Saturday Evening Post #150 : Reaching Out Visually

I came across the following poem by 16th-century mystic St. John of the Cross, titled “A Rabbit Noticed My Condition”

I was sad one day and went for a walk;
I sat in a field

A rabbit noticed my condition and came near.

It often does not take more than that to help at times—

to just be close to creatures who
are so full of knowing
so full of love
that they don’t—

they just gaze with
their marvellous understanding.

Interesting to me, at least as it harmonised well with a chapter of a book I am reading during lockdown, which covers among other thing, the concept of “Mindfulness”.
It has a four step process, with  Mindfulness, Awareness, Visualisation, and Awakening.

Now I feel perfectly qualified to lecture on this subject as true to the Internet Uncle Google tradition, the less I know about something and it’s intricate details the more I am able to pontificate on why my way is the correct view—There is a lot of tongue in cheek in that sentence, I hope it doesn’t get too lost 🙂 .

Mindfulness in the ancient tradition is not so much about the current psyhco-babble feel-good about your body, make contact with your feet on the ground, feel you breathing and all the other paraphernalia that seems to have been attached to it by those who have hijacked it for their own needs and reasons.
Simply defined (the best that a bear with a small brain can handle), is “Focusing on One thing at a Time”  Works for me!

Awareness: Observes the world with both sensory and cognitive perceptions, (There are a lot of long words in there, Miss; we’re naught but humble pirates. What is it that you want?  -Captain Balbosssa: Pirates of the Caribbean)

My takeaway was that Awareness reaches out to be inclusive and expansive. Not just internally but of the around.
Resonates with me a  lot, as when I’m in the field, I’m not just seeing a bird, but rather there is an interaction as Jon Young describes as “building a rope.”  My birding friends are happy to see the bird and log it in their notebook, and then go search for the next one.
As a photographer, I’m more likely to consider the lighting, angle, the background, the best point of view and what that bird is doing, and likely to do.

As St J. says, being able to interact with “A Creature so Full of Knowing…So Full of Understanding”

Now it turns out, I’m not a logger of species or an inveterate note keeper.  For others, and I applaud them for their skills, it’s a matter of being able to recognise and log various attributes of the bird and build up an interesting database, both for their own use and to share online on ebird, or some other chosen platform.

So awareness is not all that complicated, but as we are in lockdown, its a skill that I find that I’m not able to put into practice. And like all skills, or craft it loses its edge from lack of use.  That’s why artists, writers, sports people and so may other craftspeople are constantly honing the skills. Top tennis players don’t get there by watching another fool-tube video or Uncle googling the best technique.

It’s probably no surprise that I walk my hour’s ‘exercise’ early in the morning. I like the walk the pre-dawn.

And I’ve added an Awareness element to it of late.
I try and notice as many things as possible during the hour out, and then when I come home, over breakfast, I take a sheet of paper and brain-dump all I can remember observing. Not to compare lists or build up a database as such, but rather, just what did I see when I was out today.

After breakfast I toss the paper anyway. As I’ll be fresh tomorrow.

Mind I’m getting a bit tired of logging 17 disposed disposable masks. But I do put down things like the splash of early morning sun on the roofs across the watercourse.   Also what work the council has done on the parklands.  And of course the inevitable, the people that I pass by.  And so it goes.

Not sure where it will lead, but at the moment it adds to the day out and is a beaut distraction from our lockdown blues.

I had need the other day to go out our local medical clinic.  After that I strolled down to see the local Black Swan family, its only a few minutes from the clinic.
I had the previous few days been photographing Welcome Swallows as they begin to prepare nests in the drains under the roadway.
I had wondered if any Fairy Martins had returned, and on this day, I heard the cheery chirping calls, and was glad to see a dozen or so Fairy Martins working over the pond, and zipping through the roadway drains.
This is one of the few that old slow D810 could captured.

12 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #150 : Reaching Out Visually

  1. Hi David, thanks for your posts and thoughts, sharing your piece of the world with us , I don’t say much but appreciate seeing you here, I’ve never forgotten your help when I used to be on flicker, ( only stopped that because I was locked out of my account and couldn’t work it out ) hope you’re keeping safe and well xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.
      I guess as we are so limited by the Lockdown, that I’m having to find lots of useful personal insights rather than deal with the broader photo type subjects.
      Also I’m knee deep in studying some of the more esoteric angles of the ancient Chinese philosophy behind the Tai Chi practice that some of it makes its way into the blog.
      Flickr has a mind of its own it seems.
      Open a new account, take a deep breath and post again. The community can be very encouraging.


  2. An interesting down to earth sharing David, making this Mindfulness thing more relevant from a birding aspect. I like the idea of what you are doing, as it is also having the advantage of maintaining cognitive exercise. Likewise my own approach on the website pages is to use Mindfulness practical to birding, but I use it personally at a deeper level from a spiritual perspective, as the many wise through the ages have done. I liked the way you integrated St John’s quote into the awareness, and how that awareness was not just a fruitless perception, but that it gave hope to him, having a helpful practical outcome, as you shared about studying the bird behaviour which is a mindful progression we have both grown to do in our years of birding. Like all skills, as you shared, it is only by continual practice and adherence that we grow in it and develop it. This lock-down is not helping either of us much at this time, but glad that your early morning walk is giving you a renewed expansion of interest and perception.Stay safe my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Ashley, the Lockdown is challenging. My early morning walk is pretty important to me healthwise at the moment, and my little Beautiful spot has given me a new challenge as I’m doing much of my first for the day Tai Chi practice there just before sunup. It drizzled on me most of the time today but I rather enjoyed the sting of the rain on my face. Like the birds I’ve realised you get wet, then…. you dry off. 🙂
      The St J quote of ‘They just gaze with that knowing understanding” was the highlight and when I saw it the blog wrote itself.

