Puffins, photos, patience…

Whilst currently on holiday in Iceland, I find my thoughts wandering as they do when suddenly you have a little bit of time to yourself. In such a dramatic, visceral landscape I am acutely aware of how feeble we are as humans. Nature just gets on with life and if we take time to notice it, we can learn a lot.

As geysirs spurt spontaneously into the sulphuric air and icebergs float, blue-tinged in glacial waters, I catch myself, like so many other travellers, trying to capture the definitive photo; the one which would best communicate the awe and wonder of it all to friends at home.

Because it’s important to tell a story.

This takes patience and awareness, attributes I don’t always have, if I’m honest.

I think, on more than one occasion, of a man who has acquired both of these: a patient, David Brook. David is a man who, through art therapy with St Elizabeth Hospice, has found a new way of looking at his world. He’s discovered a considerable ability with pastels, charcoal, wool and the camera lens. An ability he didn’t know he possessed.

When we first met back in June this year, we sat in David’s lovely garden cabin amongst his pictures to talk. Here, as he told me his story, he also explained how to frame photos and how to focus effectively within the shot. Sitting amongst his Suffolk landscapes and keenly observed nature, it was easy to understand his advice.

Just before coming away on holiday, I listened to David talk at his exhibition, currently on show at St Elizabeth Hospice; it was fascinating to hear the stories behind each picture. For people, it is all about stories and how our narratives shape who we are. They help us make sense of the world and our place in it.

Now, with David’s words in my mind, I find myself noticing individual wild flowers resiliently growing out of rock and moss. I look for something interesting to frame a picture before taking it and I notice the way clouds and sky are reflected in the clear fjord waters. Like good poetry challenges us to do, I see things with fresh eyes.

I would love to claim the credit for this puffin photo,but it is the work of my daughter Freya who is studying A”level photography. As we were all spying on them though, I had in my mind  David’s puffin photo, the one where a lone bird waits for his mate…

I love how our stories live with us and those with whom we share them.

To read  more of David’s story and see some of his pictures click here.

I really hope that these wider landscapes do not fade for me as I begin to understand why so many patients here at the hospice value time spent in our beautiful garden; days at the Suffolk coast and time to share their precious stories.


Viv Dawson

Viv Dawson is the hospice writer sharing her observations of life at St Elizabeth Hospice

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