Weekly Photo Challenge: Door – or No Door?

The open door…

edge

…is a symbol of the fluidity of life.  We pass through, but may we not also pass around or over?  Most often, I believe, doors are constructions of our own egos, our own consciousness.  We perceive doors even where there are none, just as we construct walls in the wilderness for no reason other than to give us a sense of boundaries.  Why do we find boundaries and closed doors comforting?  Maybe because they give us an excuse for setting limits.  Maybe that’s how they make us feel safe.  Where do you build doorways?  How would you feel in a place where there were none?

Door

Here’s Waldo

From Essay IX: The Over-Soul — “The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present, and the only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in which we rest, as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Over-soul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other; that common heart, of which all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right action is submission; that overpowering reality which confutes our tricks and talents, and constrains every one to pass for what he is, and to speak from his character, and not from his tongue, and which evermore tends to pass into our thought and hand, and become wisdom, and virtue, and power, and beauty.”

Steve and Waldo

Steve and Emerson (the golden book in his hand) on the Ice Age Trail

From Nature — “Nature is a language and every new fact one learns is a new word; but it is not a language taken to pieces and dead in the dictionary, but the language put together into a most significant and universal sense. I wish to learn this language, not that I may know a new grammar, but that I may read the great book that is written in that tongue.” 

© 2015 photographs by Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

A Little Story About Loving Yourself

If you’re puzzled by relationships…

might he be the one…and feel that perhaps something is missing in your life…

something's missing…and you’ve done the same thing over and over, hoping something different might result…

patternimagine what might happen if you simply followed your bliss and did what you love.

do what you loveA life may emerge that is not what you dreamed or expected or even what you may have been promised.  Still, it is actual and dynamic…and there you are, being yourself and still doing what you love.  That’s not a bad outcome, is it?

whole scene

© 2015, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symmetry

Symmetry.  A very interesting concept.  Is it real or imagined?  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how consciousness operates, how we impose ideas, structures, and order on the world to make it more…manageable?  Less overwhelming?  I think of Alan Watts who proposed that the real world is “wiggly”.  More fluid, with less distinct boundaries than we tend to ascribe to it.  Still, I suppose there is a lot of seeming symmetry in nature. Botany identifies symmetry frequently, for example, in compound leaf structures which are often classified as symmetrical or alternating.  Do I have any photographs of a symmetrical leaf or flower?  No.  I don’t typically take architectural shots, either, and if I do, they’re off center on purpose.  I think that means I am looking for the harmony of imperfect, wiggly things….like the Yin and Yang.  That symbol seems symmetrical, but it’s really opposites in balance.  I like that.  Not that I don’t try to make things symmetrical in my life.  I have a very orderly, Western brain.  I’ve straightened pictures and lined up pillows compulsively for years.  But I’m trying to break out of that habit.   If I must impose symmetry in order to feel at peace, then I’m in for a lot of anxiety.  It makes more sense to accept the wiggly world as it is.  So here’s some man-made symmetry that I’ve photographed…imperfectly:

 


Symmetry

Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale

What a great thing to contemplate: scale.  How overwhelming our lives become when our scale references are distorted!  For example, how imposing our thoughts can seem on the landscape of our lives.   My daughter gave me an illustration of this: imagine someone holding a large book in front of your face and asking you what you saw.  You’d see the book and maybe a bit of the room from your peripheral vision.  Now, if you moved the book to one side, you’d still see the book, but you’d also see more of the room.  It’s hard to make thoughts go away, but you can take them out of the forefront.  That’s what meditation is about — being aware of your thoughts, but not letting them dominate your view.   We make so many mountains out of mole hills in this culture.  There is so much OMG; like MSG, it can make us feel lousy.  Media hyper-activity and fear-mongering is like that, I think.  We need to dial down the lens, deflate our egos, maintain a humble perspective.  We are one leaf on a vast and robust tree of life.   We are beautiful; the tree is beautiful.  We are not greater than or less than the rest. 

© 2015, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Scale

Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself

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!

© 2015, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Express Yourself

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed

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?

shadowed 2

Nocturnal creatures make a habitat out of shadow; it is simply home, cover and shelter. 

shadowed

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.

shadowed 3Ultimately, ‘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.

shadowed 4

© 2015, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Inspired by the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge.

Shadowed

Weekly Photo Challenge: New

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. 

new fire

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… 

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? 

I wonder.

(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.)

in response to the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge.

Photography 101: Edge

When I first saw Michelle’s photo of Angkor Wat, I immediately thought of this shot I took in New Mexico at the ruins of a settler’s ranch:

edgeWe recently saw a glorious Korean film called “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring” in English.  It takes place mostly in a monk’s floating temple.  Inside his humble place, he has a shrine and a place to sleep.  The “bedroom” is set apart by a doorway, but there are no walls.  Still, every time he retires, he stands up and goes through the doorway.  It would take him two crawling motions to go from his knees before the Buddha statue to his bedroll on the floor, but he never does that.  The door is a reminder, a discipline, a practice, I’m sure.  It represents some kind of edge or divider, and yet, all is One inside as the open space prevails.  I like how this ruin recaptured that feeling.  We put up our boundaries, but they are mere illusions.  Or perhaps delusions.  Edges are not the Truth of the world, but we cling to them nevertheless.  They give our organized Western minds that compartmentalism that makes us feel secure and in control.  The hazard there is that when the compartments are breached, we feel that something is “wrong”, and we become anxious…needlessly.   Learning to be at peace with being open is a practice I’m following lately. 

In case that’s too philosophical for you, I’ll give you some more literal illustrations:

Photography 101: Glass

Glass. 

Half full, half empty.  Worn and washed up on the beach. 

“Land Ho!”  “Pass me the glass! No, not that one, the telescope!” 

Through a glass, darkly.  Nose to the pane.  The ceiling.  Don’t throw stones.

Cool and transparent, insulating, sparkly…glass is all around.  I look through it all day long, even when I’m outside and have for years.  I remember leaving the optometrist’s showroom with my first pair of glasses on.  I looked up to the foothills and saw leaves on the trees up there.  Suddenly, there was depth and contrast in the distance.  It was a miracle.  The first time I looked through a microscope was a miracle, too.  I imagine indigenous people finding obsidian and cutting their fingers on it, rejoicing.  What stuff! 

I feel my life getting dull.  I’ve been working hard at the book-selling business, rather repetitively.  I need to wake up to the scintillating delight of life.  This is a perfect visual reminder!