Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Last Post from a Photographic Sage-in-training...

Crossing Over and Moving On
New beginnings are sometimes
disguised as painful endings.
- Lao Tzu

My Dear Friends,

   I have decided, after long consideration, to end my daily postings on A Photographic Sage.  I have so enjoyed these past three years of writing but sometimes one just knows that it is time to move on. I've notice that many of my posts in the last few weeks have been about changing directions, journeying home and other ideas that spoke to this coming conclusion.

   Perhaps it was my experience during my Threshold Pilgrimage last spring that awakened something inside of me but when I returned home to Maine I just knew I'd crossed a threshold I hadn't been expecting to cross and that I needed to bring closure to this chapter in my life at some point and that time is now.

   Somehow, I think it is fitting that I have chosen to end this blog on February 1st which is the feast day of St. Brigid.  I've always felt a warm and special connection with Celtic spirituality and I feel it appropriate to begin my new journey on her day.  I share her wishes for all of you...

I would like an abundance of peace.
 I would like full vessels of charity. 
I would like rich treasures of mercy.
 I would like cheerfulness to preside over all.

- St. Brigid of Kildare (451 - 523)

   This blog will remain online even though I won't be posting so that should you wish to read some old posts or access the links I've provided you will be able to do so.

   I hope that during this time you have been inspired in some small way to embrace contemplative photography.  It is truly a wonderful way of walking through the world and I will continue to explore the metaphors I find everywhere I look, of that you can be sure. I will post a daily image and reflection on my photo journal, Memories4Me, and you might like to check that out from time time. I will be posting Poetry of Place photographs from my year's work at the pond on my journal and on my Google+ page  along with other interesting things I come across whether they be photography related or not. I hope you will follow along as I discover new ways to interpret this unique landscape.  You can also access my Pinterest page where I will continue to add new resources for your journey.  May I also suggest you go mining in the archives for inspiration.  There are over 800 posts there.  If you are relatively new to the blog I am sure you will find something to tickle your contemplative soul.

   I will also use my Google+ page to write short reflections on contemplative photography so I have no intention of giving up that part of my life, it is way too important to me to leave behind.  But with continuing with the pond series and then preparing for the show of work in late August, my immersion (there's my word!) in family genealogy, my "soulcollaging" and my passion for book arts, I felt the need to simplify my life a bit.
   Thank you, all my loyal readers, you have been an inspiration to me on my journey and I appreciated all your thoughtful comments.  I wish you all the very best on your photographic journey, wherever it may take you.

   Of course, I cannot conclude without some final words of wisdom from one so much wiser than myself.  Despite the blog's title, I've always considered myself merely a "photographic sage-in-training".   I will leave you with this parting thought which is really the heart of the contemplative photography process for me... 

 “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”  - Elliott Erwitt, 1928

With Kindest Regards and many Blessings,

Patricia Turner


Why I keep a Journal and Why I throw it Away....

   I've kept a journal for over 30 years but if you ask how many of them I have on my shelf I would have to say only one...the one I'm writing in at the present.

   I use to keep them in the beginning but one day about 25 years ago, I looked at all those journals gathering dust on my bookshelf and thought, "Why am I holding onto these?  I've lived the experiences, I've learned from them, now it's time to let them go."  So, I bagged them up and tossed them in the dumpster.

    Live it, Learn from it, and Let it Go!

   I suspect this revelation coincided with my immersion in Taoist philosophy.  I do know that it had a wonderful and liberating feeling to me.  I know many feel that their journals are such an important part of their lives they just couldn't imagine throwing them away.  My daily photo journal is another way I record my life.  Life lived one photograph at a time.  If I can have a book made of these daily posts I will...these are meant for the "public".  My written journal is too personal and private.

   I write every day in the morning.  It is every bit a part of my morning ritual as that first cup of coffee.  On the rare occasion that I can't write I feel half dressed.  Something is missing.  Writing, whether on paper or on-line, is part of my contemplative practice and I will continue to do it as long as I can hold a pen but I feel no need to save them.  I do re-read them after I fill up a journal.   Some of it makes me laugh and some of it makes me cry but I close the cover with the firm belief that it is past.  Those experiences were then and, well, now is now.

Your past experiences may
 have made you who you are 
today but their don't dictate
 who you will be tomorrow.

   Here is an interesting article on the health benefits of journal keeping that you might find interesting.  Whether you decide to keep those journals or not will be up to you...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Contemplative Masters Series: Emily Dickinson

Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of
living is joy enough.

   Emily Dickinson wrote all her 1800 poems either in her garden or in the bedroom of her Amherst, Massachusetts home.  I believe that if she had been a photographer, she would have done the same.  She would find her inspiration in her surroundings and would never feel the need to seek it outside the perimeter of her daily existence.

