Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Inspiration

“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.”
― Langston Hughes

Back in 2012, I participated in a WordPress Photo Challenge that asked what inspires me to blog. Here is my response. I am still inspired by all these things: caring for family (now it’s my mother who is in hospice with lung cancer), Nature (it still demands my maturity every day, especially with climate change dangers tangibly around me), grieving my husband’s death and caring for our children (which prompted me to move to Oregon to be near them), compassion for Life and our common suffering (spiritual lessons of positive and negative space inspire me every day), and education (there is always so much to learn). 

Today, in response to Tina’s challenge for the Lens-Artists this week, I revisit these inspirations.

Caregiving

“The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”
― Kalu Ndukwe Kalu

Nature

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
― Maya Angelou

My children

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Compassion for Life

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
― Vincent Van Gogh

Education 

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
― Socrates

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Surprise

The sudden sting of tears, unbidden. Grief leaking out along the edges of a prepared lid, supposedly clamped shut.

I have been surprised by joy often. Lately, it is surprising to find myself awakening to deep melancholy. I am not used to this. I think of myself as an optimist.

But I know that I live in a very protected world of my own design. I am educating myself intentionally. I am letting go of delusions.

“Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world…”

― Thich Nhat Hahn 

This morning, I awoke with a visceral feeling of sadness, of uncertainty, of betrayal and abandonment. I imagine it’s a response to the images and knowledge I’m absorbing through news media and films.

When emotions arise powerfully in me, I am taken by surprise. I was raised to regulate them with logic and religious faith. I have now learned to tolerate looking closely at them.

My housemate found a poem for me that helped me put the feeling into words. It is “Dover Beach”, by Matthew Arnold. 

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring

The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,

Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear

And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

“…Find ways to be with those who are suffering by all means, including personal contact and visits, images, sounds. By such means, …awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world. If we get in touch with the suffering of the world, and are moved by that suffering, we may come forward to help the people who are suffering.”

― Thich Nhat Hahn

Perhaps surprise is simply the evidence that we live in a state of unknowing. We delude ourselves in order to shelter for a time in the idea that we are in control and can predict events and outcomes. The “cosmic 2x4s” of life will whack us upside the head from time to time and wake us up. It can be painful, surely. And it is beneficial as well. Once awake, we can acknowledge reality with greater perception and take actions that will be more specific and appropriate.  

“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

It is my hope and faith that the sunshine of awareness can transform the  devastation of our man-made storms into guiding visions of beauty and light.

May we awaken and become wise and kind.

Thank you, Ann-Christine, for inviting us to ponder Surprise.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Waiting

In the animal kingdom, humans are a species with a highly developed sense of time. We know past, present, and future and often try to imagine time frames that dwarf our own life spans. 

Waiting, the theme for this week’s Photo Challenge, implies expectations of future events. “I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop…” or for the adventure to begin. When waiting seems like a waste of time, it’s because the thing to come is more valuable to you than the present moment. However, if you look at it another way, the present moment is the only real moment and therefore more valuable.

To wait well and gracefully may be to enjoy the present moment and allow the future moment to unfold “all in due time”. 

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Dreamy

Ann-Christine’s dreamy landscapes focus the challenge subject this week.

Is Dreamy a place somehow more perfect, more fantastic, more extremely beautiful, more blissfully hospitable? I often picture myself relaxing into beautiful places as I drift off to sleep. 

Is Dreamy a relationship that makes you feel comfortable, safe, and buoyant? Is it one super-special person (McDreamy)?

Is Dreamy a state of mind – free, floating, and peaceful?

In my life, all these things seem Dreamy…and yet, each one is illustrated here by a photograph I took of something right in front of me in the real world, while I was awake. Does that mean that I’m living my dream?

Must be. I am so incredibly lucky! 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Serenity

“You cannot perceive beauty but with a serene mind.” — Henry David Thoreau

Six months ago, I began taking yoga classes at a local instructor’s farm. I’d only done one yoga class before in my life, so I was an apprehensive beginner. The instructor and most of the students in this group were of retirement age, however, so the pace was slow and stately. I started going once a week, then twice, as many times as classes were offered there. I began to realize my intention for serenity, a less fearful and anxious state of mind about my body and my future.

During the six months of class, I was also transitioning out of a relationship that I’d been in for the past 10 years. That relationship had begun eight months after I was widowed. My “Monkey Mind” thoughts were often on my insecurities: my aging, appearance, losses, desires, loneliness.  

In times of uncertainty, I find myself reverting to the role of the achiever. I begin to compare myself to others and try for perfection, just like I did as a student. I look for the A+ that will define and validate me. This is not a place to take refuge, however. It is a place of internal stress. Letting go of that role and allowing myself to see myself with acceptance and love brings me closer to serenity. I believe that serenity will manifest as good health and inner beauty. Yoga integrates the awareness of breath, movement, mind. Practicing with intention is transformative. Accepting change with serenity is a very beneficial skill for life, as life is always changing. 

My instructor put his farm up for sale last week. He and his wife have been there 40 years. I’m not sure how many more classes he will teach, but this morning, I purchased another ten. I intend to keep practicing. And I intend to make big changes in my life soon, too. Still, I believe I can find Serenity, when I am open to it, in every circumstance. That is the position of tadasana, mountain pose. Thank you, Tina, for inviting us to find Serenity. 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Five Elements

Our challenge this week is about five elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth. These five elements are based on the Chinese theory of the composition of the world. The theory has influenced Chinese medicine, philosophy, etc. for more than two thousand years.

Amy sets the challenge bar high with her beautiful photos. 

