I had a serendipitous discovery yesterday. I've begun reading Nature as Spiritual Practice, by Steven Chase, a book I expect to refer to again here. In his preface, he refers to a phrase of Gerald May, "the power of the slowing," saying that it means if we give careful attention to nature, it has the ability to slow us down to its pace.
I was intrigued by the phrase, which resonates with what happens for me as I take photos and also as I work with them later. I googled it and discovered that it comes from May's book, The Wisdom of Wilderness. A quick online check revealed that neither the local library nor the nearby seminary had a copy. "Oh, well," I thought, and turned to getting ready for the morning's direction session.
Later in the day, a friend asked me to ride along on a short trip to Kalamazoo, suggesting we could visit the Friends of the Library bookstore while we waited for her violin bow to be re-haired. They have a room full of a wide selection of books. I began perusing the Religion shelves, and there it was -- May's Wisdom of Wilderness, on sale for a dollar!
So I've been sidetracked from the Chase book, reading instead May's vivid stories of his encounters with the Power of the Slowing, which he experienced as a vivid Presence, welcoming him, slowing him, and reconnecting him with all nature around him.
One of his paragraphs jumped out at me as fitting well with this past week.
Nature, I think, knows nothing of concepts of time or of the present. Nature--our own and that of the world around us--lives in Presence instead of "in the present." Rather than moving through time, it simply exists in cycles and successions:sound and silence, light and darkness, birth and death, activity and stillness, courting and nesting, eating and sleeping. Everything is rhythms. Everything is seasons. p 71
The rhythms and successions have been swirling this week -- from warm temperatures bringing along the snowdrops and, amazingly, a dandelion in the front yard, to yet another round of snowfall and the sight of birds at the feeder at Pathways Retreat this morning.
The dandelion is a cheerful golden sunburst, and yet I realize I greet the snowdrops with delight, and the dandelion instead with a sense of "What? A weed, already?" As I slow down and reflect, this does not seem right. Each is what it is, and the dandelion's yellow is a welcome burst of early color, to be received on its own humble terms. Perhaps the Power of the Slowing will slow me further, enough to welcome that gold sunburst, and to wonder what became of it in today's snow. It's too dark to check now -- perhaps tomorrow.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"