Beyond the barrage of unanswerable questions
beyond the torrent of unstoppable doubts
there sits a flower
waiting quietly, patiently, Continue reading
This has been a hard week for me.
Last Sunday we lost our beautiful cat, hit by a car. This small, gorgeous, funny, generous creature has been friend, guardian, companion, wise man, fool, and simply: cat, for fifteen years.
That’s a big chunk of my life, and it feels like a very big hole.
As I’ve moved, slowly, through the week, I’ve been aware how much comfort the practice of photography has offered me.
One morning when I couldn’t bear to sit in the house I went outside, in the early morning sun, and took pictures of the apple blossom, almost in bloom. The pictures didn’t work but the practice did: click, connect, focus.
Connect, click, focus.
Photography takes me out of myself.
Photography takes me outside, and that is such a huge blessing. Outside you get distracted: there are still gates to manoeuvre, stiles to cross, brambles to untangle and nettles to avoid.
There is still the birdsong, soothing, and the smell of the wild garlic in the woodland: this moment, reeking, here, now.
And there are the images that you find, or that find you.
Symbols that offer something – a way to understand, to process, to heal, or just to keep on going.
Some of these I know I wouldn’t have seen had I not had this practice of going out, each and every day, camera in hand, to watch, to see, to notice.
Some of these images remind me of things I have seen before, and awaken old, good, feelings of wonder, and gratitude.
Some of them whisper secrets that I am finding for the first time.
This wood sorrel has just peeped out from the mossy, dark underside of an old railway embankment, at the edge of the wood. I am trying to get into the habit of looking up the flowers when I see them, to try and learn a bit more of who they are, and what they have done, or symbolised, in days gone by.
This wood sorrel (my book says) forms pockets of shining flowers in spring, on woodland floors or amongst shady rocks. It can grow in locations that only have 1% daylight, so you find it growing in the darkest part of the forest and at cave entrances.
It’s name in Gaelic is feada-coille, candle of the wood.
This practice: this looking, this noticing, this trying to learn, this saying thank you, this commitment to keeping your eyes wide open, your heart wide open, even when you don’t feel it, particularly when you don’t feel it, is really what the art of everyday wonder means to me.
I do not live my life in a state of perpetual wonder. Who of us does?
But I do have a practice that allows me to get outside, to get out of my head, and to see, over and over again, things that are beautiful, and astonishing, and communicate in a way that words couldn’t begin to.
And for that I am deeply grateful.
Barren strawberry, they call you,
Tiny white flower of the roadside,
But in my mind,
In my heart,
You are not barren,
You are carving stars,
And painting hearts,
You are seeding ideas
And flowering poetry.
You are not barren,
Sweet barren strawberry,
But seeding and flowering at the edges of our minds,
It is not possible to create, without doubt.
It is not possible to write, to share, to frame, to edit, to publish, to teach, to carve, to suggest, to allude, to form, to make: without doubt.
Corrosive, corroded, corroding.
It is not possible to live, without doubt.
Yet still we try to capture, and tell,
work through it, breathe through it, make through it, live through it
breathing life into the story
both the flower and its shadow,
both the blossom and the doubt.
I was walking slowly so as not to miss anything.
It’s that crazy April time of year when it’s sunshine one minute, raining the next, heat of the summer one week, wildly followed on by snow falls and hail the next, and the earth is growing fiercely in response, fast, subversive, throwing up plants in the hedgerows, and I didn’t want to miss a trick.
Still, I didn’t see it the first time.
It was only on the way back home that the pattern caught my eye, something of the purple, something of the arching, drooping flower, something of the graceful hint of flowering to come that made me bend down, hunker down, okay, lie down by the roadside, watch and notice.
(Don’t worry, it is a very quiet road, with almost no passers by to watch my antics. Cars are few and far between, and so I can hear them a long way off, and shuffle into the undergrowth if needs be.)
I looked and thought: oh! I know you! I have surely, somewhere, seen you before.
And even though there is still doubt mixed in and muttering (what do you know about plants, you don’t know the names of the flowers, who are you to talk of flower love) there is another, stronger voice that is saying yes, yes, yes, I remember you, you plant of drooping, arching purple, still so low down by the ground at this early point in the year that it’s only by lying down I can see you, but yes, I am sure, I know you.
I have seen you before.
And my heart leaps in response to a different kind of gratitude and a different kind of seeing.
Not just the delight of that seeing for the first time, but the joy of seeing in the second year, of walking down these same quiet roads, these same paths by the river, these same shady places in the wood and remembering what came before, what emerged in April, May, June, a festival of flowers that ran throughout the year, and my delight is mixed with anticipation, of the festival that’s coming, and remembrance, at what has gone before.
It is a heady mix.
It is taken me a long time, and a lot of meandering and moving, to get to this point in my life when I can step out from the door and walk, just walk, when I can walk along by the hedgerows and start to know them, to recognise them, to see flowers and plants emerging and feel the delight at seeing an old friend, to feel the pleasure of seeing the wheel turning, slowly, inexorably, through the days of the second year.
Yes, it is a heady mix, and I am deeply grateful, and I will do all I can to keep sharing what I see, and hear, and feel, as I walk, and look, in the wonder of the second year.
Somewhere on a coast line, by a path down to the sea,
There are flowers waiting:
Jumping up at your approach, and singing out ‘surprise!’
A bouquet of love
A bouquet of love,
Just for you.