Wednesday, 3 June 2009

light and shade

sunlit tree early morning light bannishead quarry nr torver lakes district

sunlit tree afternoon bannishead quarry nr torver lake district













About five hours separate these two photographs of a tree on a bright sunny day in the Lake District. Viewed from the western rim in the early morning light the eastern face of Bannishead quarry near Torver is in deep shade and the water appears dark . The tree is backlit from the left and its shimmering leaves stand out against the darker tones. By early afternoon the sun has moved round and is high in the sky. The tree is now lit from the right and the far wall of the quarry is in full sunlight.

You can judge for yourself just how different are the mood and feel of these two photographs, even though they were taken from an identical point of view.  Of course the tree hasn't changed; how we see it and our perception of its context has. In the early shot the tree stands out against the two large diagonal blocks of darker colour in the background, its shape and texture accentuated by the highlighting catching the leaves. Here it is the main point of attention. In the later shot the background has come to life and is much more detailed and busy, the shimmering coming this time  from the surface of the water rather than the tree. The lighting is flatter, and the tree competes for attention with its surroundings. Which photograph you prefer is entirely a matter of personal taste.

How we see one another and how we see ourselves - our self image -  is subject to similar sociological and psychological vagaries of light, shade and context. Moods, opinions and feelings can be as fickle as the interplay of light and shade in the photographs. They too are subject to changing with time. What we see can alter dramatically according to the sort of comparisons we draw with our own background and surroundings and those of others.

It is simply not possible for us to see someone as they are within themselves, nor for that matter, to see ourselves as others see us. Only God has such insight into the true nature of your soul and mine. This being so it is imperative that we hold fast to the truth that God is Love, and sees us and loves us as we are. No mood swings, no fickle feelings or changeable opinions: just the most tender and deep compassion for what it is to be you or me and an absolute commitment to bring us to wholeness and true wellbeing in mutual community with one another. In all probability this grace of vision and understanding is something we shall never attain, but it is at least something to which we can aspire.


  1. I've come to believe that the desire to be understood is almost, if not as great as, the desire to be loved. Perhaps they are the same thing? These lines from a poem by Jean Earle are my favourites in describing the human dilemma:
    "And were I to put my life into your hand,
    rolled small for you to grip around,
    tied with my knot,
    my name for you stamped on the gift -
    you could not read: for it is not your life."

    Which perhaps also highlights the immense gratitude we should feel for the depth of knowledge described in Psalm 139

    (PS - as if to prove a point, I think the tree stands out more in the photo on the right!)

  2. Wonderful comment Rachel. Thankyou.