John Freeman
4 September 2023

Môrwelion: The Sea Horizon

John Freeman

4 September 2023 | Minute read

For Garry Fabian Miller 
and for Peter Sedgwick

Who has not stood somewhere gazing at the sea 
and at the sky, watching them both changing? – 
even a quiet sea, as if pulsing, 
breathing, or a sky all-over grey or blue, 
undefinably and imperceptibly 
responding to the slow revolutions 
on its axis of our tilted planet 
with its subtly influential satellite 
and round the star which seems to us to climb, 
visibly or invisibly, depending 
on the vapours which can sometimes hide it, 
until it’s almost but not quite directly 
above our heads before it arcs down westwards?

Even when we cannot see directly 
where it is behind the stratus, cumulus
or stratocumulus, which like the sun 
and east and west are words with which we cover 
the naked mystery of the world we live in, 
such sounds as save us from the shock of facing, 
under a thin film of understanding 
and familiarity, the challenge 
of what we can never finish watching?

Who has not stood on a shore or clifftop 
gazing at the sky and at the ocean, 
with the line that we call the horizon 
seeming to divide them, though we know, as with 
the rainbow’s end, however far we travelled 
we could never reach where it beckons us 
to seek for it, as it is always shifting?

Who has not thought they’ve stood for too long watching 
and, being human, having things that need them, 
‘business and desires’, as Hamlet puts it, 
shaken themselves, and turned back to their lives, 
and afterwards wished they had looked longer, 
because they’d only started to be open 
to all the largeness that invited them 
to grow larger themselves in their responses?

For them, for us, for me, for you perhaps, 
as well as to discover who he was, 
this photographer came daily to a spot 
beside the Bristol Channel, looked across it 
towards the coast of Wales and made a picture, 
and went on making them day after day, 
week after week, month after month, two years.

From all these studies, each with the horizon 
parting its square into matched rectangles, 
he’s chosen a selection, which is hanging 
in this spacious room in the museum 
in Cardiff, so that we can move between them 
and seem to see and – not to understand 
but – to open up a little better 
to the always-ungraspable reflected 
in the subtly shifting clouds and waters, 
with the straight outer edges of the pictures 
and the reassuring recurrence also 
of the not quite straight, never-the-same-twice 
horizon always in the same position, 
enabling us by contrast to be more 
open to what is forever changing.

Among the aids to better meditation, 
that state that seems to offer the profoundest 
and sweetest possibility of living, 
along with music, poetry and painting, 
yoga, Qigong, monastic prayer and fasting, 
this suite of photographs makes an addition.

John Freeman’s poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, and in twelve full collections, the latest of which is Plato’s Peach (Worple Press). His most recent book is a collaboration with photographer Chris Humphrey, Visions of Llandaff (The Lonely Press). He lives in the Vale of Glamorgan and taught for many years at Cardiff University.

Garry Fabian Miller 
The Sea Horizon, No. 18, 1976–77 
© Garry Fabian Miller


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