All those who live in my region are blessed by the presence of a sacred mountain, Mount Tamalpais, who shelters and graces us with her presence. She was sacred to the Native Americans who lived along these shores long long ago, and she is sacred still to those of us who know her.
I was driving over this very mountain Sunday on my way to Bolinas, and I had an experience that I wanted to share with you here. But before I could write it, I found myself in my Medicine Wheel circle on Second Life telling the story:
So, on this day I didn't bring my camera, and that triggered the epiphany, but there are many ways to record the beauty of this world, and I plan to try as many of them as I can. That's part of my work as a Record Keeper, a Light Bearer.
We light-beings are precious to each other, and to those around us, especially in these times - our light is truly needed now. Here is my prayer for all of us: May we be strong and clear. May we see the beauty around us, even in these days of darkening and fear. May we become beacons of light, sharing the beauty & clarity we see with those around us. And may they too be strengthened by our vision.
This image came at the end of one of those "state of the world" PowerPoint slide-shows that are being emailed around. The material was fairly predictable until this last slide, which I found myself totally enchanted by - an image of ma and pa - two regular folks - harvesting lightning.
I don't know where it came from, so I don't know how to credit it, but there's something so cheerful and matter of fact about this image of harvesting lightning, light-filled bolts of inspiration that are emerging from the cloud-saturated skies of these dark days. Regular people watching for the ideas and dreams that are appearing now, and harvesting them like canned peaches for the winter when they will be most sorely needed; a time that is coming fast upon us now.
Meet you in the root cellar!
My favorite of the post-election emails circulating now is the amazing Alice Walker's letter to Obama, and this is my favorite part of it:
Walking through a friend's rose garden the other day ... this one opened to greet my lens:
In my in-box this morning, a quote from my friend Liz:
"There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility."
~ from Thomas Merton's poem, Hagia Sophia.
As is often the case, I found I was completely unaware of the rich historical complexity that created this particular human expression. I learned that Adams was also a pianist who abandoned his musical aspirations for what was to be, as we all know, a meteorific career as a photographer. Apparently, he felt that the life of a successful musician required a more commercially minded and competitive psyche than his was inclined to be. I've always admired his luminous images, but watching this documentary about his life and work gave me a much deeper understanding of his personal philosophy & motivation. This is an excerpt from his 1923 journal written in early summer, long before he was famous:
"I was climbing a long ridge west of Mt. Clark. It was one of those mornings when the sunlight is burnished with a keen wind and long feathers of cloud move in the lofty sky.
The silver light turned every blade of grass and every particle of sand into a luminous metallic splendor. There was nothing however small, that did not clash in the bright wind, that did not send arrows of light through the glassy air. I was suddenly arrested, in the long crunching path of the ridge, by an exceedingly pointed awareness of the light.
The moment I paused, the full impact of the mood was upon me. I saw more clearly than I've ever seen before or since the minute details of the grasses, the small flotsam of the forest, the motion of the high clouds streaming above the peaks. I dreamed that for a moment time stood quiet and the vision became but the shadow of an infinitely greater world and I had within the grasp of consciousness a transcendental experience."
Eight years later, in 1931, he was to say "Photography is really perception" describing his craft as "an austere and blazing poetry of the real".
This fellow had some painful personal knots to unravel between love and passion and loyalty and security, and his journey sent him to the dark night of the soul and back. This excerpt from a letter to his best friend Cedric Wright shares the profound conclusions he came to at the end of that journey - about love, friendship, and most powerfully - art:
"A strange thing happened to me today. I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it made me see many things that were drifting around inside of me; things that relate to those who are loved and those who are real friends.
For the first time I know what love is; what friends are; and what art should be. Love is a seeking for a way of life; the way that cannot be followed alone; the resonance of all spiritual and physical things...
Friendship is another form of love -- more passive perhaps, but full of the transmitting and acceptances of things like thunderclouds and grass and the clean granite of reality.
Art is both love and friendship and understanding: the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of things. It is more than kindness, which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light of the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is a recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the interrelations of these."
To my ears, that one line is one of the most insightful statements about art I've ever heard; "It (Art) is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light of the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit."
It's Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere today, the sun comes full circle and begins its cycle anew. I'm off celebrating among redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains, enjoying my yearly ritual with friends old and new.
I'll no doubt have lots of stories to share when I return, but I wanted to have something here to greet you on this day. So I found this great photo on Flickr (God, I love Flickr!), taken by "Simon & Vicki": Greeting the dawn at last year's Solstice celebration in the great circles of Stonehenge.
Lovely, isn't it?
The desert is a delicate animal at this time of year. Like a snake shedding its skin it’s fragile, vulnerable, in a state of emergence.
If I were making a list of the 100 things I want to do before I die, visiting the desert in bloom would certainly be among them.
So when my friend Bridget mentioned that she goes to Anza Borrego every year around this time and suggested I might want to come with her and photograph the beauty, I jumped at the chance (Bridget is an exceptionally talented green architect and landscape designer and also a client of mine – look for an announcement of her site and blog at bridgetbrewer.com soon)!
David Sibbet's intriguing Second Life Retrospective catalyzed a response that I posted as a comment on his blog, but the ideas were so engaging to me that I thought I'd write a bit here as well.
One part of David's retrospective that particularly interested me was his exploration of how what I understand as the Jungian idea of active imagination might effect psychological healing and spiritual development within Second Life ...
I've heard that experiencing something in one's imagination is neurologically almost identical to having experienced it in reality. If this is true, it has huge implications for consciously using Second Life to work with all sorts of issues - emotional, psychological, spiritual, social, philosophical and environmental. Second Life could be (and already is) a playground to test and seed all kinds of positive change.*
Lastly, another area I found fascinating was David's recounting of his experiences with Light in Second Life. You have to read his paper to get the fullness of his thinking on this subject, but I wanted to give you all some idea. So this is my SL avatar, Pipi Tinlegs, standing near the rays of the healing light table in David's inworld Story Studio:
* (speaking of seeding positive change, I recently hosted a World Café in Second Life for the Rockridge Institute with the fabulous SingingHeart Amat, aka in 'real' life as Michelle Paradis. I'll write up a proper report on it soon and link to it from this blog)
My friends at Resonance will be starting the Solstice fire at Coyote Ridge this afternoon for those who would sit in circle around it this night, completing this last cycle of the sun and ritually welcoming the return of light at dawn.
I love the ceremonies and celebrations of this season, which in my hemisphere all seem to gather us around light in one form or another - warmed by both the external lights of electricity and fire and the internal sun of family and friends. This is a good time; a time of gratitude and reflection, and today I give thanks for all the circles that hold me, and for all those I am privileged to hold.
May this next season bring the light of love ever more fully into our lives and hearts; may it give us the capacity to hold ever widening circles until we can hold all of humanity and the earth that sustains us as dearly as our own beloveds.