This theme invites me to think about being grounded in the natural resources of our planet, to feel the warmth, the solidity, the nurturing flow, and the creative joy of being part of this abundant place.

Imagine a settler’s satisfaction in driving metal into wood, creating a solid foundation for the family’s protection and sustenance. Imagine the relief as warmth is coaxed from the elements of wood, metal and fire. The miracle of water from the heavens and flowing water on the land means that life is possible, that thirst can be quenched, that food will grow, that wood will be replenished.  
Imagine that settler’s joy and reverence, knowing from deep, daily experience that the Earth sustains her, her family, her life, her creativity.

She honors her connection to all the elements by living gently, in harmony and balance, with a sense of respect for this life-giving place.
May the wisdom of our ancestors teach us to live gracefully and gratefully on this planet.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Less is More

Amy’s challenge this week is a very meaningful one. Imagine how the Earth would benefit if the human species truly embraced the idea that “Less is the new More!”

We’ve all seen news articles showing evidence of huge flotillas of garbage in our oceans, of urban sprawl eating up wilderness, and of first world over-consumption. I remember being visually struck by a National Geographic article by photographer Peter Menzel showing the possessions of an average family from a variety of countries across the world. (Material World: A Global Family Portrait) The American family had enough possessions to fill the end of their cul de sac. 

One of the benefits of my preferred way of travel, camping, is that it gives me the opportunity to live very simply. The clothes I’m wearing, a tent, a box of matches, some bedding, and a few cooking utensils are completely sufficient. The food I eat is recycled: gathered in and returned to the land. The vast landscapes of the outdoors are anything but simple. The world is a complex array of ecosystems. But focusing on one feature reveals the astounding beauty of simple design.

Removing extraneous clutter from my photos and my way of life allows me to focus on the wonder of the essence of Life. That I am alive and that I am surrounded by life that exists on levels more intricate and vast than I can see or imagine is…simply…amazing.  

Earth Day Eve

Tomorrow is Earth Day. The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970, when

“twenty million Americans displayed their commitment to a clean environment. It was called the largest demonstration in human history, and it permanently changed the nation’s political agenda. By Earth Day 2000, participation had exploded to 500 million people in 167 countries.  The seemingly simple idea — a day set aside to focus on protecting our natural environment — was the brainchild of U. S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. It accomplished, far beyond his expectations, his lifelong goal of putting the environment onto the nation’s and the world’s political agenda.”  (from The Man From Clear Lake by Bill Christofferson)

That simple idea – that Earth deserves the attention and respect of all its human inhabitants, and protection from harm – seems to me more fundamental than any other ideology formed around life on this planet.

It boggles my mind that damage done to one magnificent cultural edifice can command more attention than the complete destruction of countless forest cathedrals, that concern over relics of antiquity can eclipse the horror of the extinction of living species…including our own.


“In the last 20 years, over 3.5 million hectares of Indonesian and Malaysian forest have been destroyed to make way for palm oil. Almost 80% of orangutan habitat has disappeared in the last 20 years. We are losing over 6,000 orangutans a year.” (from The Orangutan Project website)

“The Holocene extinction, otherwise referred to as the Sixth extinction or Anthropocene extinction, is a current event, and is one of the most significant extinction events in the history of the Earth.” (Wikipedia)

I want to present to you, on the eve of Earth Day, an invitation to reflect on our hubris, our ignorance, and consider ways to protect, conserve, respect, and champion our planet, perhaps with the affection you might tender towards a venerable ancestor.

She’s been around a long, long time. None of us would be here without her. And we have treated her badly. We have made grave mistakes. Perhaps now we can admit we were wrong and make reparation.

For example, PLASTICS. They’ve only been in existence for 60 years or so. We lived without them before; we can live without them again. No big deal…except if you’re protecting the plastic-producing industry instead of the inhabitants of Earth.

Steve and I found a quiz on Climate Change Solutions that yielded some surprising information. I challenge you to test your assumptions about effective ways to curb climate change by clicking HERE.

How will you honor Earth Day this year?

How are you changing habits that have proven destructive?

How are you encouraging love and respect for the environment in people you know?

Like my hero, Jane Goodall, I have hope in the ability of humans to make moral choices about how to behave towards the planet. In an interview with Mongabay, “Dr. Jane” gives five reasons to have hope for the planet: 

  • The energy, commitment, and hard work of young people once they understand the problems and are empowered to discuss and ACT upon solutions.
  • The human brain.
  • The resilience of Nature. 
  • The indomitable human spirit – the people who tackle seemingly impossible tasks and won’t give up.
  • My most recent reason for hope is the power of social media.

I feel acutely the urgency of making better decisions and practicing to do no harm in whatever way we can. Please leave a comment if you would like to share examples of your practice that may edify me and others.

Thank you for reading this post. May you enjoy the beauty of the planet where we live, Earth, in a deeply personal way tomorrow.

  (all photos in the gallery under copyright by Priscilla Galasso) 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Blending In and Standing Out

The environment. Ecosystems. We are in them and of them and we are them. We are interconnected with everything around us. We blend in and stand out simultaneously. 

May all beings appreciate their surroundings, their selves, and the relationship between all things. May this appreciation grow into respect, affection, and peaceful harmony. 

Thanks, Leya, for inviting us to see the ways things Blend In and Stand Out. Enjoy your forest!

Lens Artist Photo Challenge: Changeable

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
Alan Wilson Watts

Steve and I woke up yesterday to a brilliant autumn ballet of frost and color, sun and wind. We said goodbye to the sandhill cranes in our backyard and drove up to Door County to dance with the colors at Peninsula State Park on Green Bay.
Living in Wisconsin does have its benefits. 

Thanks to Amy at The World is a Book for this challenge.