Tag - britain

A Year of Living

Last Friday – my 63rd birthday – I re-posted (with some minor edits) the short essay I wrote on the occasion of my 62nd birthday.  It was about turning 62 – the age at which my brother had died in 2011 – and the quest to outlive him numerically by turning 63.

That post ends with:

There is much more to that challenge than simply lasting the year.

I’ve got some living to do.

Seeing that line again for the first time in a year caught me up short.  It made me wonder: Had I lived up to my own challenge over the past 12 months?

Or had I just gone on with my desultory day to day existence, squeezing nothing more out of my continued presence here on earth than the consumption of natural resources and the production of bodily wastes?

And then I remembered this photo:

Melrose Abbey - Scotland

That’s me, seated on a bench before the south elevation of Melrose Abbey in the borders region of Scotland.

For so many reasons, that photo answers the question.

I may not have lived entirely up to whatever potential I have had languishing here for the past several years (like, since Book Two went off the rails), but I think I can say that I certainly made some effort, and have some results to show for it.

I mean, I’m pretty pleased with the whole “Portals of Stone” collection that came out of that trip to England and Scotland last spring.  I had my first “art show” this fall, and now the whole collection is hanging in an actual art gallery in East Nashville.  And I got a check in the mail for one of the pieces last week.  Eat your heart out, Van Gogh…

Probably more important than any of that is just the fact that I made the effort.  That I saw an opportunity and I grabbed it, and the result was as satisfying and meaningful a two-weeks as I can recall in my life.

I still can’t quite put my finger on what draws me to these medieval ruins, although I can say that the unexpected result – the Portals of Stone – that came out of that trip is maybe the most creative expression I’ve had since… well, maybe since I finished/published Book One – and that’s going back to 2002.  Certainly the most creative visual expression in like… ever.  I mean, hey, I was 62 years old and for the first time in my life I came up with something that somebody else – actually a couple of somebody elses who have authority in such things  – considered “art.”

So, yeah. That happened.

And now the same gauntlet is thrown for Year 64.

Cue the Beatles:


Beatles – When I’m Sixty-Four by hushhush112

T-Minus 1 – How The Return To Scotland Came About

This is the third installment of a series on how my trip to Scotland / England came about.  The first installment is here, the second installment (a bit of a sidebar) is here.

Listen to John Doan’s harp guitar while reading this post:

Now, where was I? Oh yeah….

One of the most stunning places we visited in Scotland last October is a small church several miles outside of Edinburgh called the Rosslyn Chapel.

Rosslyn Chapel ©2012 paul@cohesionarts.com

Rosslyn Chapel ©2012 paul@cohesionarts.com

If you’ve read “The DaVinci Code” or seen the movie, you might recognize the name.  Dan Brown wrote the last scene of that story at the Rosslyn Chapel. The bones of Mary Magdalen – the real “Holy Grail” as portrayed in the novel – supposedly having been hidden there, in a a secret crypt concealed under the foundation of the chapel when it was built during 15th century.

We almost didn’t go to Rosslyn.  When it was first suggested to us, I looked it up on the web and the first thing I noticed on the website was

Please note that there is no photography or video allowed inside Rosslyn Chapel.

And when I read that I thought to myself, “well, that’s a deal breaker….”

But I talked it over with Ann and we agreed that it would be worth seeing even we couldn’t take pictures inside.  We figured it in to the itinerary for the last full day of our  trip, when we would be back in Edinburgh for two nights and still have the rental car at our disposal.

So on morning of the last day of our tour of Scotland, we ventured out of Edinburgh about 7 miles south to the village of Rosslyn.

And yes, the interior of Rosslyn Chapel is truly extraordinary.  Nearly every surface is adorned with detailed masonry carvings depicting the history of the area, the chapel’s founders and builders, or a passage from the Bible, all rendered by the most skilled stone masons of the 15th century.

Entrance to the Rosslyn Chapel - ©2012 paul@cohesionarts.com

Gargoyles guarding the entrance to the Rosslyn Chapel – ©2012 ann@cohesionarts.com

In the centuries since its construction, the tiny Chapel as been through all kinds of depredations, from serving as stable for Cromwell’s cavalry in the 17th century to an ill conceived conservation effort in the mid-20th century that coated all the  carvings with an impermeable layer of magnesium fluoride that trapped moisture inside the stone.   Just about the time that The DaVinci Code was released, the Sinclair family that owns the chapel and surrounding estate embarked on a more enlightened course of preservation, and now, in the wake of the novel and the movie, the Rosslyn Chapel is among the most popular tourist destinations in all of Great Britain.

Ann and I spent most of the morning of our last full day in Scotland there.   We made a lot of photographs of the exterior, and spent enough time inside to come out pretty well awed at what we’d seen.  But, per the rules, no photos of the interior.

– – – – – – – –

John Doan

John Doan

Fast forward now to  January 28th, when I received an e-mail from a musician named  John Doan.  John is is primarily a harp guitarist; his home base is Salem, Oregon.

If you’re not familiar with it, the harp guitar is an instrument that starts as a guitar, but is embellished with an extension of the body of the guitar  that supports some number of open, unfretted strings, usually bass notes, that are plucked separately in the same manner that the strings of a harp are plucked.   John Doan typically plays a variation of the harp guitar that includes a further set of “super treble” notes that are strung musically above (physically below) the 6 guitar strings.

