Monday, 24 April 2023

London Trip

DC and I have just returned from a week in London. It was a week of culture and rest. We saw some physical theatre, two plays, four exhibitions, a country residence and a converted power station and attended a concert. Each one was illuminating and well worth the effort to visit and on more than one occasion I was prompted to write a blog post. So, here I'll try to remember the thoughts and feelings and write them down.

Friday:

The place - Pain and I by Sarah Hopfinger

DC enjoyed this physical theatre exploring the landscape of pain but I found it thin, unimaginative, repetitive and dull. Performing naked Hopfinger attempted to explore the multidimensional landscape of pain but for me she barely seemed to point in the direction of the field let alone explore its realms. I could write paragraphs on this subject exploring my own limitations to hold pain as just pain without letting it become suffering and muse at the wonder of sentient beings trying to make their way in this world but I'll leaving it there. Suffice to say that for me Hopfinger failed to build a bridge over the seas of amorphous, shifting, modulating, vibrating, heavy, light, pressure, heat, cold, subtle, gross, and on and on... coming and going presentation of pain to being and the creative pulse. But since others seemed to like the performance it begged the question - was I missing something?

Saturday:

The Courtauld Institute- Peter Doig, C├ęzanne, Gauguin, Manet, Monet, Pissarro and Van Gogh

The presentation of works in this exhibition was quite something to take in. Doig's work isn't particularly to my taste but the juxtaposition of the works brought seeing in to focus. This visit was the start of an unplanned journey through impressionism and we found ourselves looking at seemingly countless great and famous works. Definitely some 'dudes' there! And it would be on Thursday that further resonance would come through as we visited the Berthe Morisot exhibition. A feeling of quiet digestion must have been with me as we became exhausted with looking and moved back towards the fresh air. But not before a quick look at some works from the Bloomsbury Group... ah, the feeling of people looking at the world with serious eyes and asking very pertinent questions.

Sunday:

The Design Museum -Ai-Weiwei-making-sense - I might sum this exhibition up as impressionism with Lego and the scale of human making and destruction. A fascinating collection of the artist's work. His Lego version of Monet's Water Lilies really demonstrates the power of the optical effects the pointillists were using - you can see the colours interacting to make each other vibrant. Sobering are his pictures of the destruction of village homes to make way for skyscraper city blocks in a fast developing China. Development driven by an autocratic government which will tolerate no dissent. And other of Weiwei's works comprising a vast number of Sung dynasty ceramics also brought strongly in to focus for me the shear extent of human production - changing the earth's resources into things we then throw away... frightening... At the entrance to the exhibition was the ideogram for Wu Wei - effortless action. This 'concept' points to harmony, doing just what life is asking of us as it is asked without pushing, grasping or trying too hard yet not shirking from what is needed. I could write much about how I've tried to bring this to my 'off the cushion' meditation in daily life and both failed and risen to the 'challenge' but that's a whole other post! 

Streamed a movie in the evening - Master Cheng (2019 movie)

I enjoyed this gentle film and it resonated softly with thoughts floating through my mind about how I'd like to be living. DC wasn't particularly impressed with the film and thought it 'weak'. True it isn't a great work of cinematic art but it has a warmth. Sometimes, it isn't the great, inspired, talented artist who reminds us of ourselves, it's just a nice simple feel good film. Although I admit in our case that's not going to be a Hollywood production.

Monday:

Eltham Palace - The Courtauld's 'country' residence. We both loved this house. I think it's a skilful blend of different architectural language from very different times and the feeling in the Art Deco interiors is modern, dynamic, forward looking and alive. It's a house clearly designed for entertaining and I recognised that although I loved it as a public space I'd find it challenging as a home. Apparently in practice, once the times changed and keeping staff in service became impossible the Courtauld's found it impractical. The house was designed for pre-war society and the ethos of the Art Deco movement - modernism and luxury was to take hold not just of the rich but of the aspirations of the general population post-war. A land fit for heroes had been promised after the first world war, after the second it remained a promise to be fulfilled but this time things would be different... And so the 1930s are an interesting time to consider and a period that would return for consideration in our visiting on Wednesday at Battersea Power Station...

