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?
There’s a necessary provisionality about day to day life aboard a ship – plans and timetables are changed by seemingly innumerable variables.
A ship’s captain and an entire crew must be among the world’s most flexible people – always having eyes and ears for what happened yesterday, what is happening now, and what looks most likely to happen tomorrow – and all the hours, minutes and ‘watches’ in between. The effects of Covid-19 are just the latest arrivals to voyaging complexity.
And every day I notice their calm and grace. Captain and crew appear largely unruffled by pretty much whatever’s going on. Challenges are met with a high degree of equanimity. Ship life, it is recognised, can be decidedly unpredictable, and a ship’s company has no choice but to respect that.
After recent Canarian warmth we’re now ploughing through moderate to rough seas, rain, and thick, low, grey cloud. Most of the passengers onboard will disembark tomorrow amid a flurry of intense activity, to be replaced with an entirely new company of adventurers. And the processes of making new acquaintances, heading back towards blue skies, warmth and a host of new provisionalities will – hopefully – begin again for captain, crew, and lucky me.
And between sunrise and sunset I find myself reflecting on new clarity in the phrases ‘going with the flow,’ ‘weathering the storm,’ and ‘riding the waves.’ And my well-loved favourite stanza from Louis Macneice’s Mutations echoes in every fibre of my being:
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.
… to look out of my window at the high pass makes me indifferent to mirrors and to what my soul may wear over its new complexion
Fleur Adcock Weathering
Yesterday, 10 degrees Celsius. This morning, a bracing, mind-clearing 2! But bracing and mind-clearing are good things, aren’t they?
It’s good to be awake enough to notice the changes that the passing hours, in every day, in each season, bring. There’s so obviously a ‘designed’ purpose and intent in the innumerable cycles of life and death on earth, and in us – mind, heart, body and soul.
It’s also true that most of us – all of us? – are less keen on the bracing elements and the ‘dyings’ in the midst of life; less keen on the being blown about – sometimes even brought to the ground – by capricious winds; less keen on shock or surprise; less keen on streaming eyes and having forgotten our gloves; less keen on ‘Weathering.’
But the thing about a bracing morning is that our minds are cleared sufficiently to recall that there’s actually extraordinary beauty in the right here and the right now, and – beyond this season – that Spring will come …