Category: journal notes

Walking the Shore

Photographs help us to remember.

These pictures remind me of the days when I left the village once a week, to shop first thing on a Saturday morning, before 8am, giving me the chance, within the rules, to walk at a shore, each Saturday morning before 8am in the morning, in rain, mist and shine, just walking and breathing in light.

There are so many things about this time that we will all want to forget, and so many things that we will also need to remember.

Last Drop

last photo before lockdown

I’ve been working through my photographs from last year. They’re nearly all phonescapes, reflecting my current obsession with land, sky and light, but this one sticks out from them all.

It was taken the last day I was at work (at a physical place of work), before we went into the first lockdown in March. I’d finished packing up equipment and papers, and said farewells to my colleagues, none of us then (none of us still) knowing what lay ahead of us.

Before I got into the car to drive home, I went for a final walk in the castle grounds. I mean, I went for a final chance to take a picture, to notice the flowers, to stop for a minute in amongst it all, and breathe in wonder.

When I look back at the picture I’m almost surprised that I did this, surprised to realise that there is something in me that – almost no matter what – feels the need to take the time to stop and notice.

I am grateful that this impulse is so deeply ingrained in me. I am grateful for the photo that reminds me.

Watching Finches to the Words of William Stafford

When you write about one thing you are often writing about another.

The post about the goldfinches was really about a poem, the way you can sometimes read a poem and feel that punch in the gut reminder to wake up! wake up!

The poem was this one by William Stafford. To be honest, he’s a quiet, unassuming kind of poet but his work gets right under my skin, calling me to notice, to write, to remember to notice the morning.

Any Morning

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can’t
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won’t even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

~ William Stafford

Watching the Weather

It’s not hard to take photographs here. The combination of landscape and constantly changing light means the world presents itself to you photographically, over and over.

It makes photography easy to practice and I confess I can do it lazily here, with a phone that likes taking landscapes.

What the easy-ness is good for is that it makes you itch to get outside, to see more, to notice the light and the landscape in each and every weather. (I’ve never had a dog but sometimes I feel like I am out taking the phone for a walk, responding to its nudges, its insistence on being taken outside.)

Watching the landscape in different weathers is a good way to get close up and familiar with a place, to get to know it in different aspects, colours and seasons. It deepens your relationship with a place. It’s part of what makes you feel genuinely at home.

Here are a few of my weather watching photos from last week. Although it was bitterly cold, fortunately the snow passed us by.

~~~

Lunch break, and the chance to breathe in air, coldness, light. A sudden splash of sunlight on the dark-cold water.

lunchtime sun

Driving back and forth all week I could see ice forming on the lochans, changing the colour and the texture of the water, deepening and darkening it, throwing up mad swirls, glinting in the late afternoon as the low sun caught a patch of ice.

The earliest I was free in daylight the day was biting cold with very little light but the ice-promise took me out regardless, still walking dislocated-gingerly, but out on the moor-path crunching ice puddles, regardless.

frozen loch

Although we had no snow to talk of, the hills are still snow-covered. You get to know them differently with this covering of snow and there are just so many times when the light falls on them, mesmerising. This outlook is just along the road. I don’t think I could ever tire of it.

snow on the hills

The wind is a near constant here. It was a cold morning at the beach today, too cold to linger with the wind off the sea, but I like the colours of the coldness in this shot, and the grasses in the sand dunes in the wind.

wind in the dunes, Gress beach

Water and Sky

Monday morning, snowlight. Starlings on the wire.

I’m not the only one to be astonished by the mimicry of starlings.

“Chris Watson the sound recordist captures the sounds of starlings on the Island of Coll. The birds seem to emulate the sound of a two-stroke engine memorised by previous generations and passed down through history.” – listen here

boat, Keose harbour

(Sometimes the world arranges itself into a black and white photograph.)

Sunrise today 7.50am, sunset 5.29pm. 9 hours and 39 minutes of daylight, 3 hours and more longer than the shortest day.

to greet the morning

Word of the day: “numinous” – revealing the presence of the divine; giving rise to a feeling of spiritual transcendence, especially in nature or art (from Latin numen – divinity, divine power).

~ @robgmacfarlane on twitter

(Twitter has much that is wrong with it, but the word of the day from Robert Macfarlane is one of the things worth still being there for.)

The internet makes me think I should keep looking for new places to photograph, or for novel ways to capture the same. My heart asks me otherwise: to repeat and repeat, over and over, with gratitude, and love.

“I’ll tell you right now, the doors to the world of the wild self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door; if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much that you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés, quoted at Whiskey River here (my emphasis)

Being Here

The first weeks of the first year of being here are all mixed up with snow and ice, with dislocation and fear of falling, with car warning lights and a broken spring all limiting my travelling, the paths that I might follow. Still, I let the camera pull me outside and on a winter’s morning I already know there’s a safe and easy path that will lead me through the moor to a view to snow topped hills.

The weather here is so intense, so changeable. It dominates your thinking, it changes how you see. This week we’ve had ice, snow, hail, a night of gales and battering rain, and a day of the most exquisite sunshine, so lovely there was nothing for it but to sit in the garden for a while and simply soak up being here.

Every time I step outside: to the garden, to the bins, to the car, there they are, these noisy iridescent starlings. They call and click and chatter and whistle, swooping off and up and round and back. I knew that starlings mimicked but I wasn’t ready for how different they sound here, how they call with the sound of the sea. Even when they are not here I feel their absence, their missing presence.

The practice of photography helps me notice where I am. I am grateful for the familiarity of practice, for the fundamentals of the task. Watching colour, patterns, light.

I’m trying to build the habit of posting here once a week. Sometimes I feel I don’t have much to say, I’m too busy paying attention to simply being here.

Away and Towards

more than ever we need people willing to pause and listen, to open their hearts to what is uncomfortable, and to hold space and attention until the new thing emerges

~ Christine Valtners Paintner

Every so often, mainly on a Sunday, I think about writing something here. It can’t be that hard I think: just a title, a photograph, some words. A way back in, opening the door, back into your own space.

Sometimes I find a title, and sometimes a photo, and sometimes the fragments of some words, but even so, I don’t get beyond.

It’s something to do with the seeming size of the task, to find something worth saying, a practice worth practicing in the face of all the… the sheer weight of all the stuff that’s going on out there, day in, day out, relentless, remorseless.

It’s something to do with the shininess of the modern web, its gloss and promise. I miss the scruffiness of the human web I used to know, the home-made sites, the people sharing words and worlds without pretence at knowing.

Yet still in the turning away from so many things I do not wish to list, still there is a turning towards even if the shape of the new thing is unknown.

It’s not (for me) Art, or Writing, or Photography, but still something in this space between the lines that blogging offered / offers: unpolished, not knowing, open, human, connecting, here.

I fear I am not close to finding half the words I wish to, but also do not wish to let another Sunday pass away without some claiming back of space, some way of saying that even as we turn away and further keep on turning – we can still turn towards: unpolished, unknowing, open, human, here.

With thanks to Christine at the Abbey of the Arts for sharing ‘Mystical Hope and the New Thing‘ including the reminder to keep practicing, together and the nudge to me to keep going.

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