My mother revealed to me a nickname that she had secretly assigned me when I was a young teen. She thought of me as “The Waterstrider”. Ever seen those long-legged bugs in a still puddle who are able to stroll the surface without ever breaking the tension that keeps them above water? Here are a few:
My “Waterstrider” tendencies changed, my mother noted, after my sister and I were in a car accident and she was killed. I turned 17 only three days later, and began to ask the Really Big, Serious Questions about life. I began to search for Depth and Meaning, but mostly from only one perspective – Christianity. When I was 45, my husband died in bed beside me early one Saturday morning. My journey toward Depth was not over. I decided to look from a different angle. I needed a bigger perspective.
I discovered that there is so much more than I had ever noticed before. Depth goes in different directions: up and down, inward and outward…indefinitely. Maybe it was less overwhelming to be a Waterstrider, but it was also less genuine. In the depths of the sea, there is reflected the vastness of the heavens. In the solitude of a silent moment, there is the ageless Now. In the recognition of something we “know”, there is the awareness of Mystery that we will never comprehend. This might be what some people call “Wisdom” or “Maturity”. I tend to think of it as simple Truth. If you’re not afraid to go below the surface, you may discover the wonders of Depth. It feels different. It surrounds you, puts pressure on places that may not be used to bearing it. But you may discover a strength and resiliency you didn’t know you had…at least I did. Then that depth makes you feel buoyant and free…as if you were flying!
Take up the challenge, friends. Take a journey into Depth.
What an invitation! “Express Yourself” – squeeze yourself into a photograph or a gallery, squirting out the essence of your personality, your style, your philosophy, your vision. This could be one messy catharsis! Here goes:
What was THAT about?!
Well, here is something I’ve been pondering lately: Eckhart Tolle’s profound revelation “I can’t live with myself any longer.” In order to arrive at such a conclusion, he must have thought there was a difference between ‘I’ (the authentic and divine being) and ‘My Self’ (the false delusion we sometimes call ‘ego’). Seeing the juxtaposition of these two ideas of a person leads me to recognize that there is a lot of falsity, of gibberish and nonsense that we superimpose on the experience of existence. That veneer surrounds us and can build up, layer upon layer to stifling proportions. And then, sometimes there’s a break through. A simple, true observation of the wonder of existence that doesn’t explain everything, but stands in almost blinding clarity against the noise of culture.
Anyway, my gallery illustrates how I am living astride this double existence. I interact with people who are a complex combination of I/Self expressions, I deal with objects which are mostly complete gibberish but which many people value anyway, and I marvel at Nature and grieve our exploitation of its pure embodiment of Life.
Hope you found this entertaining and thought-provoking. I appreciate the invitation to share my view!
Serenity. A marvelous theme. Placid water, still mind. Peacefulness, harmony. Keeping your surroundings still, small and simple. My partner, Steve, is working on a New Year’s resolution. So far, what I know he’s aiming at is maintaining more quiet in his life, perhaps returning to a practice of meditation and yoga.
I really like this challenge. Shadowed. Looking at my photographs and paying attention to what the shadow adds to the picture is like developing greater awareness of the Yin side of the universal whole. I don’t always remember to do that. I am attracted to the brighter side of life by default, maybe because of my Sun sign, Leo…maybe not. Maybe just because there are so many voices encouraging us Westerners to be positive and dualistic. Shun the shadow, move toward the Light. Problem is, you’re only half aware if you do that.
Nature’s shadow is dramatic and ordinary at the same time. Sunlight is a powerful force in the ecosystem of life, and its waxing and waning effects many behaviors. We tend to think of the differences as important, but are they?
Nocturnal creatures make a habitat out of shadow; it is simply home, cover and shelter.
Natural entrance to Carlsbad Caverns, from which approximately 300,000 bats emerge nightly to find water and food.
Shadows can represent mystery in life, reminding us that what we don’t see is nevertheless present and active.
Ultimately, ‘shadowed’ is a concept. It’s a creation of the big human brain, borne of our propensity to analyze, distinguish and attach a label. Shadows are a natural phenomenon that we like to imbue with meaning. That’s who we are and what we do, and it’s interesting to ponder that.
