With all manner of other-than-human persons waking up and getting on with their Northern Hemisphere Spring business around me, I thought I’d better post a couple of seasonal images. Apparently the first word I said was ‘lellow’. The fragrance of Daffodils is almost as mesmerising as that golden yellow colour, if a bit more subtle. Although these are not the wild variety, I’m still excited by them every year. Its a bit on the cold side here today, so that little palmate newt was almost comatose. She’s now been moved to a much more suitable location, where a potential friend awaits. Toads have already been out in force on our local roads – perhaps responding to the full Moon, so it’ll be ‘all go’ for a few weeks now. The third image is of a being with an altogether different sense of time. This imposing individual looks irresistably rhinosceromorphic to me!
Spring Blessings 🙂
B.T. 13th March 2017.
On a dull morning last weekend I noticed that some trees at the top of the hill were looking uncharacteristically white. Climbing up towards them I found myself walking in much colder air. This was, clearly, a temperature inversion. All the trees up there were coated in hoar frost -surely one of the most beautiful spectacles of the more-than-human world, even when unlit by sunshine.
I walked across some frozen fields to a beech wood, and stood transfixed amongst illuminated branches. My sense of having been transported to another world was heightened by the complete lack of frost in the valley below. I hope these images (double click to enlarge) give a rough idea of what I saw.
As someone who has always been open to such experience I’m genuinely puzzled that some of my fellow humans seem to be unmoved by aesthetic experience. At a time when so much anthropogenic chaos is being unleashed upon the rest of nature, its re-assuring to know that there are very many others who appreciate, and are working to protect, the integrity, diversity, and yes, beauty, of nonhuman life.
On another recent walk I came upon these marvellously coiled oak trees, emerging from a rock outcrop. Their serpentine forms exude a strength and confidence developed during lives spent responding to the prevailing currents of Westerly winds that must regularly pour down from the fields above.
I’ve always liked the muted tones of winter, and the patterns formed by sleeping trees. But I also find a harsher pared-down beauty in the open moors and upland pasture that surrounds my home town. In spring, when the birds return, there is an obvious kind of beauty -not least in the song of skylarks- but at this time of the year there is still the slightly uncanny beauty of shifting cloud forms, of varying density, that brush across the land, concealing and revealing. Here lastly, then, is an image (with no trees) of a restored section of packhorse track, which I like because of its ambiguity. Was I walking up towards the clouds, or down into a fog bank?
B.T. 31st January 2017.
I sometimes find that photography gets in the way of just’being there’. I’ve never wanted to take photographs of birds, for example. When I’m with birds I want to give them my full attention rather than fiddling with a camera. At other times, however, photography can feel contemplative, even divinatory. “The Greek expression phainomenon … comes from the verb phainesthai, meaning “to show itself”. Thus phainomenon means what shows itself, the self-showing, the manifest. Phainesthai itself is a “middle voice” construction of phaino, to bring into daylight, to place in brightness.” (1) Photography as phenomenology becomes a way of attending to beings, shown, or showing themselves, in light.
This is one of a number of bleached yew roots that I keep going back to. They have an almost animal muscularity (with tendrils still gripping chunks of limestone) that suggests something about the nature of their living kin. Here are some more images without further words. Clicking on them brings up a larger version.
Brian Taylor, 15/6/15.
(1) David Farell Krell, ed. Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, Routledge, 1978/1993.
This wonderfully sculpted Birch beside the River Wharfe seemed to be marking a village boundary, which felt right, given that Birches have long been associated with protection and boundary marking. Compared with other tree species, Birches are not very long lived. Silver Birches in the U.K. typically live for 50-90 years, with some individuals going on to be 150 years old, though apparently they can live longer further north. We tend to think of them in their characteristic role as young pioneers, fixing nitrogen in unwelcoming soil so that other species can become established. They’ve been called the ‘Mother Tree’ because of this ability to open up new habitat, and ‘the Lady of the Woods’ because of their slender form. The link between birch trees and shamanism is well known, as is their symbiotic mycorrhrizal relationship with fly agaric (amanita muscaria) and other fungi. I’ve always been drawn to the play of light in birch woods, but nowadays find a particular beauty in the colours and textures of older birch trees.
Brian Taylor 7/6/14.