Sunday, November 30, 2014

Always Expect the Unexpected...

   Waves at the ocean's edge, of course, but the last place I expected to see them was on Little Clemons' Pond!  I am beginning to get use to this sensation...this expecting to see the the amazing clouds from yesterday's post.

   Here at the pond, each day, each hour of each day, in fact, is a totally different and unique experience. If I go expecting to see one thing I invariably see something else.  The pond never fails to surprise and delight me.

   I've always said that it is best to dispense with expectations.  They often inhibit what you are able to see.  But I might alter that to say, have no expectations beyond the unexpected.  Don't be surprise when it appears...embrace it as yet another gift from the landscape.

Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have
 been unexpected, unplanned by me.

Carl Sandburg

Saturday, November 29, 2014


   Sometimes it is all about just simply standing in awe.  This cloud formation left me speechless and that is an unusual occurrence for me!

   I was coming back from Portland and something caught my eye and I pulled over.  I am so glad I did.  This amazing cloud formation was so beautiful it took me a couple of minutes to come to my senses and make a photograph of it.

   I am sure there is a meteorological explanation for this type of cloud formation but I don't care a fig about finding out what it is.  I am just so thankful to have been able to witness it.  It is very good for the soul to stand, from time to time, in the presence of such indescribable beauty.  A well developed sense of wonderment is a very good thing indeed.

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.

Albert Schweitzer 

Friday, November 28, 2014


   It is Advent at the pond.  The glorious fall foliage is long past and the serene white snows are just beginning.  It is that time of year when we wait to hear the soft padded footsteps of Father Winter approaching.

  Our snow storm two days ago is a prelude to what is to come.  Father Winter has sent an advance guard to let us know what we can expect when winter finally settles it.  It could be gone next week because during this advent season things come and go.

    On the day I made this photograph, the leaves and last seasons lily pads were suspended in the ice...their season of waiting has begun as well.  It is the time to practice patience which, as a contemplative photographer, I find a necessary skill to hone.

Noun1.advent - arrival that has been awaited (especially of something momentous); coming

    Although the word, with a capital "A" is most often associated with the coming of Christmas, I find the changing of the seasons here in New England have their periods of advent as well.  As I said in yesterday's post, it is a threshold time, a time of becoming.

   I think there really should be 8 rather than 4 seasons, to allow room for these advent times.  Winter here in Maine is a momentous time but right now we are just waiting for it to fully arrive.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Poetry of Place - 19 November 2014

On the Threshold of Becoming 

   The first evidence of ice at the pond  on the day I visited. (It has since melted away.)  It was forming along the shaded and sheltered southern bank.  In most of the area it was this crackled, bubble filled others it was so clear you could see the leaves and lily pads in frozen suspension.

   The part that most intrigued this contemplative soul was the border line...the threshold between the frozen and the liquid.  The place of becoming.  The little fingers of ice seemed to be reaching into the water and beckoning it in.  Ice is an amazing thing to watch form and I am sure that as the pond slowly but surely succumbs to the icy grip of winter it will offer me so many new possibilities.

   The trees' reflections in the pond, something I have enjoyed so much,  will be erased my the encroaching ice.  I was still able to create an abstract version of this frozen encounter which I call Ice Cubed(You will see the effect better if you click on the image to enlarge it.)

   There really is no end to the possibilities of interpreting this place. Every time I visit I always try to spend some moments just breathing in the magic although with temperatures hovering in the mid-20's F it is becoming increasingly difficult to linger for long periods. I wonder what will happen when the snow blankets the I will make my way to the pond?

   I have complete faith though. I will be able to experience the pond in new and exiting ways as the winter approaches and I will see what I need to see each time I visit. That is, for me, the heart of the contemplating just open up my heart and allowing the landscape to show me whatever it wishes.  Relinquishing my need to control the outcome allows be to see new things.

