Roof Top Morning

toe-to-toe bride and her best friend

Did you ever notice that when you use the hand garden shears your mouth opens and closes as you work the shears? No, this is not a gardening post. But I have been out watering, weeding and trimming already this morning… and besides the fact that the tomatoes are blooming, I notices how my jaw was engaged with my hand’s sheering motion.

As many of you know, I was away at one of our children’s weddings on Sunday and returned at dinner time yesterday. I have not edited my photos yet and I when I do I will post them for family on my flickr account. Except for the one photo above, you will have to wait. Our son-in-law was the official wedding photographer and I also don’t want to get ahead of him in posting my photographs. He took his photography training last year and wants to establish himself as a wedding photographer. I think he got some amazing shots from where I was observing so I am excited to see the results.

What I have for you this morning is two roof top photographs taken from my room at the Swans Hotel in Victoria B.C. Canada. These images show the topside and kind of a roof-top-back-alley view of part of old Chinatown.

I have taken photographs of this remaining heritage wall from many angles. The wall was supposed to be integrated into a new development that went sour a few years ago and now the vacant lot is growing weeds and the wall is crumbling.

I am attracted to these kinds of cityscapes that are being reclaimed by the environment. The morning reminds me of the beauty in a moment while considering that everything is impermanent. The environment, my life and the brick wall all continue to wane and will eventually transition into something else.

Sprout Question: How does your creativity bring your attention to your mortality?

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

17 thoughts on “Roof Top Morning

  1. Actually, I think, for me, the reverse holds true. Mortality influences my creativity — or at least the rate by which I create.
    You see, when I was younger I thought I had lots of time to knit that sweater or write that book.
    Now, older, wiser (perhaps), the clock ticks and I know it is time. Now. Not later. There may not be a later.
    It is the prefect antidote for this dreamer.

    • Thank you Leanne for your sprout. I love it when we wake up and realize that NOW is perfect. Paint that painting, write that book, sing that song, take that photograph…

      I’ve said before, even if I live to be 108 I will lament that my life was not long enough. It is my birth right to cherish each breath. This perspective I think does show up in my creative efforts. It allows for a pause – one that fills that particular moment on the canvas or the viewfinder or the page.

  2. Terrill – I love each of the photographs, but I’m especially captivated by the toe-to-toe one. That was such a clever vantage point to choose!

    Sprout Question: How does your creativity bring your attention to your mortality?

    While we are all dying (it’s a process that takes a lifetime, be it short or long), some people have been told by the medical community that they are dying sooner than later. That’s when many people choose to come and see me — a Holistic Health Practitioner. Some people look to me for a “cure,” some are looking for a gentle transition, and others are looking for something in-between — body, mind, and/or spirit.

    In thinking about and working with other people’s mortality in an up-close-and personal way, I naturally think about my own. When, where, why, and how will it happen? Death is a topic I talk about in workshops, classes, and events. It’s a topic that I’ll be discussing in the near future on “Speaking from the Heart” as we close the Energy Medicine 101 “class.”

    • Laurie I will definitely be by to read what you have to say. The last few days have been off-line time for the most part so I am doing a little catching up now. For some reason your sprout reminds me of something that happened over a year ago that profoundly taught me to face briefness of life. It is a story about a tree frog.

      David and I were walking to the mail boxes that are about a mile from our home. It was a pleasant day and we were remarking on how fortunate we were and so on. Then I spotted a tree frog on the road in front of us. They are so beautiful, sleek and delicate. We looked closely at all its markings and chattering about… oh, look at that. Do you see its eyes? The frog started to hop farther out onto the road. We look up and see a car coming. I tried to catch the frog in my hand. I missed. The car is getting closer. I try to jump in front of it. I jump. The frog jumps. The frog is faster. Without recourse my shoe and the whole weight of my body come down on that tiny little frog. The car goes by. Regardless of my intentions that was one dead frog.

      Once I got over the shock of what I had done, I came to accept that no matter what we do death happens. It happens somehow, somewhere to all of us and all things. Considering what came about only weeks later when David had his stroke, it was a well timed lesson. We do what we can. We do the best with what we know at the time. Then we must let go. Fortunately, David is fairing much better under my intervention then the frog did… but it could easily have turned out different. It wasn’t my decision to make… the decision of his life or death. I could only do what I could. And I did.

  3. I would guess I woulds say that I am creative in the way I deal with people. It is challenging at least to deal with others at all ends of the spectrum, from the young to the aged. The young have this “I will never die” mentally, some are aggravated about their own mortality, while there are others that are perfectly comfortable about it as well have made plans, sometimes very elaborate ones.

    I have a certain selfishness that says in my mind that I am doing and loving where I am at right now, do not want to be seen as old, aged or a senior citizen. I also wonder when, why, where….
    I also have a wonderful plot, sounds gruesome to some, in IOWA, at a small family cemetery. My husband and I have had them for about 27 years. It is his families cemetery. It is actually very peaceful to stand by the tree next to where I will be. We have even planned out gravestones to match the family ones and taken our children there many times.

