#ShortWrytz – Bare Ash

Words for photographs I’ve taken…

It’s a view I get every morning, letting the pets out before making the first cup of tea. The beloved ash tree – almost certainly doomed to fade away when the ‘die back’ virus finally gets this far north

Today, with the strong wind stripping away the last of its leaves, I had a deep and poignant moment when it seemed to face me in its starkness, and, somehow, bravery.

The blue ‘orb’ produced by the camera lens rests in the image where I imagine the tree’s heart might be.

Human and tree in the presence of each other. Bare ash… bare empathy.

©Stephen Tanham

#ShortWrytz – Peel’s Silent Cross

#ShortWrytz – short pieces inspired by photos I’ve taken

The beautiful coastal town of Peel, Isle of Man.

The former church of St Peters sits, alone, in what is now its own square. There’s very little of it left – just the frontage above, the bell tower at the back and the horizontal cross of its interior space still carved on the ground, suddenly thrust into the lighted world when the church was demolished in 1958.

The town of Peel never lost its fondness for St Peters. Somehow, it became a monument, now formalised.

It’s very moving. I wanted to make the above photo-montage as a memory of being there…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

#ShortWrytz – Night moves: the big idea

#ShortWrytz – short pieces inspired by photos I’ve taken

Since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by the way the autumn darkness conveys a deeper sense of empathy than the late summer it leaves behind…

What I mean is (for example in the picture above) the quietness that wraps – envelopes – two people when they gather under a seaside lamp awaiting the arrival (via spouses) of their fish and chips, following a drive through the Blackpool illuminations… something usually frantic, but in this case, surprisingly quiet and peaceful.

The rain on the windscreens of the two cars might be a clue to the evening’s quietness, but it’s only part of it. It is as though those captured in the scene have slipped into a different space and time.

There’s a creative silence because the moment is unexpected. There is no pressure, just a moment in being when wonderful and subtle things happen. They’re not meant to be overheard: what’s happening is quietly – though not secretly – private… The photographer is allowed, though… at least if he or she has the subtlety to be part of the scene and not outside it. That’s an emotional thing, I’ve decided. But empathy of emotion is the essence of being allowed by this force of silence to capture it.

It doesn’t have to be a gently rainy night in Lytham St Annes. It doesn’t need to be Blackpool illuminations or fish and chips. It doesn’t need to be two people,… or even one; though, as these will be photographs, less than one is difficult.

I’ve always thought of them as ‘night moves’.

I’m been trying to photograph such ‘night moves’ for a long time; and a big thank you to Bob Seeger who, confusingly to anyone reading this, had a sexual metaphor in mind when he wrote the brilliant song with the same name. My motives are slightly different

No matter… if the music fits.

I’m aided in this project by an upgraded Apple iPhone. After nearly four years I’ve traded in my model seven for the latest – an 11 Pro. The older one was good; this new one is wonderful. One of its modes is ‘Night Mode’. It enables very natural-looking images to be taken is low-light situations.

I’m still learning, but I’ll be posting the better ones here, along with their story, where appropriate.

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

#ShortWrytz: vertical panaroma

#ShortWrytz – short pieces inspired by photos I’ve taken

Some smart phones have a ‘Panorama’ feature within the photography options. This allows a left to right scan to be taken of the scene in front of you. You can make it as wide as you like, subject to a maximum of about 180 degrees. The trade-off is that the wider it is, the thinner the vertical slice of scenery, as below.

A typical panorama – a strip of Derbyshire.

It never crossed my mind to wonder what would happen if you did it vertically. Until I was faced with a massive oak tree and no room on the path to move backwards. The results weren’t great; the problem being that the light levels usually increase dramatically as you pivot up towards the sky, resulting in an over-exposed upper half of the shot. The other issue is that any deviation from a straight vertical distorts the image – particularly with ‘line features’ like trees.

But, occasionally, you get lucky and it’s worth the experiment. In the example below, I had no idea there was a small rainbow above me. Along with the graduated clouds, it made up a very magical sky.

If you have a panorama feature on your smartphone (and many people don’t realise they do) then give it a try. The first time you get something extraordinary, you’ll be hooked…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Fear and Love in the High Peak – part one

It’s not the best of photo resolutions, but the above image says it all. Briony saluting the Derbyshire landscape in her own way at the end of three days of the Silent Eye’s Tideswell-based workshop: Sue and Stuart’s creation; and a wonderful experience for the group of souls who braved the provocative title for the weekend…

Rites of Passage: Seeing beyond Fear

…and decided that they would examine the roots of their own fears… and face them in the warmth of loving companionship and symbolic danger.

It’s a time-honoured formula for all mystical organisations; one that brings us all to a point where the day to day ‘fog’ of habitual perception is cut through by the vividness of landscape and experience. That’s what we hope to achieve on these weekends. This one worked well – and in different ways for each person, as it should, for we all have different stories that have brought us to our ‘now’.

