Tag Archive: growth


There are days that no matter how strong and independent we are, we need a little protection, a little TLC to help us get through.  We can pride ourselves on our capability, on being ‘the strong one’, but just some days it is so nice to have someone to stand in front of the bitter cold or the rough winds and protect us.

Winter wrapping

When we look at protection, for ourselves or others, what is it we really need?  Trees, in their natural habitat need nothing more than their DNA and situation to survive the driest, coldest, wettest or worst conditions.  Out of the natural habitat, it is a different matter.

Covered

Protection from the elements can allow us to survive and perhaps to grow.

White warmth.

But when we look at the protection offered, does it really protect?  Or does it just look as if it protecting? Is it really necessary? Or effective?

 “I’ll be the one to protect you from your enemies and all your demons

I’ll be the one to protect you from a will to survive and a voice of reason

I’ll be the one to protect you from your enemies and your choices, son

They’re one in the same, I must isolate you

Isolate and save you from yourself”  ― A Perfect Circle

Unreal

How much does this protection eventually warp us into something we are not, or were never meant to be?

“Nothing is true in self-discovery unless it is true in your own experience.

This is the only protection against the robot levels of the mind.”

Barry Long

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Looking for difference

You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. Paulo Coelho

Blue leaves?  What why, who, how?  I have no answers to these questions, but being different, they definitely pulled my eye.

Individually and as a society we grow when we embrace the differences.  No progress is made unless we think differently, act differently.  No inventions, no new ideas, no philosophies are created without difference.  And yet we are so afraid of it.

Our social structure requires conformity, our families ask us to fit in, our workplaces promote conformist slogans that tell us to focus our attention in one direction.  There is no reward for difference, but it is the foundation of our civilisation.

How do we manage this tension? How do we live different lives without being seen as rebels, pariahs, weird, eccentric, odd, selfish, egotistical, unrealistic, dreamers, and all of the other epithets that are flung at those who do not walk the same path? To walk this path requires strength and determination. It requires an ability to believe that even if we do not conform to the expected, to the norms society and our family and friends place around us, we are still of value.

Believing we are valuable seems to me to be the hardest challenge for those who step away from the common path.  We can convince ourselves of our internal value “I am a good person” etc.  But when we are faced with the strange looks, the pain of family and friends who do not understand our choices, the laughter of workmates when we propose new ideas, the subtle distancing of others – how do we convince ourselves that we are still of value and offering value?

Walking the expected path feels safe, conforming to norms makes it easy for us to live within our group. There is danger and doubt in difference.

The only validation I can give myself is that if I conform, if I step away from my own choices and live the life others believe is good and proper, then I lose myself.  I am no longer me, and therefore no longer valuable to myself or society.  I become fodder for whatever ideology is around me, a cog in an economic machine, and an acquiesent supporter of conformity and fear.

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.   Friedrich Nietzsche

Beauty

 

I’ve been wandering around museums and mausoleums lately and have been struck by the drive for beauty that seems to be innate.  Even back in Neolithic times, when, we imagine, life was more difficult, more primitive, more survival oriented than today, women still carved bone into hair decorations.

Our need for beauty that we create extends to everyday implements. If we need to identify our belongings, to me a simple mark would have been enough and efficient.  But instead from the beginning of thought we have created beauty with our markings.

 

Houses have been decorated as well – it seems that to create beauty for ourselves is an incredibly strong motivation.  This goes beyond identity, beyond practicality and into the realms of the spirit.  But most decorations aren’t based on a religion or pleasing the gods, but deeper into our own spirituality.  We create beauty to make our lives more meaingful, to add something beyond what is necessary to survive.

From adorning ourselves to adorning the world around us, from art to music, photography to sculpture, painting to collage, needlework to architecture, from gardens to natural scenery – we have a drive for finding and holding beauty.

Beauty is within us and is reflected by our external creation, by our search for it.

The ideal space

I think that the ideal space must contain elements of magic, serenity, sorcery and mystery.
Luis Barragan

Queensland is pretty well inundated. Huge areas of land are underwater and it is still raining.  It’s raining so heavily that the mountains surrounding my sister’s place have disappeared and even the neighbours only a couple of hundred metres away are misty. The roads are cut and I am stranded here for another couple of days at least, until the rain stops and the floods recede.

However, it is a very comfortable stranding for me.  I have no real responsibilities – no crops to be destroyed, no work I can’t reach.  We’ve stocked up with food from the local supermarket, and have books, movies, cards and each other to keep ourselves occupied.  I have no young children here to keep entertained and from climbing the walls.  My sister and brother-in-law work from their computers, so I have long periods of uninterrupted ‘alone’ time.  So, for a flood experience, it is the ideal space.

This enforced period of stability is lovely. I can work on some projects, read, drift off to sleep, chat and relax after a long semester and a, so far, very busy holiday.  Virginia Woolf called for a room of one’s own, but for me, with plenty of rooms of my own, it is time for myself.  Time to contemplate, time to read, time to be alone. Uninterrupted time to be at peace.

