Mourning comes

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Morning comes on the Ganges mirroring burnished copper and glistening gold across its broad reaches at Varanasi. Birds swirl across the waters, practiced, ready for devotees making puja by throwing crumbs into the river for them. Others make their morning worship, by bathing in the holy stream, lighting a candle or meditating with the dawn in their niches.

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On the river, boatmen make their way, mostly rowing tourists along the ghats passing temples, historic forts, and guest houses where pilgrims come to stay, and sometimes die before being cremated alongside the Ganges. Funeral pyres burn night and day at the Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghats filling the air with smoke. Large wood piles are stacked by the shore. Pallbearers and mourners carry the corpses of their loved ones wrapped in white cloth to the ghat, placing it on a bier ready for the flames in the belief that when the dead are cremated here, the soul of the departed finds salvation or moksha.

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Nearby I notice a lone, pale skinned Caucasian women with dark braided orange hair, dressed in a black dress and matching cape, being rowed along the river. On reaching the Harishchandra Ghat she unbraided her hair, brushed her long locks so it flowed over her cape and clothes, and then directed the boatmen to row close to the shore and funeral pyre.

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One person’s salvation is perhaps another’s liberation, so the cremations on the ghat became the backdrop for the selfies she directed the oarsmen to take of her. I wondered whether she styled herself as a Beat poet, spiritualist, or witch. Would she be eternally memorialised by these images on the web? It was a scene macabre, and one could not but think of Lady Macbeth. On the shore, bereaved mourners and holy men saw her and started to shout at them to move on.  Nothing to see there but the profane and its death.

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Mourning comes to the Ganges…

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All photos taken on Velvia 100 with a Mamiya 6.

Drip drip drip

Drip drip drip,
My face bears the lines of forbearance
Grooves worn deep carrying
Enmity away into cool waters:
You are my blood, but no more.
By the sea at Abrahams Bosom
There is no celestial choir, just the lapping of waves.
It is enough…
January 2018 MermaidInlet 045F1 Shanghai100 Xtol(1.3)+R09(1.200) 2
Deep dark alcove – Mermaid Inlet, Abrahams Bosom Reserve.

Photo taken with a Chamonix 045F1 View Camera, using a Nikkor-SW 90mm f/8 lens, on Shanghai 100 film, and developed in a mix of Xtol and Rodinal.


A reflection on reverence for life

The heart
Is touched by love
Both knowing and unknowing, and neither knowing nor unknowing,
Each beat is felt on the shore of life.

The heart is not empty
Nor is it vacant, unoccupied, loveless, or a lifeless form,
But each flutter flows leaving a palimpsest of moments
Left behind, like fear, anger and desire, when compassion takes us to the other shore.

[Instructions for contemplation: Santideva observed “How can there be real existence in something factitious like a reflection, which is only seen in conjunction with something else and not seen in its absence?”

May you shine with diamond exploding radiance,
May your heart be open beneath a clear blue sky.]