Archive for the ‘personal growth’ Category

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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Becoming not being……you know that tag line I’ve used on this blog since Day 1…

Well this is a great example.

What is a wave?

How do you define it, measure it, set its beginning and its end points?

All of those questions are hard enough to answer but when I look at the spray which the wind is whipping up from the advancing wave, and flinging it backwards like soft hair then I see our attempts to define and delimit disappear like the fine white spray itself.

I’ve never seen this phenomenon before. It was a particularly windy day but I’d never seen the wind do both these things at once…..drive the water towards the beach in big white crashing waves AND whip the foamy top of the wave to create this transient curtain of white water…….astonishing!

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I’d noticed it earlier on my walk. The moon was hanging in the blue sky of the morning. But a little further on and around the corner I looked up and saw this. Wow! I can’t remember ever seeing the moon looking as big as this. Usually when I see the moon it’s pretty small, and if I take a photograph of it, somehow it appears even smaller, so when I pointed my camera towards it this time I was surprised to see it didn’t shrink. It sat there, almost kissing the Earth, holding its own, not diminished in the slightest by the size of the mountain beside it.

Sure, the moon wasn’t shining nearly as brightly as it does when it’s full and high in the night sky, but it was still impressive enough to stop me in my tracks.

There’s something magical about the moon for we humans, or maybe it’s better to say, there’s something magical about the relationship we humans have with the moon. It’s more than just a delight in beauty. It’s more than fascination and wonder.

She inspires us, stimulates our imagination, encourages us to dream, nurtures our feelings of love and romance.

The pull of the moon draws us up and out of our limits, or our habits, as we “reach for the moon”, aspiring to grow, develop, achieve, to become the best we can become.

I delight in my relationship with the moon.

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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.


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I don’t edit my photos very much at all but this one of the cloudy mists pouring over the top of the mountains seemed to cry out for the monochrome treatment.

I took the photo because I find this phenomenon utterly entrancing.

The clouds appear over the top of the ridge and spill over, speeding down the cliff face for only a few metres before they disappear into thin air. The process is continuous. It has all the appearance of perpetual motion.

I love watching the cloud appear from over the mountain top, from somewhere I can’t see, and following its journey into wispy nothingness in such a short space of time.

From somewhere I can’t see to complete disappearance right before my eyes.

A metaphor for an individual life, delicate, beautiful, transient, and mainly made of water…..

I also like the contrasts in this image. Not only the blackness of the rock and the whiteness of the mist, but of their polar opposite textures. The rock, solid, suggesting a permanence because it changes so much more slowly than we humans can perceive in a single lifetime, and the mist, so insubstantial you can barely discern its edges.

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I’ve never seen a fig on the tree like this before. The fruit has burst open to reveal all the wonderful juicy flesh. I’ve picked figs straight from the tree many times, and opened them up with a knife, or just my fingers, but I’ve never seen one open itself up like this.

It’s like an exuberance, as if the tree couldn’t hold itself back. It poured its energies and its life force into producing these succulent, delicious fruits and couldn’t wait another second to show them to the world.

Look! See what I’ve made!

And there’s something else I see here beside this enthusiasm to be the best fig tree it can be….there’s a generosity of spirit.

The tree doesn’t hide its fruit. It declares it, and says, come, taste, share my delight.

It’s inspiring don’t you think….it inspires us to flourish and to give, to create and to share.

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Here’s an example of the type of photograph I enjoy so much. At first glance it’s pleasing. It delights me. I can sit and gaze at it for ages, enjoying its beauty. But it stimulates my thoughts too.

I see this and I think about ways of engaging with the world. Iain McGilchrist shows us in his Master and His Emissary that our two cerebral hemispheres allow us to simultaneously use two different types of focus….narrow and broad.

The left hemisphere separates out whatever we are looking at from the contexts in which it exists. It allows us to set a kind of frame around what we are looking at, to distinguish it from the whole. That lets us label it, put it into a category, and so grasp it. Literally. Get a handle on it so we can manipulate it. It’s a narrow focus, one which drills down to separate out and analyse aspects or components.

The right hemisphere focuses on the connections rather than the parts. It lets us see the broad view, the over view. It helps us to see whatever we are looking at in the fullness of its context. We don’t see the separate parts, we see the connectedness of everything. In the terms of classical philosophy, it helps us to take the “view from on high”.

The view from on high lets us do something else too….it allows us to stand apart from whatever we are looking at. It lets us put a little distance there…a distance in space, and/or a distance in time…a pause, or a moment to reflect and consider.

Some people argue this is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of human beings, this ability to create a distance which allows us to choose responses rather than simply react in programmed or patterned automatic ways. But I think it is equally characteristic of human beings that we have this huge cerebral cortex divided into two distinctly different hemispheres allowing us to focus on the world in two such distinctly different ways.

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