I saw the Whale and the Sun

I saw the Whale and the Sun

Not quite the Whole of the Moon, but it was in the evening and the moon was also out.

I’m talking about the Leeds Light Night, which took place last Friday, and for those not aware, its an annual event which started in Leeds a few years ago as a celebration of local arts and culture.

It’s grown a lot since then, and now attracts thousands of people into the city centre for a single evening each year, to see strange sights and experience odd, uplifting and enthralling events all free of charge.

It always happens at this time of year, and for me it’s become a regular highlight of the autumnal calendar, as it gives a precious opportunity to see the city in a completely different way for just a few hours once a year.

This year was no exception, and amongst the many sights and sounds I got to witness a humpback whale singing and dancing in the River Aire that winds through the city, as you’ll see from this video captured by someone else in the crowd, this incredible sight was projected onto a huge fan shaped spray of water, enhanced by surrounding water jets and sounds effects http://youtu.be/JUtqYd5juFo

Just prior to this the group of friends I was with had strolled around the local cathedral where in a similar vein, a large UV filtered animated image of the sun was projected into the space above the altar, with sun spots and solar flares galore. I’m not sure whether this was a live image of the sun or not, but the detail and setting was perfect.

We also saw one of the local choir’s doing a quick flash mob performance outside the city art gallery, interrupted briefly by a long snake of Day-glow joggers equipped with whistles and drums.

But to finish the evening, what better than a ghost story told in one of Leeds’ oldest churches, St John the Evangelist. This is an elaborate old building with shadowy corners and ornate gilded word-work in equal measure, and it was here that we heard a of how the devilish spirit of a local blacksmith murdered his own daughter on her wedding day in this church, and how two of them still haunted the building to this day. A chillingly gentle fiction, wonderfully well acted by solitary actor and supporting violinist.

Now I love Light Night with all its oddities and eccentricities in its own right, but there’s also a part of me that looks upon things like this as great fuel for the creative fire, or food for the oft neglected and half starved muse.

I’ve mentioned the need to keep feeding that fire in the past, along with many of the illustrations Ray Bradbury gives in his book that chime with my view of things. But I think there’s a further distinction worth making, which I suppose I could liken to adding different types of fuel to your creative fires:

There are times when inspiration strikes with the force of a hammer blow. I experience these moments occasionally, but I think the last one I detailed here was on my recent trip to Fontainebleu in France, where on one rainy day the ‘moment’ caught my attention so fully that I just knew I’d have to include that scene in my writing almost word for word or sensation for sensation at some point.
To me this is kind of like throwing something highly flammable on the fire. It no sooner contacts the flames than its surging into life with bright and vibrant flame that grows and dies down in no time.

But there are also times when inspiration is a whisper on the breeze. These moments I think are always happening if only we can find the time to sit quietly for a moment in order to hear what’s being said. What fuels this type of inspiration? Well that’s the problem, as its often the kind of fuel that needs to sit on the edges of the flames for a bit before it finally catches and then burns with a steady heat, often revealing fragile caves amongst the glowing orange embers in the process. What is this more subtle fuel that needs to be first warmed through before it catches light, well for me it is I think those unexpected moments of staring at a ghostly apparition of a humpback whale dancing and singing above a river, or a haunting melody of a solitary violinist accompanying the telling of gently chilling ghost story in an old church. I doubt any of these specific experiences will ever make it into my writing, but once they’ve sat on the edge of the fire for a bit they will I’m sure catch light and spark some other new idea.