This Sunrise of Wonder

Not everything has a name. Some things lead us into the realm beyond words … It is like that small mirror in the fairy-tales … You glance in it and what you see is not yourself; for an instant you glimpse the Inaccessible, where no horse or magic carpet can take you. And the soul cries out for it.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

cited by Michael Mayne
This Sunrise of Wonder

I admit it. When there’s a frosty nip in the air, even inside the bedroom, it takes some determination to – “54321 …” – leap out of bed and get out of the door. And today is definitely the kind of morning that takes your breath away at first. But there must be something deep within me that remembers what it is to stand before sunrise, something primal, a being connected to the Universe, to something bigger than we can comprehend, that sustains and warms us, calling us to wake up!

Inner universe

… each of us has known mutations in the mind
When the world jumped and what had been a plan
Dissolved and rivers gushed from what had seemed a pool.

For every static world that you or I impose
Upon the real one must crack at times and new
Patterns from new disorders open like a rose
And old assumptions yield to new sensation;
The Stranger in the wings is waiting for his cue,
The fuse is always laid to some annunciation.

Louis Macneice

I’ve spent a lot of time in the course of my life contemplating my perceptions – of sunrise or sunset, of the firmament of the heavens, of the diameter of the great star Betelgeuse measuring at 766.8788 million miles (compared to Earth’s 8000 miles), of my taste preferences at lunch, of my appreciation of the arts, books, colour, my fellow humans, the constituent parts of the ‘reality’ in front of me – poetry, the solid mountain, the fluid and reflective lake, Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets, music and other frequencies, sounds and vibrations, photographs and ultrasound images, silence, scent, touch, anticipation, delight or fear, movement, and the speed at which my car transports me to the supermarket, the enthusiasm and abandon of the little dog, ears flying, bowling across a field.

And sometimes I feel quite certain about the ‘reality’ of some ‘things’ – people, animals, flora, fauna, landscape and space. But fortunately there are many other times when I’m glad to say ‘I don’t know.’ I am uncertain. Glad in the recognition that on the one hand I have innumerable things to ‘learn,’ and on the other that I’ll never get to the bottom of all that I might learn – which is an eternal continuum. (A newsflash has just informed me that ‘Two Supermassive Black Holes have been observed.’) And glad, too, in the recognition that every single human being ‘sees’ or ‘learns’ or ‘knows’ absolutely everything only to the extremely precise degree that their unique brain has been formed by their remembered perceptions to date.

That is to say that I have come to realise within myself a ‘provisionality’ about all things – my expectations of ‘myself,’ and of others; my inability fully to ‘know’ the experience and perceptions of anyone outside my own physical being; my inbuilt inability to fully ‘know’ the ‘truth’ of my own perceptions within that unique physical frame; all of this is somehow wonderfully liberating. This is, at least, an inability that we ALL share! There are always going to be ‘surprises’ ahead – and that’s what it is to be alive. Anil Seth is a fascinating companion with whom to share something of the journey in which every one of us is engaged. And I am the more minded to reflect upon the value, or otherwise, of perceptions (what Seth calls ‘controlled hallucinations’) – alongside a regular seeking and inclination to enter into nourishing silence. And flow …

see the book ‘Being You – A New Science of Consciousness’ by Anil Seth

Aromatic air

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

It is raining. I look out on the maple, where a few leaves have turned yellow, and listen to Punch, the parrot, talking to himself and to the rain ticking gently against the windows.

May Sarton
Journal of a Solitude

It was a white world yesterday. A dark green / brown smudge of a world today. And it might well have been a parrot quietly talking to himself as, already soaked, I marched up the hill, grateful for absence of ice.

‘Weather’ – actual and metaphorical – changes our perspective on everything, every day. Seasons and their reasons touch our lives anew. Warm sunlight quickly conjures one kind of wellbeing, wind and rain will freshen the air we’re breathing, ice and snow turn landscape into wonderland – at least for a while, and home’s warmth and hot chocolate raise a smile.

