Sunday, January 02, 2022

Thinking things over

When I was staying with the family in Boulder in November, Isaac took me out walking in the countryside where I was wowed by the grasses. I’d been painting grasses at home so it was natural to notice them over there.

Photo by Isaac

The landscape was golden. We commented on the restricted palette, and 

I tried to capture it in my painting

Colorado colours
Acrylics on canvas board. 25 by 37 cms

I pointed out the dried leaves to Isaac at the time - they were hard and crispy like the best kind of potato crisps.

and not like the leaves back home in Derbyshire:

You will have read about the dreadful fire in Boulder County.  It raged across grasslands and could not be stopped because the winds were so fierce. Those towns damaged by it - Louisville and Broomfield - are just ten miles south of Boulder and we drive past them on the way to Denver. 

I know what it's like to lose all one's possessions in a fire because it happened to us. We did not lose a house, though. We had sold our house and our things were in storage while we looked for another. It felt devastating at the time. But how does someone feel whose home has burned down? How does someone feel who has lost everything  - house and home? 

‘Each house is not just a house. It’s a home. It’s a sanctuary of comfort and a reservoir of memories,’ said Jared Polis, the Governor of Colorado. 

Isaac and family were away on holiday when the fire was raging. The 100 mph winds brought down a 60 foot tree in their front garden. It fell on their car and their Vespa. 

When I spoke to Isaac on the phone he was sanguine. He said they were counting their blessings. Not just about the fact that the fire didn't touch Boulder itself, where they live, but that the tree had not fallen on the house, or worse, on a neighbour. And he spoke of the sad, sad stories he'd read about the people who had lost everything.

This tragedy so close to Isaac’s home makes my heart ache not just for the people of Louisville and Broomfield, but for people everywhere who have lost their homes because of floods or hurricanes or landslides or earthquakes or war. And following on from that it aches for refugees who have had to flee their homes. 

I have always felt an affinity with refugees, perhaps because my home means so much to me. Seeing refugees in Bosnia in the 1990s inspired me to write this poem:

Knitted Blanket

Before this week we shared a pattern for our lives,

The texture, yarn and colours of a kind,

But war has wrenched the needles from your hands –

And stitches dropped, your world unravels and unwinds.

To see you there with every line cut off, and torn

From home and husband, warmth, support and friends,

Stranded hopeless on a brutal border,

I feel there’s paltry comfort in the threads I send.


This soft white wool is from our son’s first baby coat,

The 4-ply’s from a v-neck made for school,

The chunky red is from his sledging scarf,

The black a teenage sack he wanted to look cool.


All you had is lost. How can you pick your stitches

Up, begin again on your design?

I long to lend you my security until

Your future, present, past, are re-aligned.

Sue Hepworth


marmee said...

Very glad that your colorado family are safe and that for the most part so are their belongings. There is no comparison , but I live in a part of the world where in the summer we are constantly aware of fire danger. Always running out to see in which direction a fire truck is rushing, looking to see if the helicopter one hears is a "bambi" that drops water on fire hotspots. It is scary , I can not begin to think what those extreme conditions must be like! That pic of the destroyed neighbourhood is chilling.

Bladesgirl said...

Sue, I discovered your blog just after Christmas and have been reading it with much interest. I've found lots in it to amuse and inspire me. I'm originally from Sheffield and know and love your part of the Peak District very well. I lost my Mum in early December and have found your blog and a couple of others to be a source of comfort. When I heard of the fires in Colorado, I immediately thought of your son and his family and hope they are safe and well. I'll look forward very much to reading about your adventures in 2022 and am going to purchase at least one of your books. Warmest wishes, Karen (now living near Huddersfield)

Sue Hepworth said...

Thank you, Marmee, for your concern, and thank you, Bladesgirl for your concern and what you said about the blog. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it .

But I am very sorry you have lost your Mum. Losing my Mum was one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with. Someone said to me that when your Mum dies the world does not feel safe for a while, and that felt an apt comment. I hope you have sympathetic and understanding friends and family.

I’m intrigued as to which of my books you’ll choose.

Bladesgirl said...

I had thought about asking you, Sue, which you would recommend to start with?
I’m thinking of Zuzu, because I think you mentioned it dealt with grieving and Plotting for Beginners, but happy to receive your advice.
I’m hoping to go away on holiday on Thursday so they’ll be perfect for while I am away.

Yes thank you, I do have a very caring family and group of friends but in my heart of hearts, I do feel somewhat adrift without Mum. I’m so lucky to have still had a Mum into my early sixties but even though she had early Alzheimer’s and a good deal of the essence of her had already gone, I am finding it tough.

Warm wishes from a rather icy and cold West Yorkshire.

Sue Hepworth said...

Dear Bladesgirl, about your Mum - it took me 6 months to calm down about losing mine. And several years to accept it. She was 92. The best advice I had about this was from my older neighbour, who said 'There is nothing you an do to make it better, and nothing you can do to hurry it along,' but it does get easier after a year or so. If you look at my blog post for March 30 2009 you will see how I was, four months after she died.

As to the book question, I have asked a few blog readers whose names I know (not heard from them yet) and might put it out on the blog.
My discerning and avid reader friend has just texted that you should start with But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You, then read Even When They Know You, and then Days Are Where We Live.
Plotting for Beginners is pure comedy and where it all began, but it is not my favourite. My favourites are But I Told You, and Days Are Where We Live. The latter does have some posts in about losing my mother, and also losing my best friend.
Zuzu's Petals is about losing a father but it was not a popular book and I am not sure why. I think it was partly because of the poor marketing - that ridiculous front cover - but maybe it wasn't well written.
Even When They Know You is about losing a dear friend. It's a good book - according to reviews on Amazon but not a favourite of mine because it was murder to write.
So - if you want pure comedy start with PFB. if you want something more meaningful that is also funny read BITYLY, and if you want something about grief you have three to choose from.
You can see that loss and grief are a big issue for me.
I hope you enjoy your holiday no matter what.

Sue Hepworth said...

Sally says
Hi Sue, Probably start with, But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You. Even When They Know You, is fabulous & the subject matter is a common experience that is usually neglected. If she's enjoying your blog then I'm sure she'll also love, Days are where we live. Hopefully she'll then be hooked & go on to read them all! Sally xlšŸ™‚

Sue Hepworth said...

Another helpful and faithful blog reader has sent me this message:
I love all your books, but maybe ‘But I told you last year that I loved you’ would be a good one to start with. It’s very funny and insightful. The characters and situations are very recognisable. It also chimes with the current interest in neuro divergence.

Sue Hepworth said...

Blog reader Ana says:
I would heartily recommend your latest Days are Where We Live as a perfect introduction to the blog itself and because there is such vivid sense of you and your actual life there unmoderated by a different fictional approach.

Sue Hepworth said...

Blog reader Marmee says:
My favourite is But I told you last year that I loved you.

Sue Hepworth said...

Yet another blog reader has contacted me to say that But I Told You I Loved You is their favourite.

Bladesgirl said...

Thank you Sue and everyone for your recommendations. I will choose at least two titles to read when I go away later this week and let you know how I get on.
Kind regards to all