Discovering Muker – Conversations, Connections & Understanding

A couple of weeks or so ago, in our Old School cafe, I was having a discussion with a man about the Peter Brook paintings that adorn the cafe walls; the importance of the title; the understated, dry, Northern humour; the feel of place and time. He brought up the title of one particular painting that he’d purchased some years back. The title was The Woods are Lovely, Dark & Deep, and he told me that the line was used as a trigger phrase in an espionage movie, Telefon.

Image result for the woods are lovely dark and deep peter brook
The Woods are Lovely Dark and Deep, Peter Brook

A week or so later I  (again) was talking to a couple, (again) in the Old School cafe, and (again) the topic turned to Peter Brook and the titles of his paintings. The woman was from the U.S. and when the discussion reached The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep, and I was about to employ my newly found knowledge, she volunteered that the title was a line from the Robert Frost poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Then, without warning, and to mine and her companions surprise, she recited parts of three Robert Frost poems, at one stage, during Birches, removing the band that held her pony tail and throwing her hair forward – “Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hairBefore them over their heads to dry in the sun” – and at that moment I resolved to buy a book of Robert Frost poems.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.  

On Tuesday I was (once again) in conversation with a couple (once again) in the Old School cafe. (Once gain) they were taken by Peter’s paintings and (once again) the conversation led to The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep, and so I found the poem for them to read.  At that point a man in the gallery joined the conversation, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening was his favourite poem, but he’d not seen Peter Brook’s work before and when we found the print he was immediately taken, and thinking it a quirk of fate not to be passed up, bought the picture.

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.  

That afternoon I was (once more) conversing with a couple in the  Old School cafe (once again) discussing Peter’s paintings, which (once again) provided an opportunity for me to show off my newly found expertise, both in Peter’s work and in the poetry of Robert Frost, but I was immediately undone. Unbeknown to me, the couple were Peter’s daughter, Katherine, and her husband.

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

As we chatted a lady came over to be served, she was buying a Peter Brook greeting card, and as I took her money at the till I mentioned Katherine. She told me that she and her husband were on their way to visit her Uncle, who taught with Peter whilst he was teaching art, and told me of their recent trip to New England and to Robert Frost’s farm, and their love of Robert Frost poetry. I introduced them to Katherine.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

Yesterday a man visited the gallery, as we talked he told me that he’d purchased a Peter Brook when he’d visited some years before. Guess which picture he’d bought?

In our small gallery in remote Upper Swaledale, it seems to me that the world now comes to us, and every conversation leads to a connection and a deeper understanding.


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