Poem: To Éire with Love

Writing the last few pages of my novel about Anne Brontë in-between working the day job, dealing with wind storms, power outages and a snow storm, means I haven’t had the time or energy to come up with a new post for St. Patrick’s Day. So, once more, I’m sharing this poem and illustration inspired by one of three trips I made to Ireland in the 1980’s. (There are also some allusions to a couple of traditional Irish folk songs…curious if anyone knows what they are) The painting was actually never quite finished. I decided to leave it so.
As a side note, as some of you may know, the Brontë’s had Irish roots through their father Patrick Bronte (nee Prunty, Brunty or Bruntee), born in a two roomed cabin at Emdale in the parish of Drumballyroney, County Down.

 

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

I traveled there a woman

and came back a child

with my eyes full of the clouds

coming over the mountains

so I could never tell

how high they were,

the rivers going on

forever,

the irises

floating down to the sea,

the fuchsias so wild

but not really.

All along the way

cowslips lived

where meadows survived

and milkmaids didn’t mind

the rain

so sudden

as suddenly gone.

The fields were greener than any

in France

through the glass of our visit

going down to the sea,

everywhere surrounding,

only my heart brave enough

to go on

into the waves,

a lonesome boatman calling me

to come live with him

forever.

1983

 

March 17th is also ‘St Gertrude’s Day’, the Patron Saint Of Cats. Bless all the kitties, here and in the hereafter. The one in this illustration looks like my Gabey, who I very recently lost and miss so deeply. It makes me sad but, also, comforted.

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Playing with Ambition (Remembering Gabey)

Below the first image is a repost about one of the greatest loves of my life …

It has been almost two weeks since I lost my beloved Gabey-kitty, leaving a large hole in my heart and space in my life that had been so sweetly and feistily and affectionately filled by his physical presence for 13 1/2 years. I miss those sparkling amber eyes that looked into my soul and his confidence in his own magnificence and just all those little ways and means that were specific to him. His kitty brother and “cousins” are feeling his absence as profoundly as we are, breaking my heart a little more when they look for him or at me asking “Why?”, but they are also mending it, filling the deep sense of loss with their individual precious presences. Comforting and caring for them is a way to actively do the same for myself. And, through their natural awareness of the energy of the non-physical, they are a constant reminder that, although Gabey’s mortal body is no longer here with me, his pure, loving, blessed spirit can never be absent as long as I stay in touch with my better self.

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Playing with Ambition

He makes a grab for my pen, puffing his cheeks, twinkling his eyes, smiling if he could. It’s not that he wants me to stop writing, at least not in the long term, for it keeps me captivated and close to him. He likes to interrupt my ambition, a playful swipe over the page I stare at for a thought too good to miss if only it would come.

He came, small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, with topaz eyes and quick sharp teeth, infecting my hand and heart with feisty vulnerability. Then he was gone, taken as I allowed, others to care for him better. Except I wasn’t convinced, traveling far and near to find the dirt road and unclear path to making him mine.

No one wanted him like I did. Certainly not those who had more than they could handle, separating themselves from his beauty as I thought impossible. In my arms he pretended he didn’t know me, hadn’t tempted and tasted me, too young a fellow to know he shouldn’t cry. I assured him that a love like mine, patient and doting, was all he needed. Slowly he believed, fed on fairy tales and fancy feasts.

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

And now he’s only for losing if eternity fails us. At times he prefers his own space and I’m more distracted than when he steals my pen and chance for inspiration. Somehow I always convince him to lie again at my feet—on my feet, warming them, massaging them, numbing them, until he notices my papers set aside. He moves up the bed for undivided attention, licking my cheek, nuzzling my ear before smothering me with his love, his gingery mane blinding me as his unexplained pleasure eases my doubts.  

Then it’s all too serious for him. He makes a grab for what is still in my hand, holding it in his teeth, his head and shoulders performing a tango. I laugh though not too loud for it is the middle of the night. We dance for a few moments longer, light on our feet with no need to exercise more than our imaginations.

“The cat is the animal to whom the Creator gave the biggest eye, the softest fur, the most supremely delicate nostrils, a mobile ear, an unrivaled paw and a curved claw borrowed from the rose-tree.” – Colette (French Novelist, 1873 – 1954)

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©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Music on Christmas Morning

Anne knew life couldn’t fail her as long as she acknowledged the blessings of animals and nature, music and prayer.
Without the Veil Between © 2016 DM Denton

Those who have read my two novels (A House Near Luccoli and To A Strange Somewhere Fled) know how integral music is to their language, stories, rhythm, sensibilities and characters. My third historical fiction, which is nearing completion, focuses on another area of the arts: writing. However, I couldn’t avoid, nor did I want to, the importance of music in the life of its main protagonist, Anne Brontë, youngest sister of Charlotte and Emily.