   The soul should always stand ajar, ready to
 welcome the ecstatic experience.

    If one cannot find inspiration, joy and the ecstatic experience near to hand than it is unlikely you will find it in any other place.  But if you can take pleasure in how a spot of sun illuminates you bedroom curtain or marvel at the color of grass after a spring rain, then you are well equipped my friend.  

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
 One clover, and a bee, And revery. 
The revery alone will do, If bees are few.

Today is the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton's birth. For me, Merton is the most important contemplative master. I've created a collage of images of my trip to Gethsemani Abbey in 2013. You can read my post on my experience in my daily photojournal...

Friday, January 30, 2015

Reflections on the Tao: Changing Direction

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
- Lao Tzu 

   I've always enjoyed this quote.  It shows the humor that infuses a great deal of Lao Tzu's writings.  So much of religion and philosophy is so deadly serious; Lao Tzu appreciated the lighter side of life.  But this quote has a serious implication as well.

   This year marks the 10th anniversary of my return to photography and so much has changed over that time.  I was much more "serious" in the beginning.  Fine art black and white photography was my path...all else was unimportant.  But slowly, very slowly at first, my eyes opened up to the contemplative possibilities of the photographic image as well as the world of color photography.

   I changed direction several years ago and I am very thankful that I did.  What I learned was that what I needed from my camera work was a more inward and self-reflective journey.  I had to put aside my ego that kept shouting in my ear, "It is all about exhibits and sales!" and listen to my soul who said in a much quieter voice, "Oh no it isn't!".  I couldn't be happier.

   I will be having an exhibition of my pond series late this summer and that will be wonderful but what the pond has given me is worth far more that any ego boost, or sales, I may get from the show.  That is the real gift changing directions all those years ago has given me...the permission to just enjoy my life with my camera and not constantly be chasing the next show or wondering how to market my work.  That is a wonderful and liberating feeling indeed.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"I'd Like to Hand it to You" by Sue Alexander

Photograph by Sue Alexander
...the gift of the winding
 journey inward.

Thanks to blog reader, Sue Alexander for her gift to all of us today.  We are all on this journey through our photographs and reflections.

   I thought this gift was particularly timely after yesterday's post on journeying home and the spiral has always been one of my favorite symbols.  The inward journey can take a lifetime but as Lao Tzu says:
A journey of a thousand
miles begins with a single step.

   Contemplative photographers make that journey photograph by photograph and there is always time to pause and glance back.  The experiences and even the wounds from our past have gone into shaping who we are today but they don't have to dictate where we will go from now on.

   As I said yesterday, our images are sign posts that guide our journey inward.  They are all around us, everyday, and all we need do is to pay attention.  Even the smallest thing can be a powerful focus for reflection.  Meditating on the common place is a contemplative practice I strongly encourage you to try.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Journeying Home...

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

- Maya Angelou

   Home is at the core of our being although we think it is something we will find "out there".

   We walk for most of our lives around the perimeter but at some point some of us stop walking around in circles and turn inward. It is like a light has gone off and we know that everything we have been seeking "out there" has been "in here" all the the center of who we really are.

   For me, and perhaps other contemplative photographers,  our images become a kind of road map...sign posts along the way.  We don't need to know the way, we will be guided.  We try to refrain from asking, "Are we almost there?" like anxious children in the backseat of the car.  We know we will get there when it is time.  In the meantime, we will stop and read the signs.  We will even allow ourselves to take a detour from time to time.  It is all apart of the journey home...


Tuesday, January 27, 2015


  I have been attempting to declutter my home lately.  I must admit to being one who likes to save things.  Things people give me, things I pick up along the way..."stuff".   But recently I have been blessing them and setting them free.  In the process I have found that it is opening up a whole new way of being for me and although I have a long way to go yet, I am enjoying this liberation from "thingfulness".

When I let go of what I
 am, I become what
 I can be.

- Lao Tzu

   I have found that having fewer "options" is really quite liberating, in the camera bag as well as the clothes closet.  I long ago dispensed with carrying multiple lenses and now I am considering a smaller, lighter camera.  The technology has advanced to such a degree that it is possible to make beautiful images without all the photographic paraphernalia that we use to lug around.  When you are burdened down with equipment then it is the equipment, and your relationship to it, that takes center stage.  Paring down is becoming more and more important to me as I journey along this path.  I want to immerse myself in simplicity in as many areas as possible in the year to come.

Look for the least to say the most.

   Some call it "minimalism" but you could call it the "uncluttered image".  Looking for the least to say the most is another way to declutter your photographic thinking.  I'll be looking at that as well this year.  Living, and photographing, in a "minimal" way isn't about about doing without, it is about doing within.  We have everything we need already inside us...all the rest is just accoutrement.  When you start tripping over them, it is time to let them go.