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  • Writer's pictureColumbia Hillen


Somewhere up among the winding old streets of Nonza, a mountain village on the northern Corse peninsula in Corsica. I am an intruder in this moment. I have just turned the corner, had almost put my camera away but the intensity of the vigil vibes stop me and I look up.

photography by Columbia Hillen, travel photography, photo of cat
Gargoyle of the old Corsican village

Technically, I evaluate that the light is too low, I have no tripod with me, so why even try…. but then again, they say that if you want to be a photographer, take photos. And if you want to learn the rules, learn also how to break them so you can judge for yourself if it’s worth it…I don’t know if anyone said that, I just like to believe it’s true.

So I shot. I shot as I did not think, I just felt. To try to remember that lesson … And I was not thinking of the technical one. I realized I had walked the streets of the village but did not really stop. I mean stop and be so much in the now as this cat was… so concentrated upon the most important thing in the world, somewhere over the fig tree leaves, down in the valley.

I had walked all the way up, I had seen figs and old homes and the beach below and a ruined castle, but did I take in the spirit of the place? I guess it takes a vigil for that, even a very short one, with all the awareness I could gather in myself.

So I made sure to go to the little outdoor café in the center of the village and have a Cassanis (the Corsican Pastis) and just listen and had my own kind of evening vigil…even though my French is hardly good enough to understand the complicated conversations around me, I could follow the passion in the topics due to the expressive half Italian nature of the locals. And I took in the slow-moving life under the old chestnut tree in the center of Nonza.

And I thought about gargoyles and how we have it all wrong by fearing them. They are the vigils of our souls and their beauty is far beyond the appearances…

It is how I now imagine Sutty while he is waiting for dinner every evening, here in Donegal. Sutty is the feral cat that I have been feeding for the last year and have only seen twice. He sneaks like a shadow close by the white wall of our house and I guess it is completely black (that’s why I named him Sutty).

From the table where I write now I am sure that my own gargoyle is vigil for my soul and as long as I sometimes look out the window as if looking for him, he knows I acknowledge his important presence in my life…I don’t need to see him for that.


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