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Hiding in Plain Sight

Visiting London and going for a walk around the East Reservoir by Manor House once again, I was taken by how beautifully the urban landscape blended with the rural. Here, the people working in the reed bed are a harmonious part of the scene. From a Feng Shui perspective, this works particularly because the Water element and the Wood - owing to the shape of the buildings - are in the Creative Cycle.

Nature made its presence known even more firmly when a fox trotted past nonchalantly a few metres away. In fact, it was so relaxed in our presence it even stopped to look at us, posing for long enough so I could take a couple of pictures. Foxes are, of course, a common sight in UK cities now. Their noise at night is much more boisterous and intrusive than I've ever heard in the countryside. Also apparently deer are proliferating in cemeteries, though I haven't seen them. A cemetery, being a 'fine and private place' as Andrew Marvell put it, is ideally suited for these shy creatures. I can't help wondering about the symbolism implied. In the Native American Medicine Cards, deer are representative of a need for gentleness; whereas foxes are indicative of camouflage, the need to disguise one's actions in order to be safe. The sheer abundance of these creatures makes me think of the UK's reputation for spycraft, and that perhaps there is even more going on behind the scenes of the global stage than we suspect. One hopes that if that is the case, the gentleness of the deer is in evidence as well.

I also found time to see the Ainu exhibition at Japan House in Kensington. The Ainu are indigenous to the north island of Hokkaido. Despite my deep fondness for Japanese culture, some of my friends from that country have commented on the similarity of my name to the Ainu, adding they felt I had some kinship to the culture. This exhibition is the first time I've actually been exposed to anything related to it, and I have to admit something did resonate strongly, from the beautiful flowing woodwork as in the picture above, to the spiritual practices.

Nature is, of course, predominant. As the Japan House booklet Ainu Stories explains, spirit deities called kamuy can be good, troublesome or indifferent, but they all demand respect. In another world kamuy live in human (Ainu) form but in this world they exist as animals or plants. If an animal is caught, its spirit ramat returns to its own world, leaving the body behind as a gift for humans. A necessary part of this process is ensuring certain ceremonies are observed to communicate to the kamuy world, in order that the kamuy return. This is in keeping with a respect for the environment, that not too much is ever taken from it. It is sustainability in action, on all levels. This brief introduction for me has been encouraging and I hope to find out more.

Before leaving for London, I took one picture that I intended for my Unexpected Nature series, and it made me think of the Japanese word yugen. It is hard to convey the meaning of this word, as in some ways it is more experiential than intellectual, but roughly it means 'the subtle and the profound'. It is an important aspect of Japanese aesthetics. I will finish with the picture and not say very much about it, why I took so many versions of it to get it just right, and what it might be saying. All I will say is to look carefully, ask yourself if you are really seeing what you think you are seeing, and why I thought it might fit into the Unexpected Nature series. As a final clue, I am calling it 'Inner Frame'.

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