2018 Visual Meditations with New Weekly Images

I have portfolios at  AWEgallery.com called weekly 2.  In this blog I offer you two/three new images each week with a little commentary from my soul and techniques used to create them. I consider my images  “visual meditations.”  ENJOY/share – and blessings for your journey.  SCROLL DOWN for older posts (including 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017).

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April Post 3 – Iris, Blooming in the Light

Iris, Blooming

     in the Morning Light,

You absorb the nutrients

of Earth Mother’s bounty

and push your way from the womb darkness

to the warmth of the light.

Between the green you unfold in amethyst beauty,

You play and dance in *Ruah breeze,

your unfolding petals sway in praise.

Flower within us, Sacred Song Sister,

that, opening to spring life,

we leave dormancy and death behind.

Plant us into the gardens

of new creations.

Blessed be! Blessed she!

-Poem/Prayer by Rev. Stacy Boorn,  ©2014

*Ruah is the Hebrew/OT word for “Spirit.”

Tuesday, May 1, was Beltane, the Celtic Festival that marks the half way point between spring and summer.  Beltane honors life. The earth energies are at their peak, and color and growth is blooming everywhere.  This is the time of year to fully celebrate sexuality and sensuality, passion, vitality and joy.  Let us bring our ideas, hopes and dreams into action and have some fun as well!

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April Post 2 – experience her presence in the cherry blossoms.

For as long as I can remember, the cherry blossoms in Golden Gate Park come and go many weeks before the festival in Japantown.  That will probably be the case again this year since the trees are right now swinging into full bloom.  Perhaps the festival is primarily about Japanese culture rather than just this iconic tree.

This year will be the 51st  year of our local festival.  Each year, over 220,000 people attend this dazzling display showcasing the color and grace of the Japanese culture and the diversity of the Japanese- American community. As always, we can expect this year to be filled with special events and new attractions.  The 2018 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday, April 14-15 and April 21-22.  All are welcome to join in the festivities.

When I stand beneath the cherry tree’s umbrella branches laden with her delicate petals, I am grateful that the blossoms precede the festivities.  According to the universal language of flowers the meaning of the cherry blossom is “spirituality and beauty.”  The ancients worshiped the Great Mother Asherah under every living tree, and certainly we can join them beneath the pink and white canopy of the cherry.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition Asherah was also known as Mother Nature, and, gazing up from the trunk through these branches, I can see why.  Unfortunately, the King James Version of the Bible replaced the name Asherah with “tree” or “grove of trees” and her place of honor was deliberately deported to the recesses of failing memory.  But separated from the tree of life, our Mother Goddess, we truly flounder.  So even a solitary walk among the cherry trees can help her seep back into our consciousness.  A bumper sticker implores us to “honor thy mother” and shows us a picture of the earth.  So, to honor our mother, I chose this week to focus closely on individual and groupings of cherry blossoms.

Your camera flash (built in and/or external unit) is not something to turn to only when it’s dark.  In fact, flower photographers often use flash in broad daylight.  I don’t do much studio shooting, but I employ my flash unit to supplement, improve, and tailor the natural light I’m given.  You can make your flower stand out by obscuring or adding contrast to the background with your flash.  This is based on the fact that there is a fall-off in intensity as the burst of light travels.  The light that strikes a foreground flower is stronger than when it reaches the background a few feet away.  This differential registers as a darkened background and places your floral star in a dramatic spotlight.

You can also use the flash to counterbalance strong natural light that may be too overpowering for your floral subject.  For example, if you find very strong light in the background, your flower may look like a silhouette.  Add some fill-flash and you’ve corrected that imbalance quickly and simply.  This way you can have a well-lit cherry blossom and a beautiful blue sky — provided of course that it is not a foggy day.

Asherah, Tree Goddess, Mother of Life,

I experience your presence in the cherry blossoms.

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April Post 1 – May we rise up to make it so!

Myth says the mustard was planted by California missionaries as they walked from mission to mission dropping mustard seeds. They knew that, on the next years’ journey when the path was overgrown with grass and vegetation, the yellow of the mustard would mark the way. Each mission is planted about one day’s walk from the other.

Annually I follow similar paths in Napa Valley where I am welcomed by the yellows of the wild mustard planted among the vineyards. In addition to the mustard plant’s beauty it does serve several practical purposes. It provides habitat for birds that will eat specific bugs and worms (nematodes) that attack the vines. Also the mustard’s root system helps open up the soil to allow it to better receive the water and nutrients so necessary for the vines. Finally, when the mustard is plowed under, it too provides food for the vines.

For me, the mustard supplies oceans of yellow as subject or background color. The naked grape vines seem to emerge from the flowing yellow much like palm kelp at low tide. Lots of depth-of-field captures the merging lines of the rows of vines and the yellow pathways between them.