   For all of you readers who celebrate Thanksgiving Day, have a wonderful time with friends and family.  I know what I am most thankful for, besides those friends and family, it is the opportunity to share my thoughts and images with all of you!  I feel very blessed this year especially with my new found relationship with my little pond.  The following is a quotation from Henry David Thoreau, who's writing on Walden Pond inspired me to find my own Walden here at Little Clemons Pond.  I couldn't agree more with his sentiments...

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite - only a sense of existence. ...O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Language Other Than Words...

   Years ago, when I was teaching painting, I tried to explain abstract art to my students who had a difficult time with the non-representational form of the paintings.

   I told them that you can't look at these paintings using your regular vocabulary...that they were using a language other than words.

   Now that I am fully immersed in the abstract images I'm discovering at the pond, I can more fully embrace this concept of "a language other than words"  by which I mean they were not descriptions of "things" but translations of emotion and ideas.

   It is a language of color and movement, light and shadow, simplicity and chaos.  It is a visual experience rather than one of clear observation.

   I think that may be why abstract paintings are often very large in more fully immerse the viewer in the experience.  I'm not sure how well these photographic abstractions I'm making of the pond will translate into really large pieces.  I guess I will have to try one and see but  I do enjoy to the pure joy of working in this new visual language and like learning any new language, it will take time and practice to perfect it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Deepening the Mystery...

   Yesterday's post got me thinking about the real role of the artist/photographer.  Yes, in many ways, we are documenting the world around us through the images we make but is there a deeper role for our photographs?

The job of the artist is
to deepen the mystery.

- Francis Bacon

   There is a superficial reality that our eyes see and then there is the metaphysical reality that our heart perceives.  Contemplative photography is a blending of the two.

   "Deepen the mystery"...I love that phrase.  For the world is a mystifying place, full of layers of meaning and relationship.  Our jobs, as contemplative photographers, is to ferret out those deeper levels of meaning any way we are able.  Those that most touch our sousl are the ones that will resonate with us most and the images we make from that place of resonance will have a profound effect on us and perhaps others.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Photographer: Susan Burnstine

Susan Burnstine portrays her dream-like visions entirely in-camera, rather than with post-processing manipulations. To achieve this, she created twenty-one hand-made film cameras and lenses that are frequently unpredictable and technically challenging. The cameras are primarily made out of plastic, vintage camera parts and random household objects and the single element lenses are molded out of plastic and rubber. Learning to overcome their extensive limitations has her to rely on instinct and intuition... the same tools that are key when trusting in the unseen.

   When I read this biography of photographer, Susan Burnstine I was fascinated!  Creating your own camera that will photograph the way you feel about a subject rather than relying on post-capture manipulation is an amazing concept.

   Her work has an ethereal, almost other-worldly feeling.  Done exclusively in black and white, they have the appearance of beautiful lithographs from another century or carefully rendered charcoal drawings.

   Now, I am not suggesting that your rush out and build your own camera...the mere thought of that boggles my mind...but it is the idea that our perception of a place or object does not have to be "tack sharp".  We are, after all, artists as well as photographers.  Our medium is light but it's expression is totally up to us.   You can view Susan's work here


Sunday, November 23, 2014


We are our choices.

- J.P. Sartre

   I have been making, for me, a lot of astounding choices recently.  The pond has not only inspired me to go abstract but I am seriously beginning to think of some of my photographs in more painterly ways in the  processing of them.

   Now, I'm not sure what that says about me.  I've never been interested in the abstract photograph before but the experience at the pond is pushing me into places I never thought I'd go.

   I'm not going to spend too much time dwelling on it however.  I have just embraced it and I'll see where it leads me.  What choices have you been making lately with your camera work?  If you lined up the last dozen photographs that you have made, can you see the choices you've made clearly?  Is there a pattern to those choices?

