Watching the Light

Sunrise today: 8.38am. Sunset today: 4.39pm. 8 hours of sunlight. 1 hour and 35 minutes longer than the shortest day.

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Driving home at twenty past five and for the first time the sky is still light. There’s no daylight left but it’s not yet dark and the sky is twilight blue the whole way home, and the lochs by the roadside as the road bends and curves are the palest twilight blue, like the flashes of a torch, like the thump of a heart beat, illuminating our passage.

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A sunlit lunchtime, the first for I don’t know how long, and with the snow almost away there’s a quality to the mud and grass that reminds you for a moment of the first taste of spring, echoing with robinsong, and nothing for it but to stand and catch the light.

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Leaving the building just after 5pm, people stop and stare at the sky.

‘Have you seen the light?’, someone says.

‘Did you see it this morning? Look at the light!’

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The ice might have gone but the gale that follows stops me walking. Even a picture in the garden’s hard as the wind tries to whip the phone from my hand. I lean against the wall of the old blackhouse for support, and watch its light.

black house in sun

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I’m still not sure what photography means or why it matters. Perhaps it’s just a question of watching the light.

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And though I came to forget or regret all I have ever done, yet I would remember that once I saw the dragons aloft on the wind at sunset above the western isles; and I would be content.

~ Ursula Le Guin

Whatever We Do

Whatever we do, we should never think it is irrelevant; whatever we do, we should not conclude it is so important either. Between those two poles find your balance; between those two regions your talents will bloom.

~ Hafiz, January 23 in ‘A Year with Hafiz’

Behind the Glass

I have been in the house all week. The combination of a dislocated shoulder and days of snow and ice have kept me on the inside, looking out, behind the glass. For once I am not missing it, the outside. The fear of falling has made me glad to be indoors, and I have plenty to keep me occupied between Gaelic still to learn (since a language is something you can never reach the end of learning) and the internet to entertain and a stack of real, hard-copy books that’s part of my collection and intention to resume a reading habit.

Yet still something keeps on gnawing at me, some missing connection, some missing link, some meaningful sustained creative practice, some way to reach beyond the glass.

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Friday morning, five past nine, I watch the birds through the living room window. The waters of the loch beyond are cold, a steely grey. Clouds drift above the water. As I watch, the clouds shift in colour, the edges tinged with the first hints of sunrise, as the morning starts to break behind the hill. The moment fills with hints of goldlight, edge of sunlight, the heart is full for just one moment with nothing but the rising of the morning.

Watching through the living room window, the headlights of my neighbour’s car creep slowly down the hill.

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Fragment by fragment, I remind myself. Although for more than a long time I have wished that I could shape and mould these fragments of mine into form, into poems, into essays, into three lines even or the rhythm of 17 syllables they are resolute in their defiance and slip away if I chase them too hard. Perhaps that is all that there is for me, and perhaps that too is enough.

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I take a photograph from the inside out. Picking up letters from the porch the light pulls me, demands I find my phone and take a photo, through the glass. I still don’t know why or what it is, this need to take photographs, even today stuck inside, taking pictures through the glass-glare, once again this magnetic desire: to click, to notice, to say thank you.

looking out

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I have been feeding the birds by the door for fear of setting foot on the ice. I notice the pattern of their feeding on the ice, marking their time this week, and mine.

bird tracks

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Reading this made me think about how we make connections online. Although the article’s about love, it reminded me, wistfully, of how much I used to believe in blogging as a human, democratic form, and the possibilities it offered us to forge connections, to stretch out our hands, to offer some small glimpse of our selves to others. Has that possibility really gone, or is still ours to claim?

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More snow has fallen, soft and crunchy. The ice-fear reduces and I walk into the garden. The sun is falling through the shadows of the trees, I mean its branches, I mean here for a moment there is nothing but this meld of shadow tree and sunlight snow and a roll of winter’s memory.

Snowlight

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Perhaps this is my practice. Perhaps this place and space, this knowledge I have of how to link and mix together pictures and words, to piece together fragments, perhaps this act of blogging is of itself, for me, creative practice, no need for more.

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Saturday morning, sunlit snow. Feeling stronger, fitter, brighter, braver and with someone else in the house during daytime hours in case I’m needing rescued I venture out at last, five minutes down the road. A snow path by the harbour. Sunlight glinting on snow. The sun is strong and the air delicious. The starlings are shouting with the love of it, their squawks like a serenade. I wish I could lie down on the snow path and take photo after photo of the way the light falls. It feels like Christmas morning, like New Year’s morning, like the first morning.

snow and shadow

Fragment by Fragment

There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.

~ Anais Nin

Everything Matters

The tasks that have been entrusted to us are often difficult. Almost everything that matters is difficult, and everything matters.

~ Rilke

Where Everything Is Known

Step out of the room where everything is known.

~ Rilke