Important Message: We Have Moved!

Well, I have moved to self-hosted.  I decided to do this a long time ago, and this is me finally getting around to it.  After a long day yesterday, I managed the wordpress install, chose and customised the theme, rearranged widgets and fixed the feed.  To say this has been a learning curve is to vastly understate the obvious!

Anyway, what this means for you, is that you’ll need to move your feed subscription.  I have lots of exciting new developments planned, and I just know that you won’t want to miss out!


I’ll be keeping this blog up until I manage to move over all my in-post links, and to make sure you all get this message about the move.  I wouldn’t want to lose any of you!

Also, if, in the past, you have been so kind as to link here in your blogrolls, could I ask you to alter the link to lead others to the blog’s new home?  Thank you so much!

Anyway, why don’t you head on over there now, and check out my welcome message?

June 12, 2008. Admin. 2 comments.

We Do Not Need Magic

I’ve just finished watching JK Rowling’s address to this year’s graduates from Harvard, and I strongly recommend that you watch it too. It was funny, powerful, moving and inspirational – everything you could want and more from a commencement address.

One of the key phrases for me was

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

Isn’t that just incredibly empowering? The woman who, for the last decade, has brought the wonder of magic to the lives of children and adults alike, strips away the fiction to reveal that we all hold the potential to make a difference to both our own lives and to the lives of others.

Whether you are graduating this month, whether you graduated years ago, whether you intend to graduate in years hence, or whether you chose a different route entirely from that of academia, watch this (20min) clip and take her advice to heart. The key themes are of failure and imagination, and your life may well be richer for having taken the time to listen to what she has to say about both.


Vodpod videos no longer available.

If you had been in JK’s shoes, what would your message have been? What advice would you like to give to those just starting out? What advice was given to you that you’ve since found valuable?

June 9, 2008. Inspiration. 13 comments.

Photography Less Ordinary Time Capsule Result

Last Friday, I set a challenge: take a time-specific photograph and contribute it to the new Photography Less Ordinary Flickr group. Not including myself, 12 members of the group decided to take up the challenge. Here they all are along with the photographers’ descriptions.

Red Bottle Brush by Rosa Say
Red Bottle Brush
“I stepped outside to take a few snapshots during a morning writing break, and then decided on this one for my timecapsule entry for Photography Less Ordinary, a challenge wherein our Mea Ho‘okipa Amy Palko asked us to help celebrate the group’s launch and all our fabulous members’ efforts
to date! 75 members in less than a month is quite impressive, don’t you think? I am quite sure it is the Aloha shared, a spirited energy which this blossom reminds me of, with the individual florets adding to the magnificence of the whole :)”

Sproutlings by codyrockx
“I chose this one for the timecapsule project, cause it’s going to be a freakin’ long time for those things to get to full growth. Likewise it’s going to take even longer to heal the scars we’ve left on the Earth.”

Sunset at Half Moon Bay State Beach by TheMuseCalliope
Sunset at Half Moon Bay State Beach
“After dinner tonight (1 June 2008), we hurried to Half Moon Bay State Beach to photograph the sunset. We arrived just in time and stayed until the sun was completely down. Maybe it’s just me, but I love to watch the sun boiling into the sea. I am adding this photo to the timecapsule at “Photography Less Ordinary” as it is a time-specific event (sunset) and because I have been photographing sunsets since I first got a camera. It seems fitting somehow.”

Train on the Move by wonderwebby
train on the move
“a moment in time…I missed the train, but not too late to take a photo
It’s that split second when you decide whether to get irritated, or make the most of a moment – matters :)”

110 Years by ¿Nick?
110 Years
“Close-up of the badge on a Heidelberg lithographic printing press. Taken with a Polaroid SX-70 Sonar from Scanned and reproduced loyally with no post-production.
Submitted under the timecapsule meme in the Photography Less Ordinary group in honour of the concept of a time capsule: a reminder that the great ideas and hard work we give freely today can still make ripples and change lives over one hundred years later. (Added bonus: we’re all a lot younger than we feel!)”