English mystic Julian of Norwich lived in a time of turmoil (1342-1416), but her theology was optimistic and spoke of God’s love in terms of joy and compassion, the direct opposite to the law and duty proclaimed by the institutional church of her day. For Julian, suffering was not a punishment that God inflicted, as was the common understanding. She believed that God/dess loved everyone and would save them all. Her saying, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” reflects her theology. Julian claimed these words were spoken directly to her by God/dess.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination. Along the path of racial equality in the past 50 years there have been some beautiful blooming stalks of justice.  But as of late it seems entrenched white supremacy and systemic racism have started to take greater hold in our fields of dreams.  I hope one or two stalks of mustard are still blooming on May 8, Julian’s feast day so that we hear the yellow flowers sing out: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  May we rise up to make it so!

On the eve of a protest march for striking garbage workers in Memphis, Tenn., April 3, 1968, King gave this darkly prescient speech. The next day he was assassinated.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And God has allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any one. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

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March Post 1 – Oceans and coastlines are vulnerable …

At the beginning of this month I spent a few days along the southwestern coast of Oregon.  I had anticipated beach walks at low tide to scour the base of seastacks for anemones and sea stars.  As well, I had hoped for beautiful sunsets and sunrises over the waves and winged ones taking flight.  But instead I encountered cold, rainy, windy and even snowy days and nights.

Fortunately I had a beautiful room in the Bandon Beach Motel right on the cliff edge.  I could look west and south over a most beautiful stretch of scenic jagged coastline.  Several times I donned waterproof clothes to walk in the pelting rain to take a few photos.  Those few days were all about water from the sky, the ebb and flow of the ocean, and the snow blanketing the coastal hills.

March 22 was World Water Day.  It is a time when people all over the world say yes to our shared responsibility to protect this vital resource. But for our federal administration, it’s yet another day of discounting that duty—at a terrible cost to the natural world.

Oceans and coastlines are more vulnerable now that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been gutted.

Rivers and lakes are at risk under relaxed pollution regulation.

Streams and wetlands are threatened by efforts to roll back the Clean Water Plan.

And all of this is complicated by the global impact of climate change, ignored and even denied at the federal level.

Protecting this precious resource is a challenge.

World Water Day was created by the United Nations to focus attention on the importance of preserving our planet’s freshwater supply. The global water crisis is affecting over 844 million people. This number is so high one might think nothing we do could possibly reverse this trend.  But that is not so!

About the size of Maryland, Rwanda is likely to be the first sub-Saharan African country to achieve one of the biggest, most audacious goals for a developing country: universal access to clean water. It’s a stunning prediction given that genocide in 1994 left Rwanda as good as dead.

Clean water is a key component in Rwanda’s remarkable return to life. President Paul Kagame’s government is committed to providing clean water for everyone in the nation of 12 million people by 2024.

Let there be water, water, everywhere – clean water accessible to all peoples!  Like Rwanda we can do this.  May the ocean, even on cold and foreboding days, inspire us with her beauty.

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February Post 2 – A desperate need for “change-makers.”

It seems to me that today’s world has a desperate need for “change-makers,” the kind who have spiritual strength and focus.  Can we see ourselves in that role?  If so, we need to dedicate ourselves to a life-path filled with practices that build up, enhance and release our innate capacities for love and beauty, peace and harmony, justice and joy, awe and mystery.  In this way we are connected to the great “sacred spirit” of the universes.

 

Even though there has been regression in our national leadership and recent policies, our lives can be filled with hope through spiritual experiences.  We find this in the breath of the seasons of the earth.  Locally we have gone far too long without the seasonal rains, yet the Goddess is still prodding nature to blossom, green and grow.

It is as if every page of Gaia’s coloring book is being filled in and coming alive. This is the greening power that Hildegard von Bingen often wrote and sang about.  The “Goddess” isn’t creating and ruling the world, the universes — She is the world, the universes.  We don’t believe in the Goddess so much as experience her in our lives.

The Soul is Breath

by Hildegard von Bingen

The soul is the breath of the living spirit

that with excellent sensitivity,

permeates the entire body to give it life.

Just so,

the breath of air makes the earth fruitful,

Thus the air is the soul of the earth,

moistening it,

greening it.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a remarkable woman, a “first” in many fields. At a time when few women wrote, Hildegard, known as “Sybil of the Rhine”, produced major works of theology, visionary writings as well as medical and science texts. When few women were given respect, she was consulted by bishops, popes, and kings.

Hildegard used the curative powers of natural things for healing and wrote treatises about natural history and the medicinal uses of plants, animals, trees and stones. She is the first composer whose biography is known, and she founded a vibrant convent where her musical plays were performed.