   I suspect that we go in my fascination last winter for photographing only what I could see out of my windows.  Whatever drives the photographic choices we make, remember, it is all about choices and the choices we make determines the photographs we make.  And the photographs we make say a lot about who we are.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

White on White

   With the first snowfall comes not only beauty but photographic possibilities.  Photographing snow is not easy, well, at least I don't find it so.  If it is too bright it burns out, too dark and it turns blue but it's worth the effort.

   It made me think of the possibility of photographing only white things, not just snow.  There are so many variations of what we lump into the category of "white".  Infinite forms of whiteness. 

   A photographer spent some time photographing the Harvard campus and focused only on "the lighter side", creating a series of neutral toned images.  You can see the series here. Although not completely white, the series does show the possibility of the limited palette in photography.

   I often do what I call "Etchings" during the winter, when I photograph the delicate shadows on the snow.   And of course, there is the fantasy world of frost on windows.

   These two images were originally photographed in color and then converted to black and white.  The challenge now, however, would be to photograph white things in color.  You would have to be a lot more selective and discriminating in your subject selection and more careful in the way you handle the image in Photoshop.

   Finding ways to challenge your camera work by photographing white subjects is simply an exercise in honing your eye...becoming more attuned to subtle nuances of tone and light.  And you don't have to live in snowy New England!  Consider spending a day just looking for white on white composition possibilities.  Might be an interesting way to spend a day.  Hmm...looks like my ink is fading into whiteness.....


Friday, November 21, 2014

The Contemplative Master's Series - Richard Rohr

There is nothing that is not 
spiritual for those who have
learned to see.

   Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation is one of my contemplative masters.  I eagerly await his daily messages and I always find them so the quote above.

   Every tiny detail in life is rich in the spiritual essence of Nature.  It is in its DNA.  It merely takes an eye that looks deeply into eye trained to see.  To stand transfixed by the fluffy snow that clings to a thin branch is to see beyond the mere beauty of the landscape and into this divine connection.

   Rohr calls this The Great Chain of Being.  Every link in the chain has a connection to the source of all being, however you wish to define that term.  Nothing is without a spiritual relationship...the branch, the snow...all caught in the web of being of which we and all created things share a part.

   This is why I, and anyone who cares to look, can find the divine fingerprint in the landscape.  There is nothing that does not forge a link to that source.  What a wonderful gift we are given as photographers.  We can not only experience this great chain of being but record it as well. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Inspired by...Quotations

Over a long period of time, I have collected little pieces of precious metal in the dirt…images and selected sayings, adventures and surprise... 
    I, too, am a collector of images and selected sayings.  The one above, along with the image, is from the blog At The Still Point of a Turning World.   A beautiful written blog with great visual as well as literary inspirations. 

   Some of the inspiring quotations I come across I put on my daily photojournal...others find their way to this blog.  You can also find inspiration from many sources on my Pinterest board, Words of Wisdom.  Many of these quotes came to me as a surprise and a delight and I tucked them away there. The best things often do come to us unbidden.

   In my genealogical research I've uncovered my grandmothers little journals.  In these she would record recipes, books to read and her favorite quotes.  Seems I've inherited this desire to collect bits of wisdom.  Contemplative photography and writing go hand in hand.  What are some of your favorite quotes about photography...or life?  Write them down and pass them on.  I've learned so  much about the woman my grandmother was from reading what quotes she thought were important to remember.  Like this one...

Be like the youngster who, when he was asked 
how he learned to skate so well replied:
"By getting up every time
I fell down."

   Wise words indeed.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Painting with Light or Making a Photograph?

  I may have gone off the deep end with this image but I had so much fun with it I thought I'd share it with you and besides, it does bring up some interesting ideas.

   I began looking for white on white images after I wrote a post yesterday (which you will read about on November 22) and this is actually a reflection in an old hurricane lamp I thought might work but then it took on a whole new life.

   It may be the influence of my recent abstract work at the pond but I decided to really push the envelope with it, going way beyond my normal processing style.  I wanted to explore pure abstraction and a painterly approach.  

