Sunday 27 September 2009

Hell and heaven

These are the hell weeks of too much work, too little time, so a stolen Saturday of much needed relaxation seemed a good opportunity to get inspired by Lorianne. I bought a small sketch book and went to the park on a perfect early autumn day of soft, warm light with a tiny bite of chill and damp at its very edge. Held between the leaves already crackling underfoot and a densely woven canopy of quiet birdsong, I sat beside the lake in Dulwich Park which hummed with even more birds and bugs than usual - humming their pre-death or pre-migration swansong, but no swans. Looking, drawing, looking, drawn close to every purple daisy, curling oak leaf and rosy crabapple, far from all the worries of the working world. It was heavenly. Now I'm back in the office.

Friday 25 September 2009

Dream yoga

Woke at 5 today, then fell briefly asleep again and woke remembering my dream. It was a lovely one, of reuniting in happiness and complicity with an old friend from long ago (we were divided by love of the same man, though we tried hard, like the right-on little feminists we were, not to let it divide us). In the way of dreams, it was both the past and the present - her kids, now in their thirties, were small, but we spoke poignantly of the days when they were young all those years ago. This is a truth of dreams, isn't it? Both past and present are in us here and now. I don't have, or least don't remember, happy dreams. For years and years, not a single one. No exaggeration. Always the same tedious variations on being reviled and excluded, interspersed with the ones of feeling scared and guilty because I'm very late for something. How weird, then, to wake on this Friday morning of a horribly tiring and stressful week with a heart warmed by feelings of reconciliation and completion.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Settling into standing

A retreat was held in London last weekend with Ajahn Sucitto, a British Theravadin Buddhist monk and abbot of Chithurst monastery in Hampshire. I haven't visited any of the Buddhist monasteries in this country. They evoke, I suppose, less than positive feelings from my childhood experience of religion, so I tend to seek out Buddhist teachings in an environment without institutional or structuredly devotional trappings. But, anyway, having heard good things, I went along and was bowled over, really, by this gently forceful and uncompromising teacher.

He has a slowly growing series of Reflections posted on a blog site. Powerful stuff, some of it, especially a thought-provoking - not to say wince-inducing - account of what it's like to go out for alms in a small town in southern England (from which I couldn't cull an adequate extract - to get the full impact you need to read all of it).

Friday 18 September 2009

Would Barthes have been a digital photographer?

Grafton Street, Dublin

"I am not a photographer, not even an amateur photographer:
too impatient for that: I must see right away what I have produced."
Roland Barthes, in La chambre claire / Camera Lucida, 1980

Monday 14 September 2009


Framing is so ridiculously pleasurable. Existence contained, controlled, no longer overwhelming and ungraspable. Sweet magic. Caught that shimmering moment as it shimmered. Wheee.........pop. What was that?

And as for all those little frames here within the bigger one: even sweeter. Feels like a little kid squealing with joy through a long, indulgent game of "this little piggy...". "Again, Mummy, again... " Oh, but there's no again, or not for ages. No choice but to accept the fleeting manner in which pictures form and then dissolve.

Friday 11 September 2009

Life is more poignant than we know

"Whether you like this moment or not is not the point: in fact liking it or not liking it, being willing or unwilling to accept it, depending on whether or not you like it, is to sit on the fence of your life, waiting to decide whether or not to live, and so never actually living. I find it impressive how thoroughly normal it is to be so tentative about the time of our lives, or so asleep within it, that we miss it entirely. Most of us don't know what it actualy feels like to be alive. We know about our problems, our desires, our goals and accomplishments, but we don't know much about our lives. It generally takes a huge event, the equivalent of a birth or death, to wake up our sense of living this moment we are given - this moment that is just for the time being, because it passes even as it arrives. Meditation is feeling the feeling of being alive for the time being. Life is more poignant that we know."

From a recent piece in the New York Times by Zen teacher and poet Norman Fischer.

The other day I walked eastwards along the Thames Path from London Bridge. It had been a long time since I'd been for a walk with my camera and I'd almost never walked eastwards from London Bridge, so everything was newish and oddish and caught my eye - corners, reflections, perspectives, fast-changing light on a day of patchy cloud. The path dodges behind river-front apartments and back to the waterside. The architecture, new and converted from former warehouses, varies wildly - neither buildings nor path quite gel yet, but they're trying, they will. Sometimes, bizarrely, you find yourself walking in a tunnel between building-site hoardings pasted with photographs depicting a glossy, peopled riverside-as-it-will-be-when-we've-finished. In my head at the end of the day, not so much a flowing path beside the flowing river as a slideshow of views, of moments. Click. Oh. This. And this.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Natural light

the light through the leaves
is like a stained glass window
- worshipful nature