Tuesday:

Welcome Collection - Milk

We both found this a problematic exhibition. Whilst there can be no doubt that milk production comes with a lot of environmental, animal welfare and ethical issues this exhibition presented a distorted view of the story of milk production and consumption. Mixing issues of racism and clearly aimed at trying to move the Wellcome Collection away from its arguably paternalistic, white, western history and thus address colonialism in some way, the curation is biased, fails to recognise the genuine issues of cross cultural poverty and hunger and the valuable contribution of milk in our diet and the wider landscape. It is an unskilled, hectoring and clumsy narrative presenting a picture of milk consumption as driven by unscrupulous parties with no genuine aspiration to help feed a historically malnourished demographic. Much work is required to address the environmental and cultural issues around food production in this now all too clear crisis we face. This exhibit fails. Explaining why, as DC said as we discussed our response to the exhibit, would require a whole essay.

Park Theatre - Snowflakes

Strong, tense script and performances. Pertinent in these times of populism and social media. I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this play and was concerned that it might be too violent and dystopian. But it was well worth the effort to go see it. A reminder that truth, justice and civilised society require consideration of complex issues in a collectively recognised, challengeable, compassionate and accountable system open to all parties. A reminder to value ensuring the law meets our needs for justice.

Wednesday:

Battersea Power Station - Lift 109 and the halls converted to a shopping mall

Stepping into the 1930's turbine hall and boiler house with their Art Deco ceramic tiles I was almost immediately moved to the edge of tears. And it is this which was my main muse for this post. Here we see celebration in the decoration and form of the building. The enormity of designing, constructing and operating a power plant on a scale capable of providing 243MW of electric power which would be transformative in making viable a standardised, national electrical infrastructure was clearly embraced. The station was design to be built in two phases with the second phase expanding capacity to a total of 400MW. The largest of the generators were the largest in Europe at the time. Government had in the 1920s realised that multiple small scale power plants operating for specific loads all at different voltages and frequencies could not support the national electrical infrastructure that it was becoming apparent would be required. A major investment in the future was required. What is celebrated is this investment. And it is moving. Whilst the intervening decades have obviously seen terrific strides in power engineering the step change that stations like Battersea represent remains impressive and the faith in human ingenuity, effort and attainment is (for those that appreciate what they are looking at when they see those Art Deco tiles) a powerful reminder of a major component of our nature. As someone who has studied power engineering and has insight into the scale of the energy that is being harnessed, its capability to do not only useful work but catastrophic damage, the complexities involved and the sheer human effort required I could hardly not be moved. And so it was fitting that the interior of this an industrial building, should have been decorated as celebration.

We wandered around and tried to get a sense of what had been achieved in converting the abandoned building in to what it now is. Passing through the more prosaic phase 2, 1950's parts of the building I noticed a 66kV 1950's switch. A considerable piece of engineering. Sat on a low plinth and isolated from any real context it stood there as a reminder for anyone who knew something of what they were looking at, of the powerful forces which were once marshalled in these halls. A small plate gave a very brief description. Most folk would, I guessed be left not much the wiser. Wandering back through the 1930's areas towards lift 109 - a lift installed in one of the reconstructed chimneys - all the while filtering out the shopping mall which now fills the spaces, I tried to get a sense of what had been where and what we now were looking at. There are some enormous structural columns and I was trying to look through the complex of original and new steel and masonry to determine the scale of the works to bring this building back to life. Sadly the very limited presentation of the site's history isn't particularly illuminating and I noticed that I was starting to feel that the whole place had a slightly... what was it...? We got to the entry to lift 109. I noticed a large light fitting made to resemble turbine blades. It quickly became apparent that this was going to be a missed opportunity to revisit the original celebration. The entry to the lift is through a naff sound and light show, the glass lift rises through the chimney and emerges into the London sky. There is at this point something of the wow factor at standing in a glass dome which has popped out of the top of a chimney and looking out at the vista. Time up there is short though. Too short, and before one can really take in the skyline and the development below which Battersea has become, the lift descends and you are discharged back to the mall. DC and I both felt insulted and I felt there was insult to the original designers, constructors and operators and to the designers and constructors of the redevelopment. A tawdry money extraction system has replaced was once was celebrated as some of the best of what humans can do.