Behind the Chestnutblossom by kleine gelbe Ente
Behind the Chestnutblossom
“I submit this to the “Photography Less Ordinary” timecapsule. Nothing captures time and the flow of time as well as those spring blooms on the trees. Already small fruit are forming. I went back to this place last week ( this is what the flowers look like now. I will go back later this month as well to see how the fruit develop. I hope it will give a nice series at the end of summer/fall.”

The Moment of the Setting Sun by bobsee
the moment of the setting sun
“Sunset, May 31st………the END of May 2008
This is the moment, the present moment, that time we call sunset, and as the sun sinks behind the mountains, it throws up a final farewell flare. I’ve never seen it do that before. Not behind these particular hills. The unexpected, the unpredicted, how it jumps up and grabs our attention, demands we pull ourselves right out of the dreams and worries about the future, right out of the memories and reveries of the past, and just for this brief moment, we are reminded that the present is sliding past our eyes, so maybe, just maybe, it would be good to open them.”

Port of Leith by Joanna Young
Port Of Leith
“I’ve chosen this picture as my contribution to the Photography Less Ordinary Time Capsule
I like the picture – I can even imagine it up on my wall with a frame (and as Rosa says it’s even better in large size).
It’s marked in time because:
It was taken on the last Saturday in May
It was the start of the Leith Festival, so the bars and cafes at the port were heaving with people
It was a gloriously sunny day, probably the best we’ve had so far this year
It was the end of an 8 mile walk: I walked from my house (SW Edinburgh) to Leith (NE) along the canal and then the Water of Leith: by water and green spaces all the way.
I always remember the days, times, and moments of walks: the thoughts, feelings, ideas, pieces of writing that start to form in my head at particular points in a walk. Taking photos adds to that: fixes them, lodges them somehow
Leith is a place that holds mixed emotions for me: I worked in Leith at the Scottish civil service for 9 years more or less, with some very good times and some very not so good times. Getting ready to leave Edinburgh for the west coast requires looking back on some of them and revisiting old haunts, and saying some goodbyes. This picture represents some of that (for me)
Last but not least: doesn’t the city look stunning? I’d like something to go into this time capsule that showed other people what a wonderful place Scotland is, and that the sun does shine… sometimes! And when it does, there’s nowhere to beat it.
Thanks for the invitation Amy, and I hope you can find room for this in the time capsule.”

A Different View by sunbeam_daisy
A Different View
“I took this yesterday and have chosen it as my image for the time capsule because it represents Spring and because it’s taken from a different perspective. The Photography Less Ordinary group have inspired me to look at things differently … so this is to you all, with huge thanks!”

Graduating by ballerinagirl
“In a little over a week, I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. It’s been a long, difficult journey, with both great events (meeting Son) and some not so great ones (my car accident, Patrick’s cancer, my dad’s cancer). I’m so excited to be done… now it’s time for the rest of my life to begin!
I took this picture for Photography Less Ordinary’s time capsule project. It was taken today, June 4th, after I picked up my cap and gown!”

Autumn by a memory forever
“Autumn is my favourite season of the year. I love the amazing colours, how the leave crackle under your feet and how the colours glisten after a rain.
31st May 2008”

A Happy Start to the Day by my whimsy
A happy start to the day
“Morning treat. June 4, 2008.
For Photography Less Ordinary time capsule.”

And, finally, here’s my own contribution:

All by Myself by amypalko

All By Myself
“This is my contribution to the time capsule.
It was taken on Sunday morning, when my youngest learned to ride his two-wheeler bike without stabilisers. We started out slowly and painfully (24 bruises altogether!) but he is one determined wee soul, and ultimately he succeeded. To say that his mummy is proud of him is to vastly understate the obvious!
This photograph captures such a lovely moment and one which, I suspect, signals his transition to a stage of greater freedom and independence. He knows his mummy will always be there to clean up his grazes and scrapes as he travels along the bumpy path to adulthood, and with that knowledge, he moves forward determinedly and confidently.”

