The beauty in the desert is everywhere. As I walk along, I see volcanic rock outcroppings, struggling junipers, cragged old trees, blue-grey sagebrush, patches of colorful wildflowers, beautiful blue sky with billowing white clouds. I look down at my feet, magic appears.
I enjoy photographing botanical subjects. When reviewing my work, many times I quickly pass over an image that at first does not catch my eye as a “select”. I was going through some images that I photographed a year ago in Hawaii. This image just grabbed me. Instead of a leaf, I saw bright lines radiating out, I saw shadows and voids. I saw a triangular shape inserting itself into a void. The green color did not add anything to the image, I thought black and white. The image emerged.
“The color of life —
Older under emerging,
as laughing lines play.”
One of the most insightful lessons I experienced during my retreat at Hui Ho’olani was an exercise of creativity. Groups of three were formed. We were told to create a “haiku-type” poem of what we were experiencing at the moment. A little twist was injected; member #1 would write down the first line, #2 would write down the second line, then #3 would finish with the third line. Each member would build on the other. It totally amazed me what beautiful and creative poems were composed in a short time of less than 15 minutes. It all goes to show that there is creative talent in each of us if we just let it flow freely out!
I tried a derivative of this process with a dear friend. I sent her the above photograph. She jotted down several short poems expressing her feelings. The above 3 lines are hers.
Thank you, my dear friend!
Old covers new
But not really
The glory of youth emerges through
After an hour of meditation a the Hui, my eyes and soul seemed open and aware. Beauty was everywhere. I stopped, looked, enjoyed and sometimes photographed what was given to me. I was usually late to breakfast.
My friend exclaimed “LOOK!”. I turned and saw these interesting door handles. They looked more like little sculptures than handles. As I squinted, the glass doors became darker and the light reflecting off the handles became less harsh. It gave me a little feeling of mystery, “What is behind these doors?”.
I first saw this relief carving standing straight back about 50 feet away. I thought the full mural was interesting, but it looked flat and lacked energy. What caught my interest was the woman’s eyes. I walked closer and to the side to get a better perspective. As I looked into her eyes, the image came alive. I could feel her sadness.
When my friend saw this perspective, she had a much deeper insightful feeling. These were her thoughts: “The edge of the photo features her hand pushing against the wood, like a wall. Her pushing against it is more poignant because she does seem to be pushing against a wall that closes her in. On her face is the look of resignation yet acceptance that she will spend her life picking from the fields, so her children will not have to. It is a story I have heard from the children in families like that so many times. Sometimes when I think about something that makes me sad, I remember that not feeling sad would mean not feeling at all, and not feeling at all would mean not feeling joy either. When we look at something that pulls at our heartstrings, we are alive and thinking and affected. This is good.”
I have been working to develop my process for contemplative photography. My assignment today was to take a walk with a fresh open mind not looking for any specific thing to photograph. The practice objective was to just wander and let the world around me catch my eye. If something caught my eye, I needed to keep my mind open, take my time, and explore specifically what was it that captured my eye, what was important, and what was not. Only then I could raise my camera and frame the image.
Walking along Front Street, I saw a bright orange flash that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was in stark contrast with the surrounding area of old stucco and bricks. Shadows from a metal gate added to the contrast. Soft mottled shadows from a street tree graced its surface. The vertical bars of the gate framed the brilliant orange. What a wonderful gift I was given.
This little reindeer is not ready for his Christmas Eve journey. It looks like he will be missing it tonight. A reindeer in pajamas???
We found this ornament in Saks on Fifth Avenue on my first trip to New York City. I had been dragging my feet to visit the City. Why would anyone in their right mind want to fight all those crowds. Being an old country boy, I sure did not! But my patient Karen finally convinced me to go there to see all the Christmas displays. I was amazed, it was like walking through a wonderland of lights, decorations, music, and people having a great time. The City was truly alive. I did not even mind the crowds.
The trip was a great introduction to New York City and the first of many more to follow. This little reindeer makes me smile as I look back on that first visit to NYC.
My grandmother never had money to purchase “store bought” gifts. But she always made us something special for Christmas. I can remember one year when she made all us kids “stick horses”. They were the best gift of the year. This heart was the last hand-made gift that she made for me. During her last years, her special gift was a beautiful smile, a hug, and a Christmas kiss. What could be better! Her heart is always with me.
Over the years, I have followed her way and made many of my own gifts to family and friends. The last several years, I have made just a few. I will return to my old ways. Thank you grandma for teaching me what gift-giving is all about.