    Due to my manipulation, the end result is, in my opinion, more of a painting than a photograph even though the original image was made by the camera. It is a bit reminiscent of a Georgia O'Keeffe painting actually.  I think a lot of her abstract paintings are based on close up studies of natural forms. I just applied the same principles to a man-made object and reduced it to form, color and tone...a pure abstraction of the original reality.

    When does a photograph cease to be a that even possible?  Can this type of photographic abstraction be thought of as a painting utilizing light as the medium?  Should it even be called a photograph at all?

   I don't know the answer to those questions but I can't help but think of Freeman Patterson's insistence that we must dispense with rules if we want to push the boundaries of our creativity.  We must be able to embrace the limitless possibilities.  I love his openhearted approach.  The following is a quotation by Freeman that I may pin up above my computer just in case I am ever inspired to push the envelope again with my camera work...

There's only one rule in photography - never develop color film in chicken noodle soup.

  - Freeman Patterson

   A wonderful post that expands on this idea of breaking through boundaries is on Kim Manley Ort's blog.  I love this quote she begins with  "When  nothing is sure, everything is possible." - Margaret Drabble.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Poetry of Place: 16 November 2014

A Great Stillness
 My first black and white image of the pond but it seemed so appropriate to the experience.  It was a day wrapped in grey and completely windless.  A great stillness and silence had settled over the pond.  I heard no rustle along the crow call.  Perfect silence.   It was a day where the landscape seemed to hold its breath for a did I.

   Unlike we humans who try our hardest to control and manipulate nature, the pond sat in a quiet acceptance of what is.  Change is coming, the reflections will give way to ice and the whiteness and wind of winter but for this moment it was pure tranquility.  (Click on the image and see it in a large version which is more effective in communicating the stillness.)

The first step toward change is awareness. 
The second step is acceptance.

-Nathaniel Branden 

   I have a post about this project at the pond on the wonderful blog, Focusing on Life.  You might like to check it out!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Reflections on the Tao - Balance

Shape clay into a vessel;

It is the space within that
 makes it useful.

Cut doors and windows for a room;

It is the holes which make it useful.

Therefore benefit comes from
 what is there;

Usefulness from what is not there.

― Lao Tzu

   What I have always found fascinating about Taoism is this essential element of dynamic balance that pervades the teachings of Lao Tzu. 

    This quote demonstrates the intrinsic balance that is achieved by recognizing  the interplay between what is there and what is not...the "negative" and the "positive" which are both important and complimentary.

   If you have studied the basic design principles you know how "balance" is discussed...symmetrical, asymmetrical, visual "weight, empty and full space.  These are all part of the concept of balance in the visual arts but somehow, I feel this quote opens up a whole different way of regarding balance.  We normally think of a photograph as a representation of what is there but it is in what is not there that the real contemplation lies.

   I could go on and on about the photograph above.  It is, quite simply, a photograph of two cairns near my house.  But if we look into what is not there...well, what would you see?  What "usefulness" can you find there?  My first reaction is the idea of gravity as "glue", holding things in place by the prevailing force of the universe. If you have any thoughts along these lines, let me know.  I would be very interested to get your reactions.


Sunday, November 16, 2014


  I've been driving by a field of milkweed for weeks.  I watched them grow and the pods ripen and mature.   Then one day they burst open.  The beautiful white fluff, each one carrying just a single seed, was released to its fate...carried far and wide by the wind.

   Most of these seeds will blow around and never find the right spot to land and generate a new milkweed plant but that fact doesn't seem to dampen their enthusiasm.  As a child, my friends and I delighted in shaking the pods and setting the fluff flying in the breeze...a small act of liberation on our part.

   Hard to believe something so lovely and gentle could come out of those homely, withered pods but therein lies the message.  The beauty in each of us means nothing until it is released and sent flying out into the world.  We do it in a myriad of ways, not the least of which is through the photographs we let loose in the world...tiny acts of beauty lovingly created but then set free. 

    Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film.
- Ansel Adams


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dispensing with the Need to Know...

   I posted this image of a little puddle of water that I glimpsed outside by bathroom window on my photojournal recently.  My first reaction was, "How beautiful!". My second reaction was "Why did the ice form in those triangles?".

   A person commented on the photograph by saying that perhaps we should simply attend to the beauty and dispense with the need to know why...he was so right!

   I am a naturally curious person.  I am that little girl who would sit with our set of encyclopedias by the hour just soaking in all the "whys" and "wherefores".   But this gentleman was so spot on in his comment and as a contemplative photographer, I should know that the appreciation of beauty does not require our knowing why it is the way it is.  We can just revel in the thing itself.

Observe the wonders as they occur
around you.  Don't claim them. Feel
the artistry moving through and
be silent.
- Rumi

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Poetry of Place: 9 November 2014 - 4:10 pm

   I've come to believe that the landscape is a story that evolves, slowly, over time.  It is shaped by occurrences that come and go.  This influence molds it's contours and the face it presents to us this day will not be the same face it will show us tomorrow.  In a way, a landscape is very much like us.

   Now that we are fully into the grey time of November, the hills surrounding Little Clemons seem to be retreating; taking a back seat to the pond.  Just a few short weeks ago those hills shouted with vibrant color and the water reflected it back.  This late afternoon visit was all about the clouds and the subtle pinks of the approaching sunset.  The air was very still...expectant and the hills softly silent.

   Then suddenly, the light, the soft colors, were gone and the sky and water became dark grey.  It was if someone, somewhere had flipped a switch and turned off the light for the night.

Photography is a calling that requires vigilance and alertness for that moment in time that only occurs once.
  - Caroline Mueller

   I nearly missed this one.  I was so transfixed by what I was seeing that I didn't raise my camera until some of the most beautiful color and light was past.  Still, what I was able to record is sufficient to translate that moment into a visual image for me.  I seem to be making fewer and fewer photographs now and spending more and more time just looking.  As the landscape retreats into do I.  It is as if we are holding a mirror up to each other.  We no longer need the shouts of vibrant color...we are content with what we have become.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

In Their Own Words - Thomas Merton

 And the deepest level of communication is not communication,
 but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept.

   Another of my Seescapes of the pond...this time four loons painted an interesting white line through the reflection. I have never seen loons on this pond...heard them many times...but they normally prefer to inhabit the adjacent larger pond.  I suppose I should have had a telephoto lens but then I would have missed the scope of this scene; its abstract quality as the loons serenely etched the composition.  If I ever get these seescapes printed, I'll do them as large as possible.  I love the exaggerated long format, something that doesn't translate very well in this blog format I'm afraid. (If you click on the image, it will open a larger view of it.)

   I found this Thomas Merton quote recently and it seemed so appropriate to my experience at the pond.  It is truly a communion of souls...the landscape and me.  And to think this has been less than a mile down the road all these years!  Communion is a shared experience; a holding hands with the landscape so to speak.  It is just another way to welcome the landscape into one's self in a meaningful way.

   In November I am forced into my flame orange jacket and hat to keep from being shot at.  It is deer hunting season and not the best time to sit quietly by the pond.  But I will continue to visit the pond, to commune with it as Merton suggests.  It is too wonderful a time of year not to.  Let's hope the hunters are paying attention too!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Photography for the Second Half of Life...

   I think I inherited by photography gene from my father and my maternal grandfather.  Both men always seemed to have a camera in their hand.  My father, especially, seemed to be obsessed with documenting every facet of our lives...first on film and then in the hundreds of slides he took.

   I remember the first time I looked into the viewfinder of my grandfathers old box camera.  The image was upside down and somehow I found that fascinating.  This camera is one of his, I believe he got it from his brother, but I wish I had his old box camera.  It would be a constant reminder of how magical the photographic process really is.

