Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Skye's Evanescent Moods

"The light of memory, or rather the light that memory lends to things, is the palest light of all. I am not quite sure whether I am dreaming or remembering, whether I have lived my life or dreamed it. Just as dreams do, memory makes me profoundly aware of the unreality, the evanescence of the world, a fleeting image in the moving water."

(1909 - 1994)

Sometimes the most revealing shots of all - that record otherwise invisible rhythms of light and mood - are the simplest, requiring the least effort. As I've already written about in previous blog entries, Skye's one constant is its evanescence. One minute, one is enveloped in a cool mist, or is pummeled hard by cold rain; a minute passes, and rays of bright sun light up a valley that was all but invisible an instant ago; another minute passes, and the clouds magically transform into a symphony of light and shadow and - inexplicably - wondrous color that seems to simultaneously come from nowhere and infuse everything (the act that so transfixed and inspired the abstract artist Jon Schueler); then, suddenly, a mysterious, imperceptibly soft, wind, stirs away the magic, and renders Skye's secrets invisible once more, leaving only the soft "moooos" and "baaaahs" of the omnipresent cows and sheep in place to remind one that Skye's evanescence is fundamentally defined by an endless - irreducibly complex - play between the real and the surreal; with neither giving up its secrets easily.

The image at the top of this blog entry contains a short sequence of the same photograph, captured from the same spot (my position at our breakfast table, with me looking at our cottage's south facing window) and at the same time, but on different days during our stay. While not a fine-art masterpiece - it is nothing more than a quick "pick up the camera, steady the view, click, and go back to munching on the bagel" shot - the sequence provides an unadorned glimpse of Skye's alluring shifting moods and light. The specific images do not matter, as does not matter the order, nor the fact that the images were all taken on different days. I could have conveyed essentially the same meaning by capturing arbitrary images throughout any relatively short interval of time on any given day. Skye's "reality" cannot be captured by focusing on the details of how its moods and light change, but only by appreciating the constancy of change. On the other hand, Skye's "surreality" cannot be captured by a camera at all, and is best simply experienced

And that, perhaps, is Skye's second deepest lesson and mystery (the first mystery was mentioned in an earlier post: how - despite the incessant drama of Skye's landscapes, and unending froth of light and shadow - Skye nonetheless manages to impart a spiritually infused fantastical sense of quiet): while photography can be a powerful tool for self-discovery, its utility for this process can - paradoxically - sometimes be at odds with a photographer's ability to "discover" external truths. The ability to do the former precludes, to a degree, the ability to simultaneously to do the latter (echoes of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle?) For me, this certainly appears to be the case on Skye, where I can either: (A) capture certain aspects of Skye's shifting "lights and moods" with my camera (in a "fine art" / documentary manner, that focuses attention on the specifics of Skye's shifting "lights and moods" but ignores - because my camera's digital sensor cannot capture - deeper spiritual dimensions), or, (B) explore and become increasingly aware of richer levels of aesthetic and spiritual understanding by directly experiencing Skye's shifting "lights and moods (sans camera). But I cannot do - Skye does not permit one to do - both simultaneously.

On the other hand, I may be over-complicating matters, as is my penchant to do, for as Lao Tzu reminds us, "The Way to do is to be." Ultimately, whatever distinctions may or may not exist between "doing A" and "doing B" are mine, and mine alone. I can experience Skye, I can capture (aspects of) Skye with my camera, I can be on Skye, but these seemingly disparate acts are all just "me being me" on Skye. Skye itself remains blissfully evanescent and eternally ineffable. And that is why I can't wait to go back to "me being me" on Skye.

1 comment:

Markus said...

Thanks for this (and all your other, especially those from Skye) thoughtful posts, Andy.

Isn't it that in the end it is very simple - after all "being" should not be too complicated. Its just that our minds as product of our socialisation and our being embedded in a family and society tends to get things interwoven and entangled in a network of expectations, models and the like, that influence our reception, actions and even artwork?

I was on the surface of a completely different cultural setup - at work in Zimbabwe - for two weeks, and have seen (have learnt would be to much to say) a lot that makes me re-think my view of the world. The "being there" seems to be a natural and positive way of my local friends to adapt to volatile situations.