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Posts tagged ‘nature’

Pause. Photographs Capture Time, Light, a Moment

My favorite description of contemplation is a “long, loving look at the real.” I heard this first from William McNamara, OCD, a teacher who inspired me to live with intention, purpose, vigor, and passion.

National Geographic posted a photograph tip on Facebook tonight:

Photo Tip: Adventure photography leads to lots of thrilling images. But remember to also watch for those moments of contemplation that can happen when the adventurer pauses to reflect on his extraordinary experience.

The moments of pause … time when I breathe deeply and see, taking a “long loving look at the real” are the times when I grow (and groan) in appreciation, connection, empathy. When do these types of moments occur for you?

Photography intrigues me. I once dated a photo-journalist, and seeing the world through his eyes helped me understand ways we communicate and perceive. My horizons were opened to different perspectives.

I’m saving for a better digital camera now, and want to snap the details of the landscape where I live–there is wildness and hidden beauty in Alaska. It is a contemplative practice for me to see through the eyes of my camera.

Join me, and glimpse light, time, wonder, moments, and composition–the world–through these photographs from National Geographic. Treat yourself. Each  can be a contemplative pause. Delight. Notice what is evoked in you!

Simply Beautiful Photographs by Annie Griffiths

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Super Moon, Season Change, and Silent Vows

Super moon: St Michael's Tower on Glastonbury Tor, Somerset (This photo from England conveys similiar shadow & moon contrast visible in Alaska.)

Visiting friends on Friday night, the nearly full moon hovered in a pink tinged sky, rising over iced, frozen chunks of the Kenai River, Alaska. In contrast, Saturday night was already shadowless dark as  I waited for the Super moon to shine. I gasped when the entire horizon of Kenai Mountain peaks became a silhouette, and Super moon hugged the landscape luminous.

There are a hundred things I could write about–wanted to write about–on the eve of the Vernal Equinox. Alaska gains five to six minutes of light, every day. My mind was like a gumball machine. However, tears had blanketed my face earlier, as had laughter when I saw my true reflection in the mirror. I had no more words, and simply desired to lean into the liquid silence of the night, beauty unfolding peace in a time of fierce change, for me personally, and throughout our planet.

Super moon rose so gracefully as earth orbited in dance. The rhythm of David Whyte’s poetry from earlier that day breathed in me. Gazing through tall windows into the wintry landscape, I spontaneously slipped out of my sheepskin slippers, moving into flowing Qigong practice, facing darkness, within and without, illuminated by moonlight. My silence became a prayer of sorts.

Thank you Super moon, and thank you David Whyte–your poems evoke a fierce conversation within me. I welcome the season of Lent–Vernal Equinox–spring, and all the true vows. Amen.

ALL THE TRUE VOWS

All the true vows
are secret vows.
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made,
nor the work they have chosen,

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood,
in the shadows,
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

— David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected PoemsHouse of Belonging, and the CD of poems and music, Return

Have you experienced poetry or nature teaching and guiding you … communicating that for which you may have no words, yet?
Do you have a favorite poem or poet? A place in nature where you come home to yourself in your own skin?

Stand Still. Appreciate a Tree.

Wilderness is a powerful teacher. In Alaska, the landscape is sturdy. Rugged. Every day a thousand trees remind me to stand still. Trees teach me tenacity. Trees teach me to grow roots, offer support, move without snapping, let go, and to hold onto myself. I live in a log home built of tree trunks. Burning branches provide wood stove heat, protecting me from bitter cold.

A Jewish friend told me that today is  Tu B’shvat–a holiday called New Year For Trees. I recalled a favorite poem, and want to share it with you. Lost reminds me to pause, be present and embodied in the here and now of time–where ever that may be. Perhaps it will speak to you, too.

Lost
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
— David Wagoner

Reflection
Please make time to appreciate your outer landscape. Look closely at a tree, go to a park,  take a walk. Then, stand still. Where are you? Really, where are you? Give thanks for life–however it lives in you today.

Please offer your thoughts and comments. What do you discover?

A Dog Teaches Me To Trust Love, Trust Myself


Around ten pm, a few days before Christmas,  I sat cross-legged gazing through the burnished glass of a wood stove. Heat rippled toward my face. Flicking flames evoked emotions and memories: a needlepoint Santa stocking for a boy who no longer lives, the ending of a marriage I held precious, decisions that tangle and untangle a life. My two–outdoor only–dogs snoozed nearby. A few weeks earlier I decided to bring them inside with me. It was the best present I’ve given them–and myself.

Kenai, the five year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever came over, prodding my forearm, seeking attention. I stretched out on the carpet; he laid full length next to me.  I stroked the groove between his eyes with my thumb. Tears prickled my nose and eyes, unbidden. Something melted in me. I want to learn to love this fiercely again. I want to share radical unconditional love. I blinked unexpected tears, continuing to pet his fur.  While wood crackled and popped, I realized how defended and sheltered my heart is. Kenai stayed still, simply present.

Dogs teach us. This was not the first time Kenai had been my companion. I think he is an angel in disguise.

He went missing in the wilds of Granite Canon, Wyoming, for nine months. Only a pup, his loss came three months after the death of my only child. That was nearly five years ago. Then a miracle occurred.

It was New Year’s Day, 2007.  I’d returned to northern Colorado from a visit to Alaska, and welcomed the new year,  standing on a snowy ridge top in Wyoming. I called to my lost pup–the only visible movement  in a vast horizon. Kenai bolted through snowdrifts  into my arms, with whimpers and cries. I buried my hands in his fur that day too–later realizing no human hands had touched him for nine months.  Our story “Lost and Found” was printed a Chicken Soup book.