I can’t recall now when I first discovered John Doan’s recordings, most of which I purchased via iTunes during the period when I was still paying for downloads (which I rarely do now, with the advent of streaming subscription services like Spotify).  But since I first discovered him I have been an avid fan of his Celtic-infused, sonically rich recordings that evoke the spirit of the islands with which I am so enamored.  I met John briefly once, at an annual event called “The Harp Guitar Gathering” when it was held in Indianapolis in the fall of 2010.  That’s probably when I put myself on his mailing list.

So I get this e-mail from John Doan in late January.  And after the usual “this is what I’m up to…” stuff, I scanned his tour itinerary at the bottom of the message.  And that’s where I saw:

May 26: Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland

Whoa.  Did I read that right? A concert inside the Rosslyn Chapel??

I quickly fired an e-mail back to John.

Can you use a roadie/photographer on these gigs?

I need an excuse to go back to Britain this spring…

Where “back to Britain” was a link to the site were I was gathering and displaying our photos from the trip in October.

John’s reply to that was pretty non-committal, but the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became about the proposition, so I sent another message:

Please forgive the quick “need a roadie?” message that I sent earlier
today.

This time… I think I’m serious….

..after which wheels started turning…

Long story short: I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon, and will meet up with John and his entourage of wandering minstrels a week from today at Rosslyn.  And I will have permission to photograph his concert inside the Rosslyn Chapel.

Two weeks ago Ann and I encountered a Scottish photographer a the TACA Arts & Crafts fair here in Nashville.  We got to talking, and I told him that I would be going to Scotland soon, and that I’d be photographing inside the Rosslyn Chapel.

“That’s forbidden!” he said.

Yes, it is. But I’ve got special dispensation.

And that’s why I’m going back to Scotland tomorrow.

Rosslyn Chapel - a Victorian-era carving over the North Entrance ©2012paul@cohesionarts.com

Rosslyn Chapel – a Victorian-era carving over the North Entrance ©2012paul@cohesionarts.com

 

T-Minus 2 Days and Still Counting

(This is the second of two installments. Part 1 is here, Part 3 is here.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

I’m still working on another post (or two) about how my trip to Britain next week came about, and will perhaps get the story finished before I leave on Sunday. For now, I want to get something else out there.

It begins with a passage that came to mind in the midst of some breath work with my therapist on Wednesday:

The heart seeks
and only the heart can find
that which we do not know
that we know

Now, as much as I am loathe to even mention the name – much as Harry Potter referred to Voldemort as “he who cannot be named” – the thought above is a corollary to something Donald Rumsfeld famously (infamously?) said during one of his Pentagon press conferences when he was trying to explain whathefuck had gone wrong in Iraq:

There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.

I’ve always thought that Rumsfeld’s assessment of the realms of knowledge and ignorance stops just short of what might be the most import insight of all, that…

There are things that we do not know… that we know.

Basic, fundamental, truths of existence that live on a subsurface, spiritual level that where we do not spend nearly enough time.

Perhaps I am going to the ancient ruins of Britain to spend time in places where long ago mystics and monks did just that.

As good a reason as any…

And, now that I think about it, I realize that right after I had the “breath work revelation” I’ve shared above, I may have had a clear illustration of the principal – and an affirmation of why I have to go on this trip alone.

After I saw Kenneth on Wednesday,  I went downtown to the Shelby Street bridge to photograph the Nashville skyline and see what sort of results I would get shooting for HDR with my new Nikon D600.

The results at sunset were pretty satisfactory if uninspiring, except perhaps for this one shot where I got  everything to line up:  the sun hitting the tops of the building, the f/16 aperture that produces the cool star effect:

Sunset over the Nashville Skyline - May 15, 2013

Sunset over the Nashville Skyline – May 15, 2013

But after I got that shot I stood around and waited for over an hour for the sky to darken and the lights of the city to come on.  And about 8:30PM I got this shot, which I think is downright spectacular:

Twilight Over The City

Twilight Over The City

… because I WAITED FOR IT (and trust me on this, the small rendering here doesn’t do the image justice; click here to see the whole frame a bit larger).

And that, sadly, is what I can’t seem to do when I’m with Ann.  At least, not that day we stopped at the Beauly Priory on the Black Isle near Edinburgh. And I’ll say again, I think Ann got better photos in less time than I did.  But I wasn’t done yet…

That’s why I drove away thinking, “I have to come back here by myself.”

And now, it appears, I am doing just that.

In two days.

Because when the heart is patient.. only then.. can it find what it does not know that it knows.

– – – – – – – – –

And now, the rest of the story...

 

What Is It With The Brits, Burials – And Parking Lots ?

king-richard-iii-1-sizedNo doubt you have all heard by now that the long-lost remains of Richard ‘My Kingdom for Horse’ III – the last of the England’s Plantagenet kings the final loser in the  Wars of the Roses (and the last English king killed in battle) – have been  positively identified.  The bones were found last summer – underneath a parking lot in Leicester, England.

LONDON—Researchers on Monday said the long-lost remains of King Richard III have been found and identified—after sitting under what is now a parking lot in the English Midlands for more than 500 years.

The findings appear to solve a centuries-old mystery involving one of England’s most-storied rulers, who has remained in the public fascination through a Shakespeare play and Hollywood movies.

Which story I found  rather amusing, because of this detail that we were shown in the course of a Mercat Tour of “The Secrets of The Royal Mile” during our second day in Edinburgh:

That yellow marker in the middle of car-park space #23?  That marks the final resting place of no less a Scottish luminary than John Locke, one of the leading proponents of the Scottish Enlightenment (and, thus, also among the early inventors of the whole modern world).

Apparently they are reserving space 23 – much observant Jews save a seat for Elijah at the Passover Seder.

I wonder what he’ll be driving…??

You can see the rest of our second day in Scotland here; or the video slideshow here.