Year: 2011

Woodland Trance

All comfort.

All strength

All softness

All renewal

All decay

All enduring

All rotting, slowly away.

All might

All magnificence

All majesty

All wonder

All carpet of oak leaves

Dankly darkly brown

All poetry

All breath of silence

All source

All peace

All knowing

All allowing not to know

All seeing

All forgiving

All invitation

All permission just to be

All dying

All born new every day

All death

All life

In the darkness of this damply rotting wood:

All comfort.

The Impetuous Tide

Flow is something I’d generally claim to aspire to: in my creative work, in my life.

When I was in Skye a few weeks back I experienced a different kind of flow.

Standing on the shores at Talisker I found myself both looking out to sea, as the waves were crashing, while the black sands beneath us were shifting, cracking, dissolving  in the current of the river: pouring, coursing, cutting.

River Sea Shore, Talisker

It created an effect a static photo can barely do justice to: the waters moving in all directions at once, in a wildly elemental flow.

Elemental Flow, Talisker

Flow, Jim, but not as we know it.

It made me think of these words that I’d found a few days previously:

For years I have endeavoured to calm an impetuous tide – laboring to make my feelings take an orderly course – it was striving against the stream ~ Mary Wollstonecraft

Here’s to the impetuous tide.


This is the first of a series of posts this week on images and reflections from Skye. The places of the north and west always get me thinking.

The Flirtatious Landscape

I was writing the other day about the way the universe seems to invite our appreciation, and respond, like a cat arching its back, to that appreciation being shown.

It reminded me of something I read a month or so ago about landscapes flirting with us – sending out signals that demand and invite an appreciative, admiring response.

It also reminded me of something I wrote recently as a bit of writing practice, describing the journey home. It’s about the landscapes round here, in all their flirtatious glory.


I am driving home, from singing practice. The sky is grey to the left, blue to the right. The day is cold: it has the clear, bright look of a January day. It was raining, heavily, early in the morning, and the air is washed.

The landscape has been washed with January sunlight, and cold rain.

The hills to the left are showing their folds, their contours, like the most magnificent eastern princess, fat, sensual, curvaceous, enticing, lying back and waiting to be touched, to be admired.

To be fed grapes by gasping, drooling admirers.

To the left, the sky is dark, and a rainbow cuts through the sky, illuminating my passage.

Puddle Mystic

I am going to start living like a mystic:

watching the world through the window of a puddle,

inside out and upside down.

I am going to peep through the hole in the branch of a tree and

look at the world through a whole

through a hole

letting flux and uncertainty,

paradox and inconsistency,

flow through me

like the words of a nonsense poem

meaning less and

meaning full

rippling and dancing

like the most glorious


forest of underwater trees.

Prompted by the first line of: I Am Going to Start Living Like a Mystic, by Edward Hirsch.

The Consolation of Patterns and Shapes

Wave patterns on the black sand shore:

Wave Patterns IV

deep consolation, and a sense of home.

Wave Patterns III

Images, patterns and shapes found at the black sand shores of Talisker.

The words are inspired by a passage found in Anam Cara by John O’Donohue, a book I was reading on Skye. (I love the way reading and landscapes merge together like this at times when we’re travelling.)

The human eye adores gazing; it feasts on the wild beauty of new landscapes, the dignity of trees. The eye is always drawn to the shape of a thing. It finds some deep consolation and sense of home in special shapes.

This makes me see photography in a whole different light, understanding the pleasure that comes from that gazing.

It allows me to make better sense of that feeling of connectedness and home that is found in certain places.

Lost in the Mist

We need a light which has retained its kinship with the darkness.

~ John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

Out of three days in Skye we had one day of gorgeous autumn sunshine, where the only conclusion you could reach was that this was the most beautiful, glorious place on earth; one of torrential rain, where you could pretty much only conclude the opposite; and one of low mist, where it was only by ducking down to the shore, down from the moorlands and hilltops that you could see what was there to be seen.

(A weather pattern that is pretty much par for the course on the island, but that’s a whole other story.)