Exiting the mall and looking out over the development it is clear that a skilled team have saved the building and the contemporary architectural input and engineering is to be given credit. Given the number of failed attempts to develop the site it is important to recognise what has been achieved. It is just a shame that some of the space, and there is plenty space, has not been utilised to educate and celebrate as would be fitting of any great work.

One of the other threads running through my mind during the visit was that of my father's part in the construction of power plants in the 1970's and 1980's. He was a fitter at Parsons' Heaton works. CA Parsons invented and produced steam turbines which drove ships and then electricity generating plant. His works at Heaton produced turbines and generators which were installed in power stations across the country. Dad worked fitting the large rings on to the shaft of the turbine. These rings held the shaft and the blades and were fitted by heating them so they would expand. Woodruff keys were inserted to hold the rings in place against rotation. This is precision engineering on a large scale. Dad's in his 80s now and is increasingly becoming frail. The works at Heaton are now long gone and where the UK once led the way (as in so much of engineering) we are now beholden to overseas companies. The celebration so evident at Eltham and in phase one of Battersea has been swept away by crass consumerism so many times in so many places in the UK over the last forty-odd years. The decline of UK heavy engineering is a complex and difficult picture and one open to numerous interpretations. Here in London, standing on the site of a former world leading power plant, looking at the redevelopment with its green roofs, wondering about the engineering services supporting the new buildings and what activities are taking place within the spaces, considering the shifts we must make to more sustainable energy systems and looking at the ever growing skyline supported by London's financial services sector one sees quite clearly the vastly different impact those forty-odd years have had. Here there is money, likely as not a lot of it being laundered, elsewhere in the UK there is devastation. And within communities in London there is devastation too. One can't but wonder where we are going...


Barbican - LSO, Half Six Fix - John Adams, Harmonielehre.

In the evening we attended the above concert. It was to be conducted by Sir Simon Rattle but he was recovering from Covid and so Jonathan Stockhammer stood in. He gave an introduction to the piece and then conducted the full three movements. It was thoroughly enjoyable and a great antidote to the mix of feelings which the Lift 109 experience provoked.


Thursday:

Dulwich Picture Gallery - Berthe Morisot (and a quick look at some of the Dutch masters)

This exhibition reconnected us with the impressionist theme of our trip. It was well curated and the juxtaposition of Moisot's work with that which had inspired her was informative. Emerging from the exhibition into galleries displaying works from the Dutch masters was also illuminating. I'd lingered in the early parts of the Morisot exhibition and by the time I reached the end of the exhibition I'd run out of capacity. Emerging into a different style of painting and specifically to the bright depiction of light and its illumination of objects refreshed my capacity.

Park Theatre - Animal

A play about a 25 year old gay man with cerebral palsy navigating sex and relationships. A well observed, funny and heart warming play which the audience thoroughly enjoyed. Plenty of lines which gay men will appreciate and an accurate and amusing depiction of gay hook-up app encounters! We emerged from this play with a sense of the vibrancy and dynamism that life is all about. 

And somewhere amongst all that, eating in, eating out, travelling by foot, bus, tube & train and sorting wifi heating controls where we were staying DC and I compared our responses to what we we'd experienced and mused on how the London skyline keeps changing and getting higher. It was a week of culture and some much needed rest.

