Patrick

Patrick knows the ocean.

When I met him, walking the beach of Gris Gris, on the southernmost tip of Mauritius. He was looking out to sea, with the steely-eyes of someone who understands the power of the ocean waves. His windswept hair and weather-beaten skin testament to a life spent outdoors.

"A gale is coming" he told me, as I took this photograph, "sometimes the ocean tells us to stay away."

And with that he was gone, leaving the ocean as he found it. The wind and the waves had decided there would be no fishing that day.

Far too many of us underestimate the power of the ocean. We take it for granted that human's have the power over the world around us. But Patrick, along with other fishermen all over the world, know the truth. Nature is the true master of our oceans, and sometimes we are nothing more than unwelcome guests.

Cooperation

Space is a valuable asset in Tokyo.

With billboards and brightly lit signs occupying every available inch of the buildings above, and people jostling for room as they bustle along the crowded streets below, the entire city can prove a serious shock to the system.

And yet there is a sense of order within the chaos.

In such a densely populated city, people have had to learn to work together to bring order to every day life. Japanese society has practically been built on complex social rules with which govern virtually every aspect of everyday life. Whether is it knowing when to walk and when to stop, or who goes first and who gives way, everyone just seems to understand what to do. Where elsewhere in the world, we are so caught up in our own lives and thoughts, completely unaware of the people around us, in Tokyo co-operation has become a way of life. They have understand the simple truth, that by thinking about others, everyone can benefit.

Perhaps it is a lesson we all benefit from learning.

Unspoken

The fishermen work, their words unspoken.
Each one knows their role, each one knows the role of the other.
They work in harmony, practiced, like a well oiled machine.

There is no engine on their boat, no power beyond the wind in their sail.
Their knowledge of the ocean is their power. Navigating the waves to seek their reward.
They work in silence, and yet everything is understood.

Pride

With the wind in her hair, she looks out over the ocean which surrounds her island.

Her eyes are old, but they are still bright. They have seen so many changes over the years; some good, some bad. Her body is weaker than as it once was, but her smile is as strong as it has ever been. She doesn't fear the future, her spirit for life keeps her seeking out each new dawn.

Because she is a woman of Mauritius, and when she stands, she stands tall with pride.

Appreciation

The people of Havana really know how to look after their cars. They have to. With Cuba economically cut off from the rest of the world since the late 1950's, the cars on the road today are exactly the same cars which were on the road way back then.

In a country where almost nobody has ever seen a new car, the few which are on the roads are meticulously maintained and repaired. Spare parts don't exist, so the people have had to learn how to improvise.

They fabricate new parts by eye, and find ever more ingenious ways to keep their own engines running. Most of all, though, they really take pride in their cars. They clean them, polish them, and appreciate them in ways we have long forgotten.

We have become so accustomed to our modern conveniences of life, we completely take them for granted. Our telephones, our computers, our televisions are so common, we simply see them as disposable items. When one breaks, we just assume we will pick up another to replace it.

But in Cuba, where even picking up replacement eggs means queuing for hours, people know what it means to value the things they have.

And so they look after their cars, and the other conveniences they are able to enjoy, because they know what it means to go without. Perhaps that is a lesson we could all do with learning.

Calm

There is a certain sense of calm which follows a storm. More than just the relief the worst has past, it feels like a time to rebuild, to renew, and make good again. But where do we start, when all around us the winds have brought nothing but chaos and destruction?

Perhaps we could begin by opening our eyes. What we will see depends on how we chose to look.

If we see only disorder and disruption, we will surely miss the opportunity which comes with it. We need to look harder, and see the wider picture. If we do, we can find order, and even beauty, in the debris left behind.

The world around us is a beautiful place, where even a lonely branch, blown from the trees and swept up onto a deserted beach, can become a work of art.

This is the art of the natural world, something we take for granted far too often, as we go about our busy lives.

From time to time we need a shock to the system, nature needs to remind us that our planet is simply a blank canvas. We can fill it with beauty or  we can fill it with decay. The choice is ours.

The Storm

A great storm is coming. Maybe not today. maybe now tomorrow, but it is surely coming, if we do not change our ways.

I am always amazed at Mother Nature’s ability to put us in our place whenever she feels we need. No matter how much we congratulate ourselves on how advanced we are as a species, how much we delude ourselves into thinking we have conquered the physical world, nature has the ability to bring us right down to earth, to remind who is really in charge of this planet.

And we really do need bringing back to earth.

In our constant rush towards (so-called) advancement, we seem to have completely forgotten that our actions do not stand in isolation. Everything we do has a direct impact on the world around us.

Every time we use a plastic straw, when we could just as easily manage without, we have an impact on our planet. Every time we drill yet another hole in the ground in search of more and more fossil fuels, we have an impact on our planet. Every time we destroy another forest to make room for more and more roads, we have an impact on our planet.

We have had more impact our planet over the past 150 years than we have in the tens of thousands of years before, and if we are not careful we run the very really risk of impacting so greatly on the planet, it may never recover.

But it is not to late for us to change.

It isn’t too late for us to pause, to take a deep breath, and simply decide to follow a different path. Instead of destroying, we could build. Instead of cutting down trees, we could plant them. Instead of plastic, we could use sustainable materials which won’t poison our planet. We could achieve any of these things, if only only choose to do so.

Stepping Out

It is easy to stay in the comfort zone of our lives, but sometimes real reward is best achieved by stepping out into the unknown.

Consider this fisherman. Unlike all the other fishermen, who were grouped on the rocks which line the shore, he was standing alone, way out to sea when I first noticed him. The tide was low and so the water within the lagoon was only around waist hight, but still I wondered what he was doing so far from the shore.

Walking out to join him, the depth of the water varied from place to place. Sometimes it was shallow and then suddenly deep. It was hard to tell where to step, the water obscuring the path ahead. Finally reaching him, I asked him why he choose to come so far from the comfort of the beach.

"Because the fish are here" he answered.

Such a simple truth, and yet still requiring the question to be asked in order to be understood.

In life it is too easy to just remain in our comfort zone, hoping the rewards we seek will simply come to us. But as this fisherman teaches us, sometimes we need to step out into the unknown to seek those rewards out for ourselves.