Sunday, November 12, 2017

A third side to the coin

An impish face smiles my way and greats me with a manly handshake that is the dichotomy I face each day when traveling with Surendra. It’s the two sides of the coin once again, and I’m seeing some aspects of a darker side, a more somber side. Perhaps this coin has many faces and only time, patience and much questioning will expose them all; or at least, some of them. Right now I see the adult between the boy and the man.

It’s not that we are running out of tourist things to discuss. We are always more than satisfied with the amount of information we receive at each and every turn. Some history on a building or cricketer, something to do with a fruit I’ve never seen before and not likely to ever see again, a bit of geography, a Buddhist saying, a remedy from a tree not found anywhere on the planet except the deepest part of a distant Sri Lankan jungle, and a nice place to eat; especially a nice place to eat. Surendra does like his food although his diet could do with a bit of Buddhist interrogation.

Nevertheless, after a 20 day period confined to a Hi Ace, people tend to find time to reveal something of themselves beyond platitudes and peripherals. 

Surendra’s collision with life has been ‘interesting’. He’s had his share of personal dramas and delights, disappointments, experiences with other humans, and a decent bite of the cultural cherry that makes him so Sri Lankan. On the odd occasion does he expose some regret as to how things went or how he might like things to go in the future. I’m not in a position to wish for a second go at life but apparently Surendra is. He obviously knows something I don’t. Or someone! The request he has submitted to the higher authority is that he return as that which he had started but not completed: that is, a monk. Perhaps he’s not at ease with the idea that the love of another individual has a potently and pleasure that over-rides all other goals and ambitions. As they say: “just lay back and enjoy the journey”. As someone almost famous once said “what makes us human is the ability to reason and love. Unfortunately, they are totally incompatible concepts and in the face of love we are totally unreasonable and any reasonable person would avoid love at all cost”

Surendra’s outlook on life has been subtly influenced by his rather limited contact with the outside world. I’m constantly surprised by the surprised look on his face when I mention something of ordinariness from my life yet totally alien to his. Homosexuality for one, traveling backwards in a train for another. I still think Surendra is coming to grips with which of these conditions could come about in a Sri Lankan world and which has the most damaging effect on the human race.

Imagine you only learnt your geography and culture of other countries from a joke book. That’s what it’s like when traveling with a guide. Travellers like to keep in good humour. They also enjoy keeping the driver happy and relaxed. This has its benefits I’m sure but unfortunately every conversation must end with a joke, or at least a laugh. Surendra probably thinks Australia is a theme park with lots of funny things happening; like Disneyland. In such an exchange people become stereotyped and geography becomes compressed. For example, it’s just as difficult to explain how far Darwin is from Sydney as it is describing Bob Cater. But it’s fun trying.

I, too, have a vague idea of the nature of Sri Lanka after my time with Surendra. One thing is bleeding obvious; everyone smiles, none less than Surendra. On the other side of that coin is the empathy for others less fortunate. As soon as Surendra comes across such a living thing he immediately stops smiling and gives a faint whimper, as if he feels the pain as well. This can happen with sick humans, dogs on the road, a camelion caught in traffic or a mosquito looking for food on his forearm. All are dealt with in the same caring manner and no one is hurt in the process. On the other hand, if it were left to me there would be one less dog, camelion, mosquito and I’d still be considering my options on the human.

Christine says Surendra doesn’t seem to worry or get agitated. I think he’s well practised at concealing it. Or perhaps he allows his short term memory loss to forget his recent troubles. I’d need to spend more time with my new found companion to answer that question. Perhaps we will meet again in another place, time or body. You never know. He might come back as me if he’s been a bad boy. That will certainly turn him off reincarnation a second time.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The man who could be a monk

Surendra laughs out loud, like a child among friends, his white teeth contrast strongly against his glistening brown skin. It’s not so hot today.  Moisture hangs heavily from the blackening sky and deposits a layer of softening dew on his skin. There’s a sparkle in his eyes that allows the stranger in me to connect with him. He speaks a Sri Lankan version of English I find easy to interpret. He listens intently, showing a discomfort with my language that is typical of one who has English as a second or third language. I can almost hear him translate in his head as he hastens to catch the words and hold on to them long enough to grasp their true meaning. From time to time he squints, a sure sign that his brain makes no sense of the translation he has rendered and shaped in his head. 

In spite of this struggle with words we manage to communicate with a great deal of ease. I’m surprised at the quality of his thoughts. His understanding of his culture is born from a deep belief that what he is, is what he thinks of his country’s history, religion and culture. 

