I had a retreat day at the cottage at Pathways Retreat Center today, a good day of rest and reflection. The morning was gray and drippy, and could have been dismal, except that everywhere I looked, I saw beads of light. There was even color.
The afternoon was drier and I was able to walk the small labyrinth. I came back to my snug cabin and Seeking with All My Heart by Paula D'Arcy, and found myself reading about her experience walking a labyrinth made with luminaries (candles in paper bags). She describes how she half-closed her eyes, so she was no longer aware of the others walking with her through the narrow rows of candles.
"There was only light. And suddenly I was nowhere, and I was everywhere. At the same moment. I simply was. And there was nothing more or less than now."
She held that awareness as she refocused her eyes and started the journey back out, passing the people who followed her, this time meeting their eyes, holding their gaze. She realized that the labyrinth wasn't just a work of art, but a representation of something deeply true.
"The path we each walk, the movement of the soul toward awakening, is ablaze with light. We never take a step apart from light. By light we are held and defined.
But on the path itself, day to day, we seldom, if ever glimpse light. We're more likely to see difficulty, adversity and sorrow. We often feel alone, not held. There is no sense of a life-sustaining embrace. There is the sense that life is an incomprehensible puzzle, which often goes in a direction we would never have consciously chosen. Far from seeing light, we perceive darkness."
She goes on to tell of meeting, years later, the nurse who had cared for her in intensive care in the days after a car accident that took the lives of her husband and daughter. She didn't recognize her, but the nurse knew who she was and told of how she had tended her and prayed for her, and hoped against hope that she'd make it -- praying that the flicker of light she saw in her would not go out.
Driving home after the encounter, Paula was overwhelmed by "a realization that those days, for me, had appeared to be totally and utterly dark. And if my life at the time had been depicted as a journey within a labyrinth, I would have insisted that that particular section of the path was unlit. But that night, in a rare moment, I not only got to see that I was mistaken, I got to see the very embodiment of the path's light."
Darkness and light. Walking in the light, whether we are able to perceive it or not.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"