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The Blueness of Blue

We have so many allies in this world, including just the colour blue in the sky. It is amazing how simply noticing colours and paying attention can help bring you back to the moment and feel less alone in the world.

Menka Sanghvi
Menka Sanghvi
5 min read
Blue sky, grey shadow on grey bricks.
Image by Dave McLaughlin, Australia.

Table of Contents

Hello Good Looker,

This is Menka from Just Looking, here with your monthly nudge to slow down and look a little closer.

As always, you'll find in here...
- One main reflection & prompt
- Five other inspiring looking links
- Community news & opportunities

About Noticing Colours

There's a poem I've been reading on repeat recently. Written by late philosopher and poet John O'Donohue for his mother when his father died, it is called Beannacht, meaning "Blessing" in Irish.

Here is the second verse...

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you
May a flock of colours
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

At this time of anger and grief in response to news filled with horror stories about orphaned or dead children, it is incredibly hard to continue to bear witness and not look away. But for that, we need to keep our spirits strong. Part of the sustenance needed is simply to take in the everyday beauty available. Even if it's just 'a flock of colours'. Indigo, red, green, azure blue and bubble gum pink.

Children in different colour jackets playing in the snow with sleds.
Image by one of my favourite photographers Matt Stuart

Another (half) Irish poet, David Whyte once said in an On Being podcast: "We have so many allies in this world, including just the colour blue in the sky, which we're not paying attention to." In his poem Everything is Waiting for You, he suggests that this is a reason so many of us feel lonely, "To feel abandoned is to deny the intimacy of your surroundings."

"We have so many allies in this world, including just the colour blue in the sky."

When I hosted my first mindful photography walk seven years ago, the opening challenge I gave everyone was to find the colour red. I had conceived of it as an easy warm-up, but it surprised me, and still does, how powerful this prompt is. Once we start looking, we see there is colour everywhere that we have been ignoring or, more accurately, filtering out. We start to see flashes of colour. This opens up our curiosity, making us wonder what else we might be missing.

I recently discovered that in The Practice of Contemplative Photography, authors Michael Wood and Andy Karr offer the exact same first assignment: to notice colour! They emphasise that this is not about seeing colourful things, but the colour itself.

"Colour has no meaning, apart from what thinking-mind superimposes on it. colourful things can have meaning - like a red mailbox - but red itself has no meaning. It is what it is. Look as a little child would look: free from associations, memories, reference points, likes or dislikes. See the redness of red and the blueness of blue without superimposing anything on them at all. Red. Blue."

We don't have to go very far for our colour-spotting.

Pick up your phones and you'll find an array of coloured icons competing for your attention. Initially, you may find it hard to see the colours, because of the the meanings you've associated with each hue. Some people put their phones into "grayscale mode" specifically to reduce the level of stimulation they feel looking at icons. But I've found if I keep looking for a while, I stop noticing the apps and start noticing the colours, and the many shades of greenness of the greens. Hidden allies everywhere.

Four green apps on a phone, different shades of green.
(No, I don't normally arrange my icons by colour; this bouquet is just for you!)

Looking Exercise

Notice the blueness of a blue sky.

Answers (images) on a postcard / email reply / Instagram #wearejustlooking, please. I'll make a collage for the next newsletter.

What Does a Sunrise Look Like? [Read]
One of the most tender, beautiful books I've read with my kid recently is Move Mountain by Corrinne Averiss, illustrated by Greg McLeod. There is a mountain that has never seen the sunrise. But luckily, he has friends that can help...

Cover image for Move Mountain, showing a smiling snow tipped grey mountain with a squirrel and bird

Are Murmurations Worth It? [Watch 2.30min]
The poet Luke Wright recently discovered that the most popular internet search term related to murmurations is 'Are murmurations worth it?' What a question. Luke's response is sharp, funny, and perhaps a bit too relatable.

As Slow As Possible [Read]
In a German church in Halberstadt an organ performance of John Cage's composition named "As Slow As Possible" is playing, and is scheduled to last 639 years. Last week, the concert reached its latest milestone, a change in chords, the first in two years! Weird to think that it will still be playing in the year 2640.

A list of when the sounds will be played from the year 2022 to 2034
The schedule for a 639-year-long concert!


A Camera that Makes Poetry Instead of Photos [Watch 30 sec]
"On a bench where the sunlight bakes...." It reminds me of a really well-crafted alt text for images.

Close-up Photography Competition Winners [See]

close up macro photo of red ants!
Winning image by René Krekels: Wood Ants Firing Acid Secretion

A Meditation on Time [Watch 2 min] - A bonus one as I accidentally sent only four links last time (not that anyone noticed! 😂)

An artistic look at time and the similarities and differences in how we spend it. Feeding my ongoing curiosity about the elasticity of time (see here and here).

Community news

We're making some Just Looking mindful, playful prompt cards!

Thanks to Ana Grigorovici of Studio Bench and the Friends of Just Looking for making this happen. The prompts themselves are not new. I've been sharing these for years on photowalks, on scrappy bits of paper. The idea now is to print them as a beautiful, provocative, standalone product that people can use on their own anywhere, anytime. We're testing them out on our Meetups, so if you live in London, please come along to the next one, be great to have your input in co-creating this thing.

group of people holding Just Looking prompt cards in a cafe


And a shout-out about fellow mindful photographer Antonina Mamzenko's new photobook Beauty Hunting, which is on Kickstarter now!

instead spread of a photography book showing a natural landscape

"What is the antidote to the terribleness of the world? It's beauty hunting: the key to survival."

- Jennifer Pastiloff, author of On Being Human.

Sending love and wishing you nourishing moments to feed your spirits amid all the heartbreak.

Yours in curiosity,

manhole cover with a blue spot of paint and ice
Blue found in Hampstead Health.

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ps. This newsletter will always be a free gift. If you'd like to support this project and the wider mindfulness movement, check out Friends of Just Looking.


Menka Sanghvi Twitter

I'm a researcher, writer, and designer working on the theme of mindful curiosity. Just Looking is a project I started to help myself and others slow down and experience more wonder in the everyday.

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