Well, that’s the first Photography Less Ordinary challenge over, and didn’t everyone excel themselves? A truly outstanding collection of photographs. Well done everyone!!

Update: I have received a couple more contributions to the time capsule. Enjoy!

South Station – New Info Signs by shersteve

South Station - New info signs

The new signs fond previously were over the intervening days in various stages of installation until finally last Thursday they were actually running test patterns. I was running for the train and was without my camera last week.
Yesterday there were tests being conducted. It sounds like the announcements will be automated and timed to deliver the text on the sign as the trains are called.
Today, I catch up to Amy Palko’s request for a time capsule picture, low and behold the signs were operational. My camera was ready this time.
Coincidence? No, destiny.”
Description taken from Steve’s 2 Cents

Garden Iris, A History Exposed by bo mackison

Garden Iris, A History Exposed

“An iris from stock that my grandfather grew when I was a young child, 50 years ago. It is a deep golden yellow and it’s mahogany markings are stunning. This is deep in the iris, at it’s very core. It grows only a few steps from the front door of my home, 300 miles from my hometown. I feel as if I have carried a bit of my heritage with me when I see the iris in bloom
This is a fitting entry for a time capsule, as it represents the origins of my love of gardening and nature – my grandfather and I spent hours together each day, out in the gardens. There I learned to tell the difference between a flower and a weed, to plant a seed and transplant a plant, and to reap the rewards of gardens – beautiful flowers, luscious vegetables, and a deep satisfaction with the beauty and gifts of nature..”

June 6, 2008. Photography. 13 comments.

The Passing of a Moment


After writing out the exercise in yesterday’s post, I grabbed my favourite red fleecy blanket and went outside to sit on the lawn in my back garden.  I laid it out on the slightly damp grass, sat down, and closed my eyes.  For a while my mind was busy with all the daily minutiae: the housework that was still waiting to be started, the reading I need to finish, the fish bowl I should clean etc.  Then, after a wee while, I began to let these nagging thoughts go, and I started to listen to the sounds of the garden…

The flapping wings of a passing magpie, the chorus of creaks as the window frames expand in the heat, the low buzz of a bumblebee, the high pitched whine of a small insect, a neighbourhood car’s engine turning over,  the far away squawk of a seagull, the drone of passing aircraft, the flap of laundry as it dried in the breeze.

While I was capable of identifying all these different sounds, I quickly realised that when I turned my attention to what I could smell, I could only identify one fragrance, and that was of the fabric conditioner as it wafted down from the laundry to where I was sitting.  It makes me wonder whether I’ve neglected one of my main ways of sensing the world around me to the point where I can no longer notice it.

Have you read the Patrick Suskind book, Perfume?  It is one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read, as so much of the description is articulated through an exploration of scent.  When I read that book, I found myself thinking, ‘Yes, I know that smell, and that’s exactly what it smells like.’  One of my favourite passages in it is when a wet nurse is describing the smell of newborn babies:

‘Well, it’s -‘ the wet nurse began, ‘it’s not all that easy to say, because… because they don’t smell the same all over, although they smell good all over, Father, you know what I mean?  Their feet for instance, they smell like a smooth warm stone – or no, more like curds… or like butter, like fresh butter, that’s it exactly.  They smell like fresh butter.  And their bodies smell like… like a pancake that’s been soaked in milk.  And their heads, up on top, at the back of the head, where the hair makes a cowlick, there… There, right there, is where they smell best of all.  It smells like caramel, it smells so sweet, so wonderful, Father, you have no idea!’

Perfume by Patrick Suskind, pp. 12-13

Isn’t that an incredible description which focuses entirely on smell?  I think today, I’m going to concentrate on the scents I inhale, and see if I can increase my own awareness of a sense I’ve clearly neglected for too long.

