Archive for June, 2010


A new light

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands.
Mohandas Gandhi

I’m back in Australia for a couple of months, visiting family and friends.  It is wonderful to see them again, to join in activities, to greet the newest addition to our family, and to see the changes that have occurred n the last few years.

The joy of blue skies – intense blue, clear blue, real blue!!  Mists and sunrises, clouds and sunsets. It is hard to explain the joy of seeing these again, after years of living with pollution and the most washed out of blue skies.

The light that bathes this country is intense.  Its quality is hard to describe, and the changes I need to make in my photography to adjust to this intensity are interesting.  Mid-day light is so strong and clear that it blows out many of my images.  Evening light or early morning last such a short time, by the time I race inside to fetch my camera, the light has changed.

This is so much like changing patterns of living.  The changes are breathtaking.  The new light cast on our previous pattern can be so strong we cringe away from it.  The changes we see in ourselves can be so fleeting that we are not sure if they are real or reflections of what we are hoping for.

As with everything else though, we soon adjust to a new life, and learn to manage the new light.  We soon know when is the best time to take our photographs.  We soon learn that the changes we see are not fleeting, but real and that we can see them again in the soft light of meditation or inner growth.

New light and new life – a joy and a learning experience.

Creating the past

I visited the Terracotta Warriors recently, for the 21st time. Each time I see them I am blown away by the concept, the workmanship and the sheer size of the mausoleum.

Qin Shi Huang Di was planning for his future when this was constructed. His idea was to have the same comforts and protections of ‘home’, of this world with him in the afterlife. I doubt he thought that 2000 years later that tourists would be trooping through is mausoleum marvelling at his army and wishing we could see the next 100 years of excavations.

I look around our world today and wonder what people will be digging up in 2000 years and marvelling at.  What fascinating works will we leave behind, what will our great- great- great- great … descendants  be seeing.  Right now, I can’t see too much that will astonish or move them in its beauty or conception.  I see so much more that will be seen as shame for us – pollution, destruction, environmental disasters … the list is endless.

We may be proud now of our technology, but that will be by-passed.  There are some lovely architectural elements – especially in Spain.  Will they still be extant, or will we have torn them down sometime in the next 100 years, as part of our drive for ‘new’ and ‘modern’?  Will our philosophical insights be shaping the future the way those of our forebears have shaped much of our thinking?

In a world filled with ease of communication, will we be seen as having become less informed, more insular and more afraid of difference?  Are our descendants going to call our era the “Age of Fear’?

How do we begin to move towards leaving something wonderful behind, something to be marvelled at?

“Light glorifies everything. It transforms and ennobles the most commonplace and ordinary subjects. The object is nothing; light is everything.”  Leonard Misonne

Photographers have a close relationship with light.   It excites and frustrates us.  We look for lovely light, wake early to find the best light, wait patiently until the light is just right for the shot, look for ‘magic hour’.  We write with light.

But – our relationship with light is always in the context of what light DOES to other things.  What it does to the landscape, figures, buildings etc.

Light has power – power create growth, power to desiccate; power to guide, power to blind.  We look at the power of light, want to harness it, control it, see it as a tool, or an effect.  But we never look beyond the power, or the need to control.  We love light for its transforming power, but rarely think about it as a separate entity.

Light is.  Light exists by itself.

In our lives we look for enLIGHTenment – light’s effect on our understanding; we hope light will show us a path through the darkness; brighten the tunnels we must traverse in search of new life.  But we are seeing light, again, only in relation to dark, only in its effect.  Not as something we need to be aware of as independent.

If we look for the light itself, not as a tool, not as an effect, what then? In our physical world, seeing the light (the sun, the moon) as an independent entity creates a new awareness.  We see more of the impact on the world, but we can take it further and go back to the source.

Becoming aware of the light within us allows us to see that it is more ‘there’ than the darkness.  That, in fact, we have within us more light than we believe, and this is important.  We need to know that light outweighs the clouds and the darkness we see in our spirit.  We need to trust that no matter how dark our ‘self’ seems, or how dark we see our days, our light is strong.  It does not just exist in relation to dark, it does not come into being just to change the dark or highlight the hidden, show the way.  It exists as it is.

Knowing that my light within is a source, independent and constant, gives me strength.

We need to celebrate the light for existing, and be grateful for its usefulness and effects.

Tunnel Vision

From Xi’an to Tianshui there are 36 tunnels, ranging from 100m to 12 290 m long.  The journey through the tunnel interrupts reading, or seeing the countryside.  Our eyes become focused on the lines, the lights and looking for the end of the tunnel.  When we reach that end the world changes.  We’ve traversed from one side of the mountain to the other, new vistas open before us – or another tunnel.

If we stop looking for the end of the tunnel and focus on the tunnel itself, then we can see other things.  Each 20m on the right hand side has a box fire fighting equipment; about 1/4 the length of the tunnel is a pedestrian escape tunnel, and at 20m intervals there are lit signs directing which way to travel – forward or back – to the nearest exit.  half-way along there is a car exit, into the tunnel beside.

The long tunnels have air movers on the roof to take away the build-up of exhaust gases.  The longest tunnel had a section growing plants under artificial lights.

All of this thought and technology goes into building tunnels, and yet all we want to do is be out and on the other side of them, looking for the new vista, the new experience, out of the dark, away from limited vision, leaving the old behind.  We don’t realise the importance of the tunnel, the things it can teach us and show us if we look.

I see this much the same in our lives.  We hit bad periods, dark tunnels in our life, where we feel closed in, lose our creativity or inspiration, bad things happen to us, we can’t see ahead of us and all we want is for the dark to go away, for a new life to appear before us.  We want this tunnel to end NOW.

But working our way through that tunnel is important.  Looking for what it can teach us or show us is important.  If we focus on the end of the tunnel, then we miss what the dimmer light can show us, we learn nothing about the construction of the tunnel or the reasons for the things within it.

Without the tunnels we would be slowly edging our way round the edges of mountains.  The tunnels take us to the same place more quickly, more directly.  We may need to suffer through the dark lengths of them, but the emergence into the bright light energises again.

The tunnels will finish, we will arrive at the destination and we will have learned more about the tunnels we must pass through.

Looking for the possible

When this plate of food was presented to me, I thought the black strips were nori, or seaweed.  But, the taste was very different and I had to ask.  Walnut flowers, I was told.  The hills behind the restaurant grow wild walnuts and the flowers are used for food. The walnuts are used as walnuts, and the shells are carved into intricate shapes and made into vases and bowls.  Everything can be used.

I would not have considered eating walnut flowers before.  The possibility never occurred to me.  How do we know what is possible, how do we find the possible?

I seem to spend so much time looking for the impossible.  I look for perfection in myself, for achievement in all areas, to please others, to … the list is endless.

But how often do I stop to see what I already have that is possible, that I can achieve, but have never thought about?  These things are already there – just waiting for us to see them, to realise they can be used, or can be part of our achievement or growth.

How do we see them?  How did the first person to eat walnut flowers ‘see’ them?   We need to look carefully around us, or inside ourselves to see what is already there, waiting to be used.  What experiences and knowledge do we have that can be used to add to our growth?  What skills and talents have we neglected because for some reason we – or others – thought they weren’t useful?

When we test these possibilities, we may find some do not work, but others will work and they will encourage and inspire us to keep testing these new possibilities.

Walnut flowers taste good.