IMG_2202- woodland walk
"But alone in distant woods or fields, in unpretending sproutlands or pastures tracked by rabbits, even in a bleak and, to most, cheerless day, like this, when a villager would be thinking of his inn, I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related and that cold and solitude are friends of mine. I suppose that this value, in my case, is equivalent to what others get by church going and prayer. I come to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home.............This stillness, solitude, wildness of nature is a kind of thoroughwort, or boneset, to my intellect. This is what I go out to seek. It is as if I always met in those places some grand, serene, immortal, infinitely encouraging, though invisible, companion ......and walked with him." (Thoreau, Journals, 1857)
after the fire
okanagan firestorm of 2003 survivor.............textured. By far, the most common response to this image has been that it is a dark image to most. 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 while it is indeed dark in one sense, it is only a picture of a burnt tree in the end, perhaps conjuring up memories of a Hollywood movie in the distant past.
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, even those we hold in high esteem, are capable of doing to each other 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 darkness, 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? And can something that has been broken and corrupt be healed and transformed? I think so..........that is why "grace" and "redemption" are such great words. They thrive in the world of hopelessness, they thrive 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 sway and creak around its base. I can still hear the haunting whistles echoing against the formidable walls of rock, then fading, as I lay hiding in the tall grass hoping to be found. 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. In the end, when I have nothing left and I am all alone, I, for one, will still be waiting and hoping steadfastly for the Father of fathers to find me, (and why not all fatherless ones who harbor secretly the fantasy to be found? ), to seek me out with His loving presence, to scoop me up laughing out of the grass with those big arms that are mine, and bring me home...................
IMG_4984 - When You Be Beside 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 -the beach
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, for the place to which we belong............ I have always seen the beach as a metaphor, as that mysterious place that draws the two together to rendez-vous and play in secret ............as a place to let go with wild abandon and become fully human, fully ambulatory, 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, we 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..................
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in need of anything,
He makes me to lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul for His name's sake........Psalms 23
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 laughed and tumbled 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)." 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 and passionate 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 life is insignificant, random, and, in extreme cases, meaningless. Many of us don't consciously hold to such a view. Our busy lives, careers, families and community lend enough satisfaction to keep us reasonably happy. But, sooner or later, we experience unexpected interruptions. Death, loneliness, depression and mental illness, a loss of inner peace and joy can all bring questions, emptiness and a feeling of insignificance.
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 to 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 His love - of existential significance.
............There was a time when the beauty and the music were all within, and I sat and listened to my thoughts, and there was a song in them. I sat for hours on rocks and wrestled with the melody which possessed me. I sat and listened by the hour to a positive though faint and distant music, not sung by any bird, nor vibrating any earthly harp. When you walked with a joy which knew not its own origin. When you were an organ of which the world was but one poor broken pipe. I lay long on the rocks, foundered like a harp on the seashore that knows not how it is dealt with. You sat on the earth as on a raft, listening to music that was not of the earth, but which ruled and arranged it. Man should be the harp articulate............ (Thoreau, Journals, 1854, eight years before his death in 1862)
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, why understanding is so elusive. But, I do know that amidst times of joy and times of unspeakable adversity, my only clear path is to 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 anger, hate, violence and brokenness - and regardless of the humanist assumption that "love" is delusional and a weak link deterring man's evolutionary path to strength and perfection - the need for love keeps pushing through like a weed through a crack in concrete..............
IMG_4749 Street Voice Series - "Light Behind the Sun"
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?
Here, one of the dark ones seems to be encountering just such a light or transforming luminescence. I was reminded of one of Bruce Cockburn's earlier poems about this metaphor of transforming light and thought about Jesus' brazen and audacious claim, "I am the light of the world". (Gospel of John)
"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)