Developing your Eye: Day Nine

Today’s challenge involved bringing colour into play. We were encouraged to experiment with only one colour, but I can’t resist the starry brightness against the green. I took this shot the same day as I snapped the picture featured on Day Five. I hope it brightens your day in the way it brightened mine.

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#developingyoureye:
 ‘Two Colours with Green’.

Developing Your Eye: Day Eight

Treasure

The day after my grand daughter was born my son, who is a gifted photographer but lacks the time to develop his talents, took this photograph of his new born daughter.

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#developingyoureye: ‘Newborn’

Later that year, while playing around with my camera, I photographed my partner as he prepared our Christmas Dinner, our first one  with our grand daughter.

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#developingyoureye: ‘Paring Knife.’

Both photos are, for me, emblems of the bounty of life but I also like the contrasts between them – the old hands, the new hands (what wonders will they perform?), the sharpness of the paring knife, the tenderness of those tiny, vulnerable fingers.

Photography is, indeed, poetry.

Developing Your Eye Day Five

Today’s Task: Connect

To connect we must fasten, physically unite, join. We must tie and bind, relate and associate, we must as E. M. Forster has said, ‘Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.’

#developingyoureye: 'Connect'
#developingyoureye: ‘Connect’

Yet the connection made possible by these lines and wires is fragmentary, temporal, tenuous.

The earth is a beast tethered by humankind’s inability to endure solitude; there is nothing wrong with connection, what needs to be questioned is the motivation for, and the quality and cost of, the connection. We no longer reach out a hand to another, we press a button. We text but never talk; fearful of our impurities we share only what we can photoshop.

The monolith rising above my house gives me the world on a screen even as it ties me to my throttled patch of the planet … and yet, and yet … how else to re-calibrate the fibres of our subjectivity than by assenting to this thready connection with an Other?

I cannot answer that question.

I don’t have to answer that question.

I can, through laptop, cable and satellite, connect to the world, ask that question and hope for a reply.

Developing your Eye Day Four

Bliss

Our idea of bliss changes. What we once thought of as heavenly can become an embarrassment. The pop group from your teens, the dish you used to prepare (in my case cheese fondue) that you’d turn up your nose at now. Other things remain in your personal library of bliss; a beautiful sunset, holding your first-born in your arms, even though he’s too tall to cradle anymore and you must be content with a hug.

Then there’s the bliss you could never imagine but cannot now do without; the delight that comes from hearing the doorbell ring and knowing your granddaughter has arrived. There’s also the bittersweet bliss of greeting your children from interstate and luxuriating in their smiles despite knowing they’ll leave again in a few days. Photographs fail to capture such moments, which makes today’s #developingyoureye task difficult for me.

What, apart from being with my loved ones, represents bliss? What do I experience that brings me bliss?

Every afternoon at three my partner and I have afternoon tea. One of us will make  Chai, and we often have a piece of cake or a biscuit. Occasionally, though, I’ll indulge a blissfully rich hot chocolate with marshmallows. When I feel the need to raise the bliss a notch or two I’ll serve it in a robustly colourful Mason’s ‘Regency’ cup and saucer.

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Blissfully Wicked Double Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows.

It belonged to my mother and I believe it was her mother’s. There are, as you can see from the photograph below, two such cups and their saucers, but the pink one has a fine crack in it so I only drink from the blue one.

I don’t remember my grandparents using them, but when I take my first sip of chocolate I wonder if they took tea in the afternoon, sitting together in their kitchen, drinking from cups brought from the ‘Old Country.’

My grandfather was from Wales and my grandmother was a Glaswegian. A visit to their home when I was a child was an experience in accents, a concert of emphases, stresses and inflections that delighted the ear even as it sometimes confused the child.

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Mason’s ‘Regency’, England.

When I hear a soft female Scottish voice I remember my grandmother Bell’s beautiful smile that, more often than not, quickly evolved into rich laughter.

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Valentine, Gloria and Isabel.

