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Archive for the ‘perception’ Category

Oh, I wish I could share the scent of these astonishing flowers with you. How the sense of smell conjures up such vivid memories and experiences. Hyacinths are the only flowers which provoke my mind to recall poetry. I’m not saying I don’t think of lines from poems in other circumstances. It’s just that hyacinths, specifically, start a passage¬†of poetry in my mind every single time….in much the same way as a few notes of music will transport me back to a particular time and place.

Here’s what I hear in my head when I smell the hyacinths –

‘You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;

“They called me the hyacinth girl.’

_ Yet when we came back, late, from the hyacinth garden,

Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not

Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither

Living not dead, and I knew nothing,

Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

Do you know that poem?

I’ve never seen her, the hyacinth girl, her arms full and her hair wet, but I swear I have. Yet I couldn’t describe her to you. I’ve never seen her physically…and that’s what’s most interesting about this for me. I have a deep knowledge of seeing her, but I’ve never seen her. I have the feeling of the experience of seeing her, but I’ve never seen her.

But I have seen the hyacinths….and every time, they still my soul and I’m “looking into the heart of light, the silence.”

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Here are two photos I’ve taken recently. Both have wonderful reflections in water but each of them has an utterly distinct and particular character which is, I think, captured in the wholeness of each shot, rather in their detailed elements.

The first one is taken in South Africa, and the second one in Scotland.

How different is Africa from Europe?

What different colours, different tones, different atmospheres. It’s not just that the seasons in the two hemispheres are opposite with South Africa slipping from summer into autumn, whilst Scotland awakens from winter into Spring.

I find both of these images beautiful and delightful. I couldn’t rank them and say one is “better” than the other.

Rather, I’m just deeply grateful to be able to experience such diversity in this astonishing planet which we inhabit together.

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Yesterday whilst out in the Trossachs just north of Stirling in Scotland, the clouds opened up to reveal some patches of blue sky and allow the sun to reveal itself. Loch Venachar was as still as I’ve ever seen it. The reflections were simply stunning. I took a number of photos. Here’s one I’m particularly pleased with.

What you’re looking at here is the edge of the loch at the bottom of the image. The rocks are at the water’s edge. The branches stretch out from a few leafless trees which grow amongst the rocks and the rest of the image is the still water reflecting the sky.

I love how this image catches my attention straight away. My first thought is just how beautiful it looks. Then as I start to look more closely I feel a bit disorientated. What’s that rock doing up in the sky? Is it just hanging there, or is it impossibly supported by the tree’s spindly branches? Then the image resolves itself as I become more aware of the reflection.

I think it’s like this in life sometimes. We engage at an intuitive, emotional, even aesthetic level, taking in the whole as it is, then we start to focus on elements, or parts, and become a bit thrown off course, until we put what we are focusing on back into the contexts where they exist. Then the whole experience of standing at the edge of the water comes together again, but now intensified by our way of engaging with it.

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The blue yonder – I wrote about Rebecca Solnit’s observation that distance is blue a while back.

The sea caught my attention for this shot….I was entranced by the rich palette of greens and blues….but when I looked later I noticed that the far mountains were just the kind of blue which she wrote about.

I love an image like this. I can lose myself in it for ages. I find it soothing and mesmerising. I hope you do too.

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I know our brains are brilliant at spotting patterns, but have you ever noticed just how good they are at seeing faces?

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There are places in the world where I feel more whole, places where I am suddenly deeply aware of the strong flow of life, of energy, of spirit around and through me. Pausing for a moment under the canopy of ancient camphor trees in Kirstenboch gardens to gaze up and far to the surrounding mountains which draw my imagination to their summits and beyond, I feel at peace and enlivened at exactly the same moment.

A day later, browsing through my photographs, I stop again at this view and am surprised to discover my memory presents me with an image I captured in the colossal cathedral of Toledo last summer.

The window to heaven in the highest point of the cathedral’s roof.

What’s the connection?

Why are these two images linked in my mind?

There’s the resonance of the imagery, each with its dark, ragged frame around a bright, distant light. But there’s something else too….something of a feeling, that feeling of smallness, enfolded in a greater something, whilst drawn up beyond my self to the universal.

In the cathedral, I didn’t feel at peace. I encountered image after image of suffering, torture and death represented in the lives of the saints. The immensity of the stone structure of the building with its enormous, ornate golden sculptures weighed heavily on me. So, when I stumbled on the window to heaven it seemed to provide some release, some lightening of the spirit and the heart. A few moments later I caught sight of sunlight and trees through an open door and delighted in the cloistered garden it led to.

Under the camphor trees I had none of that heaviness. I felt more cocooned, welcomed by Nature. But then suddenly, here again was an opening which lifted me up and out of my self.

Moments of bliss.

Precious.

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We humans are very good at spotting patterns. Finding patterns is such an interesting two way process. They are there in the world around us but we also develop a sort of sensitivity to particular ones. It’s like having a heightened awareness to certain patterns so we focus on them over other potential ones. Maybe one of the main things the right hemisphere of the cerebral cortex does is create patterns. After all, its predilection is for the betweenness of things, the connections. But our left hemisphere plays an important role here too. We use it to separate things out. I’m not sure we could see any patterns if our left hemisphere didn’t do its work of separating, abstracting, recognising and categorising.

I find patterns of three very appealing.

I particularly like triskeles, those simple Celtic knots created by intertwining three circles, or by spiralling out three arms from a central point.

But here’s something I’ve never seen before – three acorns growing in a beautiful pattern of three. Isn’t it wonderful?

A moment of “√©merveillement” for me.

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