My vision for Without the Veil Between was to explore and expand the “asides” of Anne’s life in and out of the context of the more familiar Brontë narrative: one being her love of music.

At an early age, along with her siblings, she was taken by her father to concerts performed by the Haworth Operatic Society and in nearby Keighley. In the mid-1830s Reverend Brontë surprised his children by purchasing an upright cabinet piano made by John Green of Soho Square, London.

Piano in Patrick Bronte's study in Haworth Parsonage

Piano in Patrick Bronte’s study in Haworth Parsonage

Their father arranged for them to have a few lessons at the parsonage, but mostly they were self-taught. Emily, whom Anne was extremely close to, is said to have been the most accomplished pianist in the family. Charlotte’s friend (and to them all) Ellen Nussey wrote of Emily playing “with brilliance and precision.”

“Come on.” Emily dropped the shoes she had seemed so desperate to find and, not allowing Anne to put on hers, pulled her sister out of the rocking chair.
“What?”
“It’s time for Mendelsohn.”
“On the piano? It’s almost eleven.”
“Who’s to mind?”
With their father and Charlotte away, Emily couldn’t be stopped from opening the windows in almost every room and occupying herself on the cottage piano in the Reverend’s study any time she pleased. Yet Anne, who rarely went out of the house without Emily and then only into the front garden or the church to refresh the flowers by the pulpit, hadn’t heard Emily playing, not even the music Anne had given her for her birthday.
“You’ve been practicing. But when?”
“In the wee hours, as lightly as I walk about.”
“Oh. That explains—” Anne didn’t reveal her entire thought, standing to the side and holding the flickering light that illuminated the sheets Emily hardly needed to look at. She wondered how in the dark of a new day with a candle placed precariously on the corner of the piano’s lid, Emily managed to follow the score well enough to commit it to memory as well as perfecting by heart how gracefully and unpretentiously it sang without words. Anne heard it then as she had in her dreams, something of William in its wordlessness, something of herself in its longings, something almost tender about Emily that except in her constant forgiveness of Keeper might otherwise never be revealed.
Without the Veil Between © 2016 DM Denton
auldlang

Auld Lang Sang as copied by Anne Bronte

Anne also played, as Ellen Nussey claimed, preferring “soft melodies and vocal music. She sang a little; her voice was weak, but very sweet in tone.” As a governess, Anne gave music and singing lessons, purchasing much of the music herself. At home, in June 1843, on a brief holiday from her position at Thorpe Green, she began copying her favorite music into a blank notebook she had probably purchased on a visit to York with her employers, the Robinsons, spending a fairly substantial sum in relation to her earnings.

Anne was on the second page of filling the music manuscript book she had only counted on costing her three shillings and six pence, not the favorable opinion of her favorite sister. Her last trip to York, longer than when she and Branwell had met their father there and this time sanctioned for shopping, allowed Anne almost two hours away from the Misses Robinsons. While they spent their time and money on dresses, hats, and confections, Anne browsed a bookstore newly opened in the cathedral city, considering any expenditure carefully. She finally settled on two purchases: a German dictionary and a prettily-bound book for music copying that would also aid in her teaching, if only to Mary who showed an interest in and some talent for singing—more of a justification than reason for buying it. Anne wanted to make the music she loved compactly portable, even without access to a pianoforte available for performances—in her head, preferably so, for then her fingers were agile and her voice wasn’t weak.
Without the Veil Between © 2016 DM Denton
The Shambles, York

The Shambles, York

Anne’s brother, Branwell, also had musical ability and played the organ from time to time for services in the Haworth Parish church. Unfortunately, none of his talents, including writing and painting, could override his self-pitying, self-destructive personality, which spiraled him into deadly addictions to drink and drugs.

(William’s) arm around her brother’s shoulder assured Branwell that his return to the organ wasn’t spoiled by him losing his place in the processional hymn All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord and struggling with uncertain pedaling and clumsy fingering in Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.
“In the end, my friend, you found your way,” William’s cheeks were almost crimson, little streaks of sweat on them, “with Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal.”
Without the Veil Between © 2016 DM Denton
Haworth Church and Parsonage

Haworth Church and Parsonage

I try not to project myself into any historical person I write about, hoping to understand and interpret him/her as objectively and historically accurate as possible. However, fiction (and even biographies) beg some subjectivity in order to go deeper than the facts and explore, for example, his/her motivations, hesitations, impulses and emotions. Although I chose to write about Anne, I never expected to feel such affinity with her on so many levels (actually, the more I researched and wrote on this novel that, of course, has among its cast of characters Charlotte and Emily, the more I connected to each of the Brontë sisters, but that is a post for another time).