Revival of interest in this extraordinary woman of the Middle Ages was initiated by musicologists and historians of science and religion. Hildegard’s visions and her music continue to be performed and reinterpreted in many new artistic venues. Her story is one of a resilient spirit and vivacious intellect overcoming social, cultural, and gender barriers to achieve timeless transcendence.

May these photographic images invite you to become a sister of Hildegard, further exploring the beauty of nature and the possibilities of the human spirit in ourselves and others.  Together, may we be a force that will change the course of human history, helping the greening process of a world in need of new life and hope.  Blessed She!

 

 

 

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February Post 1 – Let’s build bridges not walls

I have always loved the phrase, “Build bridges not walls.”    A bridge is an archetypal image, a metaphor for communication, possibilities and human experiences.  As a metaphor, a bridge between people enables the passage of ideas; it connects those who are in different places; it transitions us from one frame of mind to another; it opens up the opportunity for people to be helped and empowered; and it reduces isolation.

Walking a bridge can be a spiritual experience. It enables a person to notice things from various vantage points not possible without it.  Many bridges span vast bodies of water or deep dark gorges, places ineffably beautiful but otherwise treacherous to cross.

I am fortunate to live in a area with multiple bridges of different designs that bring people to and from the city.  One of the most iconic, of course, is the Golden Gate Bridge.  Almost every time I cross it, I am doing more than just getting to the other side.

Sometimes the bridge is so lost in fog that I begin to meld with the liquid gray, causing the emotional noise in my life to fade into the background of that day’s journey.  At other times, when puffy clouds are serenely dancing around the towers,  a great sense of playfulness enters my veins and refuses to leave.  Try to get back to the reality of a workday after that!  Recently fog and puffy clouds, blue sky and sunrays merged around the south tower presenting what seemed a bridge to nirvana.  Boats sailed below. That beautiful orange icon did it again, taking me to places of peace, joy, challenge and adventure.

We need “bridges” between people right now in our country. We are becoming quite polarized and divided, unwilling to listen to those with different views than our own.  We need to cross over metaphorical bridges that hold out the possibility of connecting one place, idea, people to another place, idea, people.

The steel and concrete bridges around us can remind us of that, as can other types of bridges.  The internet, for example, is a kind of “cyber-bridge” which connects “real to virtual.”

May the concept of “bridging” as “bringing together” be lifted up in all our hearts with every bridge crossing!  Let’s build bridges with the environment, between those at both ends of the wealth gap, the diverse cultures of our world, and the broad range of human gender identities so that we live on a truly beautiful, equitable and sustainable home planet!

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January post 1 – the earth is getting short-changed!

In the early winter months I enjoy photographing migratory birds, mushrooms and rain.  Until a few days ago the mushrooms and rain were very scarce.  But today I am able to sing a favorite song from my childhood:  “I saw raindrops on my window, joy is like the rain. Laughter runs across my pane, slips away and comes again, joy is like the rain.”  These words were penned and put to music by Miriam Teresa Winters, the Roman Catholic feminist who has called herself a “dissident in place.”

I think my palette, the earth, is getting short-changed these days, if not outright attacked.  I don’t think her dissident children can simply protest “in place.”  One new resolve for me is to contribute to the Environmental Defense Fund.  The EDF helps mitigate climate change, repair damaged ecosystems, restore wildlife habitat and protect us and our food sources from toxic chemicals.  In addition, it is advocating and litigating fiercely against attempts to roll back core environmental protections.

The Trump administration and Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt are championing 30 percent cuts to the EPA’s budget.  That would take its funding to its lowest level since the 1970s.  At the same time, industry insiders and lobbyists are being appointed to EPA leadership positions to oversee the polluting industries they come from.

Oyster Catcher – Bodega Bay

The EPA is facing the largest cut of any federal agency, and this will mean the dismissal of thousands of scientists, engineers and others who help states prevent and clean up waste and pollution.  The raindrops sliding across our windows these days have got to be tears of sorrow from Mother Earth.

“EDF doesn’t just talk about problems,” says Michael Bloomberg, an EDF supporter and founder of Bloomberg, L.P. “It helps design smart government policies, combines them with private sector know-how and creates solutions.”  The rains, the birds and the mushrooms, just to mention a few, are depending on us.

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December Post 1 – We are in the Season of Darkness

Today, on my early morning walk, I noticed an eerie silence. Our mayor had died, and it seemed as though a pall of grieving was blanketing the city of St. Francis.  Although I did not always agree with the choices he made for our city, I appreciated Mayor Ed Lee who seemed to be guided by a deep wisdom and compassion for every San Franciscan.  He was a committed servant of the people, an advocate for civil rights and a champion for the poor, the working folks and the future of our city.