The nuns at Chenrezig have their time for meditation and the meditation room is filled with the sense of peace.  I am not a strong religious observer of any particular brand of religion, but I have found that when I am in a religious space, no matter mosque, temple, monastery, church, synagogue etc, there is a pervading sense of peace.  The peace creates the ideal space to be serene and relaxed, allowing a sense of well-being to reach inside.

This ideal space has given me the chance to let everything else go, to just be.  And after a period of time, the serenity and the emptiness of letting go gradually becomes a space to find the magic – new ideas and new creativity.  I start to feel a new energy and clearer, stronger resolutions for my goals. Without this peace, I feel as if I bounce from activity to activity, idea to idea, person to person.  I achieve all of the things I am supposed to – work, deadlines for articles, social activities etc.  But nothing new and creative can fight through the busyness, can be heard above the daily hubbub.

The beauty surrounding me create a balm for city-tired eyes and ears.  The low hills, extensive gardens, trees close by, birds and native frogs calling and even the constant rain change my world view. Pollution and poverty are far away, politics and power struggles recede into the distance.  The sorcery of nature takes over and clears my eyes and I can look for the small beauties. The natural sorcerer transmutes my daily concerns into internal and external discoveries in this ideal space.

And the mystery of the ideal space – where and how to find it on demand!  The choices necessary to go to the space are difficult.  They mean saying ‘no’ to people I hope I can help create a new life; saying ‘I need to be alone, I don’t want to come” to my family and friends and most of all they mean saying ‘Relaxation is not watching a TV series or reading a crime novel while eating nibblies and having  a glass of good red. Real relaxation is meditation and allowing nothingness to occur’ to myself.

This ideal space – time to be quiet – is so rare, and finding a way to increase it is one of my biggest challenges. I can’t rely on being stranded in lovely surroundings all the time!

 

Ambition is so powerful a passion in the human breast, that however high we reach we are never satisfied.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

It’s raining and causing flooding over huge parts of Queensland.  More rain is predicted for the next couple of weeks, more flooding will happen.  This is being called the biggest natural disaster  for the last x years and likely to cost $5 billion in clean up, lost revenue, damages etc.  Clearly we have had enough rain – for now.  But Australia is an arid country that floods. A fact of life.  In 6 months we will be complaining of how dry it is, and worrying about the loss of crops and how little water there is for the cattle.

We swing between too much and not enough.  Floods and droughts are extreme examples of this seesaw of life.

In my own life I am always looking for the next thing that will make things easier, better, more interesting etc.  Today I was on-line looking for camera bags.  I already have several; some too small for my current camera, another too big to take on long hikes, but necessary to take when I travel to hold all my gear.  I am looking for a bag that carries my camera, flash, maybe another lens and looks like a handbag, I am also looking for a bag that allows me to climb mountains, stay balanced so I don’t fall, hands free of camera and stuff, and yet can easily grab the camera while holding on to the rocks or branches.

I have to ask how often I will use these bags, what real necessity there is for them?  How many camera bags are enough?  How many lens are enough?  Ultimately, how many images are enough?  When will I say, I have enough, I have seen enough, I am enough?  Or will I always be looking for the next piece of equipment, the next country, the next image, the next version of me?

On the other end of this spectrum, yesterday I went to the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Nuns community. Set on a ridge, surrounded by natural bushland, this community runs classes, retreats and provides a home for those wanting to live a life of simplicity and meditation.  Giving up the desires of the world for the expansion of the soul.  Is it another ‘what is enough?” process?  Material ‘stuff’ is gone, but will there ever be ‘enough’ connection with the universe or the Bodhisattva?

The search for ‘enough’ goes on.

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

C. S. Lewis

These eggs were still warm from the hen when I took the image. Their soft blue colour shells held the warmth and when I held them in my had, warmed me as well.

Their fragility made me walk carefully, taking care not to slip in the waterlogged grass, fearful of dropping them.  Yet the hen can sit on them for around 4 weeks without breaking them, letting the chicks grow until they reach the right level of maturity and need to peck their way out.

External forces can damage them, but the internal pressures don’t cause the shell to crack until the need for protection is finished. This process seems to me to be reflected in my life.  The only time there is a real problem is an unwillingness to take the next step to growth and leave this warm, slightly snug shell behind.

This image is from the “Ordinary Joys” series, and there is nothing much more ordinary than an egg.  Breakfast eggs, egg sandwiches for lunch, eggs in cakes and biscuits, souffle for dinner… such an ordinary thing.  And yet, holding it, warm and textured, takes me to many places.  Birth, genesis, change, growth and on and on.

The edges of things

We’re always attracted to the edges of what we are, out by the edges where it’s a little raw and nervy.
E. L. Doctorow

My home country is an island, a pretty big one, but still edged by sea (or as we say – girt by sea 🙂 ). Oceans fascinate me and make me feel sane.  But I have come to realise it is not just the ocean, it is the meeting of the ocean and the land.  The edges of both.  Rocks, cliffs, sand beaches, mangroves, all the places where change happens.  This clash of one against the other, or melting from one to the other creates so many images and so many thoughts.

