Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Four Rabbits and Play

These are gifts sold in supermarkets for Easter, but they give me the opportunity to make a point. These are the only rabbits one should buy as presents. Rabbits are routinely given to children at Easter and this often ends in tears. When children find them difficult (and expensive) to look after they grow tired of the necessary dedication. So domestic rabbits are often abandoned. They are the third most popular pet and without a doubt, the most abused. Yet rabbits are rewarding creatures. Although they generally don't like being picked up, they are quite social and lots of fun to watch - because rabbits are naturally happy creatures and jump into the air with joy. This is called a binky and it's quite a gymnastic feat. Rabbits like company and prefer to have a mate. They need a lot of space, not a cramped hutch. And although they like carrots, hay is best for a rabbit diet. Rabbits, like their hare cousins, are of the lagomorph species. They are all gentle creatures, but it's wise not to torment them. They do fight and there was a famous incident when an enraged swamp rabbit attacked President Carter's fishing boat and tried to board. Symbolically, rabbits are of the moon and they come out to play at night. Once, we were heading for a very early ferry near Ayr in Scotland. Suddenly we noticed hundreds of rabbits, maybe thousands, running in the fields alongside the car. They were pacing us and I hear it's not uncommon. Rabbits like to play and we should all take a leaf out of their book.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cherry Trees, Indifference and Prosperity

I like to keep a record of my cherry tree. It was a birthday present given to me more than ten years ago and now it's grown very tall. Every year I like to take a photograph when it's in full bloom and I try to catch the moment just before the wind detaches the blossom from the branches. The tree is associated with Spring and all that this season implies for the cycle of birth and death. In Japan, the scattering of cherry blossom symbolises a kind of indifference to the so-called good things of the world. It's life and death, all in one breath. But it remains a sign of prosperity. The amount of blossom presages and predicts the size and quality of the rice harvest, which takes place in Japan shortly thereafter. This variety of cherry is not the ornamental size like its sisters in the street. It's a full blooded tree and it intends to be massive. I recall how disappointed I was one year when I couldn't be here through March to April. I missed the whole thing from start to finish, but what I missed most was the scattering of a multitude of tiny white leaves across my neighbourhood. So many trees have been cut down lately, I am pleased we planted this one, because a tree symbolises life. The needless felling of trees represents exactly the opposite.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Killiney and the Great Mother

We had expected better weather but resorted to shopping and a picnic lunch in the car. Killiney provides a decent view and a place to stop, so we made a few rolls and looked out at the rain. It looked like a monochrome day, but I hopped out of the car and tried the Pentax Q on a landscape. Now I had resolved that the Pentax Q wasn't great for this kind of shot, but this has a natural look I liked. Killiney Bay is often compared to Sorrento, which is the most awful tosh that does justice to neither. They are quite different and equally beautiful. But in both cases, it's true that the sea does meet the land - and it's a powerful symbolic meeting. The waters were present at earth's beginning and represent the undifferentiated mass. But the earth has a different place in the cosmos as the producer of all living things, The earth is about seeds and ploughing and fertility. The Earth is Gaia and the Great Mother - but I'm reminded of the song The Holy Ground. Both Christans and Jews refer to Palestine as the Holy Land and Plato talked of the Pure Land (The Pure Land School is also an enduring form of Buddhist practice). But the Holy Ground of Irish folk song is thought to be the Cobh red light district to which sailors longed to return. There is a link, as Erich Neumann has pointed out. Behind the archetype of the Great Mother lies many things including sacrifice, sorcery and prostitution. Poseidon, God of the Sea, remained in the hands of his mother, Aphrodite, the sacred prostitute. Unable to break away and fully individuate, he had to do her bidding. Now here's the rub. The sea is also female.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Colour of the Huts