    I would have to say the first time I really faced my mortality was a few years ago at my father in law’s funeral. They brought him to IOWA and opened his casket right out at the cemetery before burying him, something I had never seen before.


    • Kim thank you for your thoughtful comment. Your reflections remind me of a story that I read yesterday….

      This story is likely a very old story but here it is told by Pema Chodron in a tiny pocket book AWAKENING LOVING-KINDNESS published by Shambhala, Boston & London 1996. (p. 51 -52)… now get yourself comfortable.

      “There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds onto the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are more tigers below her as well. Then she notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.”

      Pema Chodron goes on to say…

      “Tigers above, tigers below. This is the predicament we are always in, terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”

      The story and comments are in a chapter called “JOY.”

  4. The photographs are great! Wonderful perspectives on each one!

    I have never thought about my creativity being about mortality. Yet each day I see the evolution of the wood I walk. I capture it in all of its season.
    My mortality lies in wait somewhere in the future, God willing, yet I am ready if my time is up.
    I am not sure this really answers the question, I may have to think more on this!

    • Thank you Jeff for your feedback on the photographs. I appreciate your musings about creativity and mortality. It brings to mind the ordinariness of our mortality and that it is with us all the time… so much so that often we don’t notice. I look forward to more thoughts as they come to you.

  5. “I am attracted to these kinds of cityscapes that are being reclaimed by the environment. The morning reminds me of the beauty in a moment while considering that everything is impermanent. The environment, my life and the brick wall all continue to wane and will eventually transition into something else.”

    Ah, I do share this affinity with you, Terrill. And I knew you would (rightly) be taking photographs of your brief escape into urban environs. I do love the toe-to-toe and the telling shots of physical deterioration. I congratulate you on the wedding of your daughter, and trust you experienced great joy.

    Creativity that reminds one of mortality moves more into the physical. When one is inspired, one might exhaust their stamina to the breaking point. One is always at risk, when burning the candle at both ends, despite the long-held position that it “can never happen to me. I’m invincible.” Lamentably those days are no more.

    • Sam, this wedding was the wedding of my step-son. My daughter’s wedding is on July 17th. I know it is hard to keep track. With our collection of eight grown children we sometimes have the same trouble remembering who is where and doing what when.

      Thank you for your sprout response and bringing in that ever shorting candle. It seems so difficult for people to remember that their quality of work and their productivity actually decreases when they are not taking enough breaks or getting enough sleep.

      My dad was a hand faller of trees in the woods for many years – one of the most dangerous jobs there is. He used to work a six hour day with breaks during that time. His ability to assess and respond to each situation was necessary for his very life. Each time we said good-bye to him we knew we it could be our last. If he was late coming home we were preparing ourselves that maybe he wasn’t. He was one of the top hand fallers in the area. He attributes his high production and safety record to those short work hours. As a foot note: he last fell trees in the winter on snowshoes at the age of seventy cleaning up pine beetle kill. I think he is now ready to quick except to get the years fire wood. He will seventy-five this year and him and my mom are still looking after their farm and cattle.

  6. “We do the best with what we know at the time. Then we must let go. ”

    Terrill – You’ve hit the nail smack-dab on the head, this is it. What you said is the epitome of life itself in a nutshell.

  7. Your photographs are so lovely. How creative to think of taking the shoe/feet photos. Oh how I love odd angles! And the crumbling buildings being reclaimed by the landscape evoke such a feeling of…I guess it is mortality.

    It seems very important to include mortality in creativity. To realize that it’s a pulsebeat. Death and life walking hand in hand. There are always so many dead birds and animals lying on the roadsides that we cannot forget. Since I seem to be such an optimistic person it seems important to stagger in images of death in between the creative life images. Just so we don’t forget. So we never forget that we’re a breath away from returning to no-thing.

    • Kathy I feel the same way… wanting to remember “death and life walking hand in hand.” So much focus is put on cheating death by trying to make it not happen… a lot of money is made on our fear of dieing from hair colouring to plastic surgery to drugs. We humans age… our skin is suppose to have laugh lines when we have been laughing for a long time and our breasts or our testicles will not defy gravity if they have been hanging around with us for that same amount of time.

      May we take all that fear (and money) and go about enjoying today… as if it were our last – because it might be.

  8. Hi Terrill,
    Your picture of the nature taking over the old building reminded me of a guest lecturer for a history course I was taking many years ago. This man juxtaposed historical photos beside current photos he had taken of the same site. It was incredible to see how quickly nature took back abandoned towns or homesteads.
    Note on Dad falling trees: I heard through the grapevine he went and helped our Uncle fall a danger tree last week. Not making a living at falling any more but the expertise is still there!

    • Sue I would have enjoyed those photos a lot… it is just interesting to see how nature reclaims what we are not using or maintaining. Here on the west coast family have inherited cabins on property that hasn’t been visited for many years and they have a hard time finding what is left of the buildings underneath a jungle of blackberry bushes.

      Comment on Note on Dad falling trees: I am so not surprised. I hope when I am seventy-five someone still asks me to do what I have always done best. Though taking a photo of someone’s first iris in bloom is just not the same.

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