One of the ways I related to Anne was in how her creative talents affected her life as she developed as a writer. Writing became her work, her vocation:  she knew it was her most significant means of expression if not her easiest. It involved much of her time, and, also, her mental, emotional and even physical energy, didn’t come easy, was often frustrating and misunderstood. She had to do it, no matter the trials it put her through, and it seems there were times, especially in the composing of her second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, that she was nearly buried in it.

As her sister Charlotte wrote in a letter: ‘I would fain hope that (Anne’s) health is a little stronger than it was – and her spirits a little better, but she leads much too sedentary a life, and is continually sitting stooping either over a book or over her desk – it is with difficulty one can prevail on her to take a walk or induce her to converse.’

In contrast music and art and Anne’s bond to nature were truly enjoyment, allowing her times when she could look up from her weighty sense of purpose and view a lighter, more leisurely way of being.

Anne Bronte’s unfinished portrait of her dog, Flossy

Anne Bronte’s unfinished portrait of her dog, Flossy

Certainly, in difficult times, such as her years as governess at Blake Hall and then Thorpe Green, including Branwell’s disastrous stint as tutor at the latter location, music was a relaxing and pleasant pastime that interrupted Anne’s struggles with her health, duties, and worry and embarrassment over her brother’s behavior.

Like at the Spa in Scarborough, during one of her summer holidays there with her employers, the Robinson’s …

Nothing was more calming to her lungs than sitting among other reverent music lovers—which Elizabeth and Lydia were not—in the Spa’s turreted Saloon, melting into a Mozart symphony, an air by Weber, and a Rossini overture, her spirit warmed even more than her body. At least, as the music swelled and soothed and satisfied, she was unaware of any physical discomfort from the afternoon’s rising temperature let alone her earlier asthma episode.
Without the Veil Between © 2016 DM Denton
The Spa, Scarborough, Yorkshire

The Spa, Scarborough, Yorkshire

Or on a sultry first day of rush-bearing, a magnificent Oratorio concert right in Haworth and her own church, St. Michaels and All Angels …

The voice of Mendelssohn’s Christ in three-part chorus rose, not only creating a miraculous sound but also a haloed light.
Anne wanted to be in that moment. Such bountiful music, the church filled with contemplative commentary drawn from the New and Old Testaments, chorales in the manner of Bach, fanfares punctuating more tranquil instrumentals and vocals. It was quite a trick for the orchestra, even reduced as it was, to fit in-between the altar and audience, the violins arranged around the cellos and violas, the strings in front of the winds, and the brass elevated at the very back. The choir was in front of the instrumentalists, sopranos and tenors on the right, mezzo sopranos, altos and bases on the left.
Without the Veil Between © 2016 DM Denton
Rushbearing 1821

Rush-bearing 1821

Or during an impulsive trip to London with Charlotte, which as unexpectedly found her at the opera in Covent Garden …

Enjoy yourself. Don’t worry about critics or how you must answer them, or Papa or Emily or Branwell … or anything to disturb the wonder of this unexpected adventure
She didn’t think Mr. Williams, as he glanced at her, was reading her thoughts but, instead, wanted to witness her enthusiastic participation in the custom of applauding for the conductor as he quickly stepped into the pit, took his place and a bow, and turned to prompt the orchestra’s tuning up.
There was some movement behind the curtain, the footlights seeming to burn brighter as Anne’s attention focused on the stage. “This is beyond my dreams. Beyond what I deserve.” She lifted her hands to her cheeks, afraid they were flushed, as Mr. Williams might assume, with pleasure and embarrassment, but, as couldn’t be helped, really just the warmth and closeness of the theater.
“Oh, Miss Brontë, you’re more than worthy to be here.” Mr. Williams was prompted by Anne’s admission to make one of his own. “I think you’re a perfect companion for attending the opera, for I suspect you understand how music—”
“Kindly bids us wake. It calls us, with an angel’s voice, to wake, worship, and rejoice.”
Without the Veil Between © 2016 DM Denton
Italian Opera House Covent Garden, London

Italian Opera House Covent Garden, London

Which brings me to Anne’s Music on Christmas Morning, which was included in the poetry anthology she and her sisters published in the spring of 1846. It reflects Anne’s piety and love of music, words and nature, using all to paint a lyrically poignant bridge between heaven and earth.

music-of-christmas-morning-poem-with-holly-border-croped

 

Whether you read this post and Anne’s poem on the morning it was written in honor of, or at any other time, I want to offer my heartfelt appreciation for your visit to my little space in the universe along with wishes for many blessings to be yours in this season however you mark it.