Sometimes, especially in reviewing such things, it’s better to start at the end. The picture (above) of Briony is of her at the ‘peak’ of the weekend; the last act of the formal part of our physical, emotional and spiritual wanderings across the ancient and mysterious landscapes of Derbyshire.

A short time later, we would be laughing in one of the oddest, oldest and most wonderful pubs in England…

But that’s for the final chapter of this short series of blogs. For now, let’s drift backwards in time to the sunshine of the Saturday morning. A day of ‘Indian Summer’ as good as any we been blessed with over the years.

Baslow Ridge

We were up high in a place called Baslow Ridge. Looking down on a series of valleys that lead to places like Bakewell, and the glories of the Chatsworth Estate.

The Eagle Stone – a place of proof of maturity, and a precursor to local marriage

The Eagle Stone stands alone, an outlier from a distant time of glaciation. It dominates the landscape like the monolith did in Kubrick’s film of Arthur C. Clarke’s story 2001: A Space Odyssey. People are drawn to it from miles around. It even featured in the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as the place that Elizabeth Bennett visited and climbed… to get away from it all.

It is still used by local folk as a rite of passage. Those who seek the hand of marriage with the girls and ladies of the nearby town of Baslow are expected to demonstrate their suitability by climbing the stone unaided. It’s not a trivial ascent, as this second shot of the rock shows:

The Eagle Stone close-up shows how the higher layers overhang the lower; making an ascent difficult

The Eagle Stone is an example of a sacred folk-object at the centre of a local custom; a ritual, in this case. The ritual was a gateway into adulthood–and maturity. There would be real caution – if not fear- for anyone faced with the challenge. But, with some secret help from your friends, there was only an element of danger, rather than the certainty of death…

The Riley Graves

But many in the history of these parts have not been so lucky. Going back in time to our first visit of the weekend, we were brought face to face with personal fear and sadness of a degree that would be hard to envisage in modern life… and one of the most heart-rending sacrifices we could have encountered.

It’s 1666 in a small High Peak town, not far from Chatsworth. In the space of a single week, a lone woman buries all six of her children and then her husband. No-one will help her; no-one can help her. It is the most awful piece of personal history imaginable and yet the act which surrounds it is of the highest nobility.

Stuart… showing how it should be done

And so the story – the plot – of the weekend, moves from an historic example of fear and self-sacrifice – but seen through modern eyes, through the ancient stones set in the Derbyshire landscape and their cultural and symbolic use, to its finale in a rather foreboding place, high above a valley with a dark history…

Seen like this – backwards from the end, we can appreciate the careful construction of the weekend carried out by Sue and Stuart. Sue has begun its re-telling in her Silent Eye and personal blogs. She’s a great storyteller and there is little point in my replicating her excellent eye for detail.

Instead, I will pick certain moments of significance and focus on them – and hence this backwards-in-time introduction to set the scene.

It’s a long way from the Friday meeting place at Eyam to our final (small for drivers) glass of Dark Lurcher at the Three Stag’s Heads near ‘Hanging Rock’, but it’s a fascinating journey. The weekend demanded a degree of serious intent… but we had lot of fun, too.

In the end, on Sunday morning, everyone was alone for a moment on that dark peak… Very Carlos Castenada, really…. but that’s just my personal take on it.

Next time we meet, it will be August 1666 and, in this part of Derbyshire, something remarkable, unique and utterly selfless will be about to happen.

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

#ShortWrytz – One Dog Beach

#ShortWrytz – short pieces inspired by photos I’ve taken

Shortly after the dawn, one day last week.

Alnmouth (pronounced ‘allan-mouth’), Northumberland.

One of those rare occasions when you have a whole beach to yourselves – the collie, Tess, and me, and one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen.

Good to be alive…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

#ShortWrytz – Who Knew?

#ShortWrytz – short pieces inspired by photos I’ve taken

Who knew…

How softly your paws would pad to the door, just before I enter.

How your hazel eyes would gaze and melt with joy when the new day dawns.

How your sleeping yelps would replay the joys of the day.

How you would, one day, sit in front of a blown-open door for an hour, guarding the house until we returned to find you there.

Who knew…

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

The Talking Darkness #writephoto

This is in response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto ‘Frozen’ and the photo above.

He chose his moment to appear at the edge of the dark forest; the forest through which they had come on their murderous journey.

The few that knew him used his ancient name: the Talking Darkness….

Anyone in the dark green shadows looking out to the approaching night would have seen nothing. But, had they stared a while, they might have been able to make out the outline of a man in a long coat; a coat so dark that it seemed all the light was absorbed by it.

He collected the light, stored the edges of act and consequence in pockets so deep they touched the edges of time. The light he collected was the truth, the living dust of events so significant that they changed the course of history. The motes of light that made up his long coat told stories, stories so exact that those they spoke of were frozen as they watched them repeated; re-told by the mesh of momentary brightness in a manner that silenced, terrified and spoke…. the truth.

