19/365: to hear clearly

sometimes it's much less clear, which way to go, what to think, what to do, how to feel. this is the time when it's most important for me to have quiet time, to allow space to help me be clear and hear what i need to hear. busyness keeps the knowing at bay. slowing down, to stopping, and listening to my heart helps me see my path, and i then know in which direction to point myself. 

17/365: trust

i'm being told i can trust my open heart. hell, i tell other people that all the time! 

but when it actually comes down to it ... it is not as easy as it sounds. 

we have all been hurt. and we don't want to hurt others.

so we close. close our hearts. to protect ourselves.

but when we shut down this most important energy source, we shut off ourselves and others and the whole world from this vital, creative, joyful and free energy which has the ultimate power to salve and heal those hurt places inside.

so, i keep watching myself. oh, just there, i closed my heart! or oh, last night, i was afraid ... and consciously reopen. speak and act from my heart, again and again. this is my current learning, and my current practice. and, my current healing. 

11/365: between there and here

transitions are important time frames. those moments just after there, before really arriving here. the essence of there still in my system. the longing to go back, to be there still, which makes it so much harder to really arrive and be here.

being here is the only true thing, the only thing that actually exists. yet i have an expert mind at replaying scenes. perhaps my mind will lose its capacity as i strengthen my capacity to be here. now.

messenger

gratitude project, day 14

visionary messsenger, the hawk symbolizes seeing our life from a higher perspective, and to flying high with our life's purpose. 

this magnificent bird came into my life in a very second-hand manner, yet i still humbly receive its message.

jubilate deo

gratitude project, day 2

most wednesday evenings, you'll find me singing to god. which may sound weird from someone who eschews religion. 

'god' is a tricky word. organized religion makes the word and the idea of god heavy with dogma, rules, shoulds. 

but my direct experience of god is of pure freedom. pure love. everywhere. at all times. in all people. that is what i know of god. 

so on wednesdays, i gather with 100 other voices of god to sing ancient music to god, in honor of god. and god, do we sound good

a fact of beauty

about 90% of the time, i am not photogenic. even my friends will attest to that. some people are, some people aren't. i'm not. and i accept that, since there's really nothing i can do about it. it's like having blue eyes or being tall ... genetics, traits, facts. i have other gifts, but photogenicity is not one of them. 

this photo, however, does not have me cringing when i look at it, at myself, the way many photos of me do. the high angle is better for my round face, reducing some of the roundness. the lighting isn't great but the blues are pretty. 

but this photo is about waaaay more than colors and angles. 

the juice is in my eyes, behind my eyes. my whole self, my inner self, my soul and spirit Self is right there. i am present. i am grounded. i am in my body. there are so many ways of describing this state of being.

ten years ago, i had no idea what this meant, being "in my body." i thought i WAS my body. 

years of study, and evolved friends and teachers, and spiritual experiences, and oh so much work and practice have all helped me to not only understand this concept, but to actually feel when i'm in my body and when i'm not.

some people have a much easier time being and staying grounded/present/in-their-bodies. often those with past trauma or super sensitive nervous systems have a harder time. i find that people who work with their hands are often more grounded than "intellectuals." and surprise, surprise, i'm one of those folks who has to work at getting out of my head, being present and staying in my body. 

i like this self-portrait because i can see my Self, my soul, shining through my eyes, my clothes, radiating. i see me, the real me, not the outer me, not the photogenic or not-photogenic me.

i really see me. and i find myself beautiful. because spirit IS beautiful. fact.

and i'm learning how to say it, to state it. without the outer getting in the way. without my head getting in the way.

i. am. beautiful.

you are beautiful

 myriam

"you are beautiful!" myriam exclaimed as i walked into camp registration. who me? she can't be talking to me. we proceeded to have a transformative conversation that night: beauty is about letting ones inner light *shine* through. it is not about what's on the outside, the physical ... it's all about what's on the inside. i know this t-h-e-o-r-e-t-i-c-a-l-l-y but, ohhhhhh, i could see the storm brewing. so THIS is my secret reason why i came to camp.

i've known for many years that i am not my body and that i (and everyone and everything) am soul, spirit. i had my spiritual awakening the night my mom passed 9 years ago. 

but it's a whole other thing to really grok ... not when i look at others, but when i look at myself. many/most/all? of us are so hard on ourselves and so loving with others. we see their inner beauty. we see their hopes and dreams and tenderness. but when i look in the mirror, i see chubby cheeks, small eyes, thin lips, extra pounds, and on and on. and i hear my mom's unknowing words of many years ago jangling around in my head ... "i wouldn't consider you beautiful, but you're interesting-looking."

what i so needed -- and didn't even know i needed -- i got from myriam the first night of camp, so naturally, so very effortlessly: you. are. beautiful. 

the minute our hosts tracey, myriam and jen started talking, i knew this experience was going to be about so much more than the technicalities of photography: intentions, secret wishes, poetry, permission, passion, sharing, seeing and being seen, gratitude. and beauty.

before reading several soulful poems out loud to the group, myriam mentioned "this is especially for hillary" more than once. she could see that i really needed to get this. i know this poem well, but i obviously needed to hear it again, and apply it to myself: 

 

Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come 
when, with elation 
you will greet yourself arriving 
at your own door, in your own mirror 
and each will smile at the other's welcome, 

and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart 
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 

all your life, whom you ignored 
for another, who knows you by heart. 
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 

the photographs, the desperate notes, 
peel your own image from the mirror. 
Sit. Feast on your life.

