Manna Meditations

when there’s abstract art in the forest…

Manna Meditations, Day 8

Let us not think for a moment that we humans are the first artists, the only creators …

There is Beauty everywhere.  ❤

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Everyday Wonder

Runes …

I almost miss the magic today.

It’s cold — great gusts of wind tearing through the clouds, tossing the treetops.  Even in my down parka, I’m shivering.

But I go out anyway.

I walk down to the woods.  Tramp through the brush for an hour, trying to catch a little beauty through the viewfinder.  But it’s one of those days when the wonder eludes me.  The light is thin and gray, the shadows watery and weak.  

I photograph ice crystals forming in the moss.  A woodland pond full of sky.  Still — the photographs seems paler than what I see.  Flat, almost.

I head home.

And then, when I’m almost to the fringe of the woods, a fallen log catches my eye.  I almost don’t notice it at first, except that there’s a brief break in the clouds and  the sun skims off its surface, just long enough for me notice the whorls and wanderings of some bug or beetle or worm, etched into the bark:

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I lower myself to my knees and take my time, as if I am reading.

(And maybe I am).

The light hardens.  The engravings deepen.  I feel, almost, as if I know what they say…

Because it’s true, isn’t it:  that we’re all carving stories into the surface of our world?  Wearing tracks in the wilderness of our everydays?  And those tracks last for a little while, and then fade or rot or blow off as dust.

We are all — believe me — ephemera.  

(And also, eternal.)

I run a gloved finger over the weather-smoothed wood.  Feel the tracks of some long-ago creature, left like runes.  

I walk home with the magic inside of me…

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My feet follow the trail out of the woods, and into the Light. ❤

 

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best of alpha // whiskey // foxtrot

Final Flashback: Just a Long Trail & My Tangled Thoughts …

Today marks the final post of my Flashback series — a collection of my favorite throwback posts, in celebration of Alpha // Whiskey // Foxtrot’s one-year anniversary.

And this one I’ve been saving.  

The words are lonely, and it shows.  A different kind of person would want to hide that from you — want to pretend that the lonely season didn’t happen, didn’t exist.  But I’m sharing anyway.  Because let’s be honest:  loneliness happens to everybody, and when you’re in it, it feels like it’s going to last forever.

Can I tell you something?  It’s not going to last forever…  I promise. 

Almost exactly a year has passed since I first hit the little blue “Publish” button on this post, and in that messy and imperfect year, my life has filled up and brimmed over with some of the best people I’ve met.  

I feel at home in my little town…

At home with my people…

At home in my own body, and in my soul.

And really, I couldn’t ask for more.

So.  If you’re feeling a little bit marooned today, please know:  being lonely doesn’t make you alone — It just makes your heart wide-open to love.

And that’s a beautiful thing. 

///

October 29, 2014 

I have a mind that moves in fits and starts:

It surges forward.

Ricochets.

Retreats.

Sometimes I joke that, behind my tailored exterior, there’s a rat’s nest in my skull.  But something about a mountain trail untangles all the knots in my neural pathways.  Which is yet another reason why I love this place.  Southwestern Virginia is crisscrossed by hundreds of trails, most of them climaxing at a high peak with a hundred-mile view.

It is a good place to think deeply, if you’re not afraid to do so.  And if you’re willing to take the time.

*

What is happening here is going to take some time.

*

I’ve been thinking about Georgia O’Keeffe a lot lately.

Something about her aesthetic appeals to me right now:  her close-cropped view of the world.  I came across this snippet of her words the other day, in which she speaks of her formative years as an artist.  It kicked around inside my ribcage and just wouldn’t leave:

“I decided to start anew — to strip away what I had been taught — to accept as true my own thinking.  This was one of the best times of my life.  There was no one around to look at what I was doing, no one interested, no one to say anything about it one way or another.  I was alone and singularly free, working into my own, unknown — no one to satisfy but myself. I began with charcoal and paper and decided not to use any color until it was impossible to do what I wanted to do in black and white.  I believe it was June before I needed the color blue.”

*

On Sunday, Thomas, a friend and I hiked the Roaring Run trail out past Eagle Rock.  It’s an easy path through the woods, a slow climb that hugs the stream and culminates at a lacy cascade. 

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We spent our journey snapping photographs.  My beautiful friend had a fancy DSLR with a chromed-out filter that set the fall foliage on fire.  I had my trusty iPhone 4S, its little camera set to my favorite black-and-white.

I followed behind her, watching the way she stalked her shots, the way her eyes searched the canopy for color.  The way she spent time on the grander vistas:  the overlook where you could see the mountaintops.  The waterfall with its wild roar over rocks.

Meanwhile, I was in a different place, looking for different things.  The jagged edge of a fern frond.  Drops of water beading and falling over stone.  I spent a lot of time on my knees, my face pushed right up to the subjects.

This is where I am now — I cannot bear to shoot the loud loveliness of a waterfall.  I am overwhelmed by the chrome colors of the canopy when it’s full of light.  My eyes are always searching for spare lines.  The smallest, simplest things.

