A close up of a beach seeing the small grains of sand, small shells and tiny stones
Close up of a beach.

This is a short story. As I go back through the slides of my travels, I am interested in what caught my eye. What I was seeing while I was on the road. One way I look at this is what my heart was drawn to, what interested me, what moved me.

This slide could be from anywhere, at least from any beach in the world. On that level there is nothing special about the image. In actual fact this particular beach is Benaulim Beach in the state of Goa, India. My interest in this photograph was that I took the picture in 1990.

Thirty years later in 2019 and in 2021 not once, but twice I got down to see what was under my feet…at least those were the times that I recorded doing so.

Going back further, in my childhood I remember sitting in the cradle of the roots of a Beach tree at the bottom of our garden and just watching what was going on around me. Behind me was the strong support of the tree. Beneath me the softness of the grass. I’d gaze down through the grass, being observant to the smaller world beneath me.

During my years living in Wales I spent a considerable time just being in the area where I lived. I became very intimate with the land around me. I started to notice the small details in the land. Hearing and seeing the happenings around me. The land really did feel like home. The neighbours were the critters who lived around me. I think of the poet, essayist and Buddhist Gary Snyder speaking on the subject of getting to know your neighbours,

I consider it a form of good manners. It’s a kind of etiquette. It’s not just that you should get to know your human neighbors, but you should get to know all your other neighbors as well. Etiquette involves being able to say hello in an intelligent way to a tree, to greet a bird. And that means you ought to at least know its name. ~ Inquiring Mind, Spring 2012

It’s the details, the small things that interest me.

I find that this can manifest in other ways. When I was hitchhiking through Australia and New Zealand I would find myself getting dropped off in many out of the way places, far from my final destination. My ride was turning off my route and so would leave me in a small town, or sometimes in the middle of nowhere. This could especially happen in Australia where the distances are so great. Those places would become important to me. Points on a map, the old style, fold out maps where I could it a pin and say, β€œI visited there. I stopped off there.” However, now there I had to decide what to do next - move on, stay put? I might be there for a few hours or overnight, choosing to camp when it started to get too late to wait for a ride. I remember in North Western Australia spending twenty four hours trying to hitch out of the town of Halls Creek. The lack of traffic played a big part in that long wait. Part of my time by the side of the road was spent talking to a local Aboriginal person. Earlier on in that trip, in the south east of the country I was offered some advice and a cold beer.

Those out of the way drop offs felt like joining the dots between the big destinations.If I found myself in a small town that I might otherwise have shot through on my way elsewhere, I was interested in why this habitation was there? What caused people to settle there? What do locals do in this place? What’s going on? What’s the “why” of the place?

So returning to the photograph at the top of this piece. I’ve been blessed with having visited a number of places in this world so far in my life and through them all I still see this theme from when I was young, of looking for the smaller details. Indeed sometimes chasing after the bigger picture just feels just too much at times. It overwhelms me.

Perhaps I had more to say on this photograph than I thought? Details are, I suppose…detailed.

Before I go, let me ask you…what’s happening beneath your feet?