Wednesday, November 28, 2007


What do you want for your birthday? Tom asked. I can't really think. On the whole, I want what I have. Now I have photography, I said, I don't really want much else. Jos the painter offered me a powerful, up-to-date Nikon reflex for a good price, but still more than we could
really afford. But it's not the price anyway. If I took on such a camera, I would really need to learn about photography, its techniques and technology. I would be encumbered by lenses and tripods, I would look the business and need to be the business. I feel I could no longer travel light. When I see sumptuous macro shots elsewhere, or glorious landscapes ( I was going to supply links, but there are so many it would be invidious ), I am envious, but I am resolved to make the best I can of what I have, which is riches enough. A 'proper', ambitious photographer would jump at the offer, raid the piggy bank and relish the challenge, but I am happy, happier, to work within limitations, within boundaries.


I read and am stirred by Tall Girl's post on wildness, on letting go, on living authentically. Am I settling for second best about myself? Am I confined and constrained by my own fears?

Does letting go mean losing? I dread and fear losing the bonds and ties I hold so dear, that I have spent so long weaving and knotting in patience and love. Perhaps there is a wildness that seeks to protect, too.


In the back of my bird book are the maps. Simple outlines of Europe coloured with red, and often a broken line around the western shores, out into the Atalntic, the birds' migratory range.

I think I might close the door behind me for a while when the time comes, and follow the birds to the western fringes. From Ushant to Scillies, and then to Bardsey, and from there to the Skelligs, to climb that long stone stairway into the upper air, to the stone beehive cells where the hermits lived on the flesh of the seabirds. Then back to Iona, to come full circle. To sit and look out at the Bay at the Back of the Ocean, where Columba knew by second sight that the crane which was to become his companion, his talisman and psychopomp, had landed from its flight from Ireland and lay exhausted on the sands, to follow corncrakes again through bogs and bracken and never see one, to marvel at the detail of eider ducks, and the black backs of ravens below me, to pick up tiny pink-ridged cowry shells on the beach where the monks were murdered by the wild, iconoclastic, pagan vikings, so that the wheel could turn again.

But then what?


I fear I have offended a friend by speaking too much.

I have potential new friendships I should be tending, but I have a sliding courage.

I have caused pain and anxiety out of carelessness, a weary, remorseful headache results.

But I have posted again today!


Anonymous said...

You take wonderful photos with what you have, though I know that sometimes I, too, envy what others do with their macro lens.

Interesting questions, Lucy. It's fun to travel, chase birds and read maps from the comfort of home sometimes, isn't it?

robinstarfish said...

I may have said this before, but one who knows how to see can make art with a pinhole camera. Gear can indeed be an albatross or it can be a simple magic box into which you pour light, twirl a dial or two, and pixie dust comes out.

Whatever you're using now is filled with your enchantment, so hang on to it.

Hey, occasional pain from human relationship is part of our natural landscape. Keep following your map; migratory birds return soon enough.

jzr said...

I used to carry the big camera, lenses, tripod ... the whole bit. I made beautiful photos but my shoulders hurt from the weight and I felt constrained by all of it. I forgot how to really see because I was locked within a "system."

Now I carry a little digital thing, no tripod, only an extra set of AAA batteries. My photos may not be as crystal clear or beautiful, but I see better ... and I'm free to be me and see what I see, the way I truly see things.

I think the same is true of letting go of the other things in life we cling to ... our need to control everything is truly thick and deep and hard to get rid of. But once I let a bit of it go, I feel lighter and have renewed courage to chip away a bit more. It's scarey and very hard work. And I think it takes a lifetime or two to accomplish. Oh my!

andy said...

On the camera front, in spite of having had a series of film SLRs, I'm happy to stick to my 'compact' (ha! - it's nearly the size of an SLR) Olympus C-8080. True, it has limitations, some of them quite severe, but I can live within them. I admit though that I still look longingly at the DSLRs from time to time... Trouble is, there is no such thing as the perfect camera (or indeed the perfect anything)- there will always be compromises, be it in performance, flexibility, or freedom. The quest for perfection only leads to frustration and avarice... that's what I tell myself, anyway.

As to wildness and letting go... I'll come back to that one. Have to dash now

Rosie said...

What camera do you use at the moment Lucy? I want to buy one, but not something that is too bulky and complicated.

Jean said...

I think offending friends, old and new, is probably inevitable. Speaking too much, too little, doing too much, too little... it's all so infinitely complicated. I'm starting to realise, I think, that letting go and being braver means nothing more nor less than being more prepared to live with the mess, the messing up, and carry on through it, not turn away. I think I started turning away when I was about 3, and now I'm 53. It takes a long, long time for each of us to see what precisely it is that we need to let go of... I suppose we should be grateful if we ever see it at all, though it often isn't pretty and hurts like hell.

apprentice said...

Yes equipment is a big pain at times. I struggle to lug my tripod, and sometimes make do with a monopod that doubles as a walking stick.

Love the mish-mesh BTW.

Also wee bean bag is good as a mini tripod to nest a small digital camera in, and it can be slipped into a pocket. Its good for closeups on the ground etc.

As for wandering it would be lovely to follow the geese or the swallows, but it's never easy to pick up and go when you love people.

Have a great birthday.

Lucy said...

Thanks, dear friends, for these treasurable, thoughtful, wise comments, on cameras, friends, letting go... I was really touched, it always helps.

The Powershot does enough, it does more than I ever use, though much of what it does I can equally do at my leisure on the computer afterwards. I'm glad to have my disinclination to encumber myself further confirmed by people whose opinions I value.

Rosie - I'll leave a message at yours!

Lucy said...

Apprentice - you slipped in while I was commnenting! That beanbag is a really interesting idea, I'll give it some thought...

Granny J said...

My Canon SI3 is about at my limit for the weight I'm willing to carry as I walk about town -- and, while one of these days I might learn what a few of the buttons & dials do, thus far I'm reasonably content -- except with the macros, which are actually better on the little 2MP Sony I used previously!. Perhaps I should say "easier..." As for friends, treasure them while you may -- I am already old enough that many of my best companions are gone.

Beth said...

You make wonderful pictures with the camera you have. Mine is the tiniest thing and I love it, wouldn't want a bigger one if it were given to me.

I really appreciated your thoughts on letting go. It's such hard stuff. I find it's good to be less encumbered by material things, but that letting go of what we love and what loves us is too much. It's important to distinguish between the symbols and the real thing. I don't think we're asked to let go of love, but to learn to look at it from all sides and from inside as well as out.

meggie said...

Your words weave much magic for me.
You strike so many chords of recognition.
I love your photos.

Lucy said...

Thank you.
The Canon (same as GJs I think) was just small enough to slip in a large pocket before it had the lens protector, now it looks more serious! It really is a nice camera and in an odd way I think I might feel a bit disloyal if I moved on to another one. I don't really want to be fiddling too much with knobs and buttons when taking pictures anyway, so many of its functions I don't use much; better to do those things later at home.
Thanks for the words on friends which I value, it's just sometimes difficult to know how best to look after one's friendships, to involve oneself and show concern which might seem like criticism or interference, or to say nothing which could seem like lack of interest and leave the person feeling isolated.
No, I don't think we are meant to detach from love, and I think really letting go is often to be more engaged, to love more fearlessly. But I often am in danger of spoiling the time I have with those I love through fear of loss amd change.

herhimnbryn said...

Deep down you know what you want....
to paraphrase Lao Tzu.