What did you discover when you did the exercise?  Are there some senses available to you that you are not fully experiencing?  How can you enhance your awareness of them?

June 5, 2008. Environment. 9 comments.

The One Place You Must See Before You Die

Rustic Idyll

Forget 1001 historic sites/gardens/natural wonders/architectural feats you must see before you die.  I’ll tell you the one thing that you really must see before you leave this world  for the next – the here and now.

I’m not talking here of a cursory glance around, so you can check it off that mental list of things seen and done.  To my mind, unless you give yourself completely over to experiencing the moment, this exact one happening right now, it won’t matter if you’re seated outside the Taj Mahal, touring the pyramids by camel, standing at the viewpoint overlooking the steep cliffs of the Grand Canyon or climbing the many steps ascending the Eiffel Tower.  To fully experience life, it must be lived, not measured, evaluated and checked.

Here’s a quick exercise for you to try:

  1. Walk for no more than 5 mins from where you are sitting now – this may take you to your living room, your garden, a local park etc. – and bring with you a notebook, a pen and your camera.
  2. Find a good (safe!) place to sit, and close your eyes for a few minutes and just breathe.  Allow your body to relax and your mind to unwind.  Push to one side all those concerns about what you still have to do today,  the money worries, the work woes.  They’ll all still be there when we’re finished, so they can be ignored for the time being.
  3. Still with your eyes closed, give over to your senses.  Feel the grass tickle your fingers.  Smell the honey-scented blooms.  Hear the sweet chirp of the birds.  Of course, depending on where you chose your spot to sit, your senses may convey something entirely different from that which I’ve described here.  The important thing is to give yourself over to it and to experience it for what it is.
  4. Now, open your eyes, and look around you.  Take in the whole of the sight, allowing your eyes to drink in the unique beauty of what surrounds you.  You may be viewing tall oaks, rolling grassy hillocks, colourful flowerbeds, or, if you stayed inside, maybe you’re viewing overfilled bookcases, softly draping curtains, and finely grained floorboards.  Whatever the sight, accept and appreciate it, without longing that you were somewhere else entirely.
  5. After absorbing the bigger picture, it’s now time to zero in on the details.  Pick up your camera and, turning on your macro setting, get up close to your subjects and start capturing the intimate curves of the petals, the gradation of colour in the leaves, the textured grain of the wood.  Try new angles, new perspectives, new takes on the familiar.  Make the known, new, fresh and strange.
  6. Time to uncap the pen and open the notebook.  Find a fresh page and begin to write about what you’ve experienced since you first sat in that spot 5 mins walk away.  Remember to try and capture the sensual experience of what you felt, heard, and smelled as well as the sights you saw and photographed, and really try to use as descriptive language as you can.  Write as truthfully and as mindfully as you can – try and express the truth of the moment to the best of your ability. Wax lyrical!
  7. Optional: What I do following this exercise is, I upload my photographs, cropping and editing them to make them more clearly represent my perspective, and then create a post combining my words and images.  A record of that time and place to be shared and experienced by all who come across it.

I think you’ll find that if you follow these steps, you’ll have see the one place you ‘must see’ before you die – the present moment.  But do you know what the great thing is?  Life is just full of these moments!

I’m reminded of this wonderful quote which my mum used to keep on her fridge:

Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had my life to live over, I’d have more of them in fact I’d have nothing else, just moments, one after another instead of living so many years ahead each day.

Nadine Stair age 85 in Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself by Sabrina Ward Harrison

I couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂

If you do decide to give the exercise a go, why not report back here with how you got on?  I’ll be posting about mine tomorrow!  If you decided to take the option of blogging about it, leave the link so we can all go and share in your experience of a moment.  Also, you could contribute one of your photos from the exercise to the Photography Less Ordinary time capsule. If you’re planning to do so though, you’ll need to do it today, as the deadline for entries is midnight (your time) tonight!

