for courage

I have a few friends that are going through some dark days.  If we are honest with ourselves, we all have dark days; the days when the little things seem big and the big things seem impossible.  It is hard to be vulnerable and brave with yourself and others on those days. The darkness seems so powerful and overwhelming, we think to hold onto it all alone in the corner is the safest thing to do.  Maybe you need to do that first… for a few moments.  But the only way out of the shadows is to find the light within you and allow it to shine.  And on the days we cannot find our own light, we hold that light for each other.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Fujicolor NPL 160 Professional

For those wanting the courage to find the light within their darkness, a blessing by the good John O’Donohue.

For Courage

When the light around you lessens
And your thoughts darken until
Your body feels fear turn
Cold as a stone inside

When you find yourself bereft
Of any belief in yourself
And all you unknowingly
Leaned on has fallen

When one voice commands
Your whole heart,
And it is raven dark,

Steady yourself and see
That is is your own thinking
That darkens your world

Search and you will find
A diamond-thought of light,

Know that you are not alone
And that this darkness has purpose
Gradually it will school your eyes
To find the one gift your life requires
Hidden within this night-corner.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Fujicolor NPL 160 Professional

Invoke the learning
Of every suffering
You have suffered.

Close your eyes
Gather all the kindling
About your heart
To create one spark.
That is all you need
To nourish the flame
That will cleanse the dark
Of its weight of festered fear.

A new confidence will come alive
To urge you towards higher ground
Where your imagination
Will learn to engage difficulty
As its most rewarding threshold!

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Fujicolor NPL 160 Professional

 

Find your light, walk in it, and let it warm the earth.

greet yourself

Feelings are wonderful, glorious things. Some are easy to love: joy, hope, happiness, peace. Some take time to learn how to love: confusion, apprehension, remorse. Some are hard to see how or why we ought to love them at all: grief, abandonment, fear. Still, they can be, if we allow them and if we are brave enough to feel them, wonderful and glorious things. Confusion can become curiosity, remorse can become a lesson, grief can become love for what was, is, and is to come.

However, some of us don’t allow our emotions to be felt fully and allow them to teach us and reveal their mysteries to us. Some of us were taught at an early age – either by our guardians or by our own mind trying to protect us – that feelings are dangerous. Even the feelings that bring us joy eventually dissipate, so to deeply feel any emotion fully, deep down in our soul, is a dangerous thing. We go through life experiencing it with a stretched out arm, keeping feelings far enough away that they don’t take us over, but close enough to barely taste what could be. Instead of completely feeling the sadness, loneliness, and pain of a loved one’s death, we comfort others in their sadness, only allow death sting to touch us while watching a movie, or simply ignore it all and stuff the feelings as deep and far as possible. We don’t allow it to get deep enough so that we travel through grief until we can appreciate life and treasure the small divine moments it brings us. And while it is easy to see why someone may push the negative feelings away, even if the journey brings good things, what is heartbreaking is that once we start to stuff and hide our emotions, all emotions begin to hide from us. Suddenly, great moments of elation become gentle happy moments. They aren’t bad, we just don’t feel the magical euphoria down to our toes. We keep joy so close to the surface to not allow it to overcome us, that the memory of it disappears with a night’s sleep.

I lived like this. I held emotions far from my soul, which lead to holding others far from my soul, which eventually lead to forgetting who I really was and really wanted to be. I compartmentalized feelings and emotions until there were pieces of me. Through therapy and hard work, I began to become integrated in my thoughts, feelings, and heart. That doesn’t mean that the work is over. To embody life, one must be thoughtful and purposeful.

One practice to help me fully embody life is prayer beads. I chose to buy a necklace so that I could wear it on days I knew I was wanting to push emotions and experiences away. My prayer beads are made of wood and stone beads. The weight of the necklace reminds me to hold and treasure my emotions and experiences and not allow them to quietly pass by without leaving the lesson and peace they were meant to bring. There are thirty stones on the strand, the number of seconds I like to soak in my moments. While living my day I will pause when something exceptional has happened; a genuine smile from a stranger, a kind word from a loved one, a butterfly circling my body until it flutters away. I will start with the top stone bead and think about and treasure the divine moment. I will take a deep inhale, taking the moment in fully, and then a slow exhale feeling the emotion sink into my body allowing my whole self to experience the emotion. I continue to do that with each bead until I have experienced the moment fully, allowing a simple second to embody me, and soak into my soul and heart. And while I will do this exercise with positive, or safe, emotions quickly, I am beginning to do it with some of the harder emotions as well. Just the other day, my heart was breaking as I thought of my brother that passed away this summer. I took my prayer beads between my fingers and thought of him. With each touch of the bead and each dedicated breath, I remembered him. I remembered things that brought me joy and things that brought me sadness and pain. I let it all soak in, feeling it all down to my toes. And while this moment didn’t leave me with the same exuberance that the moment of the butterfly brought me, it did empower me and bring hope. You see, I not only survived my moment of grief, I thrived in it. I felt a connectedness to those who have gone before me. This moment of painful death brought hopeful life.

