Monday, November 23, 2015

you become an atmosphere

“A picture must possess a real power to generate light and for a long time now I’ve been conscious of expressing myself through light or rather in light.”

- Henri Matisse

"A photograph is neither taken nor seized by force.
It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you.
One must not take photos."

- Henri Cartier-Bresson

"You become things, you become an atmosphere, and if you become it, which means you incorporate it within you, you can also give it back. You can put this feeling into a picture. A painter can do it. And a musician can do it and I think a photographer can do that too and that I would call the dreaming with open eyes."

- Ernst Haas

So this last week I was in search of light, at the time of year when the light is deep into its waning. The sky was more often than not grey on our morning walks. Very low now, the sun comes into my kitchen in bands, only a few times a day, blocked as it is by the huge house behind ours.

You don't so much seek or search for light as you wait for it.

Those days when I was not working at the library, I was at my desk working on a short writing project. I sipped tea, I stood up, walked around the house. Looked out the back kitchen window, noted the position of the sun. I wrote a bit more. I got up to make more tea. I waited for the writing, I waited for the light.

I come closest to bliss at these moments. When I move back and forth between writing that's going more or less okay, and photography, in immersing myself in light, in the play of light on an object or thing.

Chloe had placed her turquoise tea mug in the small window alcove behind the kitchen sink so that the light coming in and swirling around it had a blue glow to it. The nest in the stone bowl has been sitting on the desk that's also in our kitchen since spring when I found the nest on the sidewalk one morning. So I played with that for a bit, and then remembered the blue stone which has been rolling around in our junk drawer for ages. It seemed to gather more of the blue around it.

Near the end of the shoot, I asked Chloe to hold the nest, too. Nest of light.

Nest of quiet.


Can I Weave a Nest of Silence

by May Sarton

The phoebe sits on her nest
Hour after hour,
Day after day,
Waiting for life to burst out
From under her warmth.
Can I weave a nest of silence,
weave it of listening,
listening, listening,
Layer upon layer?
But one must first become small,
Nothing but a presence,
Attentive as a nesting bird,
Proffering no slightest wish
Toward anything
that might happen or be given,
Only the warm, faithful waiting,
contained in one’s smallness.
Beyond the question,
the silence.
Before the answer,
the silence.


"Heartache is very fertile ground for song-making but so is happiness, so is absolute bliss."

- K. D. Lang

And these days I think this is the proper stance for many of us: a silence yes, but also listening, listening, listening.

So I noticed the sliver of light in the backyard at about 3:20 in the afternoon. And who knows why, I ran to my desk, grabbed the rock that lives there, and the little piece of heart shaped shale that Chloe found for me at recess when she was in grade one. It seemed to be just what was needed. Light and love and a sweet memory.

He Attempts to Love His Neighbours

by Alden Nolan

My neighbours do not wish to be loved.
They have made it clear that they prefer to go peacefully
about their business and want me to do the same.
This ought not to surprise me as it does;
I ought to know by now that most people have a hundred things
they would rather do than have me love them.

There is television, for instance; the truth is that almost everybody,
given the choice between being loved and watching TV,
would choose the latter. Love interrupts dinner,
interferes with mowing the lawn, washing the car,
or walking the dog. Love is a telephone ringing or a doorbell
waking you moments after you've finally succeeded in getting to sleep.

So we must be careful, those of us who were born with
the wrong number of fingers or the gift
of loving; we must do our best to behave
like normal members of society and not make nuisances
of ourselves; otherwise it could go hard with us.
It is better to bite back your tears, swallow your laughter,
and learn to fake the mildly self-deprecating titter
favoured by the bourgeoisie
than to be left entirely alone, as you will be,
if your disconformity embarrasses
your neighbours; I wish I didn't keep forgetting that.


On one morning walk, there were flocks and flocks of geese going over.

And after that, it's become steadily colder.

The light is more difficult to find.

But it does come, it arrives. On the kitchen table it breaks out on what had previously been a grey day.


by Linda Pastan

We are waiting for snow
the way we might wait for a train
to arrive with its cold cargo—
it is late already, but surely
it will come.

We are waiting for snow
the way we might wait
for permission
to breathe again.

For only the snow
will release us, only the snow
will be a letting go, a blind falling
towards the body of earth
and towards each other.

And while we wait at this window
whose sheer transparency
is clouded already
with our mutual breath,

it is as if our whole lives depended
on the freezing color
of the sky, on the white
soon to be fractured
gaze of winter.

And of course, the snow did come, and seems here to stay.

It's easy to make peace with the snow as it falls on the neighbour's roses. (A silent thank you as I pass by on my walks that they didn't pluck them all in the fall).

It's easy to love your neighbour when they fill their front yard with roses.

I'll leave you there today as I'm feeling somewhat under the weather. (Rotten cold, nothing worse).

If you have time, check out my website to read Rumi and the Red Handbag updates and to check out the winner of my giveaway. So many amazing comments were left! Really worth reading and thanks to all who entered.

Wishing you a lovely and warm week, full of love and light, and sugar frosted roses.


  1. Beautiful photos, once again. And the poems, always spot-on.
    "He Attempts to Love His Neighbours" is so good.
    Thanks Shawna!

  2. You know I always love your photos but wow, there is something about these...the light, the soft colors..all so very evocative. Your work keeps getting better and better and better and I am so inspired by you. I hope you feel better soon, my friend. xo

  3. All of what you said and quoted and posted above is easy to love, but what I'm loving the most in this moment is the K.D. Lang quote. Going to look up some more of her songs. Thank you for sharing that!

  4. Many thanks to you all.....! Thanks for being here.

  5. so beautiful, so soothing, so true, all of it. thank-you for your exquisite post! so glad to have found you (via Robyn Gordon)

  6. This has been a busy week and I am just getting around to reading this post. Every photo, every word was beautiful! Thank you so much!


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