Tuesday, April 30, 2013

An Icon of the Experience - The Abbey of Gethsemani

A Sanctuary for the Soul
...creating something new, an icon, an image which embodies the inner truth of things as they exist in the world of intelligible being.
-Thomas Merton
 Notes on Art and Worship, page 3   

  I always try to find one image from a location I photograph in that I can point to as an "Icon of the Experience".  Some image that sums it all up.  I was pleased to read that Thomas Merton also saw the iconic possibility for the photographic image.  This simple little photograph is the one I've chosen as my icon of the Abbey of Gethsemani.

   I made this image while I was waiting to meet Brother Paul to walk to Thomas Merton's hermitage.  I'd already left the abbey and gone to the retreat center at Bethany Springs but this was made, or I should say "received", on the abbey grounds.  I had not gone looking for it, it had found me.

   I was just sitting, relaxing, looking at the abbey buildings and remembering the wonderful, peaceful week I'd just spent there.  I was also thinking of the victims of the Boston bombing which was still so fresh in my mind.  I wasn't thinking about making any photographs at all.  I glanced over to a granite stone to my right.  There was the carved out hole, filled with tiny pebbles of varying colors and sizes.  To the left was a small red bud.  My metaphoric engine revved up!  That was the experience of the abbey for me.  The sanctuary of the abbey, where we all huddled close together, all of us different, coming to the abbey for different reasons but all contained within the closeting walls.  Of course, the red bud was the explosions in Boston.  I was so thankful to be in such a safe haven during that time so that I could slowly process the event before I had to "join the world" again.

The Path to the Statues
   This is one of the reasons I love contemplative photography so much.  I now have an artifact of that week to meditate on in the weeks and months ahead.  It takes me back in a visual way to relive the time and experience. As you photograph, try to discern these icons for yourself, it will be a worthwhile exercise.  The following short video is of a walk to the statues at the abbey, something everyone who goes there does at least once.  What I love about this video is it also demonstrates the idea that although it is good to have an end to a journey it is, in the end, the journey that matters most.  It also highlights the very real fact that Nature, in all her beauty and diversity, is the ultimate sanctuary for the soul.  I love the John Muir quotation: "In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks."

A Walk to the Statues

Some of you may have run into difficulties accessing the folios or links to my web albums. I believe the problem is solved so you can see the new folios of "Simplicity and Light" and the collection of images from my Bethany Spring weekend retreat.


1 comment:

kimmanleyort said...

I love your icons of experience and was telling my husband about it during our recent trip to the Palouse. I was trying to decide what my icon of that experience was - still trying to decide!