Tuesday morning I headed further north… much further than I have been for a while, and I was alone. I was heading up beyond Edinburgh to Dalgety Bay, to the home of a very dear friend. I haven’t seen her for way, way too long. The plan was to spend a scant few days together before kidnapping her other guest and bringing her south with me once more. The pretty way… via Yorkshire and Derbyshire, through the rest of the country and eventually on to Buckinghamshire.
What with one thing and another it ended up being a six hour drive to Fife. I didn’t dawdle, but with such a beautiful landscape around me, and my heart singing in a decidedly Yorkshire accent, I didn’t simply put my foot down and keep my eyes glued to the road. I know that route… it passes through some much loved areas… and I couldn’t help enjoying the journey.
I did manage to behave though, much to the surprise of many. The camera was on the seat beside me and it pretty much stayed there. If I had stopped for every picture I wanted to take I would still be en route now. Luckily, though, I did need petrol, and the road does pass incredibly close to the sea in places. Close enough to warrant the odd minor detour. And when the road passes that close to Lindisfarne, it would have been completely wrong not to check the tide tables. Lindisfarne, the Holy Isle of the northeast, can only be accessed via the causeway at low tide. Sadly, or perhaps fortuitously under the circumstances, high tide was due, so with a sigh I turned around and resumed the journey, pausing only to capture the blurred outline of an island I have been trying to actually visit properly for decades. Every time I have passed that way the tide has been against me, either preventing or curtailing time on the island before I get to see it. Ah well. All things happen at the right time, and that is not always a time of our choosing.
So the photographs of that day are few. They do serve to remind me though of a glorious drive. They also serve as a diary… sixteen hundred miles, many friends and many places could easily blur into a dreamlike sequence that forgets the details. I do prefer to simply experience, to breathe in the moment and savour it but since starting to write, and especially with the books Stuart and I write which contain photographs and artwork… I have got into the habit of documenting the places we visit, or capturing a moment’s beauty for when memory fades. Somehow, over the course of the past couple of weeks, there appear to have been a couple of thousand pictures taken. They allow me to remember the unfolding of the days and, in vivid detail, all the small things… the colour of azalea in my friend’s garden, the texture of stones on a beach or the smell of salt air, that tang of seaweed that I had almost forgotten.
For anyone who reads fiction, building the author’s world in imagination, for anyone who paints and sees the world as a palette of colour, for anyone who meditates and can call up a landscape as a waking dream, for anyone at all who uses the visual and sensory imagination, photographs… snapshots of a moment never to be repeated… can open the door to reliving a unique instant, or recreating a world, a fragrance, a touch. Sea breezes on closed eyelids, the soft scent of flowers, the warmth of a summer morning… all are present to imagination’s eye, and the camera may be the trigger that releases that memory in years to come.
I am not a photographer… I take pictures. Places and faces come to life on the screen for me. Many are for reference and research, but others serve a different purpose; they are not just soulless images, they live through the lens so that my eyes can see what my heart feels, so I can walk again by the shore or on the high moors, so I can look into eyes much missed and see a smile I love. And sometimes, just sometimes, through pictures I can share a little of that joy.