Twenty or more years ago I read one of the most beguiling openings to a novel. One that I’ve never forgotten since. It’s simple and descriptive – but more than that, there’s a deep noticing, deep awareness, and therein lies the promise of seasons, the perpetual invitation to breathe deep and to be fully ALIVE in each one:

The church bell, cracked and faint, struck seven as Anna opened her eyes. She closed them again, and waited for the second bell to chime, three minutes later. Then she got out of bed and pushed open the shutters of her window. High up in the air, swallows hawked lazily across the pale blue dome of the sky. A cool breeze, smelling of thyme and wood-smoke, flowed over her bare shoulders and she stretched her arms over her head and inhaled deeply, filling her lungs with the aromatic air.

From her high window, she looked down over the roofs of the village, across the vineyards and cherry orchards towards the grey-green rolling country of the garrigue, with the pale lavender, jagged outline of the Cévennes in the distance …

Elizabeth Falconer
The Golden Year

Yes. Raining this morning. But this afternoon, tomorrow, next Spring and Summer? Anna opened her eyes. She closed them again, and waited …

Silence and stillness

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which, 
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing …

Mary Oliver
from Snowy Night

There’s been a hushed stillness here today. My morning walk gave way to a post-thaw amble after dark. I’ve been pondering the ‘power’ of a perfectly symmetrical snowflake * which, in company with millions of others like it, can quieten wide spaces and bring about a stillness that nothing else can. Ordinary human activity is disrupted and it’s not without reason, I think, that we’re sometimes awestruck by the sound of silence (and occasional hooting) that accompanies falling snow. Thoughts give way to quietened wonder … and – as Mary Oliver goes on to ask …

aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? 

* see ‘Symmetry of Snowflakes’ by Ian Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics and Digital Media Fellow, Faculty of Science in the University of Warwick

Sources of joy

Keeping a small personal record of experiences, people, places and things that bring me joy is one of the chief reasons for the existence of this blog. In 2021 the magical city of Edinburgh has been a source of almost unquantifiable delight. It’s a place where it is – quite simply (and yet, of course, profoundly) great to be alive …

I will leave the light on

Photo by ROHAN KULKARNI on Unsplash

I will leave the light on

Tom Walker

I think this is a wonderfully striking photo. It immediately reminded me of Tom Walker’s image of a house on a hill ‘guiding like a lighthouse’

The light left on here is probably accidental – but a happy one in terms of imagery. Which car are you drawn to? Which appears to have some life about it? Which might you expect to be warm inside?

Can we leave our personal light on? On purpose?

Yes, everything

Photo by Alex Gruber on Unsplash

click on all images once / twice to enlarge

They said ‘You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.’
The man replied, ‘Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.’

Wallace Stevens
The Man With The Blue Guitar

I’m slightly coy (I don’t know why) about admitting that since yesterday’s post I’ve continued hour upon hour to be entranced by the idea of the imaginable – of design, of Galway Kinnell’s ‘everything flowers from within.’

I mean, imagine repeating that to young children, from as early as possible: that what comes forth from people’s imaginations – their own ‘designs for life’ included – are, literally, among the great wonders of the world.

And then imagine that being repeated in adult lives, over and over again, a repetition that would forever stretch their own imaginations: that you continue to have endless possibilities for creativity, in every second of your life, if you will hear the sometimes quiet voice of your imagination.

And then imagine really believing this yourself / myself. The thought sets heart and mind and soul alight: indeed our very bodies react to it. We know that our capacity for imagination is without limits – and we want to get on with the creative business of imagining some more.

Every single image in this carefully curated collection today contains dozens (at least!) of design elements that started out life in imagination, human, or that of The Great Imagination, flowering from within.

If you’ve time today, or in the next day or so, make a cup of something you love. Sit down with it and then spend a couple of minutes with each of these photographs. What’s going on in your imagination as you stay with them? Can you feel energising welling up? Warmth? Wonder? Delight? Which stir you most? What sights, sounds, people, animals, come to mind? What new moments are you going to design, to bring into the light, by the time you’ve finished your hot chocolate? May the joy of your own design flower from within you – today.

Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash
Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash
Photo by Ally Griffin on Unsplash
Photo by XPS on Unsplash
Photo by Gabs | Artist on Unsplash
Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash
Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash
Photo by Alessandro Bianchi on Unsplash
Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash