Sometimes I’m surprised by the most vivid memories of people, places, thoughts and treasures – and I’m so thankful for the wonders of the reflective human brain, albeit that as a young schoolboy I was convinced that mine was duller than everyone else’s!
These images, captured in Edinburgh a year ago, make me glad to be alive – and hugely looking forward to my forthcoming return there. I am one of life’s ‘returners.’ I love to retrace my steps in the times and spaces that have brought the joy in the centre of me most fully to life – even whilst occupied, too, with the new.
I am so lost for words when I think of Ukraine today that I hardly dare speak of it at all. But being ‘lost’ is no excuse for forgetting – and I am in awe of the courage, hope and kindness that we’ve seen coming to the fore in many a news bulletin – in the face of truly unspeakable events.
Perhaps we all love to retrace at least some of our steps? Perhaps our human ability to ‘relive’ joy is one of our chief sources of fuel for life – and even for facing up to the reality of (our own) death; for courage in times of darkness, for compassion when we hear another’s crying, for hope when everything we hold dear appears threatened?
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?