Fitting, perhaps, for the Beltane weekend, that the final mile of my Collie walk was graced with this turning of the river path’s earth to reveal the most beautiful ochre-gold of sunset across the ground.
Shortly after, we crossed the old bridge. Tess went down to the water to drink, photo-bombing my carefully framed attempt at what I’d spotted as a ‘Constable shot’. I’ve been photographing this stretch of the River Kent for a decade, but had never seen this glowing colour set, before…
It was then I realised that we’d already had two of the ‘alchemical’ elements, Earth and Water. Never really about the literal words, these are ‘trigger symbols’ for psychological and energetic states. This quaternary of four elements is important to anyone who delves into humanity’s emotional and mental origins. They are rightly prized at all major points of the solar year, and the May Day (Beltane) festival, though not one of the four solstice/equinox points, is key to the strength of the returning Sun.
I set off, again, wondering if I could possibly hope for such appropriate photos of the other two elements. I need not have worried. The Beltane fairy-folk were obviously present to guide my steps…
Leaving the river behind, Tess and I climbed up through the rapidly darkening meadow to the towpath of the former Preston-Kendal canal. Nearing the end of the climb, I felt a brush of faint warmth on my back and turned to see the western horizon ablaze. Sunsets don’t always photograph well with phone cameras, but this one did…
Through the small wood, then back into the open meadow to the edge of the village. I was still missing an experience and an image that corresponded with alchemical air... And then I remembered that, at the start of the walk, I had stopped to set the camera at ground level in order to capture a dandelion seed head in a way that mirrored its spherical shape with the distant sun. At the time, I had just put the iPhone back into my pocket without looking at the result.
Now, at the end of the walk, I had chance to see what had been recorded. Sure enough, there was as good an image for alchemical air as you could wish for.
My journey was complete. I hope your May Day weekend was filled with the delights of this special time, when, in the ancient calendars, the spring gave way to summer, and the life-giving power of the full solar energies.
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.