I began this painting at the end of last year, not knowing why I was drawn to this subject but knowing I needed to paint it. The wallaby skull is from my own collection in my very treasured curiosity cabinet. The flowers, Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora, commonly known as Montbretia, grow along the roadside and I pass these every day when out walking my dog. The intense warm orange enticed me to bring home a small bunch for a photo session of inspiration. This year blindsided me with the challenges I was confronted with. After a few confusing and difficult months my mother was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment which appears to have now developed into Alzheimer's. We spent the first few months of this year finding our way through the process and transitioning her to her new home where she is now safe and has the care and help this condition was demanding. This took me away from my work for a number of months. During these months I was forced into research along with hands on experience, to understand and comprehend what was happening to my mother, and what was happening to my family. I have learned about the brain and how its wired together, how it works and how it sometimes doesn't. I have learned about this fascinating umbrella we call Dementia. I have learned how our minds can move in and out of different worlds, different realities, completely real for those experiencing it. There were two things happening over these months: transparency and disintegration, in many ways. I began questioning even more so about life, and death, and everything in between, and my world was filled with beautiful moments that balanced out the emotional turmoil I was experiencing inside. Many things were put aside as Mum took priority and in response to this many things suffered. I found myself reminding myself to remember to live, remember to make happy moments and find the joy, as I felt my daily existence engulfed in what was happening, although always knowing once we were through this part then things would become easier, that this was just the human experience in full swing, and we could then get on with enjoying Mum soon. Although the learning wouldn't cease, my life as I knew it would return to some kind of normality, yet with an added dimension. I've learned how to go into my mother's reality and in doing so we have found so many laughs and moments to cry, but most importantly to just be in that moment with her. So I began to understand why I was being drawn to the skull, not in a dark sense, but in a sense of beauty and wonder of what it contains, what it keeps safe, and how fragile that can become. I found myself attracted to more of that warm deep orange colour, which I found in a Tibetan Yak wool throw I placed on the couch in my studio, and in a gemstone I enclosed in a silver ball pendant. It felt comforting to be surrounded by and to be wearing this colour, and I have now discovered the reason why. The gemstone is a Carnelian, 'a stabilising stone, it restores vitality and motivation, and stimulates creativity. It gives courage, promotes positive life choices, dispels apathy and motivates for success. It helps in trusting yourself and your perceptions. It overcomes negative conditioning and encourages steadfastness. Carnelian improves analytic abilities and clarifies perception. It sharpens concentration and dispels mental lethargy. Protects against envy, rage and resentment. Calms anger, banishes emotional negativity and replaces it with a love of life.' I needed to find my love of life again, I needed things to stabilise, and I needed to get back to work! After a slow gentle build up I am now back into work again, ready to take on larger projects. I know this experience has been an incredible gift and through it I have expanded in knowledge and consciousness. "Storms make the earth honest. They rattle the edges and tear it to shreds before gifting the calm again. Your own hardships and storms do the same to you. They rinse you clean. They paint new colours. They deepen your understanding. They give you new language. A sweet serenity not previously known" - Victoria Erickson.