I did not come to photography looking for magic. I came looking for a way to speak my pain. In the process of finding images to portray my darkness, I passed through the shadows into light. Now, I am one of photography’s many lovers, devoted to the art of seeing and revealing. […] There’s something holy about this work, something healing about this search for light. Like the pilgrim’s journey, it’s heaven all the way.
–Jan Phillips, God Is at Eye Level
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
–Mary Oliver, “The Uses of Sorrow”
Through a casual Facebook post featuring some of her favorite books, my pen friend Connie F, introduced me to Jan Phillip’s book, God Is at Eye Level [Thanks, Connie!]. With Amazon [birthday] gift card in hand [Thanks, Tee!], I ordered the book and two others on creative and contemplative photography.
The photograph of the wilted sunflower is the result of an exercise in God Is at Eye Level that invites readers to use an entire [pretend] 24-exposure roll of film to explore one strong emotion. It is my attempt to capture the tension between the darkness that walks with me as I deal with grief and trauma and the light I feel I need to project.
But I am learning, day by day, there is value in darkness, particularly if we are using it to move toward Light.
In the quote above, Phillips underscores the usefulness of darkness, its role in our creativity and healing. Darkness is a “gift,” a necessary part of process; therefore, it’s critical that we face the darkness, wrestle with it, deal, so that we might emerge whole, or maybe not as fractured. Running away from it—creating some inauthentic happy place—only imprisons us. The operative word is emerge. Eventually, we “pass through” darkness and into the fullness of Light.
“Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say ‘I think,’ ‘I am,’ but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “Self-Reliance,” (1841), emphasis mine
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
“And just like that, they’re gone.”
My guys and I said good-bye to the rescued rabbits early, early one morning last week. They explored the little patch of land we placed them on for a moment, watching us warily [thank God!].
Within moments, they gave their final good-bye and took off.
At first, they were headed in two different directions, but my hubby, the animal whisperer (not kidding!) got them to hop along together.
I didn’t think to capture the “together” shot, but my son captured video and shared a still of the more curious of the two just before we walked away. The other is just beyond him, well-camouflaged.
We released them into a nature preserve we frequent and where we regularly see rabbits, so we are sure they are surviving and thriving in their new world.
The guys and I took a walk on the trails a few nights ago to see if we could spot them. We didn’t, but I did capture shots that I’ll share in another post. Promise.
Where there is a woman there is magic. If there is a moon falling from her mouth, she is a woman who knows her magic, who can share or not share her powers. A woman with a moon falling from her mouth, roses between her legs and tiaras of Spanish moss, this woman is a consort of the spirits. –Ntozake Shange, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo
About the image: Today’s image features the artwork of sculptor Ann Gardner. The piece, entitled “Breathing,” is part of the American Studio Glass collection, on continuous view at the Huntsville Museum of Art. The sculpture is so fierce and feminine that I couldn’t resist pairing it with Shange’s words.
“In the Mountains,” Li Bai (Chinese Poet, 701-762)
You ask me what my idea is, staying in the green mountains?
I smile but have no reply, my heart at peace in itself.
As the peach blossom on the flowing water goes into the unknown,
there is another heaven and earth, not among people.
About the images: Photos from a trip to Maui, Hawaii many moons ago. The photos were shot from a yacht early one evening.