Some thoughts on atmospheric conditions, focus and the illusion of isolation


All it takes is a change of focus to see what lies beyond us. Raindrops on Loropetalum chinense (chinese fringe flower) leaves. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

I woke this morning to find the world beyond my street has disappeared.

A mist has rolled across the harbour and made an island of this, slightly elevated, piece of land I call home. Beyond the neighbours’ roofs, a stand of macrocarpa trees fades softly into a flat, grey void.

The still air carries the sound of motorway traffic in the distance, but like shapes in the mist, the sound is muffled and indistinct — a mere hint of life beyond this temporary island.

For this time I am alone; the drivers, dog-walkers, joggers and cyclists either still at home or invisible to me.

For this time I can enjoy the quiet and solitude, the safety and peace, of my island. Soon it will be gone; evaporated by the climbing sun. Once again I will be part of a bigger, messier, noisier whole.

I can’t ponder this without thinking of John Donne, and THAT poem:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne

I imagine all over the world right now, good people are reading and quoting this rebuke of isolationism, even as the sound of guns being cocked and drawbridges being pulled up echo through the mist.

For those of us who have a safe place — a home, a friendly neighbourhood, a peaceful country — it is tempting to build a fence, patrol the boundaries, create rules for entry. It is tempting to hold on to what we have and create a mist to obscure that which is beyond.

It is tempting to zoom in and focus on what is near. But however blurred by our lens, there is always a background in shot which must share our attention too.

Written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.

42 thoughts on “Some thoughts on atmospheric conditions, focus and the illusion of isolation

  1. Pingback: Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge: Black and White (Nature Photomontage) | Lens and Pens by Sally

  2. Changing our focus can help us see things differently and feel differently. Sometimes we focus on the big, faraway issues, missing what’s beautiful nearby or what we could do in our personal scope. Just as changing focus is good for the eyes, changing focus in our lives is good, too. Lovely post and shot.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janet. I’ve definitely begun to see the natural world around me much more in recent years, and I think often the bog picture stuff seems so complex, it falls into the “too hard” basket very readily.


  3. So glad I read your post, Su. Beautiful nature, soothing words and some Donne as a bonus! Your foggy word-picture is lovely. It’s easy, and mentally healthful, to briefly imagine that we are safely alone but also imperative that we deal with the chaos “off-island.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Linda. I totally agree. I think because NZ actually IS an island (well, a group of them) so far away from other countries, we do tend to be a bit smug about our place in the world. Having said that though, on some issues we punch above our weight. Sadly, accepting asylum-seekers isn’t one of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As an introvert who can often be content sitting alone in my house with no noise other than the occasional noise of a cat knocking something over, I understand the desire for isolation. But John Donne was right—we have to be part of the world even when we just want to retreat.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thoughtful and beautiful post with a fantastic photo to top it! ItΒ΄s strange how mist can make us feel isolated, like the blankets we all used to build tents when we were kids and hiding from the world, our parents… and creat a new world within. xxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Sarah. I used to love making blanket tents with my brothers, and later with the boy-child. You’re right that it creates a sense of being in a new world — one we can control perhaps? xxxxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

        • πŸ™‚ I think when I was a kid, my mum used to get fed up with the mess and make us take the blanket tents down. The boy-child has been known to sleep overnight in his. And I remember once going to pick him up from a sleepover to find that he and his friends had turned the entire living room of the hosts’ house into a tent city. It was total chaos, but the boys were having a brilliant time.
          Maybe as adults, we should make a blanket tent when we need to tell those around us that we are feeling a bit vulnerable. It could be a little peaceful retreat to recharge — much cheaper than a spa!

          Liked by 2 people

  6. When I was a child in Fiji I thought living on the islands made us more open and welcoming and outward looking. In NZ I feel the island creates isolation. But that could have nothing to do with Fiji or NZ or islands, but just me growing up and withdrawing from the turmoil of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s really interesting. I suspect it might be partly a cultural thing. To me, New Zealanders have always seemed quite welcoming, but it’s always been conditional. My dad still talks about going to the pub not long after arriving here in 1967. He was introduced by a friend to some other men who made some disparaging comments about Pommie immigrants. My dad tersely pointed out he’s Scots, not English and apparently the men totally changed their tune. I remember that a bit too; I hated being called “English” as a kid, because it was a way of excluding people.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Zimmerbitch and commented:

    In the aftermath of Friday’s massacre at two Christchurch mosques, I am struggling to find ways to verbalise the sorrow and anguish I feel.
    I remembered writing this post, and quoting John Donne’s Meditation, which conveys so beautifully my thoughts and feelings.
    But when I read the post, I also realised how smug and privileged was my assertion of NZ as a “safe place”.
    One of the things that is becoming clear since Friday, is that for many, New Zealand is far from safe. The Muslim community has been trying for years to make those in charge understand how much hatred and discrimination its members experience every day. And they are not alone.
    If anything good can come of the hideous violence that killed fifty people and forever changed the lives of countless others, it must be a widespread recognition that our PM’s declaration — “this is not who we are” — is, at best — “this is not who we want to be.”
    If we accept that, and refuse to accept hatred and extremism, we can perhaps be a safe place for everyone.


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