Yet I crave to know more, beyond his country man. What of the man who stands before me? What lays beneath the surface? What life has he lived? What has made this young man what he is now?

Surendra has exposed small fragments of his ‘other’ life; the one I choose to know of. The voyeur in me looks hard. I listen for signs of life beneath the tour guide exterior. His mind is like warm wax and his personal thoughts stick firmly as the dust from a long day. From time to time I ask: “what of your family?”, “What of your youth?” and Surendra brushes the dust from the wax ever so slightly. I can smell and taste the thoughts and my appetite is stimulated. I ask myself: What will bring him to raise the broom and loosen the secrets that I crave and he holds so dearly. 

“Tell me of your courtship? How did you meet you wife?.”

He draws in the warm air and seemingly gathers his strength. I make no sound. I must listen. I fear to breath, least I will shatter the silence he needs. I let him speak without interruption, holding still, letting each word settle. If I am still, perhaps he will not notice my presence. This experience is new to him. He has done it before; spoken openly of his life, but there is pain that comes with it. He must conquer the pain. No, he must ride with it, as the bird on the wind. He is learning that the anguish is part of him and he must live with it, not fight it, but know it and know it’s place in his life. His memories of painful times and events are no different to the scars on his lustrous skin or the rounded  belly he carries as a consequence of his indulgences. 

Slowly, methodically, carefully, Surendra places his fears where they are safe and speaks more freely of his past. His eyes give way to the yearning to weep for losses and suffering. Moisture gathers and blood rises to the surface as the soft pain in his head pushes his thoughts forward. His moistened eyes looks away from me momentarily. He speaks to the warm, thick air. None of this comes naturally. 

Converting thoughts to words isn’t something that any of us can do easily. We fear too much. We fear the permanency that comes with being heard, the misunderstanding that others might gather, the ‘truth’ that some might deny, the ‘lies’ that others might perceive. Surendra’s fears are ‘real’ but often unfounded. He must learn that the thoughts of others are not his responsibility. He can only be in control of his own dread; that which once held him silent in the presence of others. The pain of others is beyond him, out of his reach, out of his field of knowing, distant to any responsibility he feels he must own.

Surendra tells me of his life, at least the parts he is willing to share just now. It is early days. I should not expect too much from him. He is young and still to know the freedom that comes with age. He is yet to know that smart men know of others, wise men know of them self. He will see how his memories grow old with him. They soften as the wax in the summer sun, they change as the dust of years settles and sinks into the softening and malleable wax. The memories will become new, in the ages of time. They will still bring feelings with them but less of the pain and more of the simple joy of living. 

For there is no destiny that holds Surendra to a particular path. His life has not been written beforehand. He is not scripted to perform like a monkey on a chain. His is the creator of his own experiences. Each new event is the consequence of what has gone before. Where his is now is the best possible outcome of all that has gone before. The yin and yan of life gives both: rich with poor, sick with good health, friendship with enemies, love with hate, good with bad, happiness with sadness. Surendra is learning to live with both sides of the token of life. He cannot hold the wax solid in the sun. Nor can he see the dust settle and stick. He will live with his truth. And just as we face life, he will face death; his own and that of others, because life and death are sides of the same coin.

As he faces his life, so will he see in his wisdom, that there is no pain that cannot be accompanied by the joy of living. 

Perhaps pain and joy are the same thing. Surendra and I are still learning to see how that is so for both of us. For a while we follow the same path. For a while we are connected.

Saturday, August 5, 2017


Every child will imagine.
Cut their feet on a shell
Leave sand on the carpet
Lose a button, have messy hair.
Every child will say the wrong thing
Be late for dinner
Get fatter or thinner.
Lie, spy, cry, feel lonely
Be alone, throw a stone at the birds
Be scared of the dark
Laugh when someone falls
Ignore when someone calls
Want, whine, wag, wake too late
For school. No homework today
Get bad marks, rehearse for the play
Get the lines wrong, try singing along
Fall in love once or twice
Consider it nice. Kiss. skite, fight
Swear, dare, be dared, wonder about sex
Try things they shouldn't, do things they couldn't
Imagine what it would be like
To be someone else, no parents, leave home
Wet the bed, have a smoke and choke
Stay in bed all day. And dream.
Imagine growing up without all this.
Just imagine

Saturday, May 6, 2017



The last of light is craved upon to fall
The shapely, longing limbs stretch to the tall
Smoothed skin as oil upon the water waits
My heart beats, sheds blood and lust anticipates

I hear her call, her song is as the Loralie
Her vision sees thus far, sees much more than I
Beyond the spreading of her naked limbs
She beckons men, and women, where fall begins

There is no pretence, no guilt, no idle play
This is the place where she will gladly lay
Command her wanting lust against the bitter winds
And watch the lonely man, again, fall into sin

The Muse is to dictate, none will be praised
Young men fall short within the loving haze
She is a whore, a tart, a lusting stone
And better men have risked, then left alone.

