after the fire
okanagan firestorm of 2003 survivor.............textured. By far, the most common response to this image has been that it is dark, spooky and disturbing. I guess it does convey effectively the savage and horrific intensity with which the Okanagan fire swept across the flanks of Okanagan Mountain in its merciless and impartial rage. But my own response is that it is indeed, in one sense, dark and disturbing but it is only a picture of a burnt tree in the end. In a metaphorical sense, what I really find dark and disturbing are the charred, twisted, and corrupt currents that flow deep in the depths of human nature. What I find really scary is what we as humans, even those we hold in high esteem, are capable of doing to add to the already inconceivable collective body of human misery and suffering. And what I find particularly disturbing is the question of whether my own human nature holds potential for evil. And if every person is born as good and innocent, where did the notion and practice of evil and corruption come from?
Of course the other side of the picture is the potential human nature has for doing and being "good"........for love, compassion, joy, peace. But what directs the two opposite paths and how thick is that line between them? Can something that has been broken and corrupt be healed and transformed? I think so..........that is why "redemption" is such a great word. It thrives in the world of impossibilities.
When I was young my father used to play hide and seek with my brother and I in the fields behind Grandma and Grandpa's. To the east rose the shadowed flanks of Big Mountain where seemingly endless freight trains would often wind their way around its base. I can still hear the haunting whistles echoing against the formidable walls of rock, then fading, as I lay in hiding in the tall grass waiting to be found. Today, I am still reminded of my father's loving presence whenever I see or hear a train.
I do hope, with my heart of hearts, that these precious memories and experiences are more than some childish whim or silly sentiment, more than just distant, chaotic, and even meaningless dreams soon to be extinguished by the demands of a grown-up world where "evolving" adults outgrow their need for love and a sense of belonging. When I have nothing left and I am all alone, I, for one, will still be waiting expectantly for the Father of fathers to find me, to seek me out with His loving presence and bring me home...................
IMG_4984 - Come With Me
In the place my wonder comes from
There I find you
Your face shines in my sky
In your heart where the world comes from
There you will find me
Your eyes dance in my mind.
Come with me
We will sail on the wind
We will sway among the yellow grass
When you be beside me
I am real.
Though my eyes be closed forever
Still I would find you
You shine across my time
In the place my wonder comes from
There I find you.
"Love Song" - Bruce Cockburn's version of 14th century composer, Gilles Binchois' "Love Song"
IMG_3651 -let go
A somewhat normal beach scene in many ways but, for me, it wonderfully illustrates the Kantian notion that we humans are meta-physical bipeds - as pilgrims, we plod along with one foot in the everyday finite, material world while the other restlessly yearns for the infinite and eternal............ I have always seen the beach as that mysterious place where the two rendez-vous and play in secret ............as a place to let go with wild abandon and become fully human, and maybe as a place where one's feet might even get wet.................
IMG_3728 - Light
As photographers, we spend much of our lives searching for light. I can't help but hope that, at the end of our journey and looking back, some of us will have found it....................
"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing [for home] - to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from - my country, the place where I ought to have been born.........." C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone
my hope comes from Him
He alone is my Rock and my Salvation
He is my fortress, I will not be shaken
My salvation and my honor depend on God
He is my mighty Rock, my refuge.
IMG_2966 - Wonder
What is left when the sense of wonder or awe is lost? What would life be like without beauty and the sense of beauty? And for what purpose does the sense of beauty and awe serve? Pragmatically, evolutionary science and the game of "survival of the fittest" would have culled it out eons ago. Yet it still remains innate and bursting with creative energy in the human psyche. That special light or the natural wonder that moves my spirit and makes it soar comes from some place much larger and more sophisticated than I am and, perhaps, even calls out my name. I suppose I will spend the rest of my life answering..................
Keep Me Burning
We stayed up late one night on Murtle Lake to watch the full moon rise over Central Mountain. It was like the hush after a Grand Symphony. There was no need to say anything. We all knew what the other man was thinking. And Harv did what he always does when his spirit is moved - he played his guitar. The crisp notes tumbled and laughed out into the midnight air like an overflowing mountain brook at spring run-off.
