Monday, 13 August 2012

Sadness and Joy.

Along The Firebreak

I find it strange that more and more I recall the things my father said to me as I walked with him. Strange in the sense that I remember it so clearly now and yet I might not have remembered those words a few months ago or even during the majority of my youth. Somebody said it was an age thing, but I sure do not want to believe that. I think it may just be that I have been running a route I have not travelled in years, but walked regularly with my father.

This morning there was a light rain, the kind that makes the hedges and bushes smell fresh. The sounds of birds as they get back to a life of some normality as young fledglings begin to really leave the nest and venture forth. My father frequently said to me, ”Stop chattering and just listen and let nature give you some answers.”

As I write this I had a moment of clarity, I have said similar things to so many people down the years and never ever asked why.

This all reminds me of the story of the old man taking his daily walk.     

With bent shoulders he set out each day to walk his few miles. On the days when it rained he carried his furled umbrella, seldom if ever bothering to unfurl it, preferring to feel the rain on his balding head.

He came to a place in the road where there were a number of rocky stairs which he climbed with determination and care. At the top of the steps there was a carved pot with a cut bamboo pole to direct clear spring water into the pot. Here he would pause and enjoy the sweet taste of the spring.

Then he would pause for a moment, bending his ear, like an attentive student. He would listen, with joy on his face to the confluence of sounds; the pitter-patter of the rain on the leaves, the gurgle of the flowing water. There in the sounds was a sense, a precise mix of melancholy and joy that make life exquisite to live. “There is sadness and beauty in all around. When you can fully understand that and hear nature sign to you, you will no longer be a boy but a man my friend.”

It is this we artists try to capture.

This blog is linked to my other. Along The Firebreak


  1. I've enjoyed listening to nature since I was a child. I remember climbing a rock in nearby woods, to sit on like a pedestal that rose me up into the symphony of nature. I loved sitting there, listening, watching tiny insects. I was at peace and at home there.

    Now I live in a house in the woods and I'm an artist trying to recapture my emotions about nature. There's a lot of truth to the words you speak. As for your father's words. Isn't it wonderful they came to you again? The mind can hold so many blessed memories. Sometimes they surface when we are ready to hear them...

  2. It is a great painting with a great thought as well! Listening to nature is a boon, I never ever miss on that one! But I feel sad when I think of the hearing impaired that can not do the same. May be for them, silence may convey what is conveyed to us by sounds?

  3. This is a beautiful painting! I haven't seen you paint one of a scene like this in a long time! It's very charming, and has your usual breathtaking sky above. I like that word 'confluence'. And the metaphor about the rain in the pot of water being like the blending of emotions that fill our lives.

  4. Thanks Ralph for this. I love to get up very early to hear things before traffic and children at play drown out the nature sounds. I feel for my Hubby who can no longer hear the birds or the sound of leaves in the wind.

  5. dear Ralph, i just witnessed the most glorious gold-orange-fushia-aquamarine and lavender sunset. i thought of you and your painted skies.
    and just as you came to mind, i looked up, and a humminbird winged over the rooftops! you inspire everyone...

  6. My 16 year old nephew was with us on the boat a few weeks ago. He and I sat on the bow of the boat one evening and listened to the sounds of the water slapping the side of the boat, the chittering of the Kingfisher, the cry of the Osprey, the splash of the seal nearby. What a joy to share this with someone who lives in the city. That evening, we stared at the Milky Way. His first time ever seeing it. You have to be quiet to listen and keep your eyes open to see. You do. Thanks!