Ghost by Simon Withers

A black and white image of a swan outstretched

Account 3 / 29.04.2020


“I can't see ya, but I know you're here. I feel it! You've been hangin' around since I got here. I wish I could see your face. Just look into your eyes and tell you how good it is to be here. Just to touch somethin'.” (1)

I look out of my window; the news from the Watnall observation station is that the day will be overcast, there will be a gentle breeze and precipitation is an ensured 99%...I remember visiting this weather station whilst at the local Comprehensive, a friend and I were commandeered by the deputy head master to represent the school and learn about the weather. Upon our return it was expected that I’d write our report...the garden desires rain and today the garden receives...this unpredictability and this nature is a further aide-mé the profound certainty of uncertainties...I look up to the sky and shake my fist towards the gods who mock...why are you not hearing me and listening and why are you not watching over me? (2)

For the best part of six months the daily forecast holds little significance for me. It matters not if it rains or if it shines or if the idle wind blows right through me rather than going around me...I venture out on my daily constitutional, to feed, photograph and to be eaten by swans. (3)

The Journey I undertake is multifaceted; I am not fully versed as to how successful my self healing will be, I know it is it not routine and I carry my uncertainties...they are as the weight of my backpack; the journey to the river is the crux, my rumination is an overstressed elastic I not progressing...damaged...false summits and corporeal illusions...did I embrace anything tangible? I doubt therefore I am...I doubt I am anything at all...this is somewhat I have a right to visibility, to be apart not apart? (4)

As I sit by the river feeding and photographing swans (5), I am at least achieving some peace of mind, and this has been difficult to attain. I frequently find myself in the company of the dispossessed, the vanquished and the lonely...a handful talk to me and tell me of their plights, their struggles, fears and grief and of loss, of love and the loveless, in rage and in placidity, in ambition’s dashed and of spirits diminished...the fragility of hope and the crushing presence of hopelessness...for now, the dispossessed are a lost quantity in the myriad of kindred billions facing current hardships...sturm and drang existed before Covid and will continue long afterwards. Could we...will we be able to help and change things...’I see you and I hear you’ said the blind tiger. (6)

A black and white image of a swan's wings outstretched.


1 Peter Falk Wings of Desire (1987)

‘For angels everywhere’

This beautiful and compelling film concerns invisible angels that have existed in advance of humankind. Visible only to those like themselves and to human children, the angels populate Berlin and listen to the thoughts of the human inhabitants. Many people in the City feel isolated or estranged from loved ones, the angels comfort the troubled and the distressed.

2 This just might possibly be me believing I am a mere toy of the gods...actually, I don’t know if I am shaking a fist at the indifferent heavens... the universe. Is the clenched fist executed with scorn or is it defiance, a comedic, tragic and absurd gesture. Whilst I set upon some existentialist deceit...should I be giving thanks for the harsh lessons? It is not my finest moment, to demonstrate the tragedies of life; certainly, it is a dramatic and futile gesture...albeit with some form of agency attached. I do wonder where this act of habitus* comes from...does it connect me with some innate esprit de corps, in essence, of some human cohesion, one which is from a separate epoch?

* Inseparability

3 In September 2019 I made a definite pact with a swan and in turn this pact would apply equally to all subsequent swan encounters, ’Food for Photographs’...for on each occasion I photograph the swans it will be with an exchange for food...I will add here that with the conclusion of the visit I always thank the swans for their time. There were several occasions in which I did not fully adhere to this pact (these accounts are likely to be recounted in future blogs).

4 I am to be shamed in my cloudless thinking as to the possibilities of this the realm...a non-place where meaning collapses? Is every facet illusion and histrionic...untrue unnecessary presence dividing and cross-dividing the self? If everything is to have meaning, surly it is essential to be relative to something else, for not to be is to be void of any loci? What is it to feel, to know and be be in some place? ...May be Solipsism is an unhealthy haunting, one that needs to be lanced and transformed...from naught into a presence. My only verification that I am present herewith is to experience the bite of a swan...I can hear you; yet I cannot touch you...I know you are close.

Is the bite of a swan an amplified resonating sense that all is not healthy? Aristotle, Plato and Socrates all believed that a swans singing prowess was heightened as death approaches, giving rise to the idea of the swan song, or the final performance*.

* Do have a look at some truly beautiful images of Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova and her swan Jack.

5 Since the current Corvid19 lockdown the majority of my photographs have been centered on swans by the River Trent. The area I inhabit is between the brace of bridges, the Wilford Bridge and the Edwardian suspension bridge.

A number of the swans have become accustomed to me. The nature of these rapports will be considered in future texts.

6 Sturm & Drang – ‘Storm and stress’ a late 18th century German literary proto-Romantic movement which took its name from the 1776 play by the dramatist and novelist Friedrich von Klinger. I remain uncertain when I first came upon this term except to write that as I am interested in the Promethean myth, I found myself seeking out the Prometheus poem by Goethe... "Da ich ein Kind war..." **

** "When I was a child"

I am familiar with this line as it is incorporated into the opening sequence of the film, ‘’Wings of Desire’. As the Angel soars over the ravaged City of Berlin he recites the First Epistle to the Corinthians (attributed to Paul the Apostle).

There are forces other than through the self that can and will affect us, we cannot earth the self in self-experiences alone...the outside resides influences and deeply affects us. We may no longer know who we are sometimes, one can become lost as to what drives us...and the dispossession is both taking apart the self and being taken apart from the other. These non-linier relationships, the self, society and nature can derail the spirit of any individual in times of crisis...any misfortune and the curtailment of humanity and creativity lessens, the individual and the society may fragment further...under the current upheaval let us not become anymore lost than we currently are.

The origins of Blind Tiger come from circa 1857 and relates to a custom of exhibiting animal curiosities in speakeasies**. These places are where alcoholic beverages were sold illegally. I once created a series of oil paintings on old vinyl records, one work The Blind Tiger referred to the libertarian nature of being whilst under could move in any direction but such, a sense of being out of control and directionless...a temporary blindness if you will.

** The operator of an establishment (such as a saloon or bar) would charge customers to see an attraction (such as an animal) and then serve a "complimentary" alcoholic beverage, thus circumventing the law. (See the American prohibition era – 1920s - 30’s)

With the sense of otherness unfolding within my thinking, perhaps my inhabiting two states, one a physical presence and the other less so. Although I have not read the Hainish Cycle of works by the American author Ursula K. Guin I wonder (if I ever return to concentrated reading) this will be on my list of books to read. I undertook some primitive research on her work and having come upon the novel ‘The Dispossessed’ I grasped there are some connections as to my own continuing state and how to try and release myself from the traumas of the past/present...the value of my failure, the strength of what is weak within me and in these troubled times how we will govern one another and ourselves within a new scenery...somewhere in all this Kropotkin may still hold the key!

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