Existential Experience

Rainbow2

A gap of two months or so since my last post, whoa, time flies! It’s been a busy time with three weeks away sailing, editing my first book, working on the cover, getting close to finishing the first draft of my next book, planning another cover, learning more about self published marketing, producing a five-year plan for my writing, creating the plot for my next book (actually a series of five books, OMG what task have I set myself!), plus holding down my day job, and more. Something had to give and it was this blog.

But back to the title and the photo –

The picture was taken at one of my favourite places, Loch Tarbert, Isle of Jura in the Scottish Highlands. The rainbow was stunning and stayed as it is in the photo, about half a mile away, for about thirty minutes.

Now, the opinion I want to express, and the theme of this post –

The photo is attractive, though it would have been taken better by a professional photographer with superior equipment (rather than a point and shoot iphone). But that is beside the point. No matter how good the photo it cannot replace the experience of being there. The colours will not render as true to nature, however ‘HD’ they are. There is no record of the smells, the touch of wind on my face, the sound of birdsong, the taste of the salt air, the immaculate peace of the moment, experiencing all those things right there, whilst witnessing the scene.

This is one reason I don’t take photographs very often. I see a beautiful sight in my daily life, or visit places on sailing adventures where the scenery is spectacular over a field of view of 360 degrees. You can’t photograph that, images yes, the experience, no. If I experience a profoundly beautiful moment, perhaps with wildlife or a fantastic view then show a photo of such, and this has happened, the response is usually something like  ‘oh, that’s nice’. No! It wasn’t ‘nice’, it was fucking amazing! But you have to have been there. You can’t experience someone elses experiences.

What about using photos to assist memory? The only photographs I would wish to re-view are those of scenes that are so ingrained in my memory that the moment lasts a lifetime, so the photos would be redundant anyway. A danger is that by reaching for a camera, focusing and composing, we lose the moment, not for the image but for ourselves, especially a fleeting moment.

I recall a moment many years ago while sailing in the Western Approaches, somewhere between Ireland and Lands End. It was dawn, a warm sunrise, a placid sea and blue skies, no land in sight, perfect peace and tranquility after the previous day of harsh weather. But then it became sublime; a school of a dozen or so dolphins broke the surface, and played with the boat.

 As they surged at the bow, shot under the keel, and entertained themselves I called my then wife who was asleep. She didn’t hear. I considered searching for my camera, or going below to shake her, but resisted. I didn’t know how long the moment would last, ten minutes or a few seconds. So instead I ignored the desire to record the event on film and ‘recorded’ that beautiful moment in my mind. 20-plus years later the memory and the feelings are still with me, as clear as the moment in which they happened. I had learnt a valuable lesson.

It is not possible to experience life through tv, social media, video, glossy magazines, etc, nor with the distraction of being permanenly connected to a smartphone as if you have no life without one. These are entertainment and tools for modern living, not life itself, but they have become the bulk of what many people experience as ‘life’, living through other people’s experiences, force-fed beliefs and opinions, losing their own; plugged into the Matrix of media.

As an exception I would argue (with some bias!) that a good novelist can transport you to new realms of experience, though you are still living his/her experience or creation not your own.

I love a fascinating insight by Stephen King in his book ‘On Writing’, he says that a book is telepathy. Really, it is. A book you may be reading is implanting facts or a story in your mind from the mind of the author many years and miles distant. From his mind to yours across time and space – telepathy truly! A beautiful thought.

The only way to experience life is through your own actions and state of mind. To be present in the moment, alive to your surroundings through every sense. To go out and live new sights, to search out new experiences, and create your own world. For creating our world is what we actually do, we create our own reality – the subject of forthcoming posts.

Existential experience of life, not existence by proxy.

To finish, a couple of loosely related images. How not to live in the moment. Both humorous and a sad indictment of the current state of much of ‘civilised’ society 🙂the_zombie_apocalypse_has_begun_big

CB-Zombies1

Advertisements

Sailing Adventures – part 4

Welcome to the final instalment of our sailing trip in July.

From Carsaig Bay we sailed to Tobermory on the island of Mull, a useful place to re-provision the boat after being out in the sticks for a week or so. Apart from that it is an attractive town to visit, all the seafront houses are painted in a rainbow of pastel colours. This was probably the inspiration for its use in the BBC TV childrens program Balamory, filmed largely at Tobermory and screened between 2002 and 2005.

tobermory-harbour Tobermory

Due to the lack of towns in the area it is a crossroads for cruising yachts, few pass by without stopping to use the small supermarket or to sample the selection of pubs and restaurants. So it is a lovely place just to sit and watch the comings and goings of many types of vessel; a seaplane was in attendance when we sailed in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Waterfall, Tobermory.

There is a pleasant walk along the tree-lined cliff edge which we set out for, only to experience the one day of heavy rainfall in our three weeks away – and without the foresight of waterproof clothing! Here also is a spectacular waterfall, the water heavily coloured by peat absorbed on its run flow down the mountains. It ends in Tobermory Bay and used to be a source of ships drinking water right up to the 1940’s when the Royal Navy had a base in Tobermory.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Loch Aline

Two days later, a short sail down The Sound of Mull took us to Loch Aline. A secluded loch surrounded by woodland, where we relaxed on the sunny, windless afternoon and evening.

