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.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twinkle

Toes.  Eyes.  Live humans twinkle.  Is that from light cast upon them or from light within?

twinkle joshCarl Sagan says that “we are made of star stuff”.  My mother-in-law used to say that Jim was “shiny and pink” as a baby.  He glowed with the vibrancy of good circulation and white-blond hair, I guess.  I remember almost putting his eye out once when that twinkle made me just so curious that I wanted to touch it. 

photo credit unknown

photo credit unknown

That spark of life.  The cosmic, irreproducible result that drives scientists mad.  “It’s ALIIIIIVE!” No wonder we want to add that vibrant energy to our winter days, when we’re thrown into the farthest arc and missing the summer sun.

P1040432How do you remind yourself of the shimmer that is our existence on this beautiful sphere in this living Universe?  Do you surround yourself with round, sparkly things?

NYE tableOr do you simply look up from your life?

 

The lights are already hung.  The magic is all around us, even now.  Go outside and take a look!

in response to WordPress’ weekly photo challenge.

<a href="http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/twinkle/">Twinkle</a>

© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Weekly Photo Challenge & Photography 101: Triumphs Converging

Yesterday was a wonderful day, a triumph of change, of many changes coming together.  Thanksgiving is Steve’s favorite holiday, and what’s not to love?  Fall colors, harvest time, lots of great food, a crisp chill in the air, wood smoke, and an all-pervading sense of gratitude for the process of life. 

triumph 2We’ve hosted Steve’s family for dinner at our place for the past 4 years.  “Our Place”, however, is not just a home.  It’s an online book business, which means that our inventory is stored under the same roof.  That roof was replaced this year, bringing inches of old cedar pieces and dust down on top of our piles of books.  It was a mess.  The clean up and resorting was enormous.  But Thanksgiving was the deadline: we wanted to host as usual.  Piles of books, CDs, video tapes and packing materials carpeted all the rooms and stairwells in the house.  We literally had to pick our way through for months.  Steve took infinite trips up the narrow, steep stairs to the attic, laden with heavy boxes and stacks.  But yesterday was a triumph!  The place was clean, the table glistened, the food was colorfully delicious, and everyone had a great time.  And Steve got to put his feet up and read aloud in Italian.

triumphWe are really getting good at team work.  The next triumphant convergence will occur tomorrow, when we get together with all my children and their ‘significant otters’ for a holiday which we call ‘Galassoween’.  Five couples, two generations and as many various lifestyles merge to create a feast of conversation and edible togetherness.  And it will take place in the house that my daughter and her fiance have rebuilt. (see this post, “Harvesting Hope”)  I’m looking forward to it!  (but first, I have a lot of dishes to wash…)

triumph 3

 

Photography 101: Double

Happy Thanksgiving!  I am doubly thankful for you, the blogging community.  Thank you for your visits and thank you for hosting me when I visit.  It’s been great fun and great learning doing this project.  There are (at least) twice as many wonders in this world to see than I imagine.  I am grateful to be opened and broadened and expanded by your lives and your art.  Thank You, Thank You!!

double

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: Treasure

Treasure: what is it?  I’ve worked at museums long enough to know what an artifact is.  Usually, it’s an object that you find or dig up.  It can tell you about the environment, what kinds of things lived there, what they did and when.  Paleontologists like to say that archaeologists study garbage, stuff people throw away, while they study bones and fossils.

Some artifacts get handed down from one generation to another instead of being thrown away.  There is a sense of value in the thing itself.  It’s special to someone in some way.  It carries attachment, and those attachments are preserved along with the object.

So, maybe ‘treasure’ is really about our attachment, the things we want to hold on to.  Many times those things are ephemeral: feelings, living beings, pleasant moments in time.  We know they will not endure, so often we transfer their significance to objects that may last a bit longer. 

And, of course, this is just what we’re doing when we take photographs, isn’t it?  But what is it that we actually treasure?  Life and love.  How do you preserve that kind of treasure?  You can’t, really.  What you can do is be absolutely present while it is within your grasp.  Celebrate it, bring yourself to it, flow with it.  Enjoy it, with all your heart. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Angular

Straight lines are man-made, and they are all around us. 

If you’ve followed my blog or know me at all, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I see myself as a Nature Girl.  I don’t do Man-Made stuff if at all possible; I don’t seek it out, I don’t photograph it, I don’t buy it.  But of course, that’s a delusion, really.  I live in a house built with right angles, and I sell books which are usually rectangular.  I am surrounded; I had best make peace with angles.  Sharp, rigid, dogmatic angles.  Plumb-lines and cages. 

* peace *

(Wow, I can be judgmental.) Okay, horizons and vanishing points, inclines and steps.  I don’t know if I will ever call them “beautiful”, but I can see that they are useful and interesting. 

I glance out my window and see feathery frost, reminding me that snowflakes and crystals are made of straight angles.  And my ego is made up of attachments and aversions. 

* peace *

Photography 101: A Pop of Color

Not to be confused with a soda of color, say Nehi grape or orange… 

Here in the Midwest, ‘pop’ has another meaning.  If I happened to have some, that would make a perfect combination for this theme!  But the pop I have in the ‘fridge is 50/50, and it’s not even as colorful as Mountain Dew.  So… back to the natural world, and natural liquids.

 

green stream

Green stream at the Madison Arboretum

And perhaps a double pop on this one…

out my window

Out the window

This one is a gentle, soft ‘pip’…

P1040687

Old World Wisconsin visitor

May you find some eye-popping delight today!

Photography 101: The Natural World

I don’t believe there are any straight lines in the natural world.  All is “wiggly” (as Alan Watts would say), and we’re told that the Universe is funnel-shaped, a huge graceful curve.  I figure that pine needles are almost straight, but even they exhibit a gentle arc.  Nature is the ultimate Art, in my estimation.  Shape, texture, line, composition, color…every artistic facet writ large on the world around us.  How do I pick one photograph?  Or even a few?  This is the challenge for me.  I have a whole gallery of Wisconsin outdoor shots on one of my pages up there.  Feel free to browse that.  Meanwhile, I’ll put up a few new ones, taken outside of Wisconsin.