I took the picture above on a warm evening in March, getting to know a new camera while out walking.
I was frustrated. Flemming and I arrived in Perth at the start of February, and stagnation set in immediately – office work (which I came back for), website work, creative work. Nothing I had done since, had provoked any movement. Frustration mounted.
The light was beautiful, but blindsided by the over-familiarity of West Aussie suburbia, I could not see. Long, low slung roofs, capping walls which protected people from the big bad world outside, regulation footpaths and intermittent vehicles zooming by, all brought back the less-than-joyous associations I have of this landscape. Street lights drew dark bars on the ground in the setting sun.
Deciding against further yelling in a vacuum, I padded to the bushland reserve across the road. There, in stately repose upon its laurel, was a single banksia cone, resplendent in the dying day’s glow.
Look at me, it sang.
So I did for a little while. Banksia proliferates in the parcels of bushland next to where we live with my friend Nicole, and I’ve made a bewildering number of pictures of them since. I know nothing about banksia, save that they’re native to this land, and come in many varieties with bright flowers that look like microphones. When I loaded the image file into Lightroom, I was intrigued by the patterns on its cone and leaves. I spent four years at a university which has a dedicated banksia woodland, and a banksia cone for a logo. In my entire time there, I managed to avoid looking closely at any of them.
But banksia are not the only things that have escaped my notice. In the fourteen years I lived in Perth (1999 – 2013), and numerous trips out bush, I’d paid too many things, too little attention. There didn’t seem any point, since they had nothing to do with the priorities of my madly-mortgaged-office-monkey ass.
Returning to that routine in February was a shock to the system. I came back to Perth to a waiting job, which I had been looking forward to in some ways. It was to be an opportunity to rest my mind and body after the rigours of the last couple of years, top up the bank account, update my skills, and take some time to consider what the hell I was doing.
Luckily – or unluckily, financially – the job didn’t work out. So a month after I started, around the same time I took that first photo of the banksia, I resigned.
Released again from the 12 hour commitment that defined an 8 hour day at the office, I started taking walks at random times. I no longer had to keep a regiment to ensure sufficient sleep, exercise, and time for Coffee and Magic work in my free waking hours. I went out to look at stuff again, getting close if I wished, or simply wondering at a distance. There was time.
And as always, it is photography that allows me to extend any meditation visually. Photography pauses the chaos in my head so I can pay attention to things I’d never otherwise be able to. Savour segments of life; explore their connection and significance to the rest of my world; look closer; examine changes; look for pleasure, and curiosity. Being free from the vise of an office obligation allows me to find the magic in mundane things, and richness in unlikely times, like swaying with a banksia cone in breezy twilight, to keep the focus point manually locked on my target.
It continues to be one of the greatest gifts of this life.