 


Wednesday, 11 January 2023

For John

 On Sunday DC and I did our usual walk on the Beach, had tea in a teashop then headed off to Movement Medicine Dancing before returning home for dinner. Various anxieties were in my mind but they were fused with feelings provoked by the short hours of daylight; the winter darkness seemed to evoke both negative and positive emotions. On the one hand the short days are gloomy with all that entails yet on the other the darkness seemed to wrap around one in a soothing soporific blanket saying 'hush now, take it easy, all in good time, this is a time to wait, an inward time'.  And so it was that the sun was replaced by the moon and stars and I found my self thinking something along the lines of 'why can I not be more relaxed and see life as a playful dance?' A similar theme was I think in my mind on Saturday and I felt the inklings of a blog post inspired by the feeling or thought that it's because it's all so important that one can become so despondent. There speaks a perfectionist I suppose. I had planned to explore this mixture of... well as I say I'd planned to explore it. But this morning I got the news that our friend John Kennedy had passed away peacefully at 6am. John had been in hospice in the later stages of motor neuron disease and DC and I last saw him just before Christmas. He seemed as ever, in amazingly good spirits and DC and I had commented to each other how positive John was and how his basic warmth and generosity still shone through despite his physical condition. Wanting to write a post to celebrate John I logged on and saw the note I'd made Saturday as an aide memoire - it's because it's all so important that one can become so despondent. I can hear John saying 'ah yes, I quite agree...' whilst maintaining his positive and generous demeanour and asking if we'd like a drink! Before his health failed John would make the most fantastic kedgeree and I have fond memories of the four of us - John, his wife Ann, DC and myself sat at Ann and John's kitchen table talking politics, life, people, you name it and enjoying good food, drink and the company. And it was all so important and we all did sometimes feel despondency creeping up but we'd generate between us warmth and good cheer and there was gratitude. And that I think is a fitting celebration of John - that he would generate warmth and good cheer and gratitude. Bless you and thank you John; you knew that all sorts of things are important and you cared, saw the difficulties and generated warmth. Even in the middle of your own poor health you still cared and generated warmth. Thank you.


Sunday, 11 December 2022

Waves and Stars

I am ready to admit that I am not going to 'make it' as a mystic. Yes there have been perhaps glimpses but basically I'm not given to it. Whilst it can't ever be ruled out, I've 'looked in to' my disposition for long enough and from various 'angles' and attempted to neither 'look' nor not 'look' in to what 'angles' arise and I see my koan arising time and again and it becomes apparent, or so it seems, that I'm really held so tightly by the koan that the jewel of direct appreciation is likely to remain for me a distant star by which I might at best steer but whose warmth is too distant to feel. I think it's fair to say I've not chased such 'warmth' in any event but I've tried to live in such a way that there might be the possibility... And this was because without doing so... without the star, there would be the darkness, however bright the lights of the everyday, there would be revealing them the darkness and the awful fear that one day it would cloud in so close and dense that the lights would only serve to illuminate it rather than each other. And I say ready to admit because as the image of the star grows so dim and the realisation that the fear arguably at the root of the koan is likely part of the landscape of experience for life then meaning and acceptance become as ever, the koan. Which is a roundabout way of saying that, that what? Indeed! And so I continue to put one foot in front of the other, observe the koan, struggle with the practicalities of the current situation and know that whilst there is inflection in my relationship with dharma there remains that star both distant and right here. The living dharma isn't negated or otherwise by an individual experience mystical or otherwise. 

Yesterday walking through the dunes (the tide was high and the beach impassable in places) back towards Warkworth DC and I conversed infrequently, rather we enjoyed the stunning vistas. Our walk was slightly longer in distance and time than typically it would have been due to the circuitous route up and down dunes trying to stay close to the sea yet out of its waves. It was frosty and in places slippery. However, at one point we came back to a familiar subject - consciousness. In different ways and with different language we converged around the question - are the physicalists right, is consciousness a product of complex physical structures and that's it OR is matter something that comes out of consciousness? Chickens and eggs? Well, actually the question was a bit more nuanced and the discourse somewhat more dendritic but I've not the impetus right now to go into the detail. Suffice to say we were of a mind on the unknowable nature of all this.

