The second assignment for the class I’m currently taking on line with Santa Fe Workshops was to make five photographs depicting metaphors for home, a more challenging task than the first assignment about light. It could perhaps be a photo of a coffee cup and a book, or a pot of soup, or fresh bread from the oven; whatever serves as a representation of home as I see it. Inasmuch as anything to do with the kitchen has little to do with me, I had to think about the elements I needed to create a home from a house. I submitted the following photos, which I will not explain here (although we had to define our choices in class). A really good photo doesn’t need an additional explanation. Several others in the class managed to achieve that goal; I did not.
We’ve been in our house for nearly 6 weeks now, and I’m restless. So I jumped on an offering by Santa Fe Workshops to take a photo class with one of their outstanding instructors (the man who started it in the first place) via Zoom. There are 12 of us from across the country in this undertaking, twice a week for three weeks. And there is a lot of work to be done in between classes. I have been to these workshops before, either in Santa Fe where it is nearly impossible to take a bad photo, or traveling with them to some other photographic destination, and class camaraderie is built over a week of togetherness, which is part of the fun. This experience is different in several ways.
First, in isolation at home, photo subjects seem limited to me and I am not in the company of others who are stirring my creativity. Second, I rarely really look at my surroundings and household items during the course of daily life among them. Photo assignments are always an opportunity to try to see things from new perspectives, and this class, entitled Homescapes: A New Paradigm, is encouraging me to do just that.
The first assignment was about light, and how it plays inside and outside the house, over the course of the day, in color, and in black and white. It’s an interesting new view of ordinary life. I’ll post more as classes progress and you can try to look at your surroundings in a new way too.
Spring has arrived in my part of the world, a certainty re-appearing within these uncertain times. Among spring’s daily unfoldings, vibrant colors have returned to my garden, visible gifts for gratitude. I have found it reaffirming to welcome purple blossoms this Lent, the color representing both mourning and celebration in the church calendar. The mourning part is particularly meaningful at present.
As part of his sermon, the Rector at our church read the following poem, which I liked a great deal. When the time comes for celebration, I will wear purple.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20
some of her other work can be found at www.lynnungar.com
It’s very difficult in my experience to actually see a sunrise or sunset, both of which are experiences beyond words, and, in my opinion, a birthright of every one of us. Sky views in my daily living circumstances are obstructed in some way, or I am simply faced in the wrong direction at the optimum time. For me, the few minutes I spend in awe and wonder are well worth making the opportunity to be in a good location, and taking the time to wait in witness to these miracles, as often as possible. These photos were taken last week in Naples, FL.
A friend recently suggested that we consider discussing aspirations around the holiday dinner table as a way of deepening relationships. In our house, we have spoken of things we are grateful for, and of resolutions for healthier living, but aspirations? That challenge took me some time to think about.
Aspirations are defined as a sense of resolve to achieve an objective, be it a desired experience, acquisition, or accomplishment (similar to a resolution, but perhaps with a little less judgment and a little more hope?) For me, the goal seems better directed at present to who I think I wish to be than to what I wish to do. Who am I if I am not defined by what keeps me busy?
I believe we are all beginners on earth, who grow in understanding of ourselves over time as we are challenged by life’s demands. While later years may lack the energy and optimism of youth, they seem to offer a clearer view for assessing the true value of time spent. It has been much more gratifying for me to think about what’s important from the perspective of spiritual values than from a physical interpretation of life tied to achievements, material gains, and peak experiences.
In a largely impersonal and frenetic world, I am nurtured by the bonds of a faith community which offers me a sense of home and family, peacefulness, and the opportunity for spiritual growth. I love feeling as though I’m walking as a pilgrim on a sacred journey with fellow travelers, charged to serve as a steward to others and the earth.
Beyond “busy-ness”, this is how I want my life to count now: through kindness and curiosity, with an effort to be mindful of the divine in all things, in deep appreciation for natural beauty, and in usefulness whenever possible. I aspire to live thankfully for the gift of life, as fearlessly as I am able, in gratitude for the very simple joys available to each of us every day.
May you achieve your aspirations for the New Year!
I’m one week into recovery for a hip replacement and have to say it’s going well. I’m learning to appreciate concepts like “well managed” and “assistive devices” and “staying ahead of the pain.” “How’s it going” has to be met with “just fine thanks,” right? Who wants to be around a whiner?
OK, so its been harder than I expected, and I know how that happened. I have learned from this experience to walk quickly away from anyone who says to me “I have a friend who…” I’m sure the intention was to encourage by telling me what a rapid recovery Joe had, and how Nancy wasn’t nearly in as good shape as I am and thus how much better I’ll do, and how Martha didn’t miss a step on her tour to Antartica. Stop already! Anything short of super woman achievement and I’ve had a serious setback!
I’ve learned instead to ask about what expectations the doctor and therapist have in mind for me, what additional challenges I may face because of the specifically personal elements that are involved in my care, and how little, if asked, I benefit from hearing about the experience of strangers.
I must be getting better because I’m grumpy, and grumpy meets my recovery expectations.
’Tis the season. The weather has changed, and countdowns are underway for gatherings around extraordinary meals. But days seems to contain fewer hours as more tasks are added to them.
I need restoration time, and have found a way to create some. While waiting for sleep, or in the morning when awake but not yet required to be out of bed, I use my phone and earphones to connect to a meditation app, and let myself be led into a more restful place. I’ve been amazed to discover how much more relaxed it is possible to become, and how helpful it is to begin the day with a positive frame of mind when distanced from the thoughts that otherwise occupy that time. The kinds of meditations available on line, free with wifi, are endless. It is possible to choose voice preferences, music and general ambient sound preferences, topics, and length of meditation. I have grown fond of Yoga Nidra practices, which help one relax the entire body through directed, gentle instruction. It is truly astonishing to discover that, even when believing oneself to be still, it is possible to become even more so.
I have not altered my schedule in any way in order to incorporate this practice into my life, but I am, as a result of it, learning to slow down, and be more appreciative of that which matters most to me.
Many months ago when I planned for a long weekend getaway to see the autumn color we miss where we live, I chose Park City, UT as our destination. I miscalculated their fall season by several weeks and forty degrees of temperature. The higher elevations of Utah had already welcomed their first snowfalls, and most leaves were long gone from the trees. We saw lots of color nonetheless, just not what I had imagined. If winter looked and felt like this more consistently, I would happily include much more of it in my life.