The Talking Darkness was not summoned often. Hundreds of years might pass before he was called to bear witness to the truth of another episode of collective horror.

Always, there was a bloodied body. Often that of a child… Sometimes, a very special child.

The eyes of the Talking Darkness followed the curve of the forest to the far clearing where a large fire burned. The body of a child had been placed on a bier following his murder by the ten. Four of the ten were moving the bier so that it would lie over the centre of the flames–incinerating the evidence of their deeds.

The Talking Darkness always assigned the land-trigger to something associated with the deceased – the victim. In that way, the act of justice began within the humble remains of they who were wronged, and the world around them that had been robbed.

Through closed eyes, the Talking Darkness watched as the four of ten danced away, shocked, from the consuming flames which exploded around the small body.

And the land cracked…

The eyes that had been closed opened as the curve in the forest changed shape, extending itself into the encroaching night. The path to murder had become a highway of ice, glowing and lighting half the sky with its intensity.

With ancient boots, the Talking Darkness strode along the ice-road, with every step his coat lightened in colour, matching the darkening eyes of the ten, who, led by the four, were being dragged in frozen horror towards the white heat of the child’s burning body.

It would be a long walk to the flames. There was no hurry. The full story had to be told in the bright darkness before time could move forward, again.

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Land of the Heart

This is a self-help exercise I developed recently. I call it ‘Land of the Heart’

It’s an exercise that involves the surrender of the small self that feels so much pain and anguish, especially at a time of national division, such as we have on both sides of the Atlantic, today.

It’s an exercise that addresses that feeling of helplessness that many of us are enduring as we watch our civilisations change. We have been raised in an age that encourages us to take responsibility for things. On a personal level, this is healthy; but when confronted with the kind of societal change we now face, we can become narrow and negatively focussed by thinking we should be making a difference. In truth, we can only make a difference to our selves.

But the power of that should not be underestimated…

This exercise involves packing all those troubles – many of which are imagined, for we are seldom in real pain or danger – into a little mental kitbag and carrying that ‘wrapped’ bag with us into the world – our daily world – in a very special way.

At this stage we don’t surrender those troubles, feelings or anguish; we just keep them wrapped. But we carry in our hearts a conviction that there is somewhere else they belong.

As we set off into our daily world, we think of that little kitbag, perhaps slung over our shoulder like the Tarot card of the Fool.


The Original Rider-Waite Tarot card of The Fool, by Pamela Coleman Smith. Source Wikipedia

The Fool card, with its happy and ‘naive’ figure has different levels of significance. It would take a full blog just to provide an outline of them. It is the first of the Major Aracana of the Tarot and sits on the Tree of Life in a position that links the place of the Crown of consciousness with the place of the first emanation in the act of cosmic creation.

For the purpose of our exercise, the naivety of the supposed Fool is important. He has no fear of what lies ‘beneath’ him (or her) in the creation. This is because he IS the unfolding act of creation…

One more thing remains before we can take the walk of the Fool into the Land of the Heart. We need to find an old leaf, or a dead or dying flower… or something similar, that has experienced the glory of life, but is now fading… Its pattern remains, to show us something important; but a higher pattern that imprinted it has departed, to return to its pre-life potency.

Above: Find a leaf, flower or other organic vehicle, now discarded

Our final search is to find (or ask to be show) somewhere of great beauty. We need not be physically there, though that’s wonderful if it is possible. A photo of such a place works well, as does an abstract image. If the first photo in this blog moves you (as it did me) then feel free to have it and hold it.

We now have everything we need to carry out the exercise. In our minds we become the Fool in the Tarot card. Walking forward into our new day. We take the old leaf or flower and hold it in one of our hands, feeling love for the wonder of its life, but knowing that what it really WAS is gone… to become another IS.

Looking at the view or image of the place we have selected, we surrender our small self and the kitbag into the image of the eternal and constantly changing world of which we can only ever have a tiny amount of knowledge.

And then, crushing the remains of the leaf or flower, we return the pieces to the ground, to feed what needs to grow next, thinking of the Fool’s kitbag as we do so.

We have freed ourselves from the contents of the kitbag. We have embraced and surrendered the smallness of our personal self. In so doing we have become a living part of the Land of the Heart.

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Mellow, then Naked

With gentle care, my drunken head

Is upwards tilted, facing Sun

I glimpse pale gold in summer’s field

To trace, already, winter’s dread

As hues of autumn’s failing now revealed

Too soon! Unready heart implores!

But she, intent and moistened scent

Upon the harvest’s fulsome bliss

Inscribes my name on deeper lands-

Baptising wordsmith with her kiss

This is my chosen task–her ask

To face the winds, the rain and snow

To see the bare yet feel the beat

Of life withdrawn to hidden mask

As thickened leather wraps my feet

To dig through darker months the toil

Our hands return to deeper soil

Which, haunted by four faces’ song

Five-finds a singer always whole

And tells her truth; to write the wrong

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.