Perhaps bliss is remembering a loved one’s smile.

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Developing your Eye Day Three

Water

Water: there is much about it that appeals. The fluid, almost magical way it finds its own level, how it soothes and abrades, sustains and dissolves, rests still and deep for years then, during a dry season, simply evaporates. DSC_0001
Water often represents our emotions; we are ‘flooded by our feelings’ or ‘deeply in love’ only to be ‘left high and dry’ when that love seeps away.
Today’s #developingingyoureye task was to try another wide, establishing shot and think about which orientation (vertical or horizontal) works better. I chose a horizontal perspective because I love the wide sweep of a seascape, the sense of something bigger than me, although one of my photos focuses on a small piece of sea grass. Had I decided to take a photo of the creek near our home I might have chosen a vertical format in order to represent its linear and enclosed nature.
DSC_0019  Yesterday was the warmest we’ve had for several months. Adelaideans did what they usually do on winter days when the sun finally makes an appearance: they stroll along the esplanade; sit drinking coffee and reading the newspaper; play beach cricket on the shore. The majority of Australians live, at most, three hours from the beach. It’s where we go for a holiday and many of us celebrate Christmas and certainly New Year at the beach. DSC_9993

Although it’s a big island, Australia is still an island. We are an enclosed, insulated community forced to fly off our island in order to access the rest of the world. Our obsession with the beach, with the sea, is double edged. Our isolation, in part, protects but also confines us.

DSC_9998Perhaps our regular visits to the beach are a form of homage to that enclosure, a homage tempered by the idea of escaping our confines so we can see what the rest of the world is up to.

 

Photography: Developing your Eye. Day One

Just as I was wondering what to do for my next post I discovered Photography Developing your Eye, had commenced. I’ve been looking forward to doing this WordPress Course because, about three years ago, my son gave me his old camera. Every so often I took it out from its bag, took a few shots and promised myself I’d learn to use it properly. What I thought ‘properly’ meant I’m not sure. Become familiar with the ins and outs of shutter speed? Become conversant with depth of field? Or maybe learn how to frame an image?

My son is a talented photographer, so when he said, after I showed him a few of my photos, ‘you have a good eye, Mum,’ I glowed with pleasure. Despite his encouragement, however, I haven’t given myself the time I need to become comfortable with my camera even though I’d love to create a collection of images and write about them. I promised myself I’d attend a photography class but writing has been the main focus of this year and so any attempts at image making have been delayed.

Maybe Photography Developing your Eye will change that? At least it is a chance to play with words and images and see what comes of it. It’s a good a place as any to start.

Today’s theme  is ‘Home’. We were asked to share what we think of when we think of home and take a photo of it. I grabbed my mobile phone instead of the camera – it’s afternoon here and I don’t have the time to take a photo, load it on to the computer, write a post and then upload it all – so the mobile with suffice for today.

In terms of what I think when I think of home, I immediately headed for the fruit bowl. From the day I moved, as a newly married woman, into my first home I have always had a bowl of fruit on the dining table or sideboard. Visitors need never ask; whatever is in the bowl is there for the taking.

It’s a dull day outside, one of many grey days we’ve experienced this winter.  This large, generous bowl of light leavens the chill, muted day. No matter the season or where I live, my fruit bowl will always say, ‘Welcome, help yourself.’

The Art of Resilience

The reason I started this blog was to share my interest in therapeutic writing. As many of you know, this focus has changed slightly but today I want to return to a topic that remains important to me: therapeutic writing and resilience. I will begin, however,  with what creates the impetus, the need, to develop resilience: trauma and suffering.

Suffering happens. Trauma causes lasting, ongoing distress. Bearing witness to trauma and suffering helps us recognise, acknowledge and relieve the pain. Being resilient is understanding trauma, knowing that it results in alienation as well as dissociation from the traumatic event itself. Resilience is being aware of how trauma disconnects us from our self and our perceptions. Trauma flays friendships, undoes families and leaves us at the mercy of others; to advocate resilience is to acknowledge the struggle to comprehend or change the situation, to acknowledge that trauma makes us feel like ‘a nobody’.