Lord of the starfields
Ancient of Days
Here's a song in your praise
Wings of the storm cloud
Beginning and end
You make my heart leap
Like a banner in the wind
O love that fires the sun
Keep me burning
Lord of the Starfields
Sower of life
Heaven and earth are full of your light
Voice of the nova
Smile of the dew
All of our yearning
Only comes home to you
O love that fires the sun
keep me burning
"Lord of the Starfields", Bruce Cockburn, 1977
We met this group of canoers on a canoe trip last year in central British Columbia. Before continuing on to their next campsite, they got together and paused to pray. As I watched, a soft breeze came up rustling the autumn leaves behind me and I was reminded of Jesus' words in the Gospel of John, "The wind (pneuma) blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (pneuma - same Koine Greek word)." As they prayed to their Creator, I sensed not only a quiet spirit of humble gratitude but also one of deep longing and desire to worship, even encounter, their living, breathing, personal God - not unlike the energy and devotion one would experience at a rock concert - only there were no rock bands here. Just the gentle sough of wind stirring through the ancient cottonwood overhead ............and who knows, perhaps through the spirits of these pilgrims causing them to bend in silent worship on their journey home....................
There have always been world views that imply that we, as human beings, have no more intrinsic value or existential significance than "stardust in the wind", maybe a quantum particle in an infinite universe, or perhaps a water droplet falling into the eternal sea of some sort of impersonal universal consciousness. The assumption of such a view is that to hope for any sort of personal, relational, or communal significance is not only a weakness or crutch that needs to be eradicated but simply delusional.
I was hoping, however, for an upgrade. I hope to become more human, not less.
When I look at this image, I am reminded that the water droplet is not insignificant at all. In fact, to the observer, or perhaps a personal God himself as He gazes over all His creation outside the confines of space and time, that droplet becomes the focal point, the most amazing and beautiful of created images in the universe. Maybe this is what it is like to experience God if He can indeed be experienced - a profound sense and experience of existential significance.
A Thin Place
As we were exploring an abandoned cabin on one of our canoe trips, a female Evening Grosbeak flew into the open door and lit upon the window pane while keeping eye contact with the male outside. After several long minutes of confusion and bewilderment, she finally came to rest and let Bill cradle her quivering body to release the bird into the environment to which she naturally belonged. That thin cob webbed window pane and the "zenview" to the outside reminded me not only of my own finiteness but also of a world I long to fly back into..............
Many years ago I saw a children's poster with the words,"Prayer begins by talking to God but it ends by listening to Him". Later, I was to learn that much of medieval Christian practice of spirituality and prayer refers to this notion of "listening prayer" as "contemplatio". It is in contemplatio where words stutter and vanish into the wind, no longer needed or relevant. Here, in silence, one becomes simply the one spoken to...........
IMG_6622- Last Act
It was a surreal scene - like an ancient cathedral blasted by some cataclysmic, time stopping event, one lone devotee left standing in its last act, its stony slabs of arms lifted oddly amidst uncertainty and the harshness of winter, its chiseled head, perhaps questioning, tilted curiously heavenward.
I was reminded of the ancient Hebrew text found with the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran and written by the prophet Habakkuk more than two thousand years ago, "Though the fig tree isn't budding and the grape vines are bare; though the olive crop fails and the fields and gardens aren't producing any food; though there are no sheep in the pen or cattle in the stalls, YET.......I will continue to rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The sovereign Lord is my strength, He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to climb high into the mountains..........." (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
I don't know why faith and hope aren't easier. But, I do know that amidst times of joy and times of unspeakable adversity, I will trust in my God with unswerved hope and devotion - even if it becomes my last act.
IMG_7228 - Street Voice Series: Need For Love
Street art has always intrigued me, perhaps not so much for the artwork itself but for the periodic glimpses into human nature by its own expression - a nature chiseled and fashioned out of ex-nihilo by God himself in the likeness of his own image. Jean Vanier, priest, philosopher and founder of the L'Arche community for the disabled in France, writes that the most fundamental and primal of all human needs is the need to belong, the need to love and be loved - no matter who we are. Even in a world full of hate, violence and brokenness, the need for love keeps pushing through like a weed through a crack in concrete.............."I ask Him to strengthen you by his spirit - not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength - that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth of it!! Test its strength! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God." (Eugene Peterson quoting Saint Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians in the New Testament, The Message)
IMG_4749 Street Voice Series - "Live In The Light"
Not long ago I came across a random collection of back alley street art on the side of an old brick building about to be demolished. As i composed a small section of it, I sensed an intense dualism of darkness and light and found myself wondering about the substance and nature of the light the artist had in mind. The most serious of painters and photographers spend their entire lives in search of that special light to illuminate their artwork. What is it about that magic, yet elusive, light, perhaps even lasting for just a few seconds, that seems to forever move the human spirit?
The one thing that does appear evident is that one of the dark ones seems to be undergoing some sort of transformative experience while encountering this luminescence...........
"Ozone on the midnight wind
Got me thinking of the sea
And the mercies of the currents that brought
Me to you and you to me
And in the silence at the heart of things
Where all true meetings come to be
'Til the Rose above the sky........
And the light behind the sun.......
Bruce Cockburn, Rose Above the Sky