Saturday, 7 November 2020

SERENDIPITY



It is the first week of November now, and the world appears to be completely held hostage by the drama evolving in various US States. Will they ever again get a democratically elected President over there? Here in the calm North, events evolve with considerably more serenity. Granted, the plague has taken off again, but even this abomination seems to respect the peculiar Swedish way to procrastinate. 

Even if hospitalisation is doubling by the week, and deaths are increasing, they do this from very low numbers. This allows the authorities to issue their usual mumblings, including noncommittal advices to us commoners. We oldtimers, on our part, have learnt our lesson and take care not to get too close to the youngsters, who continue with their life as usual.

For us seniors, this prolonged state of self-imposed isolation, which certainly will last well into next spring, is not without its consequences for the psyche. Routine tends to evolve into dread, and dread into depression, if contacts with our fellow humans are being kept at minimum. 

Fortunately, there is video-conferencing, which allows us to keep in contact with whomever we wish to share our solitude at the moment. There is an intriguing programme, called Zoom, which has bewildered many an old-timer, but, once reasonably mastered, gives us access again to all our family and friends. Many a birthday song has been sung on Zoom these days, and many a friendly congregation held, wine glass raised, in virtual conviviality. 

Despite these virtual activities, social isolation reigns supreme. How deeply does it affect me? I am a bit surprised over my resilience in that regard. But, being a solitaire by nature, the difference to ordinary life is not that large for me. Still, I am missing the daily roundtrips to cafë and restaurant, with their opportunities for short but still well-needed social contacts. So what has come to the rescue in this time of need?

Surprisingly enough, it is a resurge in photographic activity. Surprisingly, since I have thought for some years now that my ability in that regard had faded away, that I had outlived my creative years. But, the mind works in mysterious ways. If laid shallow, through social inactivity, other parts of the brain take charge and force you to adapt. 

Come to think of it, renewed photographic vigour should not have come as a surprise to me. Looking back the past fifty years, I have always been active in this art only with short outbursts, interspersed with long years of inactivity. Had I not written about this insight already in my book "Brussels/Stockholm..."? Well, yes, as the citation below bears witness to:

"...  one notices that my photographic life has not been marked by continuous activity. Instead, short-term periods of hectic picture taking in great creative bursts have been lodged within long years of inactivity. These short active periods have been linked to times either of great stress, illness or change. This may have reinforced the inclination to produce serene calm in my pictures, as a way to find solace in a hobby removed from the ordinary way of life. The photographic activity in itself may have helped me resolve difficult circumstances in my life, sparing me from seeking help and solace from outsiders." 

There you have it! The brain forces through photographic creativity as a way to coping with a time of troubles like the present one. Encouraged by this renewed insight, and asked by a Chinese friend to document Stockholm Autumn for her, I went forth with my camera last week, on a day as made for catching the coloured scenery of autumn.

I did not have to search far for motives. On that very day, "the light was right", as we fellow photographers use to say, and I just ambled along my usual morning trail, pointing the camera hither and thither, never failing to catch a serene scenery. 


At about the mid-point of my morning round, I always have the pleasure of entering an embracing and soothing piece of wood, which actually is a marble of nature: the only remaining grove of mature oaks within the city limits of Stockholm! Every time I pass through this enclave, my heart slows down its beatings and calm enters my whole being. This is what it was like to experience nature hereabouts when men's history was just beginning.

When I first saw this sacred place of gnarled and crooked oaks, ten years ago upon my arrival in Sjöstaden, it was still a rather unspoiled piece of nature on a hill, criss crossed by a few nature paths and quite fathomable to the walker.

Since then, already almost half of it is gone! Three new schools and several daycare centres have been built on its fringe and a substantial piece of it cut down and converted into play grounds, with just the odd old crooked witnessing about the site's former glory. 

The other half is still standing, "Thank God!", but is now being heavily "attacked" by some serious asphalted hike and cycle paths. I fear the worst for the grove's future, being loved to death as it is, by myriads of small trampling shoes, carrying horde after hord of small children through nature. It will do the children a lot of good to sample creation at its best, but it forebodes the demise of a truly natural habitat. A sign of the times in our age of overpopulation and demise of species!

Back out from the grove, the camera kept clicking away! Almost back home again, another angle at coloured bounty waited to be covered! What a piece of luck that I had my camera with me that day! 


Just a week later, when I am writing this, hardly any leave is left on the trees. Neither is coloured bounty covering the grounds, since caterpillars, gasoline spewing blowers and rakes have done away with it with a vengeance.



After all this largesse of colours, I cannot find a better way to finish the blog than to present you with a tune as accoutrement. Let the super smooth voice of the crooner render the rest of the day yet more palatable!