Monday, February 23, 2009


I first set up this blog as a medium for reflecting on some of my favourite photographs and also sharing in some random thoughts that might come into my head from time to time. With that in mind, I have to apologise for the photograph above- not for its content but for its quality!
The trouble was that I didn't have my camera with me on Friday evening and had to resort to using my phone (in very low light conditions) to capture the absolutely brilliant Michael Brawley Big Band.
(The boyfriend of one of my daughters plays trumpet in the band but last Friday night was my first opportunity to hear them for myself.)
Take ten saxophones, five trombones, five trumpets, drums, bass and piano... mix in some great arrangements of big band classics along with some more contemporary numbers, stir in a heap of slick playing, huge dollops of rhythm and a dash of musical energy and fun ... add a couple of solo vocalists on occasion... and you have a recipe for high quality entertainment. If you like that kind of thing!
... I loved it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Reaching Up

There so much doom and gloom in the news these days - the global economy, natural disasters, crime, war and political oppression, climate change.... etc. etc. - that I decided to cheer myself up by posting another picture which shows that winter can be colourful.
I just loved the way the feathery clouds in the blue sky seemed to mimic the upward sweep of the bare tree branches, not to mention the strong contrast between that blue sky and the rich golden browns and reds of the foreground.
To get the full effect you have to click on the picture and see it full size. No - change that - to get the full effect you needed to have been there, to breathe in the crisp, clear air at the same time. Any photograph is a poor substitute for the real thing.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Where the air is clear...

*As with all the photos on this blog, click to see full size.

Quite by accident, while driving home from hospital visiting, I found myself this afternoon listening to Radio Four. The programme was "Gardeners' Question Time" (and entertaining it was too.)
One of the gardening "problems" discussed had to do with lichen growing on a gooseberry bush. A member of the experts panel observed that wherever the questioner lived there must at least be clean air because lichens only thrive where the air is unpolluted.
With that in mind the above photo is surely perfect proof of the pure air of the Scottish Highlands!

Radiance and glory in the darkness

This week the predominant "colour" around most of the country has been white, with heavy snowfalls in places that are not used to it any more. (I couldn't believe it when the main evening news at the beginning of the week made such a fuss about the snow. Out of a 30 minute bulletin of 'national and international' news, 18 minutes was spent talking about snow in London! So there was nothing more important happening in the world??)
Anyway, the picture above has no snow in it. It was taken a few weeks ago in the north of Scotland near to my sister's home when I had gone for a walk with one of my daughters. It wasn't the best photograph taken at the time but I like it for a very simple reason- the colours.
For many people winter in this country is a time when colour seems to disappear, both literally and metaphorically. Everything becomes drab and grey.
There are no flowers to brighten the landscape. Most trees have shed their leaves.
There is usually lots of rain (not so different from the summer then...)
It is also a time when many people feel pretty down and even depressed. The colour seems to drain out of life itself.
What this photograph says to me, however, is that there is colour: it has just become much more muted and subtle. It requires a closer look. It's impact is not so immediate or so strong, but the colours are there.

I'm reminded of a 'letter' allegedly written in 1513 by an Italian called Fra Giovanni (Brother John.)
I may have quoted it before.

I am your friend
and my love for you goes deep.
There is nothing I can give you which you do not have,
but there is much, very much, that,
while I cannot give it, you can take.

No heaven can come to us
unless our hearts find rest in today.
Take heaven!

No peace lies in the future
which is not hidden in this present little instant.
Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow.
Behind it, yet within our reach is joy.
There is radiance and glory in the darkness
could we but see —and to see
we have only to look.
I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver,
but we, judging its gifts by the covering,
cast them away as ugly,
or heavy or hard.

Remove the covering and you
will find beneath it a living splendour,
woven of love, by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it,
touch the angel's hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial,
a sorrow, or a duty, believe me,
that angel's hand is there,
the gift is there,
and the wonder of
an overshadowing presence.

Our joys, too, be not
content with them as joys.
They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose,
so full of beauty–beneath its covering–
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.

Courage, then, to claim it, that is all.
But courage you have,
and the knowledge that we are
all pilgrims together,
wending through unknown country, home.

And so, at this time, I greet you.
Not quite as the world sends greetings,
but with profound esteem and with the prayer
that for you now and forever,
the day breaks,
and the shadows flee away.

This photograph was taken on the same morning.
Amazing what a little bit of blue sky does to the landscape!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Whistling in the dark

[A mockingbird on an orange tree in Cocoa, Florida]

While recovering from my bout of labyrinthitis, I haven't felt much like working on the computer at all. In fact, all I seemed to do during my two weeks off was read - nothing too taxing though - mainly novels from the Rebus series by Ian Rankin. TEN of them in fact!! (Just seven to go.)
For variety I did read one other book, "Being Emily" by Anne Donovan. It was good fun, although for those of you who are not native to the West of Scotland, but would still like to read the book, it might have been helpful if there had been a version with "English subtitles."
But...whatever... the reading is over. This week it has been a case of 'back to work.'
I still get tired so I'm trying not to do too much.
Extra sleep, of course, is usually beneficial when recovering from any illness.
I wonder how I can get that point across to some of the feathered residents of our garden? Four o'clock this morning they began their 'dawn chorus.' (In other words, long before the dawn.)
It seemed kind of strange to me, given that the temperature was about -5 degrees and there is still snow on the ground. But some of our local birds have already decided that spring is on its way.
They must have read Shelley: "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?"
Actually, for me this thought is a central theme of the Christian faith. Sometimes it seems as if Christians are simply "whistling in the dark" but, like the birds, we whistle and sing in the dark only because we know the dawn is on its way.