Oasis in the city


Dunbar’s Close Garden, off Edinburgh’s Canongate, was designed ‘to give an idea of what gardens in this area might have been like in the seventeenth century. The garden is divided into 8 distinct areas or garden rooms, see A-H on map’ (and further information) here (pdf). In 1978, the Mushroom Trust donated the garden to the City of Edinburgh Council. The City’s Parks Department look after the space today.

Many enjoy the gardens in all four seasons. Some sit on the benches in quiet conversation, some bring their workday lunch, others read, while others, like me, contemplate the processions of people who have come here down the centuries: their dress, their work, their conversations and their leisure. And I celebrate the visionary provision of such a place of beauty and of peace.

Speaking of benches: Edinburgh is aware of its place in the annals of greatness. It’s a city that knows there are aeons of history, together with a rich present to be encountered here – and a slowing down to take stock is encouraged and welcomed. Featuring in almost all lists of fine places in the UK that are offering ‘best quality of life’ the unspoken invitation, all around the city, to ‘sit and stay awhile’ is something – among so many things – that I appreciate here deeply.


Mothering Sunday

… in love with a place
which doesn’t care how I look,
or if I’m happy,

happy is how I look
and that is all …

Fleur Adcock

Dozens of lambs cheerfully cavorting like mini jump jets – many of them calling ‘mmmaaaaaam’ – have added to the sunshiny beauty of this Mothering Sunday. I’ve been chatting on the phone with my 86 year old mum while out walking this afternoon. Were I still to have her energy, enthusiasm and zest for life at that age I shall be a happy man! Meanwhile ‘happy is how I look / and that is all …’ – be it in Lakeland, in Edinburgh, or in dozens of other wonderful places, all around the world. And happier? – yes, when I think of the peace that must come for Ukraine and other war-torn nations – sooner, rather than later.



Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

This beautiful photograph reminds me very much of one I stopped to capture (below) while visiting San Sebastián de la Gomera in January this year. I’ve been wondering what caught the eye of two photographers, in different places, each looking at weathered boards through a lens? And of course I can only speak for one of us!

What I think beautiful in these images is, precisely, the weathering seen in them. Once upon an unidentified time a painter stood before these shutters and they were beautified and made to look like new with shiny coats of paint. But as surely as the new exists in this world so too does ageing – and I contend that the beauty of the history brought to bear on these shutters – sunshine, wind, rain, heat and cold is shining today.

And further, that’s how it is for us. The rosy cheeked beauty of our human infancy is subject to the weathering of our days, and we must learn to recognise the ageing beauty in our unique stories. My friend Lori and I were conversing about the late, great poet John O’Donohue recently. Apparently, John was fond of posing the question ‘what would some of your unlived lives say to each other?’ We agreed that this would be a super discussion starter for a small group of close friends. Perhaps another question, for the same group of friends, might be ‘what would the lives you have lived say to each other?’

There’s history in these shutters, reaching all the way back to the rootedness of trees in the earth, and to the skills of glaziers, joiners and painters. And there’s history, rootedness, the works of craftspeople, and weathered beauty in each of us, too. Were the shutters to be flung open wide, what of life and love might be celebrated, contemplated, learned from, mourned, or otherwise reflected upon, inside?

San Sebastián de la Gomera, Canary Isles

Feel beauty with our eyes closed

mauro morandi | photo at greenews

I would like people to understand that we must try not to look at beauty, but feel beauty with our eyes closed

Mauro Morandi
National Geographic – where you can read his story

Mauro Morandi has lived alone on Budelli, an island in the Maddalena archipelago, near the strait of Bonifacio in northern Sardinia, for twenty-eight years. Like the Desert Mothers and Fathers of Egypt around the 3rd century, this lover of reading, silence, sea and sunset has patently learned a thing or two.

Feeling beauty with our eyes closed.

My favourite quotation of 2017 to date!


Everywhere you look

Photo at Pixabay

I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – but it’s to be found anytime and anywhere. I’m inspired by everyday reality – at home and outdoors, of course, but also by photographs, hundreds and thousands of them, many of which I’ve made myself, countless more the work of others. And more often than not it’s images of the most ordinary things I delight in most. Images that evoke sound and sight and scent and touch and taste, or just catch the light in a certain way, or bring back a memory – maybe of last week, or of decades ago.

The world is full of little icons to art, creativity and design. Study the coffee machine next time you’re out and about. Or you may be lucky enough to catch sight of an old locomotive crossing a viaduct in full steam. All around us, every hour of every day, there are causes for wonderment and surprise. A book, a photo magazine, the crackling fire in the hearth, knitting needles, kingfishers and woodpeckers, human language and love, the animal world, flora and fauna. Pete Seeger, long ago, bewailed Little Boxes. But we can choose to live more fully among little icons. Everywhere and anywhere.