Posted on December 3, 2013
A few years ago, my mindfulness teacher, Jonathan Foust, said something that I still hear, over and over, in my heart. It’s one of the greatest truths I know.
He said, “We serve best from a place of overflow”.
When we rounded the curve this summer and came upon this waterfall – one that I’d heard can be just a trickle in winter – I knew exactly what he meant, all over again.
The power, the charge, the force of it all were nearly overwhelming and yet welcoming, all at once.
Amazing, that overflow – wherever you find it.
For the month of December, I’ll be sharing favorite photos from my travels in 2013. This one is as close as I could get and keep the lens dry, to Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, in British Columbia, though close to the Alberta line. Awesome country, all of it.
Posted on December 2, 2013
This is not one of my best shots, photographically speaking, and yet it means the world to me. It’s proof positive that I stretched myself to my limit, and that you can’t really go home again. And that everything can be transformed.
This little building is what we called “the potting shed” when I was little. It was behind our house and near the barn and was both a getaway and a house of horrors for me. My dad’s gun rack was on the main floor, along with a fireplace where I brewed all sorts of made up concoctions from bark and sticks and stones. It’s where I hid my favorite treasures from the prying hands and eyes of younger siblings – arrowheads dug up out of the garden and shells from the sea – and sometimes, the odor of creatures still stuck in those shells permeated the air. It’s where I hid when I ran away, and where I went to be alone.
And there was a bomb shelter underneath it, with built in bunk beds and shelves for supplies. Dark, dank, and built out of fear. I preferred the upstairs.
The potting shed was also where I brought pieces of my birthday cake, just after I turned six, to the summer helpers who hung out there when they weren’t in their VW van with the peace signs on it. Apparently, that subterranean shelter, meant to protect us all from Russian missiles, was the place they went to get stoned and do unimaginable things to a trusting little girl. And because we didn’t talk about any of that, it held a magnetic, pushmepullyou kind of charge for me until we moved away, six years later.
I never went back. Ever. So walking up that sidewalk, kicking horse chestnuts in the dappled September light was a Very Big Deal, some forty or so years later. I went on my own, wanting to take my time, to see it all through the camera lens that allows me to see so much, so clearly. I’d been warned that the bungalow I grew up in, a house of shadow with it’s own sporadic light, had been torn down and replaced with a new, much larger and far nicer home. So I expected to see little I recognized. My favorite trees, the spiked shells that fell to the bumpy sidewalk every autumn, the stone wall I used to pick the mortar out of – all of that greeted me as if no time had passed at all.
It actually felt good to be back. To be grown up and grounded and see it all from five feet and nine inches of height. As promised, the house I remembered had been replaced with a rambling structure covered in untreated cedar shakes – one that I might have designed myself. It was set back much further, and the rearranged layout left me a bit disoriented, though there was something familiar about it all.
And there it was. The potting shed. No longer hidden in the back, but right up front, shaded by the trees that were mere saplings in the late sixties. The structure that held so much shame I’d buried so deep for so long – it was right there for the whole world to see. Right in plain sight.
It was all I could do to breathe, for a little while.
Then it occurred to me, all at once, that it had been cleaned up and cared for. A new roof. Pretty blue shutters. A little path, lit up along the sides.
It was there, and yet it had changed.
You can’t go home again, it’s true. Not exactly.
But home? It seems it can be transformed.
For the month of December, I’ll be sharing favorite photos from my travels in 2013. This one was taken on Main Street, in Osterville. Once upon a time, it was home.
Posted on December 1, 2013
All is calm, all is bright…
~ Joseph Mohr
This is the time of year that embodies Silent Night for me. And those six words settle my heart into reflection and reverence in a way that little else does.
For the month of December, I’ll be sharing favorite photos from my travels in 2013. This one was taken in rural Virginia – Highland County, to be specific. In the middle of seemingly nowhere, at the end of January, there was the quintessential holiday picture, taken from a horse drawn carriage.
Posted on November 27, 2013
This is sunset, pointed towards the monument where the Pilgrims first landed, in Provincetown, on a spit of sand that could not have seemed terribly hospitable, back then.
In my blood runs the DNA of the natives who must have been very curious and perhaps, appalled, when they sighted the somewhat bedraggled Mayflower approaching the shore.
I can’t imagine they were thrilled by this unexpected company, as the leaves blew in the wind and the scarcity of winter approached. Not the season of plenty.
And who knows what those pilgrims thought, when the new land appeared to be more of a sandbar than an oasis.
Their blood is mine, too, along with their weariness with injustice, a sad lack of freedom and their intermittent sparks of hope.
This is where the two peoples met, for better or worse, and where their shared future began.
In retrospect, was it a good thing, this uninvited partnership? From either point of view?
That could be, has been, will be argued either way. And there may not be an answer.
It may not be important.
And it didn’t all end well, certainly. Parts of it were terrible for all involved.
The giving part, though? This tradition we are left with of remembering and giving thanks,
of facing adversity and overwhelm and the hard stuff that only each of us can name, together?
It’s a good one. One that I wish were a weekly event, a daily thing, one that came in moments, easily to each of us.
It doesn’t, though. We human beings, we want. We need. We desire. And we forget.
We lose track of the blessedness of life, of every breath we draw and the beauty in it all.
So we have this day. This Happy Thanksgiving, the one that hides behind stuff –
the football games, the sales flyers, the holiday decorations that arrived before Halloween. The never enoughness of this yearly meal.
When your feet are tired and the table is full, it’s good to remember where it all began, nearly five hundred years ago.
On a spit of sand. Weary travelers meeting wary natives. Seeing the reflections of themselves in each other’s eyes.
And in time, setting aside a day to give thanks for all they came through together, despite the odds.
Giving thanks, happily.
Posted on November 26, 2013
It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig. Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me. When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic. No rhetoric, no tremolos, no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell. And of course, no theology, no metaphysics. Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling, on tiptoes and no luggage, not even a sponge bag, completely unencumbered.
~ Aldous Huxley
This quote, from Island Utopia, has been floating around my being for a week now. Rather than write more, I think I’ll let it float for a while longer…
Posted on November 21, 2013
So you must not be frightened …if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.
Posted on November 20, 2013
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my fifty two years, it’s that life is all about layers. Uncovering one thing, responding to that, thinking you’re all done for now.
Only to find there’s another layer to be explored just below it.
And inevitably, there is someone right there to help you figure it out.
Can’t see it yet? Keep looking.
You’re on the right path.
Posted on November 17, 2013