Peace and Love

Please note that the excerpts I offered from my in progress Without the Veil Between, are from its first draft.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Nature Insight: In a Cold Climate

Am working on a new post, but, in the meantime, something to help you pause and reflect, first shared a few years back …

 

yew-1With shorter days come slower nights,

more time to settle for solitude.

Love is gone and is here still,

more in the heart than can be lived.

For all there is a season and this is mine,

evergreen, and woven into wintery cobwebs.

Somehow I resist the temptation to brush them away.

 

I prefer winter…when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.

Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.

Andrew Wyeth, American Painter (1917 – 2009)

holly-with-bird-winter-border

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Nothing Grows with Sun Alone

So the rain never left us, just hesitated to refresh us, while hoping to remind us

that nothing grows with sun alone; thirst is one moment closer to hunger, and heat can wear out its welcome

for those who look for the willowherb to rise in sight of water, and the lily pad to float and blossom further out of its depths.

 

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

I originally posted this the summer of 2012, when, like this year, Western New York experienced a pretty severe drought. 

Now, after almost two and a half months of extreme heat and humidity, as September begins and summer winds down, some rain has come, enough to relieve and refresh. Today is most splendid: mid-70s F with bright sunshine, vivid colors, deep shadows, and a fresh breeze. Loving it! Did some gardening without sweating and windows are open! A day to be peaceful and content and, hopefully, productively creative.

Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.
~ John Updike


©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

For International Cat Day: Portrait of Mischief and Love

August 8th is International Cat Day!

They also made themselves at home on the softness of Donatella’s bed, passively fighting over the mountain of pillows. When their mistress finally got in, they settled across her chest and legs, Caprice playing with her toes while Bianchi enjoyed a stroke up to the skin behind her ears so her eyes narrowed and her purring came from nowhere.
~ From To A Strange Somewhere Fled by DM Denton

Here’s a repost to mark the occasion.

Where was my heart when my hand captured time
in a portrait of mischief and love?

Boots, Sadie and Francie 2 cropped colored

Copyright 2013 by DM Denton

Cats Between the Lines

Cats must be there. Even as I wander long ago and faraway, they follow me, rub my legs, curl on my bed and beg my attention without disturbing it. Their purring is my mantra too, so natural and deliberate at the same time, encouraging the perfect rhythm of my heart. They are soft to the touch yet strong enough in their will. One swipes at my pen to remind me not to take it all so seriously; another paws my arm, eyes green with envy for the obsession that seems to leave him out. Oh, no. How can I tell him? With a turn and a bow and a stroke he’s reassured; with an Eskimo kiss he’s a distraction but—as one of my favorite writers, Colette, once noted—never a waste of time. Yet another stretches, slithers and yawns like a serpent enticing me to a nap. And then I realize I’m being watched, by that scamp who only sleeps to run and jump and wrestle when he’s awake, small and smart and certain I can’t grab him before he runs away again.

Cats know more than they ever say, probably for the best if progress is ever to be made. A leonine length with legs neatly crossed and head shaped for stillness sets me wondering if any activity could be better than none. Oh, I know. I must make a living, eat and drink and pretend to hunt. So I do so with their goal in mind, eyes squeezed closed and whiskers and paws and tail twitching, to savor sleep as much as success—for the dream of the mouse even more than its taste. 

Cats can be characters, as many as I’ve had there’s no end to the possibilities. I can dress them up and use them in stories that otherwise might not welcome them. I suspect they would be flattered if they knew or be nonchalant: they expect me to take them everywhere I go and include them in everything I do. Saying that, they realize being ignored is freedom from expectation, especially if turned into a choice. And vanishing is just another way of being found.
(Note: ‘Cats Between the Lines’ was originally posted September 3, 2011. The image – the first time I have posted it –  is one I did in the mid 90’s of my then kitty family – Boots, the mother, and her two calico children, Francie and Sadie.)

More Cat posts I’ve done over the years:

Wrestling with Love

A Home for Oscar

Feline Understanding

Too Many Tales

Playing with Ambition

Oscar and Blake 2Gabey_pe resized 2

Darcy and Oscar

Dante and Blake 1

Gabey, Darcy, Dante and Blake 1Dante on Rocking Chair

Gabby and Blake on Windowsill_pe

Butch in Garden

 

Later Donatella sank into English melancholy and the high backed chair, her cats purring basso continuo at her feet …
~ From A House Near Luccoli by DM Denton


donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

The Very Closest Sympathy

On July 30th, 198 years ago, Emily Jane Brontë was born in Thornton, West Yorkshire, England.

emily_bronte_quote_2

I know you love to play Mendelson.” Anne grasped Emily’s hand, hoping she wouldn’t mind.

