Saturday, 31 October 2015

Dark is Light

Sun Over Mountain

A Poem ...

The universe spins,
Then it all comes back again,
That drudgery from past,
Chaining and wanton,
The key is in faith,
But this is no stream,
It is a deep, dark lake.
Amongst the ruins of yesterday,
The roots of altruism,
An insatiable force of will,
Let it pass.
Irreverence follows treachery,
To gain strength with every vibration,
Equanimity is burning and compelling,
Tremulous, tenous and quivering.
Emotional bleeding beyond compare,
Fragility meets core,
treading the mill of fate,
Sustaining the passion,
Progress with faith.
Baggage embroiled,
Its time to surge forwards,
To trust and liberate.
Colours, light and glory,
Ensnare me with your spell,
Beguiling and wanton, 
Enraptured with life.
Let the night release its stars,
As the darkness waits,
Thereupon the lights have their turn to shine bright.

Photograph and words by Helen Ratcliff.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Voices In The Rain...

The heavens opened and shed tears throughout the duration of our plight to raise awareness and ask governments to consider, seriously, the value they place on protecting wildlife. Issues need to be heard and action must be taken to save our PRECIOUS animals. Elephants and rhinos have a purpose on this earth to preserve and shape the landscapes within which humans are supported - by them. They guide us and we kill them. We break their Spirits and lead them to a life of persecution.
 This global March for elephants and rhinos is the biggest event to have happened, EVER, for the voiceless. Once again...we have marched to preserve our natural heritage and to be their voice. We have a responsibility as the (so-called) intelligent and compassionate human race to save these  animals from extinction
 If elephants and rhinos could speak ( our) language, what would they say? "This earth has been ours to roam for millions of years. Why should we have to fight for our existence... We are not unlike humans with our sense of self. We feel pain, both physical and emotional".

#04/10/14. #InternationalAnimalDay.
#Elephants #Rhinos #Wild #Save #Nature 

Photographs by Helen Ratcliff

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Autumnal foraging ...

Hurry up and take the picture ... I have nuts to collect ... it's my busiest season...

I love the Autumn. There is something about this time of year which, for me, evokes so much nostalgia. The earthy aromas filling the air, the coolness on the cheeks, and the activity ... sending us all, including the wildlife, in to a gathering frenzy. It seems to be the only time that we all connect and that anachronistic feeling of inequality and difference, disappears. It is the season of harvest, colour and abundance.

Yesterday, I went out walking across the common, to one of my favourite spots, by the pond. Here, this time of year, emits so much pleasure .. I saw a giant fish jump out of the water (no fishing allowed, so they grow to enormous size) sadly, was not quick enough to get the shot, but was a wonderful surprise, nevertheless. Then, the great blue heron emerged from the trees and swept his magnificent wings up to launch .... then proceeded to hunch himself, quietly on the bank. 

The Great Blue Heron

With an arousal of sheer delight, I captured the image ...

I was sitting cross-legged on the ground, with the seasonal sun bathing me in Autumn glory. People were stopping to chat and swap stories about their dogs and experiences with the great blue, himself. The heron is well-known in the area and appears to thrive on the attention. His movement was balletic yet prehistoric. Showing grace and wisdom, although slightly top heavy. This guy has alot of wing but sustains such composure. There's an irrepressible flow in his flight and unquestionable respect for his manner. I felt very privileged to be graced with his swift presence.

The Heron Takes Off ...

What would the embers of summer be without an ethereal visit from the squirrel. The skittish and comical behaviour which always brings a smile. Humanely collecting nuts in his little hands and swimming through the air at such speed. The lightness of foot and tail disperse disdain and elicit a change in heart. Again, graceful movement gathers the rewards of the season and glides off towards the trees ... 

Taking the leap ...

Meanwhile the pond livens up once more and a flurry of activity arises amongst the ducks ... the splash-landings and waggish behaviour that always brings a chuckle .. The drakes surround the duck as she reflects on her shiny beak in to the mirroring water. Most instinctively ... she keeps the boys at wings length and shakes off the drops of water after her not-so-elegant landing.

Duck reflects ...

So ... to that end, here's to the seasonal blaze of glory. Autumn.

"Delicious Autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."

- George Eliot -

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Out of the Blue ...

Birds of Prey

A Poem ...

