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…
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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.]

Walking meditation

one zero
one zero one
zero one two
one two

left right
left right left
right true false true false true false
true false
yes no

four five six seven eight
one two three four five six seven eight
one two three four five six no
no eight no nine

one zero
one zero
in out
in out


(Instructions: two legs walk stepping out a pace, attach a body, then a head, eyes, ears, consciousness – float forward in space. Landing is difficult.)


Near a small brook in Wiltshire, an oak grows adjacent to the path leading upwards through fields of wheat in summer to the West Kennett Long Barrow. Hanging from its branches druids tie ribbons in thanks for good fortune or to celebrate a blessing.

Climbing the hill I fell into a reverie recalling a favourite oak that I would climb which grew in a local park near the playground as a child. It was shady in summer, and bare in winter, after losing its leaves and acorns in autumn. How I loved to fill my pockets with the acorns as a boy, and, even as a teenager collect them on my way to school to carve tiny faces in them with my pen knife. One day I discovered that nails had been driven into the playground oak to make it easier to climb. I recollect feeling wounded for the tree, and saddened by the harm inflicted into its bark.

On reaching the barrow, I returned from these reminisces to enter the ancient tomb. Inside flowers had been left and a few coins by druidic visitors. As you do, and hoping it would not be found, I left a coin on a high shelf in a dark corner in thanks for the blessings of being alive, having a wonderful partner and children, visiting the long barrow and neolithic henges, and for the wonder of oak trees and acorns.

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Tomb entrance – West Kennet Long Barrow
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Material concerns – Avebury Henge
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Freak out – Stonehenge

All photographs taken using a Holga PC 120 on Ektar 100 film.


Llena eres de gracia

You are full of grace…

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Llena eres de gracia

The street has its own message. Sometimes the shadowy silences hidden in alleyways and alcoves is punctuated by the voice of art. Elsewhere the bustle of crowds, and sounds of the city are erased by a message left on a wall from an often anonymous artist, that briefly brings moments of hope, joy, whimsy or insight, delivering us from our angst.

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Waiting to arise
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Between the shutters
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I wonder if the crowds queuing in Barcelona’s old city to enter the museums of famous artists such as Picasso view the messages gracing the streets with appreciative eyes. Visitors rush from one museum to another, hustle through the markets, or ramble down the famous boulevards with their hawkers, yet in the Ciutat Vella I felt myself slowly surrendering to its embrace.

In other hours, I reminisce now from afar of the homeless men who would greet me as I walked past Sant Pere de les Puelles with their dog lying on the steps of the basilica, the toy maker sitting on the curb, the art class quietly painting in the

Glancing at the pavement, covers for the water mains have their own artistry, as do the embellishments of door knockers, street lamps, water troughs, and the reminder of workers on a cathedral door.

A city is more than its landmarks. It is its people. It is the quiet dignity that graces the street in unconditional love through the celebration of art. Each world has its own eternity to be graffitoed breaking down the walls that bound us, liberate, and remind us we are filled with grace.

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Llenas eres de gracia – you are full of grace.