Don’t give the Muse a thought, her beauty tempts
None of us will last; remain exempt
She wants nothing from us but the tortured soul
Then disposes of the corpse up [on the cold

What is her epitaph for you and me?
Does she know or care or set any of us free?
More likely we will falter, step bravely to the fold
Be heard no more until the story told

One lonely night, one moment of despair
He felt the pain of loneliness, of lack of care
And in among the turmoil of it all

The was the faintness of the Muse’s call.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Growing Old

My thoughts are elsewhere, moving faster than I, with more grace and determination. The thoughts move in the past where a young man lingers and laughs at the body I now carry. I can move quietly in the market and remain unnoticed and anonymous to fresh thoughts of style and frivolity. I am unknown but to myself. Only I know what it is to live and grow old and even I am surprised at every turn. Those before me made efforts to explain and forewarn but they had only their own guide to suggest what might come of ageing. Like life, ageing must be experienced. It also must be understood. It is, ultimately the beginning of the end, at least one we can recognise. The reality of ageing is that we must eventually face the inevitable as it grows closer, knowing that what follows is as it was before: nothing.

As the bones creek and the joints ache, as the body processes falter and the brain loses its way, it is necessary to look back more than looking forward. Living brings us surprises. We cannot see into the future and even the present is uncomfortably brief. It is that past which we draw upon to give us hope. Reflection will provide purpose to what we have done. Disappointment will come from what we should have or could have done. Purpose and disappointment may be unnecessary in knowing that living is as it is and only our will to live provides us with motivation to do what we do, whatever that might have been. We cannot undo or relive. All we can do is to see the small wake we leave behind and know that we have made a difference no matter how minute and insignificant it might seem.

As I walk this way I know that I am one step closer to where I am going. I will not be surprised when it comes. I am content with what I have done.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The train.


How far to go, he called, when does it part
She waits for me beyond the converging lines
Through the tears and lost worlds of love
She waits for me, she waits in another time
When we were one, the only ones to know
Where we stood strong, true love still a crime
Young, sweet, innocent love fresh from the heart
Leaving others behind the walls to define
What we should be

Now the passage is complete, the platform stage
We no longer play, life took its toll, sliding doors
Close on us, kept us apart, allowing us to age
Facing the masters and mistresses, seeking flaws
In others, knowing only one destination can be
Where the passage stops, no longer be ignored
The wilderness has gone, once ravishing desires
Now playing out the fare to be in one place because
We are what we should be.

Friday, December 30, 2016



He stepped out for a while, to find some quiet time
Perhaps he's tired of this and that, of things defined
Being judged, misunderstood, misaligned 
With the parameters so clear, rigored, almost a crime.

His boundaries have collapsed, shattered and scattered
The frame is broken and the image spills, voices chattered
Upon an open grave, milk on a tiled floor, splattered
As if he didn't care, beyond the field nothing mattered.

It's not dark yet, he'll be back, shaking his thoughts away
Talking to himself, questions with answers, a mind astray
The picture is there, waiting, while he wonders what delay
The rest have in seeing what he sees, the motion of decay.

The words rest now upon his weary thoughts, too little time
Collecting the philosophy of others as a fence consumed by vine
Not baring fruit, not gesturing to others which way to climb
Reassured, resurrected, breathing quietly, smelling decay divine. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Making time


What we see in art is of our choosing. Appreciation is recognizing the skills of the artist. We don't have to like it to appreciate it. We might pause to implore beauty to expose itself. When it fails to do so we might reject the art first hand. Or we can allow the art to stare back at us, allowing more to be revealed. 
Art is manipulative. The more we absorb ourselves in its innate nature the more we feel the effects of our appreciation. Art is often assumed to be easy. The very fact that not everyone can create art is proof enough that there is some labor involved, some understanding of human nature, a degree of compromise, of recognition, of persistence.
Appreciation isn't for everyone. It requires knowledge. We need to know what is involved, what the artist intended, the context of the ideas. We don't always have the time to devote to art. 
Make time: just once.