We were now at the turning point of our cruise, beginning the slow journey south, but with plenty of time on our hands to explore more places by taking relatively small hops each day, and our next stop was Puilladobhrain, (a few miles south of Oban) and translated from the Gaelic as ‘the pool of the otter’. In years gone by the small anchorage, surrounded by numerous tiny islets, was home to a community of otters but rumour has it that being such a delightful and popular anchorage in summertime they have moved on to quieter pastures!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Puilladobhrain

The next day we headed to Loch Craignish for the night, anchoring off a small island, Goat Island. With little time, and thick mist, we contented ourselves with enjoying the tranquillity as the mist lent a peaceful ambiance as it hung around the hills and trees. A writers paradise!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Loch Craignish/Goat Island

For many years I have wanted to visit our following destination, a very small island – Eilean Mor in the McCormaig Islands. I have never been in such a tiny anchorage; apart from the anchor off the bow I had to tie a line to the shore, where mooring rings are provided to stop boats swinging around in the limited room, especially when more than one are present.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Eilean Mor

Other than two small speed boats paying a short visit when we arrived, we had the island to ourselves for the rest of the afternoon and evening. We rowed ashore and explored the reason I had been wanting to visit. The island is perhaps half a mile by a quarter but there are the remains of an old chapel (used through the years as a chapel, a house and finally an illicit distillery!), a Celtic Cross on the highest hill and a hermits retreat – a damp cave, little more than a hole, in a rock face at the south of the island. Apparently, this was for those souls for whom the lack of people and community on the island wasn’t quiet enough. It is difficult to understand how anyone could contemplate anything spiritual whilst in such extreme discomfort! Nevertheless, for us it was a beautiful place!

Just one more stop remained before our return to Gigha, the starting point for the offshore passage back to our home port on the Isle of Man, Lowlandman’s Bay on the east coast of Jura. A lovely view of the Paps of Jura which we had anchored close to nearly two weeks before on the other side of the island. Other than that, a relatively uninspiring stop, though only in comparison to the stunning places! However, we spent much time laughing at a mother and baby seal on the rocks close to shore. The mother spent the entire time sunning herself on a rock while the youngster splashed about comically, in much the same way a child would play in the bath. Occasionally the mother would turn her head towards junior as if to say ‘keep quiet!’ 🙂

??????????????????????????????? Lowlandmans Bay, playful seals.

With no wind we motored from there to Gigha, to rest before the long haul. That, however, was broken down into smaller stages, first, Sanda Island a mile south of the Mull of Kintyre. The intention was to take a walk ashore the following morning but a heavy swell made conditions uncomfortable and we made a hasty, early departure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Approaching the anchorage at Sanda Island

We then sailed across the North Channel, at the north end of the Irish Sea, bound for a small island outside Belfast Lough, Copeland island. Fifteen miles from our destination a small yacht, Lola,  had become disabled, there was no wind and she had lost the use of her engine. They asked us for a tow to Bangor Marina, which I obliged; it’s an unwritten law of the sea to help others, with the philosophy ‘there but for the grace of God go I’, the sea is an unforgiving environment. I happily took the vessel in tow but was a little peeved that we wouldn’t make our destination, strong tides exist in the area and the current was due to turn against us, too soon with the tow. Fortune smiled on us; an inshore life boat RIB was out on an exercise, spotted us, and offered to take over the tow. We were free and just made our chosen anchorage as the tide turned.

??????????????????????????????? Lola under tow after RNLI vessel took over.

I’ve anchored at Copeland Island many times on passage and have always been the only yacht there. This time was different, it was mid summer, four other yachts were anchored and the next day it became a magnet for visitors from the mainland of Ireland; kayaks and speedboats, a passenger launch with tourists, and more small yachts and sailing dinghies, most people were heading for the lovely white sand beaches to enjoy the sun.

??????????????????????????????? Copeland Island

The penultimate leg took us down the coast of Northern Island to Strangford Lough, one of the largest sea lochs in Europe, most of which is a nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. The stay was for one night then we set sail for the Isle of Man, with a perfect, stiff sailing breeze and a steady sea, probably the best sail of the trip, a fine end to the voyage 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Final night, Strangford Lough

If you missed any of the previous posts, here are links to previous episodes;

Sailing Adventures – Part 1

Sailing Adventures – Part 2

Sailing Adventures – Part 3

 

 

Peace

IMG_0245 (copy)

 

This beautiful sunset was witnessed on one of last years sailing voyages. I was sailing solo, on passage towards North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. The picture doesn’t do justice to the moment, but looking at it again I am transported back to all the emotions and senses I felt at the time;

PEACE

.

The day soon done,
a quiet haven lies ahead
as Sól dips her blazing body
toward the horizon,
completing her majestic sweep
across the sky.

Colours change, creeping slowly
through clouds suspended, limp,
awaiting her touch.
Above me­, the cosmos;
below, my vessel surging ahead
cocooned by the boundless ocean.

Colour burst! Golden light,
shining, reflecting, penetrating
all,
warming body and soul.
Oh peace and wonder!
Such must be the joy
in higher realms
of consciousness, exalted.

My body imbued with perfect light,
I open my hands
and reach out my arms
in praise and gratitude,
they are radiant,
a glimpse of beauty

My spirit is lifted
to a finer vibration,
observing through a cloak of mist,
the curtain
between grace and wretchedness,
good and bad,
the angst of our times.

Oh warmongers, if you could cease,
and understand
your senseless strife,
put down your guns, your bombs,
and be one with me
in this light.

Then you would know truth,
cutting like a scythe through your bigotry;
but you are blind
while my brothers and sisters see.
You are isolated, frozen in the dark past;
the future is light, you cannot last.

So I say farewell to Sól
as her light dims ending another day,
but she remains in my heart,
with hope
and knowledge,
of a world to come.