Where I live is edged by mountains with rocky outcrops, steep drops and twisting, climbing roads and walking trails leading to waterfalls, or cliff edges with views across forever.

The edges of the days, sunset and sunrise, bring beauty and change, mystery and light.

And then there are the edges of towns and farmland, with women still working in the fields while new buildings are constructed on old farms. Nature and architecture edge against each other, creating tensions and juxtapositions that in turn create images.

Looking for the edges, where change inspires, saddens, transforms and challenges is important. It is in these places I can find new ways of looking at old ideas, old views, and hopefully create new images.

New Dawns

It’s New Year’s Eve, a time for thinking about the past year, reflecting on the achievements and milestones reached. In a minute or two, 2011 will begin and a time to look forward to what may occur.  Each new dawn brings with it a new beginning, and the new year brings a “greater” new beginning.

What do I hope for this year?  That my family remains healthy and happy. That I can continue my growth as a person and a photographer. What things I will resolve to accomplish this year?  My general New Year’s resolutions involve looking for perfection.  🙂  And for some strange reason, these resolutions are always broken before the 2nd of January!!  This year I resolve not to strive for perfection, but for excellence.

I have been listening to and reading Dr Brené Brown on living with imperfection and vulnerability, and much of her words strike a resonance within me. Her ‘wholehearted’ approach to life and creativity I have found to be inspiring.  Her discussions on vulnerability (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UoMXF73j0c&feature=channel ) are challenging.

Creativity comes from vulnerability, and being creative creates more vulnerability. Her view is that without vulnerability we protect ourselves from pain, shame, fear, anger and hurt but in losing those emotions we also lose joy, passion, love and creativity. We cannot choose which emotions we no longer want to feel, and so by trying to limit pain, we in effect, limit our ability to feel all emotions and therefore to live fully.

So this year, my goal is to allow myself to be vulnerable.  Not an easy ask for someone who survived on closing off the bad, refusing to see when things weren’t working, managing by digging deeper, trying harder and waiting for the day it would all just magically get better.  This is a ‘fear-full’ step, and already I am looking for ways to protect myself…  which sort of defeats the purpose!!

But with my vulnerability exposed, I am hoping that the images I create will reflect a clearer, less distant, less protective response to the world. If I am open to the world and all my emotions, then it seems to me that the world will respond more openly as well.

New dawns, new dreams, new beginnings.

 

 

Perfection?

Art is never defect free. Things that are remarkable never meet the spec, because that would make them standardised, not worth talking  about. Seth Godin

 

I spend so much time trying to create perfect images, perfect articles and am never satisfied with what I have done.  I am delaying sending work to a professor for assessment because I have difficulty in choosing the right images.  The Seth Godin quote pushes me to think about perfection and standardisation.  Yes, I need an understanding of ‘craft’ to make art.  But I also need to know how to break rules, changes the standard and add a whacking great dose of emotion and feeling into my work to turn it into art.

 

The fear of being laughed at, of seeming inexperienced or unprofessional come in from the other side to push me to follow the rules, to meet the standards set by others for what is ‘good’.  If I stopped allowing those little voices, or the voice from the ‘lizard brain’ that Godin talks about in ‘Linchpin’ to control me, what would happen?

 

If I spent less time tweaking settings on the camera, playing with Photoshop  and generally trying to create the perfect image, would there be more images?  Would I have more time to be outside with my camera and using it instead of worrying, smoothing out one more bit of skin, adding or subtracting a titch of exposure?

 

Would I create a whole bunch of useless images?  Too right I would.  But I do that anyway, even with all the fiddling around. Godin reminds us that Picasso created over 1000 paintings, but how many of these do we know?  The paintings we know from any major artist are far fewer than the ones they commenced and tossed out or painted over.  Thrown out not because they weren’t ‘perfect’ but because the emotion and vision weren’t there.

 

By searching for perfection, I achieve less, I have fewer images and those that exist meet ‘the standard’.  How many of them have the ‘wow’ factor?  How many of them just CANNOT be created by anyone else who followed the same rules I followed?

 

I’m giving up on ‘perfect’ and going with basic knowledge plus emotion.

Reflecting on reflections

The excessive increase of anything causes a reaction in the opposite direction.
Plato

The one was taken from a boat inside a cave.  The arrows of light pointing in both directions drew me, as did the reflections.  I love reflections  – in mirrors, cars, water, windows.  They provide opportunities for interesting photographs.  The object doubled, distorted or seen from a different perspective creates new ways of looking at it.

There are times when it is hard to see where the reflection ends and the ‘real’ object begins.

This is the reflection of stalactites and mites above, but to me looks like a new cavern has opened up for me to explore.

The reflections give us opportunities to explore alternate realities, parallel universes perhaps.  Then the question becomes – what is real?  Which one is the reflection?  Are the images within us as real as the images external to us?  Are our visions more real than reality? Do our internal visions reflect a deeper and more real view of the world?