Blurred Visions


The photographers task is simple: be clear and sharp. The Decisive Moment is finite and must contain all that is necessary for the photograph to do its job. 

How unfortunate that this can never be achieved even if there is an element of truth in it, and I doubt that there is.

The photographers task is by no means simple and at no time will the photograph be clear and sharp. There are those that seek this end in futility, in which case they will always be disappointed. Even if they claim satisfaction, that satisfaction is most often left in the hands of others. Approval from others is paramount. A quick sale, a postcard to a friend, a 'like' on social media, a prize, received like a merit badge on completion of a poorly conceived and equally constructed camp fire by a Boy Scout. The fire is luke warm in both cases.

We are told to try harder, but with what and at what cost? Endless instruction and a continuous flow if technical prowess still leaves us wanting more. Following a rainbow is more fruitful. Praying for intervention has equal prospects. At the end of the day satisfaction will come from the value of the reward perceived or received from others. Judgement will always be based on the temperament of others. 

Mind you, some are quite content with this predicament. I have on many occasions heard this pursuit referred to as 'advancement' or 'improvement' or, heaven forbid, 'creativity'. 'Mimicry' is more accurate. More than once have I seen the eternal Sun set over another horizon and wonder how many times I need to see this particular one posted on Flickr or Facebook to remind me that someone with an iPhone was there as well. Living each moment as if it is your last was never meant to be taken literally, nor does it need to be recorded. Prosperity will have more important things to consider.

And what of the Selfy? How is it that we have moved from a society that once revered the portrait as a symbol of prosperity and social significance to a mode of self-indulgent narcissism. Not only do we find those that cannot pass a shiny surface without stopping to admire their own reflection but it is necessary to photograph it and reward themselves by posting said image on the scourge of intellectual companionship: the Internet, assuming their 'friends' need an update of appearances and an appalling lie that beauty beyond belief  has just graced their presence.

Ottoman in his investigation of the history of photography stated that the original meaning of 'photograph' has been diverted and somewhat lost in the new inclusion of digital enhancement. Be it that the image is projected onto the sensor and 'drawn' by light, the similarities to the original process has been lost in a flurry of photons and manipulation of pixels. The question we might ask, even if we are not purists, is: "is there a line and on which side will we stand when we say "this is a photograph"?

I don't yet have my own answer, or maybe my position shifts. 

What I would like to do right now is to do a bit of navel gazing 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The image of the image

Photographs come in all shapes and sizes. So do humans but we tend to accept the differences and look deeper into the character of the individual; or, at least, we are encouraged to do so.

When I say, 'shapes and sizes' I'm implying that we take photographs for different reason.
There seems to be some distinction in the 'real' world, whatever that is, that there are 'fine art' photographs (ie; those that are to be appreciated at a higher level, and purchased at a higher price I  might suggest), and there are the rest.

Such a distinction is arbitrary to say the least, bigoted to say more than I should.

As with the spoken language or a piece of prose, the depth of interpretation can depend on two things; the intent of the 'artist' and the depth to which the viewer might seek to understand what they see.

Now, don't get me started on defining "artist'. Let's just take it literally to mean 'he who produces or makes'. It's a broad definition but it will include everybody. People don't react lightly to being left out.

I'm often the sort of person that shoots first and thinks later. I do that with most things. Reaction is an important ingredient in the creative process. its about connecting with emotions, which are in turn connected with thought processes. Recognition and intuition are almost instantaneous processes; at least we hope they are. Thought processes come later, the amount of time depending on such factors as intellect, age and the consumption of drugs, of which only one of these factors falls into my regime.

Leter, I can contemplate what I have shot and ponder the possibilities. This is a pleasure I enjoy emensely. I can allow myself to re-examine what I have captured, consider the reasons why. And contemplate what the next shot will look looked.

Interpretation might  be everything.  It certainly is a doorway to perception.

I take photos, therefore I am.
 I look at photos therefore I am able to perceive.
I think therefore I can interpret.

The cycle is complete

I live for the next image.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

the family

Being a part of any family can be compared to finding a place in the picture. As with the spiders web,  it is necessary not to send vibrations through the connecting web else wise the smiles will vanish and there is every chance I would be stung, paralyses or left to rot in my entanglement.
On the other hand, if I remain perfectly still I can take note of the intricacies that bind the web. Character, personalities, friendship, comeradery, protection, support and comfort balance the catchment with differences, temperaments, opinions, beliefs and ethics and origins.

