Tag Archives: Art

Journey

Who knew what a journey a chance meeting would spur.  And perhaps it’s still only beginning.

It wasn’t long ago that I was forced into early retirement.  So I gave myself a couple of years to find a new home.  I wanted a fresh start.  A clean slate.  A new beginning where I had no personal history.  No evil employers.  No ex-wives.  No pain of remembrance.

I was very methodical.  I searched locations, climates, recreation, proximity to my bucket list of national parks, housing markets, and state and federal tax implications.  Yes, believe it or not, if you move to a state other than the one paying your pension, you can be double taxed on your same income.

It was a lot to consider.

And I finally hit upon an area where I thought could pull all of those factors together.  So, I contacted various realtors, complied a list of properties on the market, jumped on a plane and spent a week touring homes and the surrounding area.

It was an area sort of familiar to me.  I had been there 40 years earlier when I was a young pup bumming around the country and living in my car and out in the wilderness.  Of course, the once sleepy little city had grown.  And I discovered I didn’t like the housing prospects.  It didn’t feel like home.

But while I was there, I would make a connection.  A beautiful soul that burned bright.  A golden flame.

A chance meeting in a chance location.  A moment in time, but at that moment it was time to fly that 1400 miles back home.

Conversations ensued, and she told me of an amazing world not that far from those first explorations.  I traveled again and found that magical oasis.  But I couldn’t stay.  At least not at this juncture in time.

This has been the beginning of a new chapter in life.  That meeting brought me out from behind the barriers I had surrounded myself with.  Broken down the walls of despair.  Set me on a new path.

A journey to recapture the heart and spirit of life.  Who knows where it may lead?

***

Photo: I took this photo of these lonely railroad tracks out in a remote area in the Southwest.  I was playing with it in the photo editor and suddenly it came to life.  What made this image possible was dust.  There were high winds that day sweeping dust across the desert floor and scattering into the atmosphere.  That added a blur factor you can see at the base of the distant mountains.  It also added a medium to refract light adding varying hues to the sky and clouds.  A slight enhancement turned a drab photo into art.  A friend described it as looking like an Albert Bierstadt painting.

And that photo’s story parallels my journey.  A chance number of elements came together to produce a never-seen-before beauty.  And the image itself is one of travel across great distances.  Who knows where these tracks may lead?  Where that train might take us?

 

Frog Pond Magic

A while back, while hiking, I stumbled upon a small frog pond.  It was early afternoon and the angle of the sun, lighting, and nature itself came together in a very magical way.

There was an electric green moss growing in that crystal clear pond and the surface of the water reflected the surrounding trees.  The sky was a magnificent deep hue of blue.  As you can see, I captured several shots with my cell phone camera.

I visited this pond several times thereafter and the conditions for these images never repeated themselves.  Amazing, even the same places, events, and times can never be experienced twice the same 🙂

 

 

Frog Pond Magic 1

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Not-Doing

I had just finished putting the finishing touches to an article I was writing.  Word choice, tempo, spacing.  It all felt good.  I glanced over at the clock and it was a little past noon.  Noon!!  Holy crap!  How did it get to be noon?  The last time I looked at the clock it was around 8:30. What had happened to the time?

I had been totally immersed in my writing.  So much so that I don’t even have a memory of the words being formulated in my brain.  They had just flowed onto the paper.  More like being channeled from an exterior source.  Me just being the conduit.

At that moment, I knew that whatever I had gotten down on paper was going to be good.  And when I go back and re-read pieces like this, it feels like I’m reading them for the first time.

I call that frame of mind “being in the zone.”

That place where the task is pure task.  It’s taken on a life of its own.  Independent from my rational machinations.  It’s sort of like highway hypnosis.  Where you find yourself arriving at your destination but you have no recall of driving the last 20 miles.  Somehow you got there.  And you managed not to get in an accident.  Autopilot.

Being in the zone is something that can’t be forced.  I can’t sit down and consciously tell my mind to get into that space in order to produce.  It just seems to happen spontaneously.  Especially when I don’t try to make it happen.

Another example might be when we consciously try to remember something.  Whatever the event or person or detail it is that has momentarily escaped our grasp, if we actively try to recall it, force it into our consciousness, we can’t.  But once we stop that forced effort, or have moved onto somethings else, the detail immediately pops into mind.*

I actually used to enjoy my commute to and from work when I was practicing law.  Why?  Because I let my mind drift during this time.  Tuned out.  Disengaged from my work.  And it was when I disengaged that my mind worked best.  Suddenly that legal theory or a key element of what I was needing to complete some analysis just magically appeared.  I used to carry a pen and paper, and then later a voice recorder, so I could be sure and get it down.  Because if I kept on drifting, that momentary flash would be gone and difficult to recall, once again.

Just what’s going on here?  What is this phenomena of the mind?  Or is it a state of being?

I remember, without effort :-), when I was a teenager and I first encountered the works of Carlos Castaneda.   Castaneda became pretty famous for writing a series of books about time he had supposedly spent in the Sonoran Desert with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer.  Castaneda, an anthropologist, had met this gentleman while he was working on his PH.D. and exploring the cultural uses of hallucinogenic plants.  He found himself an apprentice to this mystical realm.

