adventapertures 2019: day 2

My findings are clear. From Greece to the Netherlands to California to China to India, wonder matters. Wonder is the beginning of all wisdom. Wonder is the first of all passions. Wonder is the beginning of all writing. Wisdom, emotions, and creativity – all borne from wonder.

It’s led me to confirm what one Western thinker said of wonder in the 17th century – it is the first of all human emotions. Before curiosity is wonder. Before compassion is wonder. Before the creative impulse is wonder.

Wonder is the window to our original genius.

More than any other intellectual, spiritual, or emotional experience we humans have, wonder opens us to what is real, true, and beautiful – and on the smallest, most ordinary scale.

We’re talking about beetles, snails, and baby toe nails. Not the Grand Canyon.

The Lakota people have a word itonpa. It means “to wonder.” It also means “to care.” And “to thank.”

Jeffrey Davis (@trackingwonder)

 

The morning after an encounter that might change my life, if I let it. 

This morning’s light of day might appear so pale, so washed out and insubstantial after yesterday’s glimpse of what eternal light might look like.

This morning might bring a sudden rush of self-doubt.

This morning might bring such busyness there is simply neither the time nor headspace to do anything other than obey the immediate complex demands.

This morning might bring a sudden surge of overwhelm, the sky looks so vast, and my life so small and insignificant, despite what I have been told.

This morning might bring a lump in my throat, a gulping anxiety; how do I tell the story of what happened?  What might it mean for those who care for me?

This morning might bring such awe; an open-mouthed gaping at how the impossible might possibly happen to me.

This morning might bring a smile for all to see.

 

What a person desires in life

is a properly boiled egg.

This isn’t as easy as it seems.

There must be gas and a stove,

the gas requires pipelines, mastodon drills,

banks that dispense the lozenge of capital.

There must be a pot, the product of mines

and furnaces and factories,

of dim early mornings and night-owl shifts,

of women in kerchiefs and men with

sweat-soaked hair.

Then water, the stuff of clouds and skies

and God knows what causes it to happen.

There seems always too much or too little

of it and more pipelines, meters, pumping

stations, towers, tanks.

And salt-a miracle of the first order,

the ace in any argument for God.

Only God could have imagined from

nothingness the pang of salt.

Political peace too. It should be quiet

when one eats an egg. No political hoodlums

knocking down doors, no lieutenants who are

ticked off at their scheming girlfriends and

take it out on you, no dictators

posing as tribunes.

It should be quiet, so quiet you can hear

the chicken, a creature usually mocked as a type

of fool, a cluck chained to the chore of her body.

Listen, she is there, pecking at a bit of grain

that came from nowhere.

‘A Quiet Life’

Baron Wormser

From Scattered Chapters

alone under the sky (bl)alone under the sky. Canon 7D. f11. 1/500. ISO 400.

adventapertures2019: Sunday 1

I was passionate,

filled with longing,

I searched

far and wide.

But the day

that the Truthful One

found me,

I was at home.

Lal Ded

(a 14th century Kashmiri, translated by Jane Hirshfield)

 

‘How can this be?’

If an Archangel appears in my living room speaking of me as the fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy, this is probably just one of the questions I would be asking.  Yet, depending on what sort of mood I was in, the tone of voice with which I set about questioning an angel would vary considerably.

I might be scoffing or scornful, angry at a ridiculous suggestion.

I might be forceful and matter of fact, already jumping ahead to the consequences.

I might be sad, grieving my barrenness, resignedly stating the obvious.

I might be ill, with barely enough energy to whisper my inability to imagine a future so different from my current experience.

I might be depressed, unable to lift my head from its grey fog, the angel’s presence barely impacting on me, able to ask a question only with disinterest.

I might just feel unready, so lacking in self-confidence, that fear and anxiety makes my voice shake, or disappear entirely.

Or, the messenger of Light might arrive at the most unlikely of moments, a moment when I am at peace, bringing to the forefront of my mind all the ways God is being present in my day. 

The angel’s words might speak into a sudden silence within, each word dropping with a sense of rightness. 

I might actually be alert enough to listen intently to the amazing prophecy, and immediately respond with an inner leap of excitement, with curiosity colouring my voice.

My eyes might still ask of my mind, ‘what is it I am seeing?’.

Yet my heart might respond with wondrous acceptance, waiting to see who God wanted me to become.

 

If we meet life with wonder, it’s always new, always fresh. We don’t need experiences – just encounters.

Sister Maggie Ross

light broke in (bl)Light broke in. iPhone photo.

images and ikons

The name ‘Image into ikon’ arose out of poem I ‘found’ in my journalling responses to a recent mindful art experiment with the Mindful Creative Muse.

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The language of transmutation, transfiguration and transformation is a vital part of the mystery of creativity.  It is a language which is also at the heart of contemplative spirituality.  Only through divine intervention can what I write, see, or paint, become something more than its component parts; only divine intervention can make my creations ‘mean’ something to the reader or viewer; only divine intervention can move through the work and literally cause an in-breath of surprise as the Holy Spirit inspires (in-breathes) it into the one who stands before it.

‘Shot at ten paces’ was very much a blog that was borne out of my explorations in photography, but in the last five years continued ill health in body, mind and spirit has lessened the opportunities for photographic excursions.  Instead ill health caused me to pick up pens and paintbrushes in a way that I have not done for twenty years.  Through the wonderful work of the charity Creative Response, I was also introduced to the joy of print-making.  Soon my explorations of contemplative spirituality became an integral part of discovering a widening personal creativity with visual art forms.  In turn this has led to yet more writing in both prose and poetry.  Along the way, various people have encouraged me to share more of this journey, so I wanted a new blog to reflect all this burgeoning, and the ‘clean slate’ that my recent extended hospital stay has given me seems a perfect time to launch this forum and see where it leads me.

Lastly, what appeals to both my spirituality and creativity is the knowledge that an ikon is an intentionally devotional work of art which is created by writing, not drawing or painting, the venerated image.  Moreover, the ikon writer creates stroke by stroke as she is led by the Spirit, present to the divine being created through her in that moment.  This fusion of inscribing and painting appeals enormously to me, since I long for both my words and images to resonate with, in and of, God.

I will  be writing and reflecting much more on these themes over the coming times; in the meantime, it is my prayer that these writings and images may be the results of my God writing the creation of the world through me, and will be used by the Spirit to breathe the life of the Real and Holy One into each person who reads, gazes, sees and hears.

germination

‘image into ikon’ is the new name for the shot at ten paces blog which began life in Lent 2013.  The name ‘shot at ten paces’ arose out of a conversation with the poet Gillian Wallace in 2012 whilst I was describing the limitations, frustrations and practicalities of taking photographs whilst living with a chronic illness.  The blog was designed to be a forum for me to share my interest in photography and spirituality and to became home to gentle conversations about contemplative photography with people all over the world.  Since 2013 my health has fluctuated a great deal but by Grace I was able to post at ’shot at ten paces’ more than 300 times, flexing my writing muscles as well as honing my photographic skills.  This led to being a regular contributor on the Godspace blog and becoming a ‘monk in the world’ as part of the Abbey of the Arts community.  In 2016 the shot at ten paces blog also led to an offshoot project called ‘acts of daily seeing’: a Facebook page dedicated to exploring and practicing contemplatively photographing the details of my everyday via the lens of my iPhone.  I later also shared this via Instagram.

I have recently spent nearly six months in hospital and have deliberately been ‘off-line’ for that time.  This break has allowed me to come to a decision about my growing discomfort about the violence implicit in the ‘shot at ten paces’ name, with its images of snatching and grabbing which is so at odds with the discipline of contemplative photography.  So after six years of being a valuable outlet, I will no longer be posting images and writings at ‘shot at ten paces’.  

Instead, I have a grand exciting vision which I hope to unveil during the course of 2020, but it begins with the small birth this new blog: image into ikon.  I hope it will become a forum for wide-ranging discussions about creativity and spirituality, and I hope to be able to feature my paintings, prints , drawings and collages in addition to my poetry and photographs, as illustrations of the ways in which God is present to us.  I will begin with a series of ‘advent apertures’: daily photo reflections for the Advent season, which in 2019 will be around the theme of ‘wonder’.