Genetics may be the biological thread but families have more than that. Love is often used. If love is simply a high priority in caring then there is more than enough here. If love is something undefinable then this family is that. If love is the affection between individuals that is as strong as it gets. If love is acceptance then I seem to always have a place here, even if it's in the back row.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Nothing much

Today I did nothing.
Tomorrow I will do more of nothing.
There will always be time to do nothing.
I will never run out of nothing to do.
I'm good at doing nothing.
Nothing keeps all things apart.
Nothing is the space between somethings
When I run out of nothing to do I'll start all over again.
Everyone else can do something.
Nothing beats doing nothing.

New Horizons 11

Each day I'm astounded by the way the world presents itself. That which is magnified is brutal and worrying, broadcast through the media to inform us of how ugly we can get.

Within the bounds of my horizon I keep a close watch on how pleasant the world is, though the lens of the camera, my eye and my perceptions.
While the rest of the world might be rotting and crumbling, it is possible to be optimistic as long as the horizon is no further away that the reach of my sight.

The empty dance

Just now I'm doing nothing
While I dance upon the hill
And the shadows of the past 
Are never standing still
I can wait for moments silence
Which comes among the blast
Of the thunder of my thoughts
That drift among the past
Where was I when the hail fell
What train of actions then
When I alone could tell
What the endless pain would bend
That I will live this moment over
And the torment will inflame
The scars that mark the cover
And only I can blame
Myself, the thoughts alone
Are tattooed to my brain
To be seen as autochrome
For as long as I remain
Awake or sleep it matters not
For nothing is a myth
In which no memory is forgot
If nothing, this it it.
Restless, relentless, haunting ghosts
That interrupt the peace
And I am the singular host
Of nothing's angry feast.

A sense of scale

If you ever get indulged in your own self-importance, take a walk on a long beach. If there was ever a place to know who would loose if it were the individual against nature, its a strip of sand separating safe ground from devastation, being watched over by a lonely cloud.

The Dress

A dress is to be worn
To adorn the form beneath
To please, to be discrete
To colour that which 
No display can show 
In full exposure not
Delay what we know
As beauty to behold
Before and after
Be unfold.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


“The Pictures are there, and you just take them” – Robert Capa

Street photography has become a genre. That is to say, street photographers have a particular way of seeing what is before them. There interests are on the randomness of civilisation.

I'm not sure where street photography begins and ends. Does it start at the doorway to the street, from within a dwelling or is it essential that the photographer has firmly planted himself among the heaving throng that is the passing parade of life on the street? 

Maybe it's none of these. Maybe it is the attitude that is taken at the time, the interest shown in the ways of the pedestrian and the structures they frequent.
And what of the content? Is it the people that are of prime interest, or the walls that confine their space or the activities and inter-actions? 
Whatever it is, we are fascinated by it. More so, we are fascinated by the photographs and the photographers who have made this genre their passion, livelihood or pass time.

I hold no grace with those who declare a method or a set of rules for doing this thing called 'Street Photography'. That is not to say others might abide by such rigors and obtain perfectly honest results. My preference is for a 'seat of the pants' approach in which the element of surprise is paramount, to expect nothing and anything at any time, to be ready without anticipation or expectation. 

There is also an egalitarian approach employed. Everything and everyone has equal 'rights' to be the subject of the frame. There is some contention here. Some might say the respect for privacy should rule. Neglecting one's privacy might get me a punch in the mouth from some but I'm not aware of who that might be. I take my chances.
Disgression seems to be important. Sneaky, even. Voyieristic definitely, curious, a sense of humour and an equal sense of drama go nicely together. 
The streets are filled with pleasures and pathos, individuals going about their day, often without any sign of the turmoil, tragedy, joy or contentment that might lay within. It's not possible to capture these inner thoughts. It is only possible to capture the laws of physics and engineering that created the place and the result of human behaviour that brought it all together.

Someone else

What's it like to be someone else?
To be young, thoughtful, blessed
With possibilities, most probable, ready
For all that life can offer, briefly, openly.
Where to from here, destiny betrays?
No signs of yellow bricks or guiding lights
Each step, each breath is new and fresh
Delicately placed among the stones
There is always someone else to gaze upon
From here the landscape loses its horizon
And I want to lead the way to safer ground
But she will find her own and be someone else

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Space Between

Mind the step
Let the light in
move up, move down, move around
In the space between

Define the edge
the shadows clearly state
another wall, ever so tall
above the space between

Live here, keep clear
watch the edge
no ledge
around the space between

Bound by stuff
held in close
the door is ajar
Next door
Is the space between.