Likin’ lichen


Next time you are passing some lichen can I recommend you stop for a moment and take a look.

Isn’t it amazing? Sometimes the colours are subtle, sometimes striking – this particular yellow lichen makes all the more impact because of the blue sky behind it.

But look at the shapes too…..Nature’s art work.

Here are another couple I spotted recently

lichen spiral

lichen ear

sky above

Sometimes the beauty of the sky straight above your head reminds you of something you saw earlier when you looked down at your feet….


Dealing with obstacles


How do you deal with obstacles?

What do you do when you come up against the immovable? Push harder? Jump up and down? Scream and shout? Cry “unfair”?

What does a river do?

It flows around it.

But more than that, look, it creates beauty as it does it!

This photo is of the River Charente flowing through Jarnac. There’s a road bridge over the river and I was struck by the beauty of the patterns as the water flowed around one of the concrete pillars. I thought….there’s a lesson here…..

Iain McGilchrist, in The Master and His Emissary, says we use our two cerebral hemispheres differently. The hemispheres, remember, control the opposite sides of the body, so the right control the left hand, and the left hemisphere control the right. It’s the same with vision where the right field of vision is the responsibility of the left hemisphere and the left field of the right hemisphere. I’m simplifying here, but you get the idea. In birds which have their eyes on the sides of their heads instead of in the front of their faces, each hemisphere controls the opposite eye but the idea is the same.

The right hemisphere supports a broad, vigilant attention. In a bird the left eye, therefore, is taking everything in to be aware of predators.

left eye

See how this duck is looking at me?

They use the left hemisphere to focus the right eye on details….for example, when picking out food.

right eye

There’s something else interesting about the field of view of interest to each hemisphere.

In we humans, the right hemisphere is more interested in what is far from us….


while the left is more interested in what is close up….



Deep past

Near where I live now there’s a dolmen. A dolmen is a Stone Age rock structure which looks like a table. It’s got three standing stones, each about ten feet high, and a massive 5 ton slab of stone laid on top as a cover. Originally it’s thought that the walls were filled with slabs of stone, then the whole dolmen was covered with a cairn of stones. The cairn and most of the walls have gone since it was built about 3500 to 5000 years ago.

dolmen size

There’s a small plaque with some information on it, but otherwise it’s just sitting in the middle of a vineyard.

Look at the size of the roof! It weighs about five tons. How on earth did they get it here then hoist it up to sit on these standing stones? Seriously, how did they do that? And where did the stones come from? If they came from far away, how did they transport them? When you step inside things begin to get even more interesting.

dolmen inside

It feels cool and damp inside, and the sun makes it way in casting long shadows as it does so. The sound quality in there is startling. It is such an open structure that it comes as a complete surprise to hear a kind of echo. It feels impossible to resist singing, or calling out, just to hear the quality of the sound.

dolmen view

Nobody knows the purpose of this dolmen. Was it a burial chamber? A structure for the celebration of rituals or ceremonies? We don’t know. Of course, when it was built there were no vines here, so I’m guessing the makers would look out over the fields and have a great view of the surrounding countryside.

dolmen roof

The underside of the roof has these damp patches on it, and between the sun, surrounding puddles, and passing clouds, the wetness on the stone shimmered strongly suggesting the waves of the sea. Which was made even stranger when I looked more closely at some of the stones –

dolmen shell.jpg

The stone is a mixture of limestone and iron, but there are many little fossil shells in it, which, when you are standing on top of a hill in the middle of the Charente, miles from the coast, is pretty bizarre!

I love the way the lichen grows on some of the surfaces….tracing spirals and circles –

dolmen lichen.jpg

Something of the quality of this whole structure forces you to slow down, take your time and just be there. It really feels as if you are in touch with the deep past. I was going to say the distant past, but the strange thing is, when you stand under here, touching the stone, the past doesn’t feel distant at all, just deep….like roots.

dolmen sky

Seeing faces

Have you ever noticed that we seem to be so well equipped with the ability to see faces that we can see faces where they don’t actually exist?

tree eye

I know this is a knot in a tree but I can’t escape the feeling that the tree is looking at me…..the Spirit of the forest?

And we don’t only see faces in living organisms, we see them in rocks too…..


There’s a Stone Age dolmen near where I live. It’s like a huge three-legged table with vertical stones each about 3 metres tall and a 5 ton enormous rock laid on top of them like a table top. I took a lot of photos when I went to explore it but this one particular shot looks for all the world like the profile of a face….perhaps in the same way that owners come to look like their dogs this rock reflects the face of one of the people who created the dolmen?

As above so below


Not only was this an unusual cloud effect, but the way it echoed the vineyard below really caught my eye.

Of course, the vineyard is man-made, or at least man-cultivated, and the clouds, as far as we know, are not!

This kind of symmetry is my favourite kind….the kind where one part of reality echoes another.

There’s something else though about this image, or at least the taking of this image, and that’s the “exposure” readings for the vineyard and the sky. They were very, very different. With my camera I took a number of shots, exposing primarily for the sky, which darkened the vineyard considerably, exposing for the vineyard, which obliterated the cloud pattern in the sky, and a “weighted” exposure, which is the one you see here.

What strikes me about this is how when I just look at the same scene, without a camera, I don’t have any of those exposure problems. As I look at the vineyard and the clouds above I see them all perfectly clearly. I don’t have to choose.

How do our brains do that?

Isn’t something as everyday as vision just astonishing?


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