Progress on my book has been slow this month, not least because I lost ten days of March to Covid. But I’m back on track now and coding the free-text responses to my survey on photography and mental health, in order to categorise them by themes. So far, two themes in particular are emerging very strongly. I’ll report more on these another time.
Photographically, this time of year is a delight for flora-lovers, with cherry blossom emerging everywhere in streets and parks. I love its delicacy and almost impossible fragility, the sunlight reflected in tiny dew drops on the pale veined petals, the way the shades of pink are different from tree to tree. The arrival of spring and the fact I can portray it creatively make me thankful to be alive.
I have to admit that I feel ambivalent about the word “gratitude”. Perhaps it reminds me of being admonished to “count my blessings and be grateful” when I was in the grip of depression. At the time my illness was something I couldn’t control, and the implication that I was self-absorbed, and had nothing to be depressed about, was hurtful and shaming.
Nevertheless, I’m aware that appreciating the wonders of life can help us to stay emotionally healthy. This is where I believe art, nature and music have an advantage: the ability to bypass all the rationalising and moralising about how fortunate we are, and to tap directly into our intuitive capacity for joy.
It doesn’t always work, of course. In difficult times, a beautiful spring morning can feel as bleak as any other day. And sometimes nothing can take away the pain. But the more I read of people’s experiences, the more amazing it is how many lives have been transformed by going out with a camera and observing the changing seasons in a new light.