A raucous laugh,
A tattered heart,
An evening and night time excursion back in to the past.
A call, a whisper, calling, crushing,
I know that voice, only once.
Listen, watch, darkness of the quiescence.
Is something there?
Breathing, rapid,
Pacing, huddled, pacing, cornered,
Is someone there?
Visions of horror and despair.
Is this it, my time?
Cold, that aroma, strong, death.
No, it is not finished.
Morning arrives, the first bird sings,
Dawn awakens and negates such things.
Sucked out at ferocious speed from sleep,
Oh it was too short but very, very deep,
A roar, a groan, 
Another night like this.
The shame, Suspecting terror,
The core aches for the hand which comforts,
But it does not arrive, yet.
More darkening, such entanglement,
Heart and mind is fragmented,
When did this begin?
Who and what pulled the trigger?
Please let me sleep.
NO, NO, NO, breath.
Bearing atrocities and fright,
Please do not play with me.
Testing waters, utters of spite,
Please God, let me sleep tonight.
Twisting, turning, walking, rolling, thinking, gasping, panicking,
Breath, breath, breath.
Almost asleep now, hush, little one,
The bird calls.
Is it morning, please let it be so.
Free as a bird of prey,
Silently gliding upon the wind.
Hush, hush, hush.
The protective wings in the sky, please.
The hand holds.
The blue is brighter.
Glistening eyes let out relief,
You are safe, you are at ease.

Helen Ratcliff.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Fish, Chips and Slovakia. Part 4 - The Gentle Giant ...

Summer Peaks

With so much more to explore and only a few days left, it was hard to commit to plans due to the constant dramatic changes in weather. This is life which, by the force of nature, is influenced by the mountains.

We were chased by hail storms, lightning was striking, blue skies were replaced with climactic clouds in seconds. I found this very liberating and squeaked with excitement at potential incoming storms. Yet the Slovakians showed a different and wiser concern, contrary to my innocence. The storms here are very intense. Although sometimes brief, they can cause serious damage and take one's life.

So ... we decided to take a moderate hike, the following day, and crossed the border to Poland.

 I found an immediate affection with Poland. The sun was shining and the market town, across the bridge, was vibrant. Cheese and sausages were abundantly on display, with crafts and flowers. The sound of 'tuning-in' guitars wafted on the breeze ... the local rock festival was about to begin...

The Dunajec River runs through The Pieniny region, separating Poland and Slovakia.  

We decided upon lunch and made our way to the local restaurant ordering our food before the hike. I had briefly skimmed my eyes around to check out what people were munching on, (as I was unable to read Polish), and so, decided to opt for the same.... fish and chips.

Fish & Chips

My eyes feasted on the plate before me. I grinned. I was happy. This was real ... good and honest.
It felt like home.

Stray cat and kitten

Simply living ...

The milk & cheese barn

After the delights of lunching, we surged, energetically towards the mountain range. Up the hill, following the well-trodden and muddy path. We then came across the local Cheese farmer. He greeted us warmly with hands as large as exfoliating spades and a reassuring grip of affability.
He was about six feet - seven inches in height, with a well-weathered brow. I think a few teeth remained in his head..... nevertheless, his disposition was grounding and heartfelt.

Maria translated as we asked about his living alone, so close to the mountain, out in this semi-wilderness. He appeared grateful and had a faithful and tenacious aura which was captivating. I wanted to sip coffee with him, yet, he was a retiring and shy-natured character who had the aspects of preferring the 'solo' coffee pot ... bubbling on that single stove. We did not wish to intrude.

Then, I heard the distand ringing of bells coming in off the breeze and across the hilly meadows ... Arr... the quaint sound of cowbells. I had never felt so earthed. The farmer smiled. But of course, I could not resist asking one more final and important question.

"Forgive me for asking, but have you ever seen a lynx?"

 " I have seen wolves mainly, five or six have sniffed around a few times, but never had any conflict. They just showed a curiousity . Are .. Yes, the lynx. Only once. One night I heard some sounds on my porch and inquisitively peered through the gaps .... A lynx as large as life. He did not stay for long, and like the wolves, moved on and up in to the forest and mountains."

I stretched a smile, again. "Wow, it is my dream to see one in the wild ..."

"They are very secretive cats. I wish you luck". The gentle giant replied.

 So, to that end, we said our farewells and continued walking.

Cowbells in the Meadow

Farmer's cabin

We explored a little further before deciding to return back to Slovakia ...

 The muddy path ...

Polish landscape

 Hotel in the hills

Well... I call it the red-spotted moth ...

Possibly. To be continued ...

Words and Photographs by Helen Ratcliff.