Just what is our true nature? It would be easy to write here something relatively smooth and affirmative, something pointing to that distant star which is right here and now. In truth, the question hangs and the thoughts and feelings are mixed and muddy. DC and I are fortunate, right now there is much strife and pain in the world yet we are relatively protected. There are some difficult problems with which we must interact and find ways of meeting and moving forward. Some of those have triggered past trauma and that is very challenging to sit with, find the way to place each foot and live each day. And so the ways we are fortunate and the ways I am dealing with trauma blend in a complex way and it is far from easy.

Sometimes the dharma is clear and there is joy. These are the times of peace and equanimity and wisdom seems simple. Sometimes the challenges are great, one is overwhelmed, it's difficult to find firm ground and wisdom seems elusive or at least one struggles to be settled by it. If one truly knew such times would end soon and all would be well we might better be able to steady ourselves in the storm, or possibly not.

I look forward to Christmas in the Scottish highlands with friends. Although the Findhorn Foundation has all but gone there remain embers and maybe one day something may rise phoenix like. Some of my friends there sit in the post covid flux and try to respond as best they can with a willingness to serve. For my own part, whilst I'd not seen myself returning to live in the community it's been saddening to witness its demise. The FF was a gateway for me and we served each other with a depth not necessarily apparent and I do feel it to have been my spiritual home. At times the 'floopyness' would infuriate me but more often times it was only holding a mirror to my inability to relax, trust and be confident that good enough was good enough. Riding the waves and trusting isn't something I find any easier as the decades pass, or maybe I do... Sometimes the waves engulf me but I've not forgot the stars. And beside me is DC who always keeps an eye on them.

Monday, 10 October 2022

Rob Fisher

 I think I first met Rob in Cluny lounge in 2011. He had returned to the Findhorn Foundation after a number of years away and hoped to join Cluny maintenance department. As things worked out what was on offer was to focalise the department and joining without focalising wasn't an option. I recall him saying it wasn't what he wanted, he just wanted to work without having to be responsible for running things. We must have got chatting and he must have told me something of his time in Cluny maintenance in the past. And so I ventured that well, it seemed that as he didn't want to leave he'd no choice really but to stay and focalise. And he agreed, and that was that. I had come to back Cluny for personal reasons (as everyone does) and to help get fire safety works completed. A project I'd work closely with India Brown to plan and procure and Rob would eventually liaise with during the installation phase when various fire compartments would be formed by the addition of fire doors. Rob and I would work separately and together on various Cluny projects over about three years, we share thoughts, food, work time and free time. It was a time of rubbing along. Things with Rob were generally factual or funny but rarely about feelings. In a place which could be swamped with people having this or that 'process' and unpacking and likely as not repacking their feelings he was generally 'process' free. Not long after I left Cluny Rob left and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He passed away on the 5th October 2022. My memory of Rob is that of a warm and gentle man, who although he could sometimes seem a little lost was content without too much and who I never heard say an unkind word. He was a Mr gadget, a boy scout, he had no idea how to cook, he struggled with the Cluny vegetarian diet due to various food intolerances, seemed not in the least bit a romantic but was at heart looking for the warmth of relationship. His previous relationship of some years had broken down but it seemed to me to have been a long one and he'd experienced something of the unfolding of a shared life. He's remembered fondly by a number of people and I think it fitting to remember him by the photo and my blog post from back in 2012 copied below. Please follow the link and think of him.



An Autumn Day - republished for Rob Fisher


The merit of this post is for Rob Fisher. He came to my mind with the memory of the above post (and with that of Richard Adams, former Cluny resident, now also passed away) on the day of his passing.

Bless you Rob.

And Bless you Richard.