   Being so involved with my digital family scrapbook right now, I can see and appreciated the need for documentation.  Without these photographs I would have no visual connection with my ancestors.

   I believe everyone thinks of photography this way in the beginning at least.  "I was there, I saw that, and these people were with me."  It is a very important role for the photographic medium and for some people, perhaps most, that is all it is and ever will be.  That is absolutely fine.  But for me, and some other contemplative souls, photography can be something more.  We all can't write books or poetry but we can all make photographs.  It is the most democratic of mediums.

   Now I look into photographs more that I look at them.  Through my journal writing I explore the why's of of my camera work...why this image at that time?  I've come to see the camera as an extension of something deep inside of me that I am only partly aware of but photograph by photograph I am coming to a more complete awareness.

   Now, I am well past the half way point of my life but I do look at the medium in a completely different way now.  Since I firmly believe that I am my photographs, long after I am dust people will be able to know a lot about me by looking at what I paid attention to.  Someone once said that to truly know a person, look at what is on their book shelf.  I say, look at their photographs...



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What is it you notice?

life is a garden,
not a road
we enter and exit
through the same gate
where we go matters less
than what we notice 

 ~ Bokonon  

   I love this passage by the fictitious character in Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Cat's Cradle.  I think it is a wonderful way to look at life.  It is especially profound to think of ourselves entering and exiting from the same the labyrinth.  But unlike the labyrinth, in life we wander by no particular no particular direction.  The only thing that matters is what we notice.  In many ways, we are define by our noticing.

   The quality of my noticing is what I work on every time I walk out with my camera.  Every visual listening exercise I do, every moment I'm in the landscape I ask myself a simple question...What are you really paying attention to?  And perhaps more soul revealing, Why? 

    Here is a little visual listening exercise to try:
  • Find a comfortable place to sit.  You'll need your journal for this exercise.
  • Spend a few moments quieting your mind.  I always close my eyes for this.  A few deep breaths and then focus yourself on your senses, other than your eyes.
  • What do you smell?  What do you hear?  Is there a breeze?  Can you feel the sun on your skin?
  • After a few minutes of this quieting exercise, open your eyes and let them wander around the landscape.  As Bokonon suggests, it isn't important where your eyes wander, only what you notice.
  • At some point, your mind will say "Stop!  Look at this!"  It is important not to question or pronounce judgement on what you have noticed.
  • Write in your journal, in one word, the thing that drew your attention.  Tree, rock or cloud...just one word.
  • Under this word write three words that describe this "thing".  Single, descriptive words.
  • Next to each of these words, write a few words that would finish the sentence and further enhance your understanding of the object.  Here is an example:
Orange as a fire's glow
Vibrant, are you trying to be seen?
Alone in grey, bare branch

  • Try this with a few other "things" that draw your attention.  Now look at your collection of  observations.  What can you tell about the quality of your noticing? What draws your attention?  
  • Now you can pick up your camera and see where this exercise may lead you.  What do you want to remember through your photographs? Why?
   This exercise will lead you to a heightened awareness of the landscape.  It is a little like going to a party where you do not know anyone.  Some people will draw you in; others will not.  Some you will immediately feel comfortable with, others not so much.  No judgement, it just is.  You can't know everyone at the party but the few you do meet you should give your full attention while you are with them.  The landscape is no different.  If you come back another day, you will meet a whole new cast of characters and you must, again, give each your full attention.  You photographs will reflect that intimacy.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Inspired by...Sylvia Plath

I write only because there is a voice within me that will not be still.
- Sylvia Plath

   I would say I make photographs for the same reason.  When I allow myself to stand in awe of the beautiful compositions in the landscape I can't help but want to preserve them.  It is a way of acknowledging the fact that Man, or in this case Woman, is not the sole arbitrator of the beautiful.

   I have noticed over the 9 years I have been practicing contemplative photography that I seem to be stepping further and further away from control.  I am moving closer and closer to pure experience...the experience of the singularity of the natural encounter with the landscape.

