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Category Archives: Photography

Silver Star

When I looked for a poem, this one by William Stafford found me. Mountains appear to be immovable and unchangeable, yet as people do they do so without immediate notice. Yet, when we revisit them, we realize the changes that occurred.

In the case of teachers, Parker Palmer speaks about asking the question “who is the self who teaches?” We are each teachers in our own particular ways, so asking this question is essential. We often overlook this question in pursuit of easier to answer questions about the what, when, where, why, and how.

When we ask who we are, we explore the values that anchor us in living life. In times of crisis, those values guide us and help us through those tough times. Attending to them in mindful ways each day as a gardener would her/his garden grounds us in them in times of real need. They have spiritual meaning that come to life in living and expressing them daily through who we are as a human being.

If we serve our values well, “we will hear the world say, ‘Well done.'” The patience of living a good life, which in Aristotle‘s terms, is indefinable will be the reward. Like a mountain guiding us on our journey, the values we live and express guide us and others on a shared journey.

To be a mountain you have to climb alone

and accept all that rain and snow. You have to look

far away, when evening comes. If a forest

grows, you care; you stand there leaning against

the wind, waiting for someone with faith enough

to ask you to move. Great stones will tumble

against each other and gouge your sides. A storm

will live somewhere in your canyons hoarding its lightning.

If you are lucky, people will give you a dignified

name and bring crowds to admire how sturdy you are,

how long you can hold still for the camera. And some time,

they say, if you last long enough you will hear God;

a voice will roll down from the sky and all your patience

will be rewarded. The whole world will hear it: “Well done.”

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From “The Rock Will Wear Away”

Today on the way home, we stopped the Okotoks Erratic or Big Rock. In the Blackfoot language, it is Okotok, which means rock. It weighs about 16, 500 tonnes (18, 000 tons), is about 41 by 18 metres (135 by 60) feet wide, and is about 9 metres high (30 feet).

During the Pleistocene Era between 12, 000 and 17, ooo years, a glacier dropped the big rock in what is now prairie just below the foothills and Rocky Mountains. There are two rocks and on the flat of the prairie they seem erratic and out-of-place. The size of the rocks speaks to the power of nature.

I have a question about this rock. How big was it when the glacier dropped it in its place?

Holly Near is a singer-songwriter. The following is a short excerpt from one of her songs. As she proposes, the rock appears stronger than water. But, is it?

Humans and water are resilient, they come back time and again. Our fragility makes us vulnerable, but, at the same time, provides durability. Like water slowly eroding a large rock down into smaller and smaller bits, humans, through their mindful and collective efforts, can bring about dramatic change to the world.

Can we be like drops of water falling on the stone

Splashing, breaking, disbursing in air

Weaker than the stone by far but be aware

That as time goes by the rock will wear away

And the water comes again

Mindful

Today’s post is short. I was hooded today and the poem that ran through my mind was Mindful by Mary Oliver. This is the ultimate poem for me on a day like today. There is always something that can more or less kill me with delight.

Several speakers today reminded us that it is not the extraordinary we are looking for, but the ordinary that propels us into the extraordinary. Being mindful and attentive in and to the world is an essential element in being propelled.

Everyday
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Fluent

I am on the road the next two days so I am tired at the end of relatively long day. John O’ Donohue‘s poetry has a light feel to it, much like a small river that flows easily along its way.

He often wrote blessings and a blessing is something that catches us by surprise. It unfolds in surprising ways, never taking the same path twice. Like the river and, as expressed by Heraclitus in his quote: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

We cannot live the same moment twice, because we cannot return to it and, even if we could, we would not be the same person. We would return with an understanding of what it meant to step in the river in the first place.

The beauty of living is filled with the richness of uncertainty and complexity. The best we can expect is to be mindful of each moment as we live in it and as it unfolds.

I would love to live

Like a river flows,

Carried by the surprise

Of its own unfolding.

We took this picture several years at Lundbreck Falls. Today, I drove past them and, like me, the river has changed.

For the Children

Gary Snyder wrote this beautiful poem about children being adult’s saving grace in the world. What is new fascinates and they wonder about the newness. For a small child, most of what they encounter is new and calls out to the child to explore and wonder over it.

There is zen and mystical quality to the poem with a reference to meeting in peace somewhere in the future. The essential part of peace is staying together, learning the flowers, and going lightly.

It is not learning about flowers, but learning flowers and going lightly, which I think will take a different way of teaching. This is not a new way of teaching. Instead, it is more likely we have forgotten it, being together and living gently in a world that only has so much to offer us.

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us,
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light.

“Natural objects should be sought and seen as they are, not to suit observers, but respectfully as if they were divine beings.” — Goethe

I took this picture several years ago as I drove through Jasper National Park. It was late August before the rutting began, but the bulls were trying to assert dominance. Despite this, people ran into the ditch and talking loudly. I kept my distance and got some great shots from about 100 feet away. As Gary Snyder counseled, I went light.

Drinking with a Hermit Friend in the Mountains

Li Po wrote this short poem about companionship. To be a companion is to literally share one’s bread people journey together. In this case, it is water they are sharing, although it could be something stronger.

When we travel with each other, it is a time to share: converse, drink, food, and nourish each other. We see the other person as a person with flaws and beauty. It is in those moments we are mindful of the other and who they are as a person. Perhaps in their imperfections we discover perfection.

Kathy and I joke with each other as we eat. We offer each other extra napkins and say, “I’ve seen you eat before.”

Together, we drink: two mountain flowers,
opening.
A cup, a cup, and then, to begin again at the
beginning, another cup!
I’m drunk, would sleep . . . you’d better go.
Tomorrow, come again, with your lute, if you
will.
This was a path Kathy and I walked in Glacier National Park. We took a boat down the lake, crossed into Montana, and, because we had our passports, hiked into a lake several miles from the boat launch.

“CO-EXISTING”

Source: “CO-EXISTING”

After I posted There was a time I would reject those, Jonathan wrote this poem and shared a similar view of the world that Ibn ‘Arabi presented in his poem.

Jonathan is a prolific blogger who has re-blogged many posts of other bloggers. I was happy he wrote this poem, because it gave me an opportunity to return his kindness.

When I am aware of and accept differences around me, the possibilities of violence diminish. I do not control the other and their actions, but turning swords into ploughshares (Isiah 2:4) can reduce the possibilities.

Living in community means to reach out to one another in good and bad times. Each person is called on to lead in their particular way. They are mindful and attentive to the other person and communicate with them in meaningful, thoughtful ways.

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