Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Black labrador

I've acquired the latest version of Photoshop Elements. Bewildered by its amazing visual gimmicks, I'll need to get used to employing this tool in place of my archaic existing software. Here's a start.

The dog comes through quite clearly, in spite of my massive filtering. A splendid black labrador with a red collar. His owner in pink and white was another affair. Did I take this photo because I was charmed by the dog, or rather by his lovely mistress? Or maybe both? The Bourne at Pont-en-Royans has always been Sophia's summer Riviera.

Sophia discovered the black dog, and they frolicked around in the water. Then the mistress (whom I had not noticed) emerged slowly from the river, like Ondine, nymph of the waters. She didn't seem to see me. She gazed solely upon the black labrador. This was normal. She had no reason to acknowledge my presence, whereas the black labrador was her dog. This lady was superbly beautiful in her aquatic pink and white simplicity, with her feet lost in the stony sands of the shallow Bourne.

I recalled this kind of shock, many moons ago, in a similar setting, on the banks of the Dordogne, in the region of our Cro-Magnon ancestors. Having arrived in France a few months previously, I was on my first hitchhiking excursion. And a juvenile Ondine emerged from the ancient river—like all self-respecting water nymphs—when I was least expecting a vision. In fact, I wasn't expecting anything much at all, since I had just sat down in the hot air to gnawl at a sandwich.

Nymphean visions are rare and precious, as Vladimir Nabokov explains elegantly in his Lolita. These days, unfortunately, sentiments of this kind tend to get churned up crudely in the meat-mincer labeled pedophilia… particularly in my native Australia, where they don't refrain (until the censor moves in) from exhibiting stupid little bum-twitching girls on TV variety shows.

Personally, my life has been dominated (the word is not too strong) by a nymphean vision that overcame me when I was an 11-year-old boy in South Grafton. Half a century later, when I was revisiting my home town, I hastened to take a photo of all that remained: the pair of quaint houses in Spring Street, just opposite the Catholic school, where I had once glimpsed, for a few minutes, the girl in the fawn dress.

I've never known anything about her beyond the fact that her uniform identified her as a pupil at the Catholic school. In my eyes, she was divinely glorious, for reasons I never understood… and still don't. In a way, she was a sunburnt version of the lady in blue seen at Lourdes by Bernadette Soubirous. Visions are visions, and we can't hope to analyze them. Nymphs are nymphs.

The black labrador in the Bourne at Pont-en-Royans would understand me. His mistress stared at him, motionlessly. Her simple presence demanded obedience. Her boyish haircut evoked Joan of Arc… but the only flames were in my feverish regard. She was so lovely, staring at her dog (with never a glace at me, the photographer), that I felt like a voyeur… which I certainly was. But that mild sentiment of shame didn't prevent me from adjusting the frame and pressing the button of my Nikon. Her small breasts were held tight by a cross-over garment that rose behind her slender neck. She was wearing white cotton thigh-length trousers that accentuated her Venus-like thighs. Above all, her simple pose was strangely passive, as if she were awaiting a reaction from the black labrador. She was the dog's mistress, certainly, but it was the black labrador who would dictate her next move. Against the green background of the Bourne, it was a poem in black, white and pink, built upon a dog and a water nymph.


  1. William
    Dad once told me that he had had a similar vision of his future wife, Kathleen Walker, at a similar point in space,i.e. not far from the Catholic school, South Grafton; she was wearing a uniform, perhaps navy and a dark beret. Strange...
    Anne Sky

  2. It's not unthinkable that visions of this kind have a neurological origin, which means that they could be inherited genetically, like some kind of mental disorder. The various female visions I recall were intense and brief, almost instantaneous. The term that comes to mind to designate this phenomenon is ecstasy, which has often been applied to visions of the Virgin. In fact, I'm probably talking of little more than a condensed version of the perfectly commonplace happening known as "falling in love", when an individual's everyday faculties of reasoning and intelligence seem to evaporate momentarily from time to time.

    My visions associated with the Dordogne and the Bourne both entail an Ondine emerging from the water. This recalls the famous tale of our childhood about a ghostly female walking up out of Deep Creek towards the hermit's hut.