Well-meaning suggestions about how to respond to trauma, and claims that our trauma is less traumatic than another’s, serve only to undermine our survival, suggest our story is not worth sharing or we haven’t ‘suffered enough’. Comments like this rob us of the ability to decide, for ourselves, the personal quality and potency of our suffering; they turn us away from resilience and back to the trauma.

Does defining trauma as

unspeakable [and thus] resistant to representation

silence us, leave us powerless to deal with or learn from the trauma? When trauma is endlessly reproduced and recycled by the media, either for entertainment or as ‘news’, are we being conditioned to accept trauma and suffering as ‘normal’? When groups of people are traumatised, do we know those groups, know individual members of the group, only by their trauma, only by their suffering?

Who benefits from labelling individuals and entire cultures, as ‘traumatised’? Who gains by robbing individuals and entire cultures of their agency, their ability to heal from trauma?

If we study and understand the impact of trauma, shouldn’t we also study and understand how to heal from trauma?

There are some who believe in

the transformative potential of trauma itself […] the possibilities of psychic regrowth

that is a possible outcome of trauma.

Art makes healing from trauma possible. Art is an act of survival. Art builds resilience.

Why art? Because nothing else is strong enough to contain the destruction of the self.

Art doesn’t theorise suffering, it engages with it. Trauma can not

properly be grasped in a purely cognitive manner … its … chaotic and meaningless character

must be encountered through writing, painting, music, drama and movement.

   What of the risk? What if by ‘re-creating’ the trauma we are ‘re-traumatised’? Memory, as it is newly understood, is a process of

selection, emphasis and amplification.

Is it possible that by drawing on our memories of trauma, actively choosing how to represent our trauma, what to represent, what to amplify and what to ignore, we can regain agency? Can remodelling our trauma provide us with the means to craft our recovery and learn to take control of our lives?

Therapeutic writing builds resilience. It helps us discover our meaning of the trauma, and reject meanings imposed by others. Therapeutic writing, like any writing, is an exacting art. It needs the support of a counsellor, who is also a reasonably skilled writer, to witness and guide the process of safely remembering and reconstructing the traumatic event. It needs someone who knows that resilience is flexibility, plasticity and strength. It needs someone who understands that the story of trauma inherently contains a story of survival and the story of suffering is a story of resilience.


The views expressed here are not not meant to serve as medical advice or replace consultation with your physician or mental health professional. The information contained in this blog should not be used to diagnose or treat a mental health problem. If you have experienced trauma you should consult with your medical practitioner or a qualified mental health care provider about your personal questions or concerns.

References

Emily Ashman, ‘Psychic Resilience in the Fragile Images of A Petal: A Post-Jungian Perspective on Retraumatisation’, in Trauma Narratives and Herstory, ed. by Sonya Andermahr and Silvier Pellicer-Ortin (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013), pp. 171-187.

Sonya Andermahr and Silvier Pellicer-Ortin, ‘Trauma Narratives and Herstory’ in Trauma Narratives and Herstory, ed. by Sonya Andermahr and Silvier Pellicer-Ortin (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013), pp. 1-12, p. 7.

Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery from Domestic Abuse and Political Terror (London: Pandora, 2010), p. 52.

Stephen K. Levine, Poiesis: The Language and the Speech of the Soul (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers 1997), p. 120.

Stephen K. Levine, Trauma, Tragedy, Therapy: The Arts and Human Suffering (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2009), pp. 38-41

Gillian Whitlock and Kate Douglas, ‘Trauma Texts: Reading Trauma in the Twenty-First Century’ in Trauma Texts ed. by Gillian Whitlock and Kate Douglas (Oxon: Routledge, 2009), pp. 1–8, (p. 1).

Photo Credit: Pixabay