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Winter Solitude

I should perhaps begin this blog post by wishing anyone out there that's taken the time to look a very happy new year! We all find ourselves beginning the year in this rather horrible situation where we have lost our freedom and access to all that we take for granted. Of course it's all for the greater good that we be sensible and stick to the rules but on a personal level lockdown mkII is already affecting me more than I'd like. Last year was tough on a personal level with no workshops or commissions; I was more hopeful going into 2021 and now we are faced with further restrictions. It's more important than ever to count your blessings. A roof over your head and food in your belly, it really is that serious for many.

I'm not one to struggle with creative block but I hadn't been out with the camera very much until a couple of weeks back. I'd reached to a point where I was really feeling the need to express myself. I'm very familiar with solitude. All the years of wandering the hills and coastline have allowed me to really find what it is that I need. Solitude is different to loneliness. Solitude allows us to really see who we are and to come home to our own nature. Our lives are so full of the energy and expectations of others that 'alone time' is very often neglected. I think this is one of the positives of lockdown. Many people have been able to realise what's most important amongst all the usual mental clutter.

Winter had set in and I took myself into one of my local woodlands, a quieter reserve that had been relatively unknown before lockdown. Thankfully, this woodland does still offer a quiet space to reflect, switch off and find oneself closer to nature. As I've always said, it's important to really settle into a landscape before we reach for the camera. I'd began the series 'Winter Solitude' back in 2016. I knew it was unfinished and that I'd return to the project at a later date. With the solitude that we all find ourselves in and the restricted travel, now seemed the right time to pick it up again.

Here in the UK it is very rare these days that we get a 'proper' winter, which is probably why most photographers here get so excited at the first glimpse of snow. The last really good winter we had was back in 2010 and I remember it well. With that in mind, a hard frost is probably the most we can hope for, but that in itself can transform the landscape. When I've experienced these cold mornings in my local woodland there's an ever present stillness. As I sit a while in this stillness I begin to feel this slow but soothing energy pervade. The quiet silence seems heightened and I feel the flora and fauna at rest during this quiet time. Birds are the only sounds, the screech of a green woodpecker waking me from the stillness and the song of a robin which seems more subdued, even melancholic in the winter, resonates deeply in a timeless, primeval way.

This whole experience feels cleansing, completely freeing the mind. I don't want to leave.

Just like the landscape I feel completely still; as I write these words that stillness is with me transporting me back to a place of tranquility, nourishing my soul.

As I wander around the paths glistening in the morning sun, I begin to notice the details more acutely. I take the time to examine the patterns of nature in the ice, the way in which the trees interact and the structure of branches. These observations always make me aware of the interconnectedness of everything that we see; that nature is the law. It is profoundly humbling to feel a part of this natural world. It's where we belong, it is our home.

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