Seeing a place like Talisker in the mist was a new experience for me – previously I’d headed for the beach on warm and sunny days, to take advantage of the flat black rocks and the chance for a dip in the sea (yes, it is possible, some days!) but this time I was set on standing by the sea and reading some out loud poetry.

And the mist, of course, revealed the spirit of the place in a totally different light.

The light in Celtic consciousness is a penumbral light.

~ John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

The misty day wove together with the words I’d been reading about this dark/light feature of the Celtic consciousness, and the value of obliqueness (in our gaze, in our writing, in our kindness, in our friendship) that Donohue captures so beautifully in the book.

It took me to this journal entry that I thought I’d share with you here.


how would it be to allow for knowing
and not knowing:
allowing room
for the mystery
of creating
to be able to wonder
without needing to understand everything
to trust in the process
to trust in love
to trust in the mystery and wonder
of the universe
that beats softly wildly
all round about us,
that is hidden
in the mists
in the clouds and the rain
in the wind blowing and the rain lashing down on your window,
reminding you
that this is where you are,
on the island,
at the edge,
in a place of finding
and refinding,
and remembering
to remember
the feel of the mist, wind and rain.


Something I guess we’re always needing reminders to remember.

This is another post in the Skye series. Last post tomorrow.

PS In case you, like me, need to check the definition of penumbral, here it is:

  1. A partial shadow, as in an eclipse, between regions of complete shadow and complete illumination.
  2. The grayish outer part of a sunspot.
  3. An area in which something exists to a lesser or uncertain degree

Streams of Connectedness

Some places are not everyday.

They are places of voyaging and adventure, of pilgrimage and retreat.

They are not (generally) available to us in an everyday kind of way – and nor perhaps should they be.

Practice is though.

There are practices that we can repeat in an everyday kind of way: here, there and everywhere.
The practices of:

  • Stepping outside, walking and wondering.
  • Keeping your eyes open, for possibility, and invitation.
  • Taking photographs to better learn from what you see.
  • Listening out for fragments of poems.
  • Letting the words tumble and fall till you find the phrase or the form for the essence of a moment, the magic of a minute drifting by.

It’s those practices that connect us:

To those places, to those moments, to each other, to ourselves.

It’s those practices that connect us back:

To the landscapes of the imagination.

The act of looking at what we love, remembering what we love, connects us delicately to the underground streams we are seeking to reach ~ Julia Cameron, The Sound of Paper

A Photo Journal of the Seasons

I would love to have time, to make time, to write the details of the changes of the seasons.

For now though I rely on the photos I take as I walk. It’s a simple but powerful way of creating a photo journal of the seasons.

Autumn came and went last week with a blast of high winds, heavy rain, then the first hard frost. Bonfire Night (the 5th of November) marked the season’s turn, as it so often does.

I was glad when the frost came that I had taken photo after photo in the two months that had gone before, capturing colour changes and leaf falls, the way the trees first strut their stuff in their autumn glory then reveal their inner structure as the leaves fall, and show themselves, bare and unadorned, more beautiful than ever, how the paths transform into carpets of leaves, into invitations stretching out before us, how we see reminder after reminder to express what is good and beautiful, but also to be ready to let it go and let it fall. Continue reading

Forever Returning

poetry is the mist, draped softly on the Tables
poetry is the water, dancing in Glen Hinnisdal, and the laughter of the children in remembered swimming there
poetry is the arc of the bridge and the knowledge of returning
poetry is the echoed words of Sorley, crashing on the black sand shore
poetry is the hard dark rock of the Cuillin, the sharp serrated edge of her skyline
poetry is the invocation of the bog myrtle, crushed against your finger tips
poetry is bog cotton, laughing in the breeze
poetry is the wind on the moorland, the kiss of spirit freedom
poetry is the light, glinting on the water as the road turns down to Gesto and a thousand silent worships and a thousand tears of home
poetry is the island, lost in mist, and illumined with the perfect clarity of a winter sunshine day
poetry is truth
poetry is mystery
poetry is love and impossible gratitude
poetry is the island,
and I am forever returning.

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