Friday, September 21, 2012

The Heavenly Staircase - a personal reflection

The Heavenly Staircase - Rouen Cathdral
   I would like to share one of my reflections on a photograph I made this summer in France...The Heavenly Staircase.  Sometimes I get so caught up in the making of the images in this blog that I forget that one half of the title "Contemplative Photographer" is the contemplating part!  Many people have asked me how I think about  my work, my contemplative practice, that I thought a personal reflection would be helpful.

   I made this image in Rouen Cathedral and I remember coming upon this interior view and thinking, "What an amazing structure!"  It is carved stone but it seemed so light and airy looking that I had to touch it to be sure it wasn't made of wood.  Unlike much of the cathedral, it was well lit from the clerestory windows so I took my time and made the image.  Later, when I was trying to chose my 12 photographs, my "Good Crop", the ones that impacted me most on this trip, this one was on the top of my list...but why?  Staircases were a constant element in my trip to France.  It seemed everywhere I wanted to go, from Mont St. Michel to Sacre Coeur Basilica, was up a flight of hundreds of steps!  With my tricky, and hardly dependable, knees it was a concern. It seemed quite natural for me to fixate on them in my photographs. 

    I began my reflection with the Photo Lectio exercise...where I "read" the text of my photograph and list the elements within the image that were significant to me.  I immediately noticed the 3 doors, one on each level. The ground floor doorway was very ornate, it extended to the bottom of the next level.  The second floor doorway was less ornate and tucked away under the balcony.  The top floor doorway was a simple rectangle...completely unadorned but ringed with light. You could see the lighted space inside the door.  The other doors were just solid dark rectangles. Even the railings seemed to become simpler, less heavy as they went upward.

    Instantly, this staircase became a metaphor for life's journey through life.  As a young woman I was more interested in the "ornaments" of living and glamor counted. But as I progress through my life I've come to realize that it is simplicity that I crave...purging the unnecessary; the physical as well as the mental "clutter".  My goal, I came to realize as I looked at this image, is that top doorway...simple, functional and bathed in light.

   I've printed the photograph and it stands on my desk to remind me that life is a journey, an upward one as well as an inward one and it can be difficult and at times painful.  I'm not sure where I would put myself on that staircase, maybe part way up the second run, but I'll keep my eyes on the prize - inward and outward simplicity and pure light - as I climb my way to the top.  It will be well worth the effort I think.

1 comment:

Dave Dircks said...

A beautiful analogy in so many ways. Warm regards, Dave (your tagalong friend from Chatham)