~~

 

when i looked at every single one of my fellow shutter sisters at camp, i could so clearly see their beauty:

wendy 

siobhan ria


stef

when i asked tracey the first night which class i should take, "composition" or "self-portraits," she blurted, "you? self-portraits." 

my comfort zone stared me down. i knew i had to do this, to go toward the scariest thing.

fortunately i was in safe hands. taught by the lovely meredith, i learned that making self-portraits is not the height of narcissism as i had thought in the past (this judgment a sure sign i was really just scared of it). now i know it's quite the opposite, in fact. making self-portraits is a high act of self care, self love. of really seeing my inner self and honoring that. of seeing my truth, my story, not other people's stories about myself. about seeing my inner beauty. ohhhh. 

self-portraitohhhh. so THAT'S why i came to camp.

to learn that i, too, am beautiful.

squam-time

i've been preoccupied all summer with a huge project which i can't write about here. but the project is starting to wrap up and i just HAVE to share my recent trip to squam. ah squam. others say it's a weird-sounding word. to me, that one little five-letter word conjures up all that i crave: stunning natural beauty, a real sense of history and place, creativity with kindred souls, and lots and lots of love ... 

the dreamy lake ... 

the beauty of birch trees which we don't have on the west coast ... 

the festively decorated deephaven dining hall ...

 

my sweet home away from home ... 


and then there's the art. making art. clear. easy. beautiful. serene. open. time. and space. in which to create. SUCH A GIFT!

my mixed media piece which the ultra-lovely and ultra-talented sarah ahearn taught me how to make ...

nothing but time spent in the company of old and new soul sisters ...

dr. sarah ... 

lovely, talented AND photogenic sarah ahearn ... 

sweet soul jen ... 

whimsical eileen ... 

another sweet and talented soul diana ... 

and then there's the high priestess herself, elizabeth -- whom i like to call bethie and she calls me bunny (granted, she calls everyone 'bunny') -- who, thank god, created the whole etheric thing that is squam art workshops ...

in her inimitable way, elizabeth's parting gift on our last morning hushed the dining hall -- as we were all excitedly saying our goodbyes and trading contact into -- by reading us part of john o'donohue's "a morning offering."

may my mind come alive today
to the invisible geography
that invites me to new frontiers
to break the dead shell of yesterdays
to risk being disturbed and changed

may I have the courage today
to live the life that I would love
to postpone my dream no longer
but do at last what I came here for
and waste my heart on fear no more.

and then just as quickly as i entered into this space ... snap! the party was over.

we went our separate, but squam-connected, ways ... 

i took it all home with me, in a little pocket inside my heart. the woods. the women. creativity. time.

these few soul-nourishing days -- this time -- may be past, but they remain, completely mine ...

and i recall a lingering feeling. to remember: just be ...

my very first photography student says ...

I am extremely fortunate for having the opportunity to work with Hillary as my photography coach and mentor. It had been at least 20 years since I had taken a photography lesson so I was starting from the beginning. Hillary's lesson plans were very well thought out, well organized and were catered to fit my camera, my interests, my timeline and my learning pace. I really enjoyed how each lesson was divided into the technical and visual/creative aspects of photography. She was very patient in helping me learn how to use my camera and how to read my manual! I told Hillary in the beginning of our lessons that I wanted to be able to show in my photographs how I view one of those fleeting moments in life, or a beautiful landscape. Through her encouragement, enthusiasm, patience and very talented teaching skills, I am now able to do this and I am so excited every time I take a photograph and it shows my vision! I am still learning and practicing, but because of the lessons I have had so far, I feel that there is a lot of potential for me and my photography. Hillary is an extremely talented photographer and a true artist. She sees so much depth in an image and brings life and emotion to these images. She is also technically strong in the elements of photography. Not every amazing photographer can teach photography. But Hillary is one of those people who also possesses the talent of knowing how to teach others...with patience, kindness, heart, and encouragement. As she continues to pass along her knowledge to others who have a passion for photography, she is passing on a gift of enabling each of us to show everyone how we each uniquely view this incredible world and the people we encounter. I am eternally grateful for her passing on this gift to me and I look forward to many more photography coaching sessions with her! Thank you Hillary!

friday night reality check

friday nights can be brutal for us single folks. 

i can see someone at the grocery store on a cell phone, and it looks like he's talking to his mate at home, asking her what she wants him to bring home for dinner ... a picture of domestic bliss.

and then in my head, i go into a whole story about how EVERYONE in the whole world is paired up, like noah's ark, two by two. and i am solo. and i must be somehow defective because i am alone. and i will ALWAYS be alone. no one will EVER love me. and i will NEVER have anyone to love. and on and on into a total headspin. brutal.

and it's not true. not one word of it.

the only things that are true are: i saw a guy on the phone at the grocery store. and i'm alone TONIGHT. 

it's not the easiest thing to NOT believe our own thoughts. they seem so real. but thoughts are thoughts, made up in the mind. they are not reality. reality is that i'm sitting here typing in my office. that's it. 

tonight, friday night, i only went partially down headspin road before i made a quick u-turn. i'm going to snuggle up with daisey and count my blessings: warm home, good food, safe and sound. amen.

walk gently

pink sky at night: sailor's (and my) delight! 

thanks goodness for my little furry friend daisey. she stops me in my busydom with her pleading eyes, tail wagging, is it time? can we go now? ok ok ok already, feeling guilty. too many hours have passed. yesterday i was in bed with a fever and she didn't get out at all. so today i promised her, and myself, some nice leisurely walks.

i launched our afternoon walk toward the much-needed pharmacy, combining leisure with errand. not always the best combination. 

and on our way back, flu-meds in hand, i finally got present. as in, i saw what was before my eyes. 

it was this pink sky in all it's daintiness and subtle beauty, gentle february hues. 

walk gently. see lightly, speak softly. of magnificence.