(all images by Kate Kennington Steer)
I ignore all the ridiculousness around Halloween, the dressing up, the tricks and treats, but I do quietly celebrate the three days of All Hallows, All Souls and All Saints. These days form the bridge from October to November, signalling the beginning of the end of Autumn light and the movement into Winter light. They feel like a threshold of endings and beginnings. In the UK this sense is also reinforced by the ceremony of ‘putting the clocks back’, marking the close of another British Summer Time. And with any threshold comes an invitation, an opportunity: a time set apart to look back and look forward. This particular threshold is even named holy, hallowed.
Noticing the holy in the everyday is something I have been trying to train myself to do for years, especially with a camera in my hand. Even in periods of bleakest depression, I have tried to hold onto the graced knowledge that God is present in my details if only I have eyes to see. I was recently stopped in my tracks by a question posed by Brian Draper in his book Spiritual Intelligence: ‘how many ‘insights’ am I given a day?’ (33) My busy mind full of questions and questing forgets to be grateful for the mere fact of the ability to seek answers. I fail to notice I am not noticing how many replies cascade through me during a day. Draper goes onto ask: ‘how do we embrace that moment, make the most of it, use it to transform us?’ There is a desperate need in the world for both individual and corporate contemplative seeing becoming compassionate action for our communities.
Over the last few years I have been attempting to put this into practice in one very small way by creating and sharing what I call ‘acts of daily seeing’; contemplative photographs that are received, not taken, and posted on Facebook and Instagram. This is an attempt to pass onto the viewer of the final image the gift of a moment’s pause, the gift of a glimpse of the holy, what I call an ‘epiphany of the ordinary’. The making of this project arises from my own need to both see something different and to see that something differently, because I know God is present in whatever lies before me as well as within me, and my soul cries out with longing to draw closer to the God of such creativity. So much of my spiritual, emotional and physical healing depends on how I see at least as much as the gift of what I see.
So why do I wander around with blinkers on for so much of the time, not even noticing I’m not noticing? Why am I so reluctant to change my routines, to vary my routes through each day, to break out of what has become my habitual way of trying to make myself feel safer? Why am I so afraid to be free to see what God wants me to see? Could it be that I know deep down in my soul that if I allow the Spirit to change how I look at the world I will have to change how I act in the world too? There is a persistent niggle within me that prompts me to imagine just how much more God wants to co-create with me in this world – if only I have the courage to join in.
So my current challenge is to make minuscule alterations in my life, in the hope they will add up to great change; to ‘make small acts of subversion’, as Brian Draper puts it, deliberately breaking my habitual line of sight. There is no need to get overwhelmed by trying to take in and comprehend the big picture. God is calling me to small seeing: God is in the details, everywhere and always, in my here and my now.
Everything is holy, everything is ‘all hallowed’. As is everyone. Every soul and every saint is holy.
Such innate holiness just waits to flourish into all sorts of possible actions and directions by the Spirit prompting me to pause with curiosity. The Spirit prompts me to look again at what is before me and around me. The Spirit prompts me to notice what I might need, what I am missing. The Spirit prompts me to pay attention to the holy long enough to allow my actions, body, mind and soul, to be transfigured by my seeing.
There is, was and ever shall be, such holy sights, people and places. Thank God.
Thank God for those who have gone before me. Thank God for those poets, painters, preachers; those writers, teachers, sages; those leaders, healers, comforters; those spiritual, physical, emotional, artistic ancestors and ancients whose wisdom and way of looking at their world feeds me, leads me to wonder and ponder, nudges me to see God in a new way in my world.
That is the invitation of these days: following in their footsteps will lead to my hallowing.