      I am knee deep in study of the ancient Chinese Philosophy behind Tai Chi As the experts say its not a religious thing, so I’m not in conflict with other beliefs. But it is giving me an insight into a fascinating culture that I can barely grasp. I guess it will flow into the blog as I wrestle the elements together.

      Stay safe, Remain

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful to read your thoughts, David. Awareness is something that needs to be consciously practised. Yes as begin our journey in photography we do find we notice things that we weren’t previously aware of and we need to pick up on that and expand our awareness. This was brought home to me yesterday when thinking about what to post to Flickr and not wanting to raid the archives yet again. So chair and camera in hand I ventured onto the balcony in the sunshine and it took me some time to be ‘re-tuned’. At first it felt like there was nothing to photograph, but then I became aware of many creatures around me. Alas the Little Eagle didn’t choose to come this way yesterday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks David,
      Trying hard now to find subjects that have some mutual value. I don’t want to deteriorate into some internet guru with idea that aren’t practical.
      Good to be able to sit about and soak up the visual excitement of a ‘known’ place. Surprising what a fresh look often reveals.
      I think that’s why i’ve taken to a review of the morning’s walk. Not so much as a what I saw, but what was there to experience in a new way.

      Hope Di is doing well, and that you are looking after the carer.



  4. G’day David. Today I am approaching your blog in a very systematic way, simply to avoid yet another disappearance of my comments. I’ve logged in, I’ve clicked on “Following” and I’ve given you a ‘Like’. Naturally, I’ve read your post first and it made me feel a bit better not only generally, but also in particular about my comment that had disappeared from your post #149. Now I know that it was just a sheet of paper and a brain-dump of all I could think while reading your words. Maybe I had written too much on that piece of paper and it got lost for a good reason. Definitely it was another awareness exercise I needed. Thanks for allowing my thoughts wander, while wondering about yours and admiring your photographs.
    The good weather is approaching and I know I’ll use this spring, despite all the restrictions (in or out of place), doing what I like best, as it was once put to me by some photographer, collector of species, after a long conversation: Oh, so you just like photographing birds!
    “A Rabbit Noticed My Condition” is a fine piece of poetry. I’ll be waiting for your next post. Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Adam,
      Thanks for your insights. Always glad to see how a ‘kindred spirit’ sees the world around.
      I don’t understand how things disappear in WordPress. I was locked out the other day, and when I did get back and typed they had changed the colour to white on white and I couldn’t see what I’d written.
      No such thing as “Just”. I am over people and their putdowns.
      I’d not had much exposure to St J and intend to look at some of his other work as time allows.

      Talk more,

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I do like the idea of consciously noticing everything you see – we can so often not be really aware of what is around us if we just busily go from A to B. I had never come across that poem (obviously a modern translation) and am interested to read more of St John of the Cross.

    A lovely shot of the Fairy Martin, warmed by the morning sun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Eleanor, I find him a most enigmatic figure. I think that the bulk of his work was at a fairly high esoteric plane that suited the then current theologies and order of the times.
      I mostly come across him when someone else is quoting him for emphasis.
      Being locked up and beaten publicly every week didn’t seem to deter his active mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi David, I’ve been a follower of your blog for quite some time but this is my first comment. My reason for posting is a connection between your post on mindfulness and the book I’m currently reading. Here are two quotes from ‘The Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes for a Contemplative Ecology’ by Douglas Christie.

    To be able to say: “Don’t let me leave before my eyes become sensitive and responsive to the life unfolding around me. Don’t let me leave before the life of this particular place that I now inhabit begins to enter into and take hold of me body and soul. Don’t let us leave before the luminous world becomes woven into the centre of our consciousness, our concerns.”

    the long, patient attention to the world is a meaningful and significant form of contemplative practice, and our capacity to deepen and sustain such practice may well prove crucial to the work of tending to and helping repair the world.

    May you know more of the luminous world David


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mark,
      Glad you dropped by, and that you were able to add a little insight for us.
      My excursus with Mindfulness is both an extension of my Tai Chi QiGong practice as one of the skills I’m working on is an awareness of the way the forms affect my body.
      It is also because of a long running building of awareness of birds and their behaviour. As Jon Young points out in “What the Robin Knows”, “We are are only borrowing the old ideas that have been developed and studied by native hunter-gathers all over the world, who needed this knowledge and acquired it to the extent that their responses became almost intuitive”. (page xxi)

      Being locked out of the bush at the moment has given me a chance to formalise in my study and in my outlook many of the things that I’ve been trying to internalise over the years.

      Being sensitive and responsive requires not just a nodding agreement to the principles, its an immersion I think.

      Appreciate your comment. Always good to have more to think about and research.

      Stay Safe


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