We are in the Season of Darkness, the time of “Advent,” which signals waiting, watching and anticipating with hope that something to come will change our lives and regenerate our world.  Much of our northern hemisphere is guided by the natural seasonal switch to a grayer and colder time.  It is the onset of winter, but here in central California the otherwise wet season continues to be dry and sunny with mildly warm temperatures.  Our skies are glowing orange because smoke particles from the wildfires of southern California are reflecting the setting sun.  The intensity of the wildfires is exacerbated by the warming climate, and, in turn, the smoke and heat that is produced accelerates climate change.  We need a societal change of heart and the hope that would bring.

Yet, in the midst of our spiritual and seasonal darkness and perhaps as a prayer for the world’s future, we turn on decorative lights and listen to seasonal music.  But we aren’t the only ones singing.  The creatures around us have their own choirs.  A little walk along our coastal areas provides a cacophony of sacred sounds.

Perhaps the most boisterous are the California Sea Lions which are known for their intelligence, playfulness, and noisy barking. They are very social animals, and groups often rest closely packed together at favored haul-out sites on land or float together on the ocean’s surface in living “rafts.”  Sometimes they can be seen “porpoising,” or jumping out of the water, presumably to add speed to their swimming.

At a recent encounter with hundreds of sea lions hauled out on a beach near Elk Horn Slough, I was convinced they were barking out the tune to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”  So I joined in with the beautiful lyrics that Jann Aldredge-Clanton has married with that traditional tune:

O Holy Darkness, loving womb, who nurtures and creates,
Sustain us through the longest night with dreams of open gates.
We move inside to mystery that in our center dwells,
Where streams of richest beauty flows from sacred living wells.

Unfortunately our presidential administration is taking us into an even more intense night of regression.  May our prayers, songs and actions sustain us and empower us to open gates of justice and care for people and creatures, including Mother Earth herself.

O Holy Christ-Sophia, your image black and fair,
Stirs us to end injustice and the wounds of Earth repair.
The treasures of your darkness and riches of your grace
inspire us to fulfill our call, our sacredness embrace.

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Nov. post 1 – the bridge between the heavens and the earth

Perhaps it’s because of their looks, a combination of the homely and comedic, that one expects pelicans to be more clumsy than charming. But it isn’t so! If you stand on one of our beaches and look out at the ocean, especially in fall and winter, you see pelicans flying low in lines, gliding just above the waves.  When at rest, they often love to perch on docks and railings in fishing harbors and wharves as if they were part of the daily flock of visitors.

In the 1960s and ’70s, the Brown Pelican became a rare sight along the U.S. coastlines.  The pelican decline was the result of the use of pesticides such as DDT which caused pelican eggshells to thin beyond the shells’ ability to hold and incubate their offspring. With the banning of DDT, the Brown Pelican populations have recovered.

Long before I learned that pelicans were a symbol of the Divine Feminine and the Mother Jesus of the medieval church, I loved them. Their wings seemed be the bridge between the heavens and the earth as they turned gracefully to descend to the waters or beaches below.

In the Middle Ages, Saint Gertrude of Helfta had a vision of Christ as a pelican. Inspired by Psalm 102, the church interpreted the female pelican as a symbol of Christ, believing this magnificent bird was able to give her life-restoring blood to her dead offspring. This metaphor was based on a popular fallacy, yet the imagery of the mother pelican returning to her brood to restore them to life continues to spark my spiritual imagination.

It has been more than 25 years since Virginia Ramey Mollenkott reclaimed the biblical imagery of God as female. Of the pelican she has written, “The dream that the male pelican kills its offspring, while the female pelican bestows new life upon them, turns out to presage a reality for many of us in the contemporary faith community.”

She continues: “Exclusively male images of God are killing our spirit by distorting our understanding of masculinity, femininity, and mutuality. The recognition of biblical images of God as female, the infusion of positive female images into the language of faith, the achievement of balance between male and female references, will do a lot to bring us renewed health.” The Divine Feminine, page 47.

Watching the brown pelicans gliding, flying, landing, diving and taking off along the California coastal beaches is a spiritual activity worth returning to on a regular basis. Even if the imagery of the divine feminine is not a part of your vision, the pelicans’ incredible grace offers you soul-renewing energy. For me, and perhaps for you, tracking and photographing them in flight is both a challenge and discipline to be pursued religiously!

I love the Brown Pelican’s feathers! Like all other birds, their feathers define them and are unique to each.  As the Brown Pelican matures its plumage will change.  In addition, its plumage changes from season to season. No other animal has feathers.  The feather itself is a complex product of the bird’s skin, and its structure is one of nature’s greatest wonders.  “My heart in hiding stirred for a bird, — the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!” – Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), English poet.

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