One (of many) beautiful things about the natural world is that no matter how well you get to know her, she’s always surprising you.
I’m currently sitting in an old haunt, writing the old fashioned way (at least I was; it’s now the following day and I’m typing up what I had been writing with pen and paper last night). The sun has just bid a golden farewell and disappeared below the tree-obscured horizon. Mingled with the gentle rustling of leaves and small half-hearted bursts of not-quite song as the birds wind down from their busy summer, is the relentless roaring of rush hour traffic only 500 metres away.
The contrast between these two defined spaces is stark. Even the sharp, trill alarm call of a nearby wren holds its rightful place against the back-drop of imposing noise that intrudes the peace. And yet its dominating presence aches with the loneliness of metal boxes that separate rushed, tired, worn-out bodies hurrying from A to B, distracted by the next thing on a long list of “to dos”. Its resounding cry for acknowledgement of our manufactured predicament is ignored in the rush to build more roads to accommodate more cars to allow for more rushing from A to B to C…etc. It seems like a catch 22.
I don’t quite know what it is I’m writing about or what I want to say. I just know that right now I feel inspired and motivated to write! I popped out for a walk about 2 hours ago and within ten minutes had turned back to grab camera, notebook and pen. I haven’t immersed myself in photography or sat down to write in a long time. Yet when I do, something magical happens. I tune in, I really see and listen, I enter through the gateway of creativity into a world that isn’t really separate, but feels so when caught up in a pace of rushed bodies led by distracted minds.
I haven’t allowed myself to do this for ages. If I think too much about it, which we seem to have a tendency to do, I get into arguments with myself about the point of it: what’s the point of adding even more photos to those sitting unseen and unused on a laptop doing nothing in a world filled with talented photographers? What’s the point in struggling to find the right words for a blog entry few are going to read in a world filled with eloquent nature writers? Which leads to the question of why bother? Shouldn’t I be getting on with something more useful? It’s ironic that having moved to one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in Scotland, this voice has become louder and gained a greater hold over me, crippling me into a state of procrastination by distraction.
And it’s just hit me… a realisation that I’ve fallen into the trap I thought I was so aware of and desperate to avoid. The viewfinder of my mind is completely focused on the wrong thing, and is taking snapshot after snapshot of the same subject framed in many different ways, from many different angles and in many different disguises.
So what if I HOLY SHIT!* A fox just padded right past me! THIS!This is what it is all about. Sod the thousands of photographs on my laptop, sod the worry that I am a mediocre writer! OH MY GOD… another fox!! How serendipitous that they have appeared at exactly the moment I have realised the following:
It isn’t about the photographs, it’s what they and the process of photography reveal and represent. It isn’t the writing, it’s the moments between, when I pause and look around at the subtle changes as a golden afternoon transitions into a dark evening; how sitting in one spot in silence allows time to unravel and reveal the treasures it hides from those whom have lost the awareness of the importance of respecting it; of giving time the time of day! And it’s the realisation that throughout this whole experience, the mental chatter that inconsiderately and unrelentingly natters away, has miraculously found the courtesy to shut her metaphorical pie hole!
I am sitting in a secluded location in Cumbernauld Glen. I’ve made a visit down to the Central Belt for a staff conference after a return to the very same conservation organisation I worked for six years ago, in a role that introduced me to this very spot. Part of the job at that time was to capture the beauty of Cumbernauld, and this very place in spring is – in my humble opinion – one of the most beautiful sights to behold, and one that I was extremely privileged to witness, photograph and share; Bluebells! Congregations of them carpeting the woodland floor of Cumbernauld Glen.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I surrendered myself to nature’s guidance and healing here. I’ve passed through this place on exploratory walks; I’ve sat here seeking refuge after a chaotic day; I’ve photographed the bluebells and their woodland home here; I undertook a photo-shoot in this place for the Value’s Photography Project; I’ve escaped here with my guitar on countless occasions; I’ve written a song about these bluebells in this spot; I’ve visited this area with pencil and paper and sketched away to my heart’s content; I’m no doubt currently listening to the descendants of songbirds whose poetic profanities called back a distracted mind to the beauty of the present moment on so many occasions, and serenaded all the above activities.
How far on life’s journey I have travelled since then, yet how much we sometimes need a gentle reminder from those old-timers that know us best.
Little did I know as I set out on my walk that my old friends were there waiting for me, to do just that. I was fondly recalling memories of them in spring, but how unexpected to witness their presence in autumn; a new discovery about bluebells, when I thought I knew them so well. They prompted me to run back for my camera. They inspired me to put pen to paper, to surrender to the flow and write what comes; these very words! They reminded me of what this is all about. It’s time to listen to their message. It’s time to actively make the choice to get out of our heads and listen to our hearts (and to be prepared to do this hundreds of times over as the mind repeatedly demands to be heard and keeps us distracted and chasing our tail). It’s time to focus on and make time for the things we enjoy that tap into that connected, flow state. Because when we do, we step into the best versions of ourselves, we unconsciously give permission for others to do the same, and we – as individuals and collectively – make the world a better place.
The roar of the traffic has not abated all this time I have been scribbling away. Darkness is engulfing the last threads of light in a deep blue embrace, and I can barely see the words I write in the darker-still shadows of the trees. It’s time to bid my friends a grateful farewell, find the path and head back, carrying on my person a calmer mind and more joyful soul than entered 3 hours ago.
So here are a few photographs I took yesterday evening of the bluebells… transformed from sprightly spring beauties into wise autumn elders, casting their seed into fertile ground and minds; ghost-like in appearance, offering a gentle reminder from a past life that roots us in understanding and awareness as we continue to learn and grow on this journey through life.
*“So what if I HOLY SHIT!” is written as the occurrence unfolded. It’s not to be taken literally! A fox appeared mid-sentence and I wrote down the reaction as it happened; the timing is an unfortunate coincidence. Regarding the excited swearing, I decided not to censor as I wished to capture the essence of my excitement. Apologies if I offend anyone who might happen across this blog entry.