It can be a fearful thing to travel an unmarked road, a path we haven’t had the courage to journey down. Whether you muster up that courage today to find a way to feel it all and breath it all in, or you begin to entertain the idea to explore your emotions fully, I hope you find a practice that helps you embody your whole self. While I cannot promise an easy journey, I do know what you will find- your beautiful, wonderful, and magical true self.

All the Hemispheres

~ Hafez

Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
Chatting

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
You.

 

My friend Melissa is also sharing her thoughts about embodiment on her beautiful blog.  Click to read more and be blessed.

my tree on slide film

I love the Japanese Maple tree.  I have done post after post about this beautiful tree. This season I shot a roll of slide film of just my tree in bloom.  The slide film, Fuji Velvia 100, did exactly what I hoped it would: it brought out all the beautiful pinks and purples. Here are 12 of my favorites from the roll.

Canon 1N | 35mm | Fuji Velvia 100

Canon 1N | 35mm | Fuji Velvia 100

Canon 1N | 35mm | Fuji Velvia 100

For Longing,  by John O’Donohue

blessed be the longing that brought you here
and quickens your soul with wonder.

may you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
that disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

may you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
to discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.

may the forms of your belonging – in love, creativity, and friendship –
be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.

may the one you long for long for you.
may your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

may a secret providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.

may your mind inhabit your life with the sureness
with which your body inhabits the world.

may your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures of old damage.

may you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
may you know the urgency with which God longs for you.

Canon 1N | 35mm | Fuji Velvia 100

Canon 1N | 35mm | Fuji Velvia 100

Canon 1N | 35mm | Fuji Velvia 100

Canon 1N | 35mm | Fuji Velvia 100

Canon 1N | 35mm | Fuji Velvia 100

Canon 1N | 35mm | Fuji Velvia 100

Prayer is not a request for God’s favors. True, it has been used to obtain the satisfaction of personal desires. It has even been adopted to reinforce prejudices, justify violence, and create barriers between people and between countries. But genuine prayer is based on recognizing the Origin of all that exists, and opening ourselves to it. In prayer we acknowledge God as the supreme source from which flows all strength, all goodness, all existence, acknowledging that we have our being, life itself from this supreme Power. Once can then communicate with this Source, worship it, and ultimately place one’s very center in it.

~Piero Ferrucci

Canon 1N | 35mm | Fuji Velvia 100

Canon 1N | 35mm | Fuji Velvia 100

Canon 1N | 35mm | Fuji Velvia 100

 

My talented friend, Alison, also has 12 images she is sharing with us today.  Please visit her blog for a treat.. and maybe some baby toes!

home

Home means something different for everyone. For some of us, home is a safe place where we were nurtured and loved and allowed to grow into ourselves with confidence and a fierce sense of self. For others, home was a scary place that needed to be avoided. There wasn’t a sense of safety or compassion. For some, home wasn’t a place to discover all that we were meant to be.

While the girls were growing up, we tried to create a home that would nurture and protect, love and defend, and care and empower. Our house was a place that you could feel safe and be shown compassion and grace. As girls grew up, they began returning this gift of compassion and forgiveness to Andy and me. We weren’t perfect, but perfection wasn’t a goal, kindness and compassion were. Our kids are no longer kids, they are all adults living their lives and chasing their dreams, but this will always be their home.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Kodak Portra 400

My oldest daughter has recently left our home. She got married this April and moved out with her darling husband, and they are beginning to make their own home. And while our house isn’t the place that they live, I hope they still consider our house, a place they can come back to when life feels harsh and unkind.

Each of us needs this place- a place that we can come back to when life is harsh. A home within themselves that they create that is safe and nurturing, even if it is your own compassion that makes it so. This takes work. Just as it has undertaken work for my daughter and her husband to create their new home, many of us will need to do the job of building a new safe home within our own hearts.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Kodak Portra 400

Some of us didn’t feel cared for or nurtured in our childhood home. Because of this, we might not be sure of our own needs and wants. We will need to learn of our needs and learn to nurture ourselves. Some of us didn’t live in a home where it was safe to feel all of our feelings in a constructive and compassionate way. We will need to learn how to experience our feelings with grace and curiosity. Some felt so unsafe that the world seemed like a fearful place with dangers around every corner. With bravery, we will need to see that while the world holds some risks, it can be a place we can move around with more curiosity than fear.