   Perhaps the voice inside me is simply saying to just be the silent and non-judging witness.  Except whatever comes your way without trying to see it as good or bad but simply what is.  The worth of the experience is in the experience, not the photograph.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Whose Landscape are You Photographing?

Rain on Water II
   I can't speak for everyone of course but before I began my Poetry of Place project at Little Clemons Pond, I was firmly embedded in the 19th century romantic vision of landscape.  I saw the beauty, the lyrical quality even the divine thumbprint but it was all things I was projecting onto the landscape.

   Now, I have glimpsed another landscape, a landscape that is creating itself, projecting itself onto me.  It is a subtle but very real difference to my mind and, to be perfectly honest, a much more Taoist approach as well.

   This photograph is a variation of the image I posted on November 4th.     With these images I realized that as I watch the water's surface the landscape, through the rain drops that hit it in  random patterns, was creating and re-creating the composition as I just stood there and observed it.  It was a bit of a revelation to me.  I could control what part of the water I photographed but the landscape was creating the composition...a composition that changed second to second as the rain fell and the light changed.

     This is not my landscape despite how much I feel connected to it.  It is a living breathing entity of its own.  Interpretation is my role in the process and offers me all sorts of creative avenues to explore but I no longer feel any artistic superiority.  Perhaps that is still a bit of a romantic notion but it reminds me of a lovely quote from a Taoist master...

You ask why I make my home in the mountain forest, and I smile, and am silent, and even my soul remains quiet: it lives in the other world which no one owns. The peach trees blossom, The water flows. ―Li Po (701 – 762)  

   So now, whose landscape are you photographing?

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Poetry of Place: November Comes to the Pond

November Night

Silent black woods wait

'round a sleeping,
moonlit pond

Owls keep watch with me

Haiku #10

   I went to sit by the pond one night.  I didn't take my camera.  I just wanted to experience the silence of the pond on a cold November moonlit night.  Owls were my only company although I heard a distant rustle in the woods behind me.  Perhaps another curious animal intent on seeking solace by the pond.

    I wrote the haiku when I got back and struggled with the idea for an image to accompany it.  With the new open-mindedness the pond has brought me, I took a tree branch image I'd made a few days before and solarized it.  It was exactly the effect I wanted to accompany the haiku and my experience at the pond that night 

   Again, the pond gives me a wonderful insight into its poetic soul.  The delicate branches edged in white foretell the frosty nights to come.  The moon light is subtly suggested.  The pond is turning am I.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Season of the Soul...

   In yesterday's post I spoke of November as being the in between time; neither autumn nor winter, it rests on the threshold.  Thresholds are always special places to be...on the cusp of becoming.  It is not hard to understand why our ancestors saw this time of year as magical one.

Notice that Autumn is more the season of the soul than of Nature.

- Friedrich Nietzche

   I think I would agree with Nietzche but I feel that soulfulness more profoundly in November than in any other month.  In November the trees, as well as ourselves, are striped bare and we are left with only the skeletal essence of each.  It is an in-turning time.  As we lock tight the windows and light the fires, we touch at some of the most elemental facets of our being.  We prepare for the harsh reality to come and draw closer to the hearth for its reassuring warmth.

  For a month that begins with the back-to-back holidays of All Saints and All Souls days, it stands to reason that we feel equipped to wrap around us the blanket of reverence for the past.  It is only right that our camera work should become deeper and more inward facing as well.

   I was captivated by this solitary oak leaf carrying on its back what looks like glittering gems. Amongst the rotting leaves that surround it, it seemed to glisten and sparkle in the subdued late afternoon light.  I'm not sure why I thought it was such a wonder filled sight but I did.  Every single time I visit the pond I am treated to some such moment of enchantment.  It is the aura of November that has me in its grasp I think.  I expect to see magic...and I do!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Channeling Your Inner Mystic...

