Making honey from past failures

Making honey from past failures

In an earlier post I wrote a poem about our need to be loved and suggested that we want to feel an unconditional love hold us, know our failings but never mention them, make them of no account. The Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote the poem “Last Night As I Was Sleeping” in which he imagines that there are honey bees inside his heart busy making honey of his old failures.

Mary's funeral

I went to Mary’s funeral on Monday. The priest said that it was a ‘good funeral,’ a funeral where the life of the person shone through and inspired those who attended. It certainly felt like that to me. In the last two weeks of her life Mary went to live with her sister and in her eulogy she said that she wanted to pass on the importance of two things - make sure you tell people you love that you do love them - and remember to smile.

The journey to where we are

The more I read, and the more I try to lead a better life, the more convinced I become that our journey to God (or however you might want to describe it) is not one of going to something, but rather discovering what is already there. It’s as though what we are seeking is already present in every blade of grass, in the wind, in a drop of water, in the warmth of our soul.

Too many strawberries

There is a famous Zen Buddhist story that tells of a man being pursued by a ferocious tiger. He naturally runs away but presently finds himself trapped at the edge of a steep cliff. As the tiger approaches ever closer the man spots a vine hanging over the edge and, realising this is his only way to safety, grabs it and starts to lower himself down. About half-way he notices to his horror that at the bottom of the cliff there is another tiger, equally ferocious, waiting for him.

The instinct of hope

Is there another world for this frail dust
To warm with life and be itself again?
Something about me daily speaks there must,
And why should instinct nourish hopes in vain?
‘Tis nature’s prophesy that such will be,
And everything seems struggling to explain
The close sealed volume of its mystery.

Time wandering onward keeps its usual pace
As seeming anxious of eternity,
To meet that calm and find a resting place.
E’en the small violet feels a future power
And waits each year renewing blooms to bring,
And surely man is no inferior flower
To die unworthy of a second spring?

‘The Instinct Of Hope’ by John Clare.

Poetry is our way, sometimes clumsily, to paint truth with words. I know there are many other definitions and a variety of different poetic forms but at it’s core, like all authentic art, poetry acts in the service of truth.

A state of grace - the photography of Sergio Larrain

It seems that some photographers have the capacity to enter a special state and produce works of wonder. They can somehow see what we struggle to, and,seemingly without effort, produce work of ineffable beauty. Sergio Larrain (1931-2012) was one of those photographers, in my view one of the greatest that ever lived. One his most oft repeated quotes is also one of the most revealing and profound: A good picture is born from a state of grace.

The Little Musk Deer

I suspect that for as long as there have been people there have been stories told to capture their imagination, echo their ideas and dreams and help them understand their fears. Stories often help to suggest and frame that which we cannot touch, but which we nonetheless feel is true. I have a lot of sympathy with Philip Pullman when he writes:

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.

It’s not just another day

In an earlier post, on a Suffolk walk, I mentioned my ingratitude for not fully appreciating the gift of a beautiful morning. In many ways we find ourselves in a time where the certainties of established religions have less of a hold on us, and yet so many of us still perceive (almost like a fragrance that we can’t name) a call to the spiritual. That call provides us with a moral compass of sorts, but also has a bias towards beauty and truth.

Reflecting on reflections

For whatever reason, I’ve always been drawn to incorporating reflections in my photography, and in this I know I am certainly not alone. One of the most well known photographs with a reflection was that taken by that astonishing master of the photographic art, Henri Cartier-Bresson, recording a man leaping over (or into) a puddle. The photograph, entitled Derriere la Gare Saint-Lazare was regarded by Time Magazine as the ‘Photograph of the Century’. Without doubt it is a superb photograph, and certainly one that proves my point that you’re in the best of company if you use reflections in your work.

Gare Saint Lazare. 1932. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

Gare Saint Lazare. 1932. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos