Some years ago disciples of Sri Chinmoy published a regular news report with inspiring stories from around the world. After a break the series starts again with a great new episode, produced by UItpal Marshall. Have a look and learn more about the German Channel Swimmer Vasanti Niemz, a Self-Transcendence Race in Moscow, a visit to an orphenage in Vietnam and glimpses from the World Harmony Run in Cardiff, England, where also one of Sri Chinmoy’s life-size statues recently has been inaugurated.
May 1st not only marks the “Day of Work” and since a couple of years “The Global Love Day” but it is also called the “Beltane Day”. In Irish mythology, it is the beginning of the summer. Great bonfires would mark a time of purification and transition, heralding in the season in the hope of a good harvest later in the year, and were accompanied with ritual acts to protect the people from any harm by Otherworldly spirits, such as the Aos Sí. Like the festival of Samhain, opposite Beltane on October 31 Beltane was also a time when the Otherworld was seen as particularly close at hand. Early Gaelic sources from around the 10th century state that the druids of the community would create a need-fire on top of a hill on this day and drive the village’s cattle through the fires to purify them and bring luck (Eadar dà theine Bhealltainn in Scottish Gaelic, ‘Between two fires of Beltane’). This term is also found in Irish and is used as a turn of phrase to describe a situation which is difficult to escape from. In Scotland, boughs of juniper were sometimes thrown on the fires to add an additional element of purification and blessing to the smoke. People would also pass between the two fires to purify themselves. English mystic by Tor Jormungandr Webster composed a poem for this day accompanied by the photo of a very special old tree. This is reputed to be the joint largest common oak (quercus robur) in the country, the other being the Bowthorpe oak in Lincolnshire, both just over 40 ft in girth. This tree is in remarkably good condition considering how old it is thought to be – possibly as many as 800 years. The tree stand in the Fredville Park, near Canterbury, a private property.
Oh tree, ancient tree, you have always been there for me,
The way you hold the space of our nature so still,
The way you tell us our history without judging,
In times of sadness and in times of joy, you have always filled my heart,
You have seen through my limits and proven to me my strength,
You have been my dearest friend, being breath in breathless emotions,
Bringing breeze through your leaves, when life seems so still,
Bringing roots to lofty ideas and Branching out when i need to be held.
Thank you Oh tree I owe you my life, as you so willing give yours.
After four months battling 100ft waves, searing heat and raging storms, Sarah Outen was just hours from becoming the first woman to row solo across the Indian Ocean. But just a few hundred metres from Mauritius – the finishing line for her 4,000 mile record breaking adventure – the British biology teacher encountered her biggest challenge. She was hit by 40ft crashing waves that capsized her boat dashing her against jagged coral reefs and dragging her underwater. “I should have died,” Miss Outen, 24, said. “I was terribly afraid for my life. I remember rolling and rolling. At one point I was dragged along the reefs under the boat. My foot is ripped to shreds and I have got bruises on my legs and arms. The waves were breaking hard and fast against the island’s steep coastal shelf. It was almost impossible to steer. Emergency communications equipment was washed away. I knew that if I failed to get back into the boat and make it to the safety of the reef itself under my own power, the row might be classed as incomplete. Worse still, having rowed all this way, I wasn’t about to ask for a rescue when I was just 300 metres from the entrance to the bay.” In the pitched dark on Monday night, she fired distress flares and was eventually guided to land where she stepped into the record books. “It’s been an incredible journey,” she said from her hotel room on the island. “I was swinging between laughing and smiling about it all, and bursting into tears with sorrow that the whole thing was about to come to an end.”
Miss Outen is the youngest woman to row across any ocean. She is only the eighth woman to have rowed across an ocean solo. Of nine previous solo attempts to cross the Indian Ocean, only three have been successful, all of those were made by men. Miss Outen set off from the west coast of Australia in February, but her first attempt was thwarted when she had to abandon the trip when the boat’s electrical system failed. She had spent months preparing for the trip and ensuring she knew how to repair not only the boat, called “Serendipity”, but also its navigational and communications equipment. She lived on dried foods that she added desalinated sea water to and, if the seas were not too rough, she would boil up to make a hot meal. She had also packed 4 litres of sun cream. Her daily treat was one of the 500 chocolate bars she had packed for the journey. However, she could not resist breaking into ration packs to sate her appetite for the sugary food. “I ran out of chocolate 10 days before the end of the journey. It was my fault. It was annoying but strangely funny.”
Miss Outen, from Rutland, has raised more than £11,000 for the Arthritis Care Charity. She dedicated the trip to her father who died suddenly while she was studying at Oxford University. She had fixed a photograph of him in the cabin. Miss Outen’s mother Helen, added: “At long last I have been able to have a real hug from Sarah rather than a virtual one on the phone. “The last time I saw her was in February, when I waved goodbye at the airport as she set off for Australia. It scares me to think of my little girl completely alone at sea being battered by huge waves, but she has been so strong and determined. I am immensely proud of the way she has been so determined in her efforts. She has been a real inspiration to many people, both old and young, in completing such an impressive feat.” (Source: TimesOnline/Photo by René Soobaroyen)
David Clapp is a British photographer. On his website he presents his philosophy: “My photographic interest surfaced in 2002 when a change of career (from the incredibly dull world of water engineering to the incredible fulfilling world of teaching guitar) gave me fresh perspective and belief that there was some good left in my world. I could actually have a career doing something I enjoyed instead of designing more elaborate ways of skiving off. I always believed music would save me, and it did, but not in the star struck way I once anticipated. So I hung up my headphones and ventured outside. With my hobby becoming full time work, I bought an old Canon T90, the camera I remember from my teens that my uncle wanted. I rapidly collected a bag of iron primes and lugged them all over the Devon countryside, believing images would fall at my feet….naturally it was a total disaster. In the winter of late 2005 with less that 20 good images, I sold a kidney on Ebay and took a large financial risk, buying a Canon 5D… which I trashed it in a river in Scotland six days after I bought it. Thankfully reaching 34 had drummed in a few sensibilities like buying insurance, but I swiftly realised that if I was to pursue such an expensive hobby, just like my lust for other peoples hifi and vintage guitars had taught me in previous years, I had to make money out of it.
My first break came when in June 2006 Digital Camera published some shots I took from a February trip to Valencia and I was delighted. Then three months later I had a portfolio printed in Outdoor Photographer, then Digital Photo, then Digital Camera. For the first time in my creative life I thought might be on to something. And so began the relentless head banging that is marketing. Every knock back made me seething with a mixture of jealousy, self loathing and doubt, but wonderful quotes from lyrics and films (“I’m wanna mean it from the back of my broken hand” for example) drove me onwards and do to this day. Posting images on forums gave me some necessary opinions about my work, something in the lonely world of photography that is very necessary. Communities like Naturescapes.net, Naturephotographers.net and Photo.net help to retain focus in dry times, but the acceptance by Oxford Scientific Films as a contributing photographer in summer 2006, my first agency contract, confirmed that others saw some commercial potential. So I began knocking doors and when they didn’t answer I knocked and banged again and again and again. Riding the agency wave I felt more confident in myself and my work….the glass was most definitely half full, and so began the hardest work I have ever subjected myself to.
Two years later I can barely believe what has happened. I now contribute and sell work through seven agencies, I regularly contribute work to photography magazines and write regular features for the wonderful magazine Digital Photographer who have taken me on as one of the team, an accolade that makes me very proud to say the least. I was also a finalist in the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2007 competition and although I didnt win anything the lift in profile I attained was immense. I had six images in the associated book, including images displayed in the National Theatre in London. If I am not shooting landscapes and seascapes here in the UK, I am thinking about it. If its not the UK then I travel the world as often as I can with my understanding partner Rachel, in search of historical, travel and architectural subjects. She calls photography ‘geeking’ and how right she is. With a head full of apertures, focal lengths, pixels and other nonsensical gibberish to bore her with in airports; after early dawn shoots to coming home from the moors at three in the morning to a hallway full of tripods and camera bags to trip over, this surely must be love. I still teach guitar, and probably always will as one thing in life I have learned is that life all about balance.