Split Screen

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Holland House Library  London September 1940 morning after an Air Raid

Split Screen

Order in the midst of Disorder, Outside but also Inside”

This photograph, taken the day after an Air Raid on London in the Fall of 1940 has lived as an icon on my desktop for a few years.

I click on it intermittently to remind myself how resilient we are as human beings.  Story-telling animals who in the midst of chaos and uncertainty keep moving forward. Reading, writing and telling our story as part of our survival.

Split screen, calm and chaos,  our story being written day by day.

westcoastwoman 2020

 

 

 

 

 

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Hotel on the Edge of the World further travels in the Year of Corona

 

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photo westcoastwoman 2020.     street scene Varanasi

Hotel on the Edge of the World

 

A mother has set up a tightrope for her young daughter to walk and balance upon.  There is no net…..not for the daughter or the mother.  We are all walking a tightrope here, no net.  I find it difficult to look or to look away at this point, some things I have seen I find it hard to find context for.

Illusion of safety no longer exists on any level, unsure of when I surrendered to that fact. One by one we all surrendered in our own time and in our own individual ways.  The travelling road show we have been a part of for the last two weeks has arrived at our last place of shelter ‘The Ganges View’ in Varanasi. The Hotel on the Edge of the World is how it feels to me.  In reality it is a converted palace full of treasures and art and secrets from the past.

We have heard stories along the way of Varanasi (our final destination) they have ranged anywhere from descriptions that portrayed either ‘Pearly gates, Mordor or Oz’ others described it as an LSD trip.  It is all of those things and none of them.  Varanasi will change you forever but only from the place you are when you arrive.  We were warned it could shatter you, I was suitably shattered by the time we arrived ……in some indescribable way this would bring it together.

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photo westcoastwoman 2020  one side of the river ‘everything’ the other ‘nothing’

Those who know Varanasi need no explanation, those like myself who knew little of the city before this voyage will need some introduction. Kashi/Benares/Varanasi is India’s holiest city.  The Mecca of the Hindu world , the city where every Hindu wants to come to die.  Hindu scriptures state that dying here and being cremated along the banks of the Holy Ganges (Ganga) river allows you to break the cycle of rebirth and attain salvation.  Up to 150 bodies are publicly cremated every day, 24 hours a day on the banks of the Ganges. The remains are offered into the river.

Every morning and throughout the day there is the life, people bathing, washing clothing and living their life on the banks of Mother Ganga.  Everything playing out all at once.

On our last evening we headed out as a group for dinner.  Our walking route took us past one of the cremation ghats on the river………four bodies were burning, in attendance were family members, passing public and various other onlookers. Bodies are burned in a wooden pyre and all four were at various stages of disintegration.   I saw a foot hanging out of the fire, I looked at my walking companion and she had also seen it. We walked on in silence for a while, finally she said “only in India would you see such a sight on your way to dinner and it would just be part of a day in a life”.  She was right.

My experience of death in North America has been hidden or  more usually “celebrated” without the celebrant.  Life and death in India is just business as usual no safety net or  illusion of safety.  Raw in your face life and death playing out second by second.

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photo westcoastwoman 2020    train station Jaipur our luggage being portaged

I have been changed in ways I have not begun to process and as difficult as some of it has been there has been great strength and love I have felt and assimilated from the people I met. I have been taught about religion by Swamis and scholars and shown a way of life I did not know existed. Visited Tantric Temples,  Buddhist Temples, Hindu Temples and the Temple of the ‘Street’.

Someone told me before I left that “When it is your time to go to India, you go to India”
It was my time and I went. It is with much gratitude that I put my hands together in prayer position bend forward and with more understanding and from a deeper place in my heart say to both the country and the people “Namaste”.

Afterword

A note about the Corona Virus, in order for the group of us to get through this journey we had all personally assessed the risk we were taking from the news reports at the time and decided to go forward. We had access to WiFi off and on during the journey and sometimes we would get the ‘Corona report’ as I came to call it.  Carnivale in Venice cancelled, outbreak in Italy, bits and pieces of the outside world getting through. We criss crossed paths with others …Germans….Brits in planes, hotels and temples along the way. It seems we were all wanting minimal information, nothing we could do about it anyway.  Turns out we were a week ahead of the Italian travel group that tested positive 16 out of 22 members that are now quarantined somewhere north of Delhi. ( a truly terrifying thought) Timing, decisions, being in the right or wrong place at any moment in time…….illusion of safety, no net.

