These damn swans

Or should I say, “This damn telezoom that’s all I could afford and that’s NOT living up to any kind of expectations”?

Weeell, never mind. Photography is more than crispness (I’m told, but…). And it’s not the lens’s fault that I stubbornly left the ISO on 100. But oh, how I would have wished this one to be sharp!

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But who knows, maybe in a while, I’ll even think these are quite nice, with that Constable vibe they’ve got going.

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Morning fog

I got up early again, because I missed yesterday’s spectacular dawn with gravlax pink and gold shining through the bus window. But when I reached the hill where I’d planned to snap my pictures, I was just too foggy. Made for some atmospheric shots of the woods, though.

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These are some interesting geese. They’ve been following the swans around the pond for weeks now. As soon as the swans move, so do the geese!

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The sun finally rose over the misty hills. Here seen peeking at a sleeping lorry.

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Fire in the darkness

This weekend was dull – weatherwise. The sky was constantly overcast, but it was warm and we went for a drive to look for mushrooms and photo subjects. I’m not sure I’m happy with the results, but at least you can see the impossible, fiery red colour of the autumn shrubbery against the leaden background.

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A slight mist shrouded the faraway mountains. Here and there, individual trees had turned yellow, which made them stand out from their green brethren.

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Lower down in the forest, whole areas had turned completely golden.

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I don’t know what these dark red leaves are, but they were everywhere!

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They look like something out of a fantasy movie. What would they be called? Fire-leaf? With medicinal or hallucinatory properties, perhaps…

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In the evening, we made a real fire and stayed outside until it was pitch black.

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The Ace of Wands

That feeling… I think all authors must know about it. You empty your glass and you’re convinced that you’ll never write another word, because what is there to write about? You’ve said everything you want to say already.

And then there’s this thing – a movie, a smell, a view, something someone says – and it gets stuck on your mind like an autumn leaf clinging to a wet fence. And as it sits there, just shining brightly against the dull grey of the wood, another kind of light begins to creep up on you.

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It inches closer, slowly, whistling innocently… and then BAM! You’re bathed in the light of an inner dawn.

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You have to write. You have to write this new character, this laugh, this landscape, this perspective. You’ve described a hundred different smiles in your other books, but this one is different, and it needs to be set on paper. Come hell or high water. Otherwise that light will burn you up from inside.

You’re in love, and you want to shout it out to the world.

And then it ebbs. Sooner or later, it ebbs and peters out, and you look at the smile or the view or the funny dialogue, and you just go “Meh”. Because it’s done now. You’ve spent your ink again, and poured that light onto your keyboard, and there’s nothing left. Not even a couple of mixed metaphors.

You have a result: a few twinkling phrases, or a whole fragile structure with a series of flimsy, glittering strands of story clinging to it… and now comes the work. The editing, the fleshing out, the careful crafting. In Tarot terms, the spark of inspiration from the Ace of Wands have chosen a direction, gathered the input it needs and celebrated the first stage of the journey. And now the battle begins, where things will not always be so bright.

But you’ve got your flimsy strands, and look at them: they might only be lichen, but they’re beautiful.

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From the perspective of plants

In my photography, I tend to seek the perspective of the thing I’m photographing – more often than not, plants of different kinds. Or, you know, living organisms.

That is, how does this cone “see the world”? I know it hasn’t got eyes, but it lies there on the ground, and that defines its relation to the world. That’s where the light hits it, and that’s where it rests on a dead, lichen-covered twig.

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Or this mushroom. From a human perspective, it hardly even exists, because it’s so small and so camouflaged by its bland beige colour. But from its own perspective, it’s at the centre of the world, and at this precise moment, the sun hits it straight in the “face”.

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Last night when I lay crawling in the dirt to snap these pictures, it dawned on me that this is what I always do in the rest of my life as well. When someone I know picks up a book I’ve written, I need to skim through at least certain chapters just to see how they might read it – I read with their glasses on, so to speak. From their perspective.

And what’s worse, in discussions and arguments, I’m so prone to taking in what my opponent means that I lose sight of my own opinions. I’m caught off guard by the conviction with which they contradict me – as if blinded by their stronger aura.

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And this is the only reason I’m dreading the defense of my dissertation. I know what I’ve done, I know the strengths and weaknesses in my studies, and I can reason around it in a fairly intelligent way. But if my opponent says something really smart and challenging (and she will, because she’s the smartest and most challenging person I’ve ever met), I might clam up. I might forget the whole point of my dissertation. I might even forget my own name.

And so I’ll babble instead. And sweat. 😀

What I need is a shield – something to stand between me and the other person’s perspective, so that I can look at it from a distance, assess it, and then respond in a calm fashion, like, you know, a completely normal person. Something to hoodwink their bright light somewhat.

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Oh well. I’ll babble. Worse things have happened. And I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of my curse of seeing things from other people’s perspective. I’ll just have to accept that when the debates rage around me, I’ll be like a tree in a storm: tossed this way and that – but hopefully with my roots firmly in the ground so I can regain my bearings afterwards!

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A bridge to autumn

Drained of clorophyll and pelted by the rain, they lie beneath our feet like gold coins showing the way into a new season.

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This tiny plant looked like a bird taking wing.

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The moss really is coming into its own now. When the flowers have withered, we see the unassuming background, and it’s quite as beautiful as any rose.

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These fungi looked like they were arranged to form a small fountain.

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Summer is hanging on by a thread – of beard lichen!

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And because I can’t help myself, another picture of redcurrants.

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Berries and stars

An unexpected side effect of both my photography and, weirdly, my back trouble, is that I’m learning to appreciate Moments. You know, the small but good stuff that makes up your life. Chasing subjects makes me alert to beautiful things, and not only visually. When I smell something lovely, like yellowing leaves or rain-drenched birches, I reach for my camera – and then realize that I can’t take a picture of it.

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Other things are beautiful but not pleasing to the other senses. Or so I thought. I’ve never been much for redcurrants, but I’ve been snapping so many pictures of them this summer that I just had to sort of complete the image and eat a bowlful with kefir, delicious Russian yoghurt. Well, they were great!

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Also, it’s a minor miracle that I could pose like this with my crappy back. It’s been slightly better since my visit with the miracle worker, but full recovery is probably months away. No matter – having these moments of non-pain makes me grateful, and I feel like some disk space is freed up to notice the balmy morning air, or the sun that flits in and out of clouds.

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Another thing to be grateful for: mushrooms! The boletus looks like newly baked bread. 🙂 It’s my favourite mushroom – the consistency is lovely.

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Nature gives, but she also gives work…

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The sheep polypore, turning yellow in the pan. And below, bags of freezer-ready boletus for winter days to come!

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After a job well done, we were rewarded with a starry night by the fire.

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