Caught By A Rainbow

The days in December have been dark, and wet. We haven’t had the inconvenience of ice and snow, and for this our commuting selves are grateful, but the absence of sunlight, of any kind of light, can get to you after a while, and leave you staring at the sky, and at the hour by hour weather forecasts, hoping for a break in the clouds.

I grabbed an hour or so the other week when the forecast looked auspicious, or passable at least, that fitted with the daylight hours, and other work and domestic plans. I had an hour, a whole hour, to head up the nearest hill, camera in hand, and breathe for a while.

As I climbed, you could see the break in the weather that I was enjoying. Although I was bathed momentarily in strong winter sunlight, across the other side of the river, huge dark clouds were looming, rolling and filling the skies.

A rainbow followed, cutting through the sky, arching across what sometimes feels like the whole of central Scotland from way up here, stretching out in front of you. I stood, transfixed by the rainbow straight ahead.

I have no picture to show you – I couldn’t catch it.

It caught me.

As I stood and watched, transfixed, a bird of prey flew across and stopped, and hovered.

For a few moments the sky was full.

For a few moments the sky and the world and the time were full.

There was nothing but this: the land stretched out ahead, the sleet showers looming, the arc of the rainbow, the hovering wings of a bird of prey.

And then the light changed, and the rainbow faded.

The bird flew on.

And in the aftermath I said a quiet thank you for the intensity of this moment, reflecting, picture-less, that this, this, is why I take photographs.

The Opening

Perhaps it always only ever takes but a moment –

Just the fraction of a moment for something to catch your eye: some movement in the trees, some fragment of poetry, some kindness in a stranger’s smile, some chord in a song, some way the light falls –

And there it is again, that reminder, that possibility of things being different – wilder, thicker, deeper and eternally more true –

And the invitation to walk right on in.

Telling the Time

Sometimes the time feels full of contradictions.

Half way through the year, the summer has hardly got started, yet here we already past the longest day.

Half way through the year and in the gap between finishing a job and starting a new one the time ahead feels richer, thicker, and full of possibility.

I hold the hope of things unfolding.

Switch on the news and waves of unspeakable, impossible, come rushing at you. Even as you try and hear the words of grace, forgiveness, the state of the world so often seems perilous, and dark.

Photography can seem like a foolish pursuit in times like this but then again each time I’ve had that thought a voice inside my head responds that it would be more foolish still to stop and that bending down to notice, to bear witness, to sing a song of praise however soft –

it makes some kind of difference, even though I know not what.

6 Quotes on Attention

Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the feeling of being beautiful exists solely in the mind of the beheld

~ Martha Beck

Take time to see the quiet miracles that seek no attention

~ John O’ Donohue

by listening with the same bowed head that sings
draw all things into one song, join
the sparrow on the lawn, and row that easy
way, the rage without met by the wings
within that guide you anywhere the wind blows

~ William Stafford

The human eye adores gazing; it feasts on the wild beauty of new landscapes, the dignity of trees. The eye is always drawn to the shape of a thing. It finds some deep consolation and sense of home in special shapes.

~ John O’ Donohue

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

~ Kurt Vonnegut

At the end of my life, with just one breath left, if you come, I’ll sit up and sing.

~ Rumi

On Looking for the Second Time

I was walking slowly so as not to miss anything.

It’s that crazy April time of year when it’s sunshine one minute, raining the next, heat of the summer one week, wildly followed on by snow falls and hail the next, and the earth is growing fiercely in response, fast, subversive, throwing up plants in the hedgerows, and I didn’t want to miss a trick.

Still, I didn’t see it the first time. Continue reading “On Looking for the Second Time”

A Breath of Colour

It’s one of the things I am enjoying most about gardening more: finding tiny flowers that otherwise I’d not have noticed.

A tiny burst of colour, lurking in the shady undergrowth.

So shady, so small, I couldn’t get a clear photograph, could only get an image, an impression, a sense of the feeling of the colour that I found.

I think the flower is the lungwort, named for its association with the lungs. I have read that this was from the shape of the leaves, or the colouring of the lungs.

Lungwort Tiny

Either way, it is a reminder to me: to breathe.

To breathe in pink, to breathe in purple, to breathe in blue.

To breathe in colour.

I have such a well-developed sense of seriousness, of graveness, of gravity: I am forever grateful for these tiny bursts of tininess, of surprise, of colour that I find when I’m not looking.

These tiny breaths of colour.

Tiny Pink and Blue


It’s the end of the day, too late for a stone.

I wheel the bin out, ready for the morning. The night is cold, bitter cold, and I’m careful not to slip. Still, something catches my eye and I tip my head back. Look up.

A carpet of stars. The firmament.

Between the trees, the crescent moon, glowing silver white.

It takes my breath away. This late, small stone. This firmament.

The Consolation of Patterns and Shapes

Wave patterns on the black sand shore:

Wave Patterns IV

deep consolation, and a sense of home.

Wave Patterns III

Images, patterns and shapes found at the black sand shores of Talisker.

The words are inspired by a passage found in Anam Cara by John O’Donohue, a book I was reading on Skye. (I love the way reading and landscapes merge together like this at times when we’re travelling.)

The human eye adores gazing; it feasts on the wild beauty of new landscapes, the dignity of trees. The eye is always drawn to the shape of a thing. It finds some deep consolation and sense of home in special shapes.

This makes me see photography in a whole different light, understanding the pleasure that comes from that gazing.

It allows me to make better sense of that feeling of connectedness and home that is found in certain places.

Streams of Connectedness

Some places are not everyday.

They are places of voyaging and adventure, of pilgrimage and retreat.

They are not (generally) available to us in an everyday kind of way – and nor perhaps should they be.

Practice is though.

There are practices that we can repeat in an everyday kind of way: here, there and everywhere.
The practices of:

  • Stepping outside, walking and wondering.
  • Keeping your eyes open, for possibility, and invitation.
  • Taking photographs to better learn from what you see.
  • Listening out for fragments of poems.
  • Letting the words tumble and fall till you find the phrase or the form for the essence of a moment, the magic of a minute drifting by.

It’s those practices that connect us:

To those places, to those moments, to each other, to ourselves.

It’s those practices that connect us back:

To the landscapes of the imagination.

The act of looking at what we love, remembering what we love, connects us delicately to the underground streams we are seeking to reach ~ Julia Cameron, The Sound of Paper

A Photo Journal of the Seasons

I would love to have time, to make time, to write the details of the changes of the seasons.

For now though I rely on the photos I take as I walk. It’s a simple but powerful way of creating a photo journal of the seasons.

Autumn came and went last week with a blast of high winds, heavy rain, then the first hard frost. Bonfire Night (the 5th of November) marked the season’s turn, as it so often does.

I was glad when the frost came that I had taken photo after photo in the two months that had gone before, capturing colour changes and leaf falls, the way the trees first strut their stuff in their autumn glory then reveal their inner structure as the leaves fall, and show themselves, bare and unadorned, more beautiful than ever, how the paths transform into carpets of leaves, into invitations stretching out before us, how we see reminder after reminder to express what is good and beautiful, but also to be ready to let it go and let it fall. Continue reading “A Photo Journal of the Seasons”