June 4, 2008. Creativity, Environment, Inspiration. 18 comments.

Some Less Ordinary News

Angelica Blooming

Just a few bits and pieces today to bring you all up to date:

  • My 2nd photograph for The Calm Space is now up and available for download as a desktop.  The lovely Leah has added in some text and a calendar, and the whole thing looks just great.  I’ve already downloaded it for myself, and I’m really happy with the result.  Oh, and while you’re over there, why not have a browse around this month’s issue.  June’s theme is Freedom and there are some really wonderful articles.  Really recommended!
  • Photography Less Ordinary is positively thriving with more new members and more beautiful photographs.  If you haven’t joined yet, add me as a contact and I will send you an invite.  Oh, and you only have till midnight (your time) tomorrow to submit your photo to the time capsule challenge.  We already have some beautiful entries, so why don’t you give it a go?
  • Lastly, I have been rediscovering Friend Feed, and I’ve discovered that they have a new function on it whereby you can create a ‘room’ where you can contribute links, photos, comments, stumbles etc and share them with a specific community. So, I’ve started a bit of an experiment and I’ve created a Room Less Ordinary where I’m sharing links that I think would be of interest to my readers, new photos to my own Flickrstream and to Photography Less Ordinary, new blog posts here and other news etc that I think you all might want to know about.  It’s very intuitive to find your way around, so please do feel free to join.

Well, I think that’s all for now.  Do you have some news you’d like to share?  What’s been going on in your corner of the world?

PS. The photo included in this post is not an alien, although I’m aware that that is exactly what it looks like.  It is, in fact, my angelica plant about to bloom.  This plant continually amazes, as we never quite know what it’s going to do next!  Seemed appropriate somehow…

June 3, 2008. Admin. 6 comments.

An Island Exploration

On Friday night, we decided that we would go for an explore the following day. We opened up our Ordinance Survey maps – you know, the kind that unfold to enormous proportions and then rebel against being manipulated back to their original position – and started planning. After discounting a few places, we decided on heading back to Loch Lomond. Now you may remember, if you’ve been a reader here for a while, I visited Loch Lomond towards the end of last year, when the greenery was provided by coniferous trees only, bare branches jutted into view, and the low lying sun sank all too soon on that cold, frosty day. Loch Lomond, however, is actually renowned for its oak forests, and I wanted to see them in all their glory, not stripped of all leaves, naked and dormant.

After scanning our maps, we eventually spotted an island that seemed to have a boat link and chose that as our destination. It’s called Inchcailloch, and there is a woodland walk the whole way around it. We hired a boat to take us across the short stretch of water from Balmaha to the north jetty on Inchcailloch and began our trek.

The great thing about Inchcailloch is that there is so much to see and yet it only takes a couple of hours to walk all the way round. It was inhabited at one point, and there remains the foundations of a church and a graveyard with graves dating from 1600s to 1910. There are also lots of wildflowers, insects, deer and plantlife to identify, which certainly kept the kids occupied!

Anyway, here are some shots from the day. Enjoy!

Rope on a Boat

Balmaha Boats

Beach Life

A Good Place To Rest

Loch Lomond in Blue


Here Lies...

Where did you last go for an explore?  What did you find when you got there?

June 1, 2008. Environment, Photography. 15 comments.

Time Capsule: Flickr Group Project

Blushing Bride

It has been one whole week now since I launched the Flickr group, Photography Less Ordinary, and I have been blown away by just how many of you have embraced the project, and have been willing to get involved. In Monday’s post, I mentioned the possibility of some group projects, themes, treasure hunts etc. Well, I have decided to launch the first of those today. With 71 members currently, I’m hoping to get a pretty good turn out!

Ok, the details of the project are as follows: your mission, should you choose to accept it, (and I sincerely hope you will!) is to take a time-specific photograph and contribute it to the group by midnight (your time) next Wednesday (4th June).

