The small things

The man with the magnifying glass… is a fresh eye before a new object [….] it gives him back the enlarging gaze of a child. With this glass in his hand, he returns to the garden, where children see enlarged. […] The details of a thing can be the sign of a new world which, like all worlds, contains the attributes of greatness.

Miniature is one of the refuges of greatness.

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

It is the task of the phenomenologist, and the photographer, to open our eyes. To shift our viewpoint. To make us look at the world from a different angle, and appreciate the small things. It seems, perhaps, that this is a task that has become more urgent in recent times. As the virtual possibilities of our world expand and distort, seemingly out of our control, there is a contrary need to find some kind of anchor or pivot point – to gain some perspective. And so we turn our gaze to what we know and to what is real; simultaneously precious and vulnerable, yet strong and vigorous.

Everything has its contrary point. If we find it we can see the world with greater clarity. To see the big picture, we have to look closer, find the detail. And maybe then the answer might have been there, much closer to home than we thought, in our own back garden.

The world carries on producing with overwhelming abundance every year, every season, every day, every minute. Maybe one day it will stop being so, but though the humble spider may seem to balance precariously on the petal of a flower, he finds sure footing there. He knows nothing of these concerns and will continue to strive to survive from one moment to the next. It is all he can do. It is all we can do.

To see the world in macro is to see up close, with a magnifying glass. Like a child playing detective the clues are there to be found if we look closely. Bachelard understood that in order to understand the big things, we must first develop the ‘enlarging gaze of a child’ and turn to the small things in which they find their origins. In miniature the world is the richer, more intense and alive. It is the nucleus, the centre of life.

Thus the beauty that nature’s bounty continually throws forth season after season, year after year can be found if we look in close. Herein lies the rich, ripe, brilliant, voluptuous, fullness of late Spring….

…. A fluffy downy feather in a child’s hand. Almost too light to hold.

A spider’s web sparkling in the moist air. Almost invisible.

A pendulous pair of ripening cherries glinting provocatively in the morning sunlight

Velvety-soft almond pods begging to be stroked

Tall camomiles standing proud and erect as their perfectly rounded golden pads strain towards the life-giving sun, petals dangling elegantly

And then there are the smells which carry on the gentle breeze: fragrant lavender, and most powerful the sweet honey-scented clover, whose heady scent fills your nostrils at every turn

As I wander the gentle murmur of busy buzzing insects contrasts with my lazy mood

The endlessly undulating folds of a full blooming peony

Oh and the poppies! So vibrant and joyful they punctuate the landscape with their translucent orange-red glow, their delicate, torn, paper-thin petals swaying gently in the breeze….

… Nature creates its own glorious poetry. If we look for it.

PS – I wish these had been taken in my own back garden, but they were actually taken near to the b&b we stayed in on holiday in Italy last week, where it seems the sun still shines occasionally unlike here!

© Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2012

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13 Comments on “The small things

  1. Again, great writing and images! I really enjoyed reading this – please keep it up!
    It’s been ages since I read “The Poetics of Space”. It’s sitting on the book shelf not far from me – maybe soon…

    • Thanks Steve that means a lot as been feeling a bit lacking in enthusiasm for my blog lately but I guess that’s how it goes. I love The Poetics of Space, it was the first book I read for my MA course and I loved it it was so inspirational to me. I need to re-read it properly too I’ve been dipping into it, but I have so many other books in my pile too!

      • Arrgh – I’ve written this reply about ten times – I get so far, then it all vanishes. I’ve been having problems with wordpress lately… Anyway, I hope you keep posting. Your posts are intelligent, but understated and so very well written. I can appreciate it takes time and energy! Your words and images are truly stimulating – you’ve given me plenty of food for thought! Don’t stop! 🙂 Yes, I must read TPoS again – I need to make time for it! Cheers, Steve

      • thanks for the encouragement again and for persisting with the post! WordPress can be a pain sometimes! I really enjoy writing it’s not a chore at all it’s a blessed escape from the day-to-day, but time can be an issue sometimes with two young kids and a job as I’m sure you know. I promise I won’t stop I have lots more material and lots of ideas – watch this space!

      • Yeah, time is always the big issue! I can see/read that you enjoy writing! Looking forward to the next “thought-provoking” post! Cheers!

  2. What a lovely post! I always love reminders to look a little more closely at the world around us. There is wonder in every corner and very often right under our noses. 🙂

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