This looked like an attractive shot, but it was the most difficult job, with difficult choices. First of all, exactly what is straight in the picture? After much work, I had to admit that the beach huts are probably less than straight and settled for what I had. And what colours should be included? Cropping out the right hand colour didn't work well and leaving it does suggest that the line of colours continues. You can get away with a lot on a beach - seaside architecture doesn't have to conform with general rules and almost anything goes. Yet these are huts and therefore symbols. Those who have no permanent dwelling - such as hermits - live in huts that are a sign of the precariousness of life. Like most things built on the beach, impermanence and weakness is the thing with some instability thrown in for good measure and the hut is hardly more substantial than a tent. Here, annual storms arrive to destroy many beach structures like this one. It's just an accepted part of life that they have to be rebuilt. So the huts have to be good enough for the purpose and no more. If you dream of a beach hut there might be many associations. But it is in essence a hermit's hut. Consider if detachment from the world is leading you to re-balance what you have. Consider the hermit in the cramped confines of his hut. He is the very master of space because his attachment is to the broad arch of heaven and his hut merely temporary earthly protection.
[Picture credit: Camilla Galli da Bino: Pentax Q]

Monday, March 24, 2014

Wake up, wake up you sleepy heads

This was a temporary acquaintance who came to see me when I was sitting in Herbert Park. I was fiddling around with a new camera - the tiny Pentax Q with the interchangeable lens - and trying to get the settings right. The robin helped me discover how good that camera is at this range. Naturally, birds just keep moving around and they're never easy to capture, despite the many photos of birds we see. The robin hopped on the park bench beside me and hung around so much that passers-by were commenting. It just wouldn't go away, so eventually it was left to me to bid goodbye. The robin has the reputation of being rather friendly, especially with gardeners with whom it shares a common interest - the eradication of small pests. The Christmas association for robins is thought to derive from red-coated postmen in Victorian Britain, nicknamed "Robins". But the tale of the plain bird who comforted Jesus on the cross and acquired some of his blood on its breast remains part of British folklore. With its rosy chest, the robin is very much a solar symbol in many cultures - because its breast suggests the sun rise. So if you dream of a robin it might just be the words of the popular song calling you. Wake up, wake up you sleepy head/Get up, get out o' bed/Cheer up, cheer up the sun is red/Live, love, laugh and be happy.
[When the red red robin goes bob bob bobbin’ along. Harry MacGregor Woods, 1926 as recorded by Al Jolson, June 1st 1926]

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Down in Limbo Land

I've done tunnels before and probably I'll do them again. This kind of shot, taken from the front of a metro train, I find difficult, so I keep returning to try again. The train has to be moving but that means camera shake, so I brace the camera against the front window and release the shutter a moment after the train leaves the station. You do need an automatic metro system for this, otherwise the driver is in the way - and somehow the rear of the train is slightly different. Once when I was using this metro, there was an minor earthquake and the train slowed down to a snail's pace - it was very unsettling indeed. For a while I felt as if I was in Limbo until the all-clear came. The concept of Limbo is an in-between place. It's part of the Orphic tradition, and describes where souls of still-born babies waited at the entrance to the Underworld. (Later this idea was adopted by Christians, but it remains the subject of much theological argument. Unborn babies are born with original sin but no way of dealing with it but to remain in Limbo.) Yet this is a tunnel and tunnels are what dreams are made of. Tunnels inhabit a ghostly space where anguished passageways promise a fulfilment of desire. When we use the tunnel, we move from light into the Limbo of darkness and back to light. If you dream of  being in a tunnel, it could be about transition. And maybe psychoanalysis is like a tunnel - a passageway from one state of being to another.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ha'penny Bridge and the Devil's Due

I guess many photos have been taken of the Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin and this one is just a snapshot. Light was beginning to fade but the water looked interesting so I just took a pot shot.  This is not the official bridge name. Originally it was Wellington Bridge and later the Liffey Bridge, which formally is its correct name. In 1816, before the bridge was built, a rather unsatisfactory ferry company plied this spot. But it was told to improve vessels or build a bridge - and here it is to this day. The bridge is one of these universal symbols that indicates transition - it allows us to cross from one side to another. The bridge story I like best is the "Devil's Bridge". Satan is promised the soul of the first person to cross his bridge. Since he built it, he expects his due reward. It indicates the perilous nature of crossing from one thing to another - this is a danger which must be tackled and conquered. If you dream of bridges - and I believe this is quite a common object to appear in dreams - you may have  an important decision to take. The choice is yours, one thing or the other. Will your decision and its consequences lead to salvation or damnation? Even if you live in Dublin and cross the bridge regularly, your dream of the Hal'penny Bridge retains the same symbolism. It's still a journey over a dangerous place. But who was the first person to cross the bridge? They are long gone, but does the Devil still have their soul?