Emily endorsed Anne’s effort with a quick squeeze of her fingers. “I have to catch up with his Songs without Words volumes. I believe there are eight now. I only have five.”

Now she knew what it should be, Anne was glad there was just enough time to send away for Emily’s birthday present.
© 2016 DM Denton

 

Although my current work in progress is a novel focusing on her younger sister, Anne, Emily is essential to the narrative, whether they are together at Haworth, on an excursion to York, or separated for long periods of time.

Emily was an imaginative and liberating influence on dutiful, devout Anne, a constant and protective best friend who by example more than precept reminded her little sister to leave at least some of her spirit unfettered and even encouraged her to now and then step out of life’s responsibilities and live a little wildly, especially as mother earth beckoned her to.

For nature is constant still
For when the heart is free from care
Whatever meets the eye
Is bright, and every sound we hear
Is full of melody …
~
Anne Brontë, from Verses for Lady Geralda, 1836

Long after the Brontë sisters had died, Charlotte’s friend Ellen Nussey wrote in Reminisces of Charlotte Brontë that “(Emily) and Anne were like twins – inseparable companions, and in the very closest sympathy, which never had any interruption.”

What better way to enjoy time with Emily again than by reliving their childhood habit of wandering daily to meet only earth and sky, now with Keeper and Flossy, their dogs like themselves, despite contrasting physiques and personalities, discovering intrinsic similarities, especially the need to often escape the stuffiness and lack of possibilities indoors. For the dogs, too, the companionship of walks that took them west past tilting, spindly conifers and thorn bushes into the wind-swept vastness behind the parsonage, acknowledged the basic wildness of their natures and left no doubt they were more alike than different.
© 2016 DM Denton

Emily and Anne Bronte cropped

From Pillar Portrait by Branwell Brontë

As children they formed an alliance apart from Charlotte, brother Branwell and the fictional world of Angria to invent their own imaginary kingdom of Gondal. The departure of Charlotte to Roe Head School meant they became even closer, but something more powerful than circumstance cemented their devotion: the innate ability to understand, unconditionally love, lighten, consolingly burden and so strengthen each other, to speak in silence as much as conversation, and, perhaps, most significantly, to create “the very closest sympathy” through the infinite sisterhood of their imaginations.

To Imagination by Emily Brontë

When weary with the long day’s care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost, and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again
O my true friend, I am not lone
While thou canst speak with such a tone!

So hopeless is the world without,
The world within I doubly prize;
Thy world where guile and hate and doubt
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou and I and Liberty
Have undisputed sovereignty.

What matters it that all around
Danger and grief and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom’s bound
We hold a bright unsullied sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days?

Reason indeed may oft complain
For Nature’s sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy newly blown.

But thou art ever there to bring
The hovering visions back and breathe
New glories o’er the blighted spring
And call a lovelier life from death,
And whisper with a voice divine
Of real worlds as bright as thine.

I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
Yet still in evening’s quiet hour
With never-failing thankfulness I
welcome thee, benignant power,
Sure solacer of human cares
And brighter hope when hope despairs.

Emily Bronte Desk

Emily Brontë’s fold-up writing desk and contents

 

Anne was less hesitant to being drawn into Emily’s simply lived yet creatively complex orbit; then Anne had grown up in it, been sustained by it, and found true friendship in it. She knew, welcoming the hope in that knowledge, that even as Emily seemed unsentimental, letting them go to their beds and disappointments and fears and useless efforts to change what couldn’t be changed, she was keeping a place for them by the fire of her imagination and fidelity.
© 2016 DM Denton

 

Haworth Parsonage

Haworth Parsonage, painted in the 1970s by DM Denton©

What was complicated for her sisters and brother was simple for Emily: there was no going back to working for little profit that left her essentially impoverished. Instead, she settled once and for all into the confinement that unleashed her fantasies, escaping change except as she grew taller and stronger and unapologetically herself. “I am as God made me,” Charlotte reported Emily’s answer to the “silly” girls at the Pensionnat who ridiculed her clothes, walk, thoughts, and habits. Anne couldn’t decide if such certainty made Emily saintly or blasphemous. According to Charlotte it did the trick in stopping the harassment, so it would seem an enlightened declaration after all.

Emily knew her place and stuck with it without being stuck, like a solitary tree on the moor, as violently content, shaped by the wind yet unyielding, in motion without leaving the spot she was rooted in.
© 2016 DM Denton

 

bronte_moors_by_wandereringsoul

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.