I remember the miracle, and share my 2011 happy new year wish: May we learn to live with fierce tenderness and unmeasured mutuality.

This is an excerpt from Lost and Found followed by a link to the full story. May peace be with you, and me.

…A new year

January 1 dawned clear and sunny. We drove to Wyoming. Entering the ranch, we stopped to scan the landscape with binoculars. On a distant ridge we saw him. There was no doubt now. My stomach started to churn. Within a few minutes, we met Brenda. I could barely breathe. There was only room for one of us in her tractor cab. Jim stared at me and whispered, “Go.”

Maneuvering to the ridge top seemed longer than ten minutes. Cows followed as we lurched through icy snow drifts. The sun radiated brilliance against snow and rock. We stopped where Brenda had left food for Kenai. Heart pounding, I stepped from the cab.

Brenda backed the tractor away. I walked forward. Suddenly I saw a flash of brown on the other ridge. Clapping my hands, I called, “Kenai, Kenai, Kenaiii,” over and over and over. Could he hear me, would he remember?

Kenai stopped and sniffed the air. Instantly wiggling with recognition from nose to tail, he raced through snowdrifts toward me. Whimpers and cries erupted from both of us. I fell to my knees in the snow, arms wide open, calling him. I could see his puppy collar! A solid, furry hay-smelling body launched into my embrace. He was undersized, but unharmed. We jumped up, tumbled around each other, playing, touching, petting, tears pouring forth. I can’t believe he remembers! He’s safe!

When Jim was within one hundred yards of us, I knelt, presenting to him Kenai. Kenai looked to me, then rushed to Jim as I watched, sobbing with joy.

Oh yes, I hope. I believe.

– (c) Pegge Bernecker, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living Catholic Faith, 2008

Links
Read the full story: “Lost and Found.” See photos of Kenai and the Wyoming landscape where he lived.

What’s Your Natural Habitat?


I sit facing my computer screen, inches from a large window. My heart thunks. Outside a shadow moves. A moose peers at me. Vividly tall, she is furry, sturdy, six feet away, eyes glued in stillness. Her nose twitches. I catch my breath, meet her gaze. Seconds pass. Does she comprehend glass? Does it matter? When her shoulder muscles flick, she turns away, hooves crunching tracks through the snow crust. I remain, untangled. My breath is slow and deep.

How can we cultivate compassion when the world we inhabit may be hostile, stressful, aggressive, and painful? It is simple, but not easy, and requires our ongoing commitment. Compassion is not reliant upon ease of circumstance. Some of the most trustworthy, compassionate people I know have suffered profoundly. Paula D’Arcy writes, “How you approach something determines what you will see.” Roshi Joan Halifax tells us, “The world is so tangled, and I need to be somewhat untangled to meet it.” These are good insights. We cannot give what we do not have. What we cultivate is shared with others.

To cultivate compassion we must first show up and be available to place, time, and our embodied self. This prepares us to meet someone or something with integrity and presence. We each live a sacred story with particularities and peculiarities unique to our personality, life experiences, and our decisions of yes, no, and maybe.

Three moose wander in my yard—it is their natural habitat. The two twins were birthed when sun shone for twenty hours a day. Lush green ferns and foliage sheltered their tentative beginnings. Months later, I now sit in silence. Two feet of snow arrived, and neighbors help one another in time of need. I do not live in a wildlife preserve or zoo. Bear tracks across my driveway startle me from complacency. While outdoors, I am calmly alert, with a choice to engage the realness of time and place. I am interwoven in this landscape, a part of it. How will I forge connection and compassion in this climate?

Do you understand my question? Perhaps it needs translation: Where do you live—what is your natural habitat? Who do you encounter with your everyday activity? What causes you to stop in awe and wonder? Where do you rub up against fear and disconnect? These are essential questions in the marketplace or monastery, the inner city, suburbia, or wilderness. Thomas Merton said, “The deepest level of communication is not communication but communion. It is wordless.”

What can your natural habitat teach you? A spiritual director can accompany you when you share your stories of desire, surprise, fear, hope, and despair. Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp reminds us, “The teaching of compassion, the exercise of the soul, will open the heart. And then nothing will be impossible.”

How do you cultivate compassion through the concrete specifics of your life?

–Pegge Bernecker, editor

Excerpt from Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction, Vol. 5.1, “Cultivating Compassion” by Pegge Bernecker, (Spiritual Directors International (c) 2011). Used with the permission of Spiritual Directors International. To order copies or a FREE subscription to Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction call 1-425-455-1565 or go to www.sdiworld.org.

Be Still, Go Fishing

Today I went fishing, unexpectedly.

Hustling aboard a boat, no time to reload coffee & creme into an almost empty mug, my skin prickled a shiver, even beneath three layers and a wool cap. I hadn’t intended to fish, and was merely loading boats–helping out in a fishing derby. Instead, a seat and invitation opened; I jumped in.

After a hello to our fishing guide and two girlfriends,  I turned, lifting my gaze, upstream.

The river caught my pulse.

A  forgotten prayer pattern erupted within me–my old friend, psalm 46:10a:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

“Be still and know that I am.”

“Be still and know”

“Be still”

“Be”

Today, an unexpected fishing pulse catches me, still. Life is prayer. Simply, be.

I’m hooked.

ps: guess what’s for dinner?

What hooks your attention?
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