As we recognize the places of our hearts we need to reorganize and find healing, we will begin to create a safe home with ourselves. And as we learn to feel comfortable and secure within our hearts, we will become safe spaces for others as well. We will have created a home that others can come and visit and experience the safety and love that we have surrounded ourselves with.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Kodak Portra 400

I recently came upon this poem.

Love After Love

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.

— Derek Walcott

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Kodak Portra 400

Give back your heart to yourself.

Read those words again, slowly.

Give back your heart to yourself.

It sounds so simple, but it takes courageous work. But it holds such promise. A promise of a home that we can be our whole and beautiful selves in, a whole and beautiful self that this hurting world needs.

How are you creating a safe and sensitive home within your own heart? What practice do you pursue to show self-compassion and care? How are you giving your heart back to yourself?

 

I am thinking about the word home with my friend, Melissa.  Journey to her blog for her thoughts on this word.

 

No Sleep Till Brooklyn

I have been busy scanning my rolls of film from our trip to New York.  When I started to scan my roll from our trip to Brooklyn, I was reminded once again how much I love Ilford HP2.  It is definitely my favorite black and white film.  It is so flexible, you can shoot two or three stops under or over and it will still deliver beautiful results.  I put this roll in at 2 in the afternoon and the last shot was taken around 8:45pm after the sun had set.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Ilford HP2

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Ilford HP2

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Ilford HP2

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Ilford HP2

While I have visited New York several times in my life, I have never crossed the bridge to Brooklyn. Luckily for us, we have a wonderful friend there who wanted to meet with us and show us around.  I fell in love instantly! What a beautiful city.  The views of New York’s skyline can’t be beaten!

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Ilford HP2

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Ilford HP2

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Ilford HP2

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Ilford HP2

I am not a fan of the tripod (something my husband would love to rectify this year) so this last shot of the New York skyline was handheld.  And while my Hasselblad is much easier to hold steady than my Mamiya 645, I was still impressed with the results. I thought for sure the last shot would have been rubbish but I was pleasantly surprised.

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Ilford HP2

 

I had so much fun exploring Brooklyn, and for me, exploring is always a little better with a camera in hand.

For more from some of my photographer friends and what they have been up to this month, hop on over to Alison and Vanessa’s blogs.

A Walk by Rainer Maria Rilke

A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Hasselblad 500CM | 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar | Kodak Ektar 100

 

I am taking a wonderful online class, Poetry as Therapy by​ Jenneth Graser. I can’t stop thinking about this poem that she shared the first day of the class.  It holds so many truths for me right now.  I am especially drawn to the line, “So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp”.  What is grasping you right now in your life?  What is the thing you can’t grasp that you continue to walk towards?

If you are interested in the class, follow the link above. It is free and offers daily poems and journaling prompts.

 

a fearful thing

My loving, kind, hilarious, and talented brother took his own life this week.  Why and fuck are two words I continue to say at least once an hour.  The tears flow as I think of his beloved wife and the days, weeks, and years ahead of her. My heart breaks as I think of my other two brothers that are grieving their best friend and faithful companion.  And I fall into a puddle of grief as I imagine the heartbreak of all our parents.

Why?

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Why?

When I was little, we would go to the beach and play in the waves.  Sometimes a wave larger than we were expecting would crash over our heads and take us under the water.  Sometimes we would swallow large amounts of salt water.  Others, the wave would tumble us into the sand and we would be dragged along the ground.  Others, the waves would be so strong, we would be tossed like a shirt in the washer and not know which way was up.  Most of the time, the wave would give us all three in one swoop.

This is how I experience grief.  I will be doing a simple chore, and suddenly, like a wave, I am taken under by sadness.  A memory of a happier time or the idea of my brother being this sad and hopeless will pop into my head.  Sometimes I simply weep, others I fall to the ground into a puddle of sadness.  Occasionally, the grief feels so deep and overwhelming, it reminds of tumbling in the waves, being hit by the sand, not knowing which way is up.

And just as suddenly as it all came on, I am back to swimming through life, knowing that the next wave will be coming- not knowing how strong it will come on nor how hard it will tumble me about.

As I swim and wade through these waves of grief, I catch my breath and try and soothe my tired and wounded soul.  I try and find moments of hope, quiet, and gentleness.  One way I find that is through poetry. It helps to hear the words of the broken hearts that have gone before me.

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –
to be,
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing
to love.
For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.

Tis a Fearful Thing
~Yehuda HaLevi

 

Your body is away from me
But there is a window open
from my heart to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.
~ Rumi

To live in this world
you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
~Mary Oliver, “In Blackwater Woods.”

Go out to the world and love each other today.  Be kind.  Be gentle. Be love. Be you.