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*

I began photographing things for the first time this summer — my own body, mostly, trying to see it differently.  To love it anew.  I photographed the sun cupped in the hollow of my clavicle, or splashing down the angle of my jaw.  It was a brave subject, that.  And maybe someday I’ll show you a little of my work from that time.

But I was also trying to learn this thing, photography, in a broader sense, albeit without any serious aspirations.  The thing is, I didn’t want to just go to a class and learn how to use a camera.  I wanted to learn to *see* the world thoughtfully – light and shadow and line, and also, something deeper than that.  I wanted to train my eye and my heart, not just gain a technological skill.

So I limited myself to black and white, and I began with my iPhone, not the DSLR that sits on my closet shelf.  I resolved not to use any technological tool until I absolutely needed it, to take every shot as if it would never be cropped, and to edit nothing.

It was June when I began with the simple shapes of my own form.  The light falling in clear, perfect bars through the blinds.  It was September before I could bear the visual cacophony of the woods, the wild frenzy of fluttering leaves.

It is almost November now, and I am just beginning to yearn for my bigger camera, its depth of focus.

Just beginning to hunger for color.

*

In the two and a half years since I moved to the Star City, this place has felt spare to me.  I have walked around hungry for certain kinds of relationships I can’t seem to find, certain kinds of cultures and experiences that elude me.  These things have been missing from my life for a long, long time now, and there are days when I feel the absence like a presence, an emptiness with heft and weight.

And yet, in this spare season, my soul has grown sensitive.  I am soft enough to notice the small things — to be moved by spiderwebs and bits of broken glass.

And this is a blessing.

Even when it’s a burden.

Because it is a burden — it is.  

Sometimes I feel it’s been so long since I lived in a place where I fit, it’s like I’ve been walking a hundred miles in the tundra, the whole world a wash of white, and if someone crested the next snowdrift wearing a crimson parka, I swear, the color would explode through my chest like a gunshot. And that’s a sensitivity I can use, even when it hurts.  

I can, and I will.

*

A year from now, I hope my life is fuller and richer and thicker than the one I have now.  I hope I’m more rooted, more sure of my place in this town.  I hope I see my city with loving eyes.

But I also hope I don’t lose this, this sensitivity.  This love for the small and the simple.  The shadow and the light.

I’ll leave you with one more thought from Georgia O’Keeffe, just to show you what I mean:

“Nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small — we haven’t time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time…  So I said to myself — I’ll paint what I see — but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it.”

Here’s hoping we both go and look at the world around us low and slow and close and patient, today.  ❤

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Everyday Wonder

When I want the Truth, I walk into the woods …

Today, I walk into the forest looking for the Light.

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I have been a hunter of light for some time now, and experience has taught me that if you want to see it best, you must look for it in the dark.

So I follow the trail until it’s swallowed in shadow.  I walk, and keep walking, to the heart of the woods, where the leaves are so thick that the wind can barely get through.

I listen to the rain on the canopy and don’t feel a drop — listen for birdsong and hear nothing.

And then, this:

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The sun like a fist, cracking the dark wide open.

I stand there shooting until I feel my soul open, too. ❤

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Secret Messages

Sharp Top Mountain: Day One of Something Good

 

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A few weeks ago, I made you a promise:  I would write all winter, and I would share my words in places where they could be found.

So today, the first day in this untrammeled new year, I decided to begin fulfilling that promise:

I went to the back yard and found a stone.

I uncapped a Sharpie and scribbled down some words.

newyears1And then Thomas and I drove out to Sharp Top Mountain and got out of the car, the stone clutched tight by my side.

We hiked all the way up in the snow, rising higher and higher until it seemed that the blue hills rolled on forever, the sunset-washed horizon disappearing in a gentle curve.

When we came back down, I made sure that the stone was nestled on the back side of a fallen log just off the beaten path.

It’s a mere five feet away from a place every hiker will pass on her way up the mountain.  But it’s also just far enough that you’d have to step off the path to see it.  You’d have to stop to see the gorgeous furrows of the tree’s bark, or to take a slow breath.  And I love that.  Because I figure someone might find the stone tomorrow, or it might take two years.

They might take the stone home with them, or they might leave it for someone else.

They might scribble over it.  Or not.

It doesn’t belong to me anymore…  Which is exactly how I wanted it.

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*

Today is the first day of a new project for me, and with it comes a promise:  every day for the next 30 days, I’ll leave a new secret message in a place where someone might find it … or might never find it at all.  And then I’ll share it with you here.

For now, I’ll leave you with a full set of words from that stone…

 

Begin:

0ne foot forward — just one.

the path is leafstrewn;

the trees hunch low.

at first step, though,

the limbs lift and shift,

parting the way…

keep walking.

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Happy New Year, everybody…  Whatever journey you begin today, just keep going.  I’ll be right there with you. ❤

 

 

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