Your photograph could relate to a specific season or you may choose to photograph an actual timepiece. You could contribute a photograph that includes the date in some innovative way, or you may decide to take a photo of a time-specific event. Or you could even capture and share a personal milestone, although perhaps not a milestone as major as the photographed one I’ve included in this post, which is me on my wedding day nearly 11 years ago. However, I would prefer that the photo you contribute is one taken during the course of the week, as it will form a part of a Photography Less Ordinary time capsule celebrating the group’s launch and all its fabulous members’ efforts to date!

A few technicalities:

  1. If you are not a member of the Flickr group, but you would like to be, add me as a contact, and you will be sent an invite.
  2. Your photograph should be time-specific in some way.
  3. Preferably, your photograph will have been taken between the 30th May and the 4th June.
  4. When contributing a photograph to this project, please include timecapsule as a Flickr tag, to make it easy for all contributions to be collated. Please ensure that you enter the tag exactly as I have here, all one word, otherwise your entry may get lost!
  5. Add a description giving details of your photograph including the date it was taken and why you have chosen to submit it to the time capsule.
  6. Submit your photo to the group by midnight (your time) on Wednesday (4th June) to ensure your photo’s inclusion in the round-up post.
  7. Have fun!

I plan to write the round-up post, the format of which will be dependent upon how many entries the group receives, by next Friday (6th June).

Please do give it a go! In particular, if you are one of the members who has yet to contribute a photograph to the group’s pool, why not use this as a good excuse to give it a go. If you are unsure about any of the technicalities of contributing a photo, send me a Flickr Mail, and I’ll talk you through it. Some of our less confident members have already plucked up the courage to share a photo with the group, and have been greatly encouraged by the supportive feedback received.

Your photo does not have to be perfect – it just has to be yours!

How are you enjoying Photography Less Ordinary so far? Do you have any suggestions for future projects? Do you have any suggestions for the group overall? All feedback will be greatly appreciated!

May 30, 2008. Creativity, Photography. 11 comments.

Figure 5 in Gold

When I was walking in the centre of Edinburgh recently, I came across this remnant from bygone days painted on the side of a building.


Perhaps it’s just the way my mind works, but I was immediately reminded of this painting:

'I Saw The Figure 5 in Gold' by Charles Demuth

It’s a painting by Precisionist, Charles Demuth, which was inspired by the poem ‘The Great Figure’ by that wonderful Imagist, William Carlos Williams:

The Great Figure

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
fire truck
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city

Isn’t that a fabulous poem?  Carlos Williams had an incredible talent for conveying such rich images through so few words.

Like I said, maybe it’s just the way my mind works, but when I wander around cities, ramble through forests, window-shop down the high street, I can’t help but be reminded of paintings, poems, lyrics, novels etc.

I’d be fascinated to know, however, what creative works you are reminded of as you make your way through your city, your hometown, your local parks and woodlands.  Perhaps it’s the work of a local artist or songwriter?  Or maybe it’s a personal association?  What are the narratives that call to you when you’re out and about?

May 29, 2008. Creativity, Environment. 8 comments.

Budding Promise

Poppy Bud

The bud contains all, locked up tight. Its thick green coverings hiding from view what lies within. It is not until the bud begins to open that the colour of the bloom begins to reveal itself, and the falling away of verdant shroud quickly follows. What remains is petal after petal of soft satin loveliness, peach-pink and smooth to the touch. The promise of the bud has been fulfilled.

Pink Poppy 4

Pink Poppy 3

Pink Poppy 2

It makes me think about the promise that each of us holds, locked up tight within our wildest dreams, our most audacious imaginings, our most closely held ambitions,  just waiting for the right conditions to flourish into radiant glory.

What promise have you seen fulfilled recently?  Have you personally found an opportunity to grow and shake loose your luminous petals?  Or perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to watch a friend, child, colleague, partner blossom within a nurturing environment?  How do you help others to flourish?

May 28, 2008. Environment, Inspiration, Photography. 18 comments.

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