This past week has been a hinge time, with the landscape shifting from the copper, gold and bronze of autumn to a dusting of white and dropping temperatures. Here's photos from a golden day before the fall, with the fireworks of milkweed seeds bursting from the pod, the patterns of branches and dried seedpods, the calligraphy of ivy, and a remaining touch of summer purple, side-by-side with a golden grass seedhead.
As I play with this set of photos, the phrase "put on your dancing shoes" keeps going through my mind, though it's really only one photo that reminds me of dancing slippers. Still, there it is and it seems to be blocking all other title possibilities, even as I enjoy the patterns and colors, especially the way the yellows on the first two photos resonate and the more subtle interaction of the purples on the last four photos. They are all dancing in their own way.
Early spring reveals bare bones: curving lines of thorny cane, tangles of grapevine knots, ashy remnants of a prairie-burn. These sights seem to fit with this week of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, when we are reminded of the bare bones of suffering and death. Sometimes the bareness clears the way for glimpses of new life: fungi on a fallen tree trunk, a secret store, a lilac bud.
Yesterday, my Windwatchers group spent time praying with an object from the created world. I had prepared a tray with stones, shells, nuts, driftwood, a couple finch nests, and some dried plants. After a few minutes of settling and opening themselves to God's illumination, my participants each chose an object that drew them in some way.
The prayer itself is much like lectio divina, but with the focus being the object rather than a scriptural passage. We gaze and take in the object through eyes and touch, noticing any particular aspects that shimmer for us or nudge at us for attention.
Then we allow memories, feelings, images, and connections to our lives to surface. We listen for any invitations the Holy Spirit might have for us through this object. We rest in gratitude. We have time to share with each other from our experience and to name the invitations we've heard.
I was drawn to a pine cone. Since I was leading, my attention was somewhat divided between guiding the others and time focused on my pine cone. Still, I was entranced by the patterns and lines of this piece of God's creation and resolved to spend more time with it later in the day. Here are the results of gazing with my camera, ending with the cone back in its current normal location, at the side of a much larger cone my mother picked up in California years ago.
On one of the warmer days this past week, we walked down to the dam and did the circle through the woods. John spotted this heron before I did, but I had fun finding the shapes and patterns below.
Color, light and shadow, repeated shapes -- what catches our eye? What gives us a spark of delight, a brief glimpse of beauty? Here are a few more from our time in Edmonton.
During the Soul and Soil retreat on Thursday, I spent the contemplative prayer time roaming with my camera. The last ten or fifteen minutes of that I slowly circled Karla's herb bed, focusing in on some of the intriguing shapes and patterns. Until I slowed down and looked, and looked again, none of them had made even a tiny "blip" on my consciousness, even though we had gone past the bed several times.
Later, as we gathered around the dining table for lunch, one of the other retreatants told me she had discovered a new contemplative practice. She had ended her prayer time sitting quietly on the porch, sheltered from the light rain, looking out over the yard and the herb bed, and watching me contemplate the plants with the help of the camera. She discovered that it can also be contemplative to watch someone else in the midst of going slowly, looking, trying other angles, looking again.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"