I’ve just finished a first pass at putting some kind of searchable order into the thousands of photographs I have collected over the past couple of years. Now, I may not be able to type in ‘sparrow’ or ‘landscape’ and get all the results, but it is a start if I have them labelled individually at all. Up to now it has mainly relied on memory.
It has been amazing to look at how many places I have visited, alone or with friends, revisiting them in memory; or, more often than not, on School business or with Stuart, delving into the landscape for the books. Looking at the sheer volume of churches, ancient sites, hills and rock strewn valleys you could be tempted to think we were able to spend all our time ‘playing out’. Not so. We have jobs (writers can only starve in garrets for so long, you know) and other commitments so most of these trips take no more than a weekend, some less , just an odd day, yet somehow I have amassed a huge library of pictures over the past year or two, from an incredible number of places, the length and breadth of the land.
It has become a standing joke that I never move without a camera and a spare, and it is true that I take a lot of pictures to document our visits… you never know when you will need that picture, after all, but I don’t sacrifice just being with the moment for the sake of an image. Yet given the time available to us, we do seem to cram a lot into a little. You would think we rush around at top speed. Again, not so. We spend a fair amount of time just sitting for a start… and it is thirsty work this investigating, so the odd pub or two en route is called for… and you do have to just sit and assimilate occasionally. We walk a fair bit too…usually up hills, and especially in searing heat or torrential rain for some unfathomable reason.
But even so, the time in the landscape seems to bear no relation to the time we actually have. Reports of a weekend can be crammed into a week’s worth of posts… but only just, and only by missing out great swathes of experience and simply writing about the trip itself, leaving out all the other levels… the thoughts and conversations, the feel of a place, the connections that are made in mind and heart.
In some respects the days go so fast, like deep breaths of clean air between the long, underwater swim through the treacle of the mundane world… oases if colour within the grey desert of mediocrity. Yet, like a dream, it seems you can almost live a lifetime in a day, returning with a storehouse of energy and imagery that carries you through the humdrum plodding of everyday life. The mind and senses are fertilised and the time between these excursions becomes rich with questions, inspiration and possibilities.
It is a kind of magic. An alchemy that, once tasted, spills over into other areas of being and brings the world to life, even in the small things of normal living. It seems as if we are outside of time sometimes, normal rules don’t apply. I can only think that it has to do with a particular mindset… we accept the gifts of the day rather than seeking to wring out of it everything we can. Somehow we move through the hours at a leisurely pace… the speed of a canal barge… and yet see more in a day that seems humanly possible when you look back.
“ Do you know that at this very moment you are surrounded by eternity? And do you know that you can use that eternity, if you so desire?
There! Eternity is there! All around! Do you know that you can extend yourself forever in any of the directions I have pointed to? Do you know that one moment can be eternity? This is not a riddle; it’s a fact, but only if you mount that moment and use it to take the totality of yourself forever in any direction.” Carlos Castenada
Perhaps we are outside of time… moving for once to the rhythm of the earth, rather than the speed of busy ants upon her surface and perhaps, when you are given those moments, where there is nothing between you and the earth and and the sky, time itself dissolves, allowing the Old Ones to walk once more as shadows on the screen of the mind, and a future unborn to pulse with a possibility that is now. Into such fertile moments the seeds of inspiration are planted and from them any imaginable possibility may grow. You just have to take it on trust and flow with the moment… and perhaps it is here we find eternity waiting.