The most unfortunate thing about the concept of mysticism is that the word itself has become mystified—and relegated to a “misty” and distant realm that implies it is only available to a very few. For me, the word simply means experiential knowledge of spiritual things, as opposed to book knowledge, secondhand knowledge...- Richard Rohr

   "The experiential knowledge of spiritual things..." That is how I view my interaction with the landscape.  What I hope to channel when I sit patiently on the edge of my pond listening visually to the whispers of the place.  It took me nearly a lifetime to acknowledge the spiritual element of place...the energy and "otherness" of the landscape.  Yes, it is water and trees and mist but it is also so much more.

   As Richard Rohr says, it is an experience, not something we can learn from books or even from me telling you it is so.  It is something you have to find out for yourself.  I have felt, these last five months at the pond, that I am can more easily channel that inner mystic because of my familiarity and comfort with the place.  In this case, familiarity does not breed contempt, it nurtures the mystic encounter.

   The channel opens up best when I can clear my head completely...when I am able to keep the petty and not so petty concerns of the day from intruding.  It is not easy and it doesn't happen all the time.  But when I can still the psychic rattling in my brain, even for a minute, something wonderful always comes through.

   November is an in between time, neither autumn or winter.  It is in these border times that I find the mystic encounter with the landscape most easily achieved.  It is a time when a walk along a pond or along a woodland path will often stop you in your tracks.  Try it...try channeling your inner mystic this week.

They (mystics) were simply people who trustfully affirmed, with open hearts, the
 grace of their own hungry experience—in that moment... Richard Rohr

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Poetry of Place: 29 October, 2014

Rain on Water
   Raindrops and Reflections, I'm so glad I went to the pond that day.  Things are certainly changing now that the foliage is nearly gone.  The  grey and white trunks of the birch trees are adding a love linear effect to the reflections.  Tiny splashes of falling rain peppered the water's surface.  It was hard to know where to aim my camera!  The grey skies made photographing the water much easier and I loved the softness it added to the image but it was the raindrops that added a whole new and exciting element to the image.

   The pond has nearly regained all the water it lost during the dry August and September we had.  October and November always brings the fall rains and those of us with our own wells are very happy about that.

    This is the first time I have tried to photograph the pond in the rain.  It was a bit of a challenge but I'm generally pleased with some of the images I received.  It is just another poetic dimension of this place.  Before the rain started, it was the leaves that were gently settling on the surface of the water.  The pond was speckled with little yellow floating leaves drifting along.  Pushed by a gentle breeze.
Rain Circles

 There was a solitary feeling to the pond on that day.  It didn't feel "empty", without the vivid fall foliage to dress up the shore.  It seemed quiet and very dignified to a lovely lady who has removed her jewelry but still remains striking in her simplicity.

   Here and there a single yellow leaf floated serenely over its decaying compatriots. Yes, serenity would be the perfect word for this day by the pond. I'm so glad a little rain didn't keep be from experiencing another dimension of this enchanting place.

I have a room all to myself; it is nature.  -Henry David Thoreau

Monday, November 3, 2014

Gathering Breadcrumbs on a Woodland Walk...

   I can certainly empathize with Louis Agassiz.  My small backyard offers endless opportunities to explore.  I took a walk on a pleasant Sunday just a few days before hunting season would make this far less enjoyable for me.

   It was quite mild and wonderfully quiet in my little wood a few hundred yards from the house.  I seemed to fixate on the moss and lichen on this walk.  Every walk brings some new point of view it seems.  I've lived here 19 years and I always find something new.

   A friend sent me a notice about an exhibit, Walden Re-Visited in which contemporary artists use Thoreau's Walden Pond as an inspiration for their work.  Every time I walk in my woods or visit the little pond down the road, Thoreau is in my mind.  His influence continues to be felt 160 years after the publication of his seminal book.  Here are a few more of my breadcrumbs from that walk and a few Thoreau quotes as well...

An early-morning walk is a
 blessing for the whole day.

Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.

In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.


If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.