  

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

'76

 It is a beautiful day today; a clear blue sky, barely a breeze, the air warm and soft. Some memory of the summer of '76 seems to float through my mind. Six weeks of summer holiday from school, day after day of hot sunny weather, the burn at the bottom of our street still flowing but presumably more navigable by kids in wellies. We lived in wellies; up in the mornings and out to play, back only when hungry or called in because it was time to eat or time for bed, all day making dens, damming the burn, flicking green slime weed off the end of sticks on to the bridge over the burn, fishing with nets on bamboo canes for sticklebacks and putting them back. We had rings on our legs where the wellie tops would rub. I recall a steel washing line post in the lane at the back of the terrace of Tyneside flats where we lived. Unpainted, rust pitted and weathered by the elements and use to a semi-silk finish, the polished rust flowing on to the slopping concrete apron in which the post was set... Hot concrete, hot metal, hot lethargic minutes which seemed like hours and hours. And now it's forty-six years on. Other childhood days down the dene and in or on the edge of the burn now a memory. I recall playing with the idea of making a water-wheel to drive my bike dynamo in the burn. I badgered dad - could he not bring me from work a little wheel with some paddles set in it and an axel and a way of attaching to the dynamo splines? I knew he worked in a factory that made turbines for power stations. Surely if they could do that they could make me what I Neeeded. He did bring a wheel of sorts and a shaft of sorts, obviously not what was required but it didn't matter; there was something to try in the water. Although likely disappointed at the lack of suitable resource for the endeavour I must have learned a lot about the difficulties involved. Small steps to the future engineer. Much has unfolded in the intervening years. Time collapses like the remnants of a bubble when memories come like this and the unfolding of one moment in to the next that is life seems to be as much a dream as anything... Concepts such as 'my mind', past, present, self etc. seem to be in some way exposed and questioned, a faint sense of something, some no-thing emerges. Out of nothing or no-thing, emerges everything.

Monday, 1 August 2022

Addendum

 I had planned to include the following image in my last post but forgot.


The picture is of the National Theatre, South bank, London. I very much like this building and find the architecture uplifting. I took the picture with the intention to write the previous post in mind and wanted to include a reference to the building. I wanted to point to the spirituality inherent in a work which illuminates our nature and that of the materials and forms around us. The spirituality in beauty. And there is beauty in this building. 


Saturday, 30 July 2022

Travels in the South of France

DC and I have just returned from a holiday in the South of France. We had tried to rearrange this once it became apparent that we'd be in the middle of a heat wave (now accepted as the reality of climate change) but it proved not possible to do so. In practice our accommodation was able to keep the temperatures reasonable by airing in the morning and closing up the windows and shutters through the hottest part of the day. Transport (by trains and hire car) was air conditioned and we gradually adapted to the heat by staying in the cooler indoor spaces during the hottest parts of the day and giving our bodies a chance to acclimatise. Travel was affected by various delays and we ended up spending an unplanned night in Paris travelling both Southwards and back North again.

In the Ardeche we stayed first with our friends at their place near Le Teil then at The Lotus Tree a gay guesthouse we'd last visited almost twenty years ago. It was delightful to see our friends Nick and Kalyani again and to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the place they've worked hard to create. Nick is one of a limited number of people I know who I feel understands me deeply and I miss having him geographically close. DC and I participated in a tea ceremony with some other guests held by Nick and as ever he brough the practice to life and for me at least dharma shone through as the water was heated, tea and bowls were prepared, placed, turned and offered. Wisps and turns of vapour rose from the kettle spout and vanished in the air. The beautiful shape, colour and fine matt texture of the bows and kettles evoked in me that indescribable glimpse of I know not what yet know it deeply... the tea preparation and pouring bringing them to life and illuminating the space in which they and I existed as the ever present moment. I love the aesthetics of the paraphernalia of tea ceremony and would take the environs of any retreat venue off in that direction but I know it's not for everyone and Nick and Kalyani have their own tastes and need keep an eye on that to which a broad spectrum of guests are drawn; I let the attraction arise and pass in me, recalled at some point Nick's comment years ago that I was looking for something very pure and inhaled the aroma of the tea. Outside it was hot. There were other opportunities to share time with Nick and I noticed that I didn't have a whole lot of words to share but rather just needed to 'land'. Time for that process can't be rushed and so in practice turned out to be short. Hopefully we can all connect more by Zoom or WhatsApp in future.