1984 – It’s my wedding day. The weather is chilly and foggy in Northern California. I am too excited to sleep late. I have a date with my fiance for a morning meeting. He comes to pick me up at my parents’ house. My grandmother is aghast that we are seeing each other before arriving at the church; it’s just not done. But we know what we want. We want to focus on each other, on the meaning the day has for us personally before being caught up in the ritual. We park the car under some oak trees in the foothills. We decide it’s too damp and cold to walk, so we sit in the car and talk. We are calm and happy. He drops me off at the house. The next time I see Jim, he is standing at the altar, grinning. I take his hand. I notice it’s cold and clammy, so unlike the warm bear paw I expect. I smile at him. He’s caught up in excitement. The wedding mass is a long event. We emerge from the church and see sunlight for the first time that day. It doesn’t last long. The reception in the Parish Hall is intimate and bustling. It’s dark when we leave. I get home and change. My mother takes care of the dress. The station wagon is packed with my belongings, gifts, and leftover bottles of champagne. We drive south to Pebble Beach. I’m hungry. I hope the restaurant at the inn is still open by the time we get there. We find we are able to get sandwiches at the bar. We retire to our room. I feel so incredibly grown up; in one day, I’ve suddenly matured. I’m married. I’m 21 years old.
January 7 – this morning
The sun comes in the southeast window, and I begin to stir. As my mind brightens, I remember the day. Steve is sleeping beside me. I pull out the battered photo album from the box in the corner and settle back on the bed. Was it really cloudy that day? I flip through the pages in front of me, my mind turning over more leaves than my fingers. My phone beeps. My daughter is texting me to let me know she’s thinking of me today. Her baby face smiles at me from a photograph. She will be turning 30 in a few weeks. Steve begins to stir. I look at his face as his eyes open. “What are you doing here?” he asks. That’s a good question! “It’s a long story,” I laugh. But that doesn’t really answer the question. I am living. I am aware now of the present moment. As I look around, I see the beauty of this day, this year. The air is cold and dry. The trees outside are bare, the branches dusted with snow. I look down at my left hand. It is lined by swollen veins and wrinkles. There’s a brown spot just there. I have a ring on my index finger with a blue topaz heart set in it. No other rings. My fingers press Steve’s arm. “I am waking up. And you?” “I am Steve-ing.”
What’s New? That’s actually a very complex question. Perhaps you’ve heard it said that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed. That means that everything is just a recombination of ancient atoms and forces. Even the sunlight of a new day is coming to us from so far away that the first beams to reach our eyes are already old. Therefore, “there is nothing new under the sun,” to quote wise old Solomon. ‘New’ is a concept that we’ve made up, a proposition of dualistic thinking.
Which makes it impossible for me to come up with an accurate illustration.
So, I’ll leave accuracy aside and go for poetry.
Firelight, flickering to life moment by moment. Have you ever stared into a flame and wondered how it keeps going? Have you ever contemplated ‘eternal combustion’ and wondered how the sun keeps shining? Have you ever wondered how it is that Life Goes On? A new year. Did you ever doubt that there would be one?
What if one day, the sun went dark and time stopped? What if the Universe did not behave as expected? What if meaning and existence and relationships and substance turned out to be utter nonsense? Have you ever stared into the abyss? Have you ever turned toward existential angst and forgotten to look away?
What did that feel like?
I’ll tell you how it felt to me on New Year’s Eve. Steve read me a story aloud at the dinner table. The story was Flannery O’Connor’s tale A Good Man Is Hard To Find. I’d heard it before. This time, as he finished, the tears began to roll down my face. The leftover bits of caviar and salmon on the table looked like a joke. I felt like I was dead. And then I felt like there was very little difference between being alive and being dead. I felt akin to all of humanity, all of its pointless suffering joy, and resigned. The champagne stayed in the refrigerator.
Is that depressing? Is that grace-less? It felt new. I’d never felt that way before. I didn’t brush it off with a hasty grasp at consolation. I let myself feel that mystic emptiness. Steve said later, “Whatever doesn’t make you kill yourself, makes you stronger.” Dark and light. Old and new. What brave, new world would I live in if I could embrace both?
(And if Ms. O’Connor can write a story that illustrates a feeling I’d never had before so powerfully that I’m in tears for an hour afterward, does that make her the greatest writer on the planet? I don’t know, but she’s gotta be damn close.)