I am not sure given the current situation I would be choosing to head out on a tour of India today but I am grateful I did when the time seemed right.  The wild and sometimes eccentric group of merry travellers I shared the experience with will always be close to my heart.

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photo westcoastwoman 2020      early morning at the Temple

 

 

 

 

Concrete Runway

Word prompt: Design

“six sentence stories” hosted by “GirlieOnTheEdge”

Shit Happens © photo westcoastwoman

“Fashion is the armour to survive everyday life”  .   Bill Cunningham

Concrete Runway 

Most evident as he rounded the corner was the fact that ‘Shit Happens’.
The message permanently tattooed into his upper arm, left no room for argument.
Glancing at the design of his outfit it initially appeared confused and disheveled, on closer inspection it became obvious that each piece was meticulously chosen and assembled.

The Fred Flintstone style capri belted in white plastic linked chain, topped with a studded and carefully pinned denim vest, accessorized with a green patched messenger bag and shades well positioned on the animal print cap.
Street fashion captured on an urban concrete runway.

‘Shit’ will indeed ‘Happen’, best to be prepared and dress for the occasion.

©westcoastwoman 2019

 

 

 

 

 

“Ridin’ on a Freeway…..”

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©photo credit westcoastwoman

I am a gardener. A number of years ago while studying Garden Design I was asked to do a project on garden ornamentation.

I started by scouring the better parts of the city looking for aesthetically pleasing displays, they were easily found but something was lacking. I wandered collecting the photographs but as I walked I felt like I needed something more. Yes, the gardens were lovely but that was it, they were ‘just’ lovely. All trimmed and ornamented  everything in it’s place….. this would not do, I needed some meat, something interesting.

That is when I stumbled upon the Adam and Eve of Cadillacs, pink and blue, male and female, here in a rather dishevelled display I could almost see the yin and yang of life. I was so taken with the partially interred Pink Cadillac I almost completely missed her blue mate in the background.

Standing in awe of this rather strange spectacle I was joined by one of the neighbours who shared with me that the brake lights on Eve were lit up every night. I assume in a show of ‘Respect’ and a reflection that there was life in the old girl yet.

Obviously there was great affection for the ‘deceased’ vehicle (although she could have used a bit of a wash). I like to think that perhaps parts of Eve had been used to keep Adam up and running and that he paid her homage each time he backed out of the driveway.

Now this was garden ornamentation! perhaps gone wrong, but certainly never forgotten. My completed project consisted only of what I considered wacky garden art, gardens on the edge and they were easier to find than one would imagine. The Garden Designers, the ‘people’ on the edge of the garden, now there is a story waiting to be told.

I think there are a couple of Aretha Franklin songs in here somewhere.

“We’re going ridin’ on a freeway of love in a Pink Cadillac”  Aretha Franklin”

©westcoastwoman 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purgatory on Parade (Street Photography 2)

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©photo credit westcoastwoman

 

A wandering agnostic amongst a sea of Easter hats

no hat to call my own, moments captured

hardly convey this half way house,

this purgatory on parade.

Turning, Turning…

I move through cobbled streets

and find no spot to settle

a restless dog rotating above it’s bed.

Salvation is offered

at the tip of a blue laced finger

I pass, move forward …

but give an upward glance

as Magic forms above

on this Louisiana morning.

© westcoastwoman 2019

 

 

Hand to Heart (Street Photography 1)

(while working on another piece this morning I found this in my drafts, I meant to go in to delete, but in the end my hand and heart pushed Publish)

I am going to try a short series of poetry inspired by (my second love) street photography, a series I took last year at the Easter Sunday Parade in the French Quarter, New Orleans.

 

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photo credit westcoastwoman

 

Each step you take, from here to there

each hand you hold, they’ll sometimes care

some filled with light some fighting dark

you’ll find what’s right, you’ll make your mark

your heart will break, can’t help you there

you’ll find one hand that let’s you care

but in the end, your hand to heart

is what will lead you home.