.
The song finishes with a couplet. I was only hearing the last phrase… I listened to it again, set to an old Scottish tune ‘Rowan Tree’ by Wild Goose recording (Iona) - words by Horatius Bonar (1846). Interestingly the Rowan tree is the tree we planted to remember my parents and their ashes are in their church garden @ Cleveley’s Baptist Church –
I looked to Jesus and I found in Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk 'til travelling days are done’