Top destination of 2019

Sri Lanka is doing so well in tourism, that it is showing up in my personal life. I sold my first photo ever, on the stock photography site Alamy, for an article featuring safari in Sri Lanka. I uploaded some 50 photos in 2016 to see how it works.

To see that a  well-established travel website has chosen a photo I took, filled me with happiness. I feel it as a blessing, a small break-through and a sign to keep going because photography is something I am really passionate about. Interestingly, the article was written by a friend of mine and the photos to be featured were chosen by a different team. What a synchronicity!

I long for Sri Lanka. I don’t think I have ever been away from it for so long (3 years). It is in my heart and it talks to me as I sit inside my apartment in Toronto, unwilling to go outside with an extreme cold warning at -22 degrees.

I am reminded of  Island Spell  written by the Sri Lankan poet Wendy Whatmore:

I am wrapped in a strange enchantment,
Caught in an island spell,
Snared by an age-old magic
Of a love no words can tell.Not for me the far-away places,
Not for me the thirst to roam,
The tug at my hungry heartstrings
Is the call of my island home.

I am drowned in her great, green waters,
Burnt by her golden sun,
Dazed by her starry heavens
When her purple dusks are done

I have drunk the wine of her moonlight,
I have lain at her breast thro the years,
I have shared her joys and her laughter,
I have bled with her sorrow’s tears.

I have lain on her yellow beaches
With my ear to a fragile shell,
And heard in its low sweet murmur
My wordless island spell.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to overcome the “Island Spell”.

I can also think of other things that call me home: grandmother, friends, cousins, grandmother’s flowers, our porch, birds that visit it; parrots, mynas, bulbuls, tiny squirrels, warmth of the sun, trees that I have known since I was a child, fruits, curries, paddy fields and the air itself.

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The Soul of Places

As you might have noticed, I messed around with the blog. Changed the domain name without redirecting old links.. oops! I did want a change for a long time though.

The previous domain “meetingsoul” had personal meaning for me but it sounded a little..hmm.. religious? It was inspired by Thomas Moore’s book Care of the Soul. I wanted to find soul.

To be honest, I have found this area I have lived in for the last seven years quite soulless (Forgive me for saying this, I know I am supposed to ‘sell’  everything I’m related to). It took extra effort to find beauty and peace; some space that’s raw, untamed and soulful.

Most buildings here for me look the same grey blocks, lacking in uniqueness of shape or (his)story. My friend who grew up in Kewlona, British Columbia feels the same about this city. So I think my feeling is real. Yet in the past years I tried, and I still try to love this place.

Whenever I traveled to the UK, Sri Lanka or Romania and came back to study here, I felt depressed. Some nostalgia and the longing to be elsewhere went into the posts that I made with photos of the places I had been to. Most of my family, my strongest connections, were outside of where I live.

In the last year though, my Romanian partner came to live in Toronto with me. With her and our cat being here, I feel more ready to accept settling here permanently.  Soul of a place is also the beings that live there, and how connected you feel to them, whether they are birds or humans.

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Downy ready for another tree

Before, I always wanted to take flight.

 

 

Too much brightness

It is very bright outside, with the snow throwing back sunlight into the world. The contrast between light and dark, and the sharp shadows made by the sun cannot possibly describe my feelings right now.

I went ahead and added some of my current feelings to these images I took on a walk last week, by messing with the colors a bit;

winter fruit art abstract
Winter Fruit
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Shadow self of tree of life
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Water moves beneath the frozen creak

 

I have the strange feeling of not being suited for this world.

I feel misaligned and out of place. 

Perhaps just a case of winter blues. 

 

On Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver’s death for me is a personal loss.

Just as she held onto her friend Walt Whitman, I held onto her words, and her words helped me hold on to the world – to love it and live in it even when it seemed most difficult. The Journey helped me listen to my inner voice and believe in it even when others didn’t (I truly believe this poem saved my life and made it joyful as I walked away from the soul crushing advice of people who were closest to me), while the wild geese gave me permission to love without guilt or apology:

” You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves. ”

In short, Mary Oliver helped me accept my self and to claim responsibility for my life – to save the only life I could. The journey was difficult but I am much happier today six years later.

In my last post I shared a quote from her Upstream that inspired me to keep going in my academic and non-academic endeavors. Similarly, since the beginning of my writing and nature photography journey on this blog, I identified with Mary’s instructions for life:
“Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

Most of my posts did just that, in my own way, and I am thankful for my fellow bloggers for still being around.

When it comes to expressing the spiritual dimension of being alive in nature, Mary Oliver was my single best source of inspiration. She was my teacher and I am a mediocre student. I have never met her, just as she had never met Whitman, but through her words I feel connected to her, eternally.

I feel sad for losing my friend but a poet friend is forever. And I know Oliver was in full acceptance of life and death. She won’t be upset.

Bare Life

 

 

Bare Life:

“The term originates in Agamben’s observation that the Ancient Greeks had two different words for what in contemporary European languages is simply referred to as ‘life’: bios (the form or manner in which life is lived) and zoē (the biological fact of life). His argument is that the loss of this distinction obscures the fact that in a political context, the word ‘life’ refers more or less exclusively to the biological dimension or zoē and implies no guarantees about the quality of the life lived. Bare life refers then to a conception of life in which the sheer biological fact of life is given priority over the way a life is lived, by which Agamben means its possibilities and potentialities. “- Ian Buchanan, A dictionary of Critical Theory

What has photography to do with critical theory?

Perhaps nothing.

When I decided to go back to academia two years ago, I felt that a part of who I am had been defeated. I remember the exact moment I accepted it. I was in the library looking over a collection of photos by Ansel Adams. I could not control a tear in my eye over a life I could not afford to live, right then.

I have read critical theory among other things since then. There is a part of me that searches for more than bare life. More than the maintenance of life. More than paying off the student loan and other bills. Academia offered me something – a chance to think, a chance to think better, a scholarship, a way to delay a completely bare life. What’s the point of thinking?

Today I walked into the woods and hugged all the trees in the third and fourth photo.

I still have a sense of failure. For not securing my bare life. For not applying for the best job. For not going for the most lucrative field. For being lost, wandering. For refusing what should be done.

For not being able to refuse my refusal of the world as it is.

Yesterday, I started reading Mary Oliver’s Upstream once again.

“But there is, also, the summoning world, the admirable energies of the world, better than anger, better than bitterness and, because more interesting, more alleviating. And there is the thing that one does, the needle one plies, the work, and within that work a chance to take thoughts that are hot and formless and to place them slowly and with meticulous effort into some shapely heat-retaining form, even as the gods, or nature, or the soundless wheels of time have made forms all across the soft, curved universe – that is to say, having chosen to claim my life, I have made for myself, out of work and love, a handsome life.”
― Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays

I believe, one day, I’ll be able to weave all the threads of my life together in complete harmony; nature, psychology, photography, philosophy, theory. I might as well start from here.