Nick and Kalyani have a young dog. He's a trained truffle hunting dog and will work in the season to find the precious fungi and I'm sure he will love that. He was full of play and as he looked at me and I at him I thought he had a dragon face and so I would play with him and call him dragon face. He teased me as much as I teased him when we played at throwing and fetching. Bless him. He's a kindly dragon me thinks. How wonderous this seeing each other even though we're not the same species. Those comments made years ago in conversation when Nick referred to the search for something very pure were made in response to comments of my own about an engaged 'spirituality' out in the world and as authentic as possible. But it isn't so much a search as just putting one foot in front of the other as the clouds pass. Attraction to or interest in something - that deeper 'helpful' aspect of desire provides a 'natural' steer.


Our relocation for the last three nights in the Ardeche to The Lotus Tree - named not after any allusions to any kind of spirituality but rather and quite simply after the two Lotus trees at the entrance to the property brought a change in culture. When we last visited times were different and so were we. Whereas in the past it felt important to have gay venues such as this it now seemed not only far less important but slightly isolating to me. It did however, illuminate the way in which I'd felt at home in our previous location. As ever moving between cultures revealed our made-ness and DC indicated he felt the same - his gentle warmth as ever imparting a positive appreciation of the extents of our travels in more ways than one.

As we'd visited the Ardeche before we'd 'done' the 'must go see' and felt at liberty to stay put. In the heat this was in any event the only sensible approach. However, we did get out to visit a couple of caves whilst staying at each venue. We knew they were cool and thus a perfect outing. We were both impressed by these and felt the sublime in the size and timescales of their formation. Geology, if you stop and really take it in shows how tiny our everyday lives are. BUT, our seeing this is something truly vast. In all the billions of stars in the vast vast universe there is the Sun and in its orbit is Earth and on Earth in a tiny moment of what we have come to call time has arisen LIFE! And yet there is more! Humans are part of this life and they have the capacity to reflect upon and appreciate that which they see, that which they are. Like the cosmos, geology evokes wonder in us. Exploring the earth or exploring the sky we come face to face with the sublime and our capacity to appreciate it. And we are not separate from this and so we are moved. And so it was that in the second cave we visited I stood contemplating the vast timescale of the making of the vista before me (huge stalagmites which take thousands of years to grow millimetres, in caverns which took thousands of years to form as seas formed and dried...) and my own arising to be there taking this in and was moved not only by the beauty of the vista but also by the awakening of stardust in conscious human life. One can only blink in amazement at that. I stood and let it sit in me, me in it... drips of water landed on the top of a stalagmite and exploded into myriad smaller droplets and were gone. The cave as patient as the air that held the wisps of water vapour from the tea kettle. I knew it again deeply although it eluded me. Photos below from the two caves. Click on them and look closely and note the majesty.





























In the above photo an urn can be seen - this holds the ashes of the cave explorer who first ventured into this network of caves.




A manakin suspended to indicate the first people who descended into the cave.


Our return journey was delayed such that we had time to spend late afternoon and evening in Paris. We decided to visit Notre-Dame and I was struck by the efforts to build and now after the fire rebuild it once more. Again I found myself moved, in part by the sublime but more by the very best in what we humans can be, in our ingenuity and capacity to care, to love. Once more little Ox footprints...


A crane and scaffold erected - springing up out of our determination to create.


Storyboard showing workers inside the fire damaged cathedral - they wear breathing apparatus to protect themselves from the lead. The restoration will be so complex...

Moments in our trip seemed  to hold out for me those glimpses of our deeper nature, our 'spiritual' roots but maybe I was simply 'wearing those goggles' time to time.