Throughout his writings, Castaneda talks about various ways or techniques to “see” the world as it really is.  His books were considered pretty controversial and there is some criticism, that may be valid, as to whether Castaneda just made the whole thing up.

Or, it could be arguable that the Yaqui Indian was used as the face or metaphor for presenting Far Eastern philosophy.  Whether you want to call this mysticism, or nagualism,  or brujoism or anything else, I think there are still some valuable lessons to be learned from these writings.

One of those concepts was that of “not-doing.”  As explained by the sorcerer, “doing” is the way we construct the world.   So a rock is a rock because of how we apply our knowledge of a rock to the rock – doing.  To really see what a rock is, to see its essence, we must observe it without “doing” or by “not-doing.”  This may sound a bit obscure or esoteric.  And I think the way Castaneda presented it was designed to keep it as such.  To retain a mystical quality.

In another way, this is a form of meditation.  Of clearing the mind.  Ceasing the internal dialog, which has now been coined “self-talk.”  And “stopping the World.”  You have to see the rock, or more importantly the whole Universe, without all of the blinders and descriptors that have been programed into our heads.   And once we learn to stop the World, everything flows and reveals its true nature.

And it’s not just a manner of observing the Universe, it is a way of acting, without intention, as we navigate the Universe.

It was later in my life that I came upon the Tao Te Ching.  And again, arguably, Castaneda may very well have stolen this concept from the Tao.  Except that the translation of the Tao better describes it.

In the Tao, the term is “Wei Wu Wei” or “doing not-doing.”  Other interpretations are “without action” or “without control” or “without effort” or “action without action” or “effortless doing.”  Another is “diminishing will.”  And the notion is that non-action, or unwillful action, is the purest form of action because the doer has vanished completely into the deed.  “. . . the fuel has been completely transformed into flame.”

If one surrenders to the Tao (the Way) they will align in perfect harmony with Nature, with the way things really are.  They will have mastered Nature, not conquered it, by becoming one with it.

One of the underlying concepts here is trust.  We must trust the intelligence of the Universe, continually acting effortlessly and without conscious will, knowing it will be the right action.  “The game plays the game; the poem writes the poem; we can’t tell the dancer from the dance.”

In my case, the story wrote the story.

And when that happens is when I discover that the words truly resonate with other readers.  I, or maybe better said, the Universe by channeling though me, has stuck a universal cord.  I’d call that magic 🙂 And I know, because I feel it, that many of you experience this same phenomenon and we share a common bond.

To all my blogging friends out there that don’t always know where the words come from, but we feel them in our hearts, I’ll leave you with some more words from the Tao:

Therefore, the Master

acts without doing anything

and teaches without saying anything.

Things arise and she lets them come;

things disappear and she lets them go.

She has but doesn’t possess,

acts but doesn’t expect.

When her work is done, she forgets it.

That is why it lasts forever.

***

* I’ve read that functional MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography) scanning have confirmed that different parts of our brain light up when we try to force memories to the surface.  And they’re not the regions in the brain where we store information.  We can’t force memories, they just rise on their own 🙂

Photo: The dragonfly represents the power of light.  They inhabit two realms of the Universe, water and air, and the stages of their lives are just as dramatic of a transition as that of the butterfly.  From a water-dwelling nymph to airborne dragon.

As light strikes their wings at various times of the sun’s circle, they can refract vast differences in color and hue.  So like life, things may never quite be the way they appear, but it is still full of beautiful color and light.  The dragonfly as a totem is said to help one see through illusions and provide new vision – a good symbol for the concept of not-doing so that one may see the true essence of the Universe.

I took this shot along a lake in Az.  I shot different pictures of these same dragonflies throughout the day, and indeed they all look different.  I enhanced the color of the feature pic a bit and faded out the background revealing an incredibly vibrant transformation.  And here is another shot – same type of Dragonfly, but different angle in the sun.  What a difference.  Can we see their true essence?

Dragon Fly 1+SPFx2+c1+MC52

Skeletons in the Closet

I don’t think I have a closet big enough for this skeleton 🙂

This T-Rex cast is on display at the Smithsonian.  But it’s a good way to call attention to my update of yesterday’s post on the contrasts between museums.  I updated that post by adding a small gallery of pics from the San Diego Museum of Natural History.  A great museum in its own right.

I suppose we all have a few skeletons that we may not wish to unearth.  Buried away in those dark recesses.  Those catacombs and ossuaries of the mind.  Sealed over.   Blotted out of our memory.  Perhaps believing we were isolating a contagion.  A virus that could cause madness if inhaled.

But then again, maybe those bones can be unearthed.  An archeological expedition into our own minds.  We can metaphorically expose them in our current atmospheres and learn and grow from that past, even though that history may not be as ancient as museum artifacts.

Self examination.  Introspection.  All part of gaining true wisdom.  For the answers lie within.

Excavations like meditations.  Removing the layers of past years and lifetimes.  Clearing the cobwebs of societal illusions.  Finding that inner essence.  For the awakening of our souls.

Though self-exploration may be difficult, may we all find peace on our inward journeys 🙂

 

The Many Flames of Life

I love fire.  Always have.

A Passionate Embrace.

Cozy snowy days by the woodstove.

Well, not quite a Haiku’s traditional 5-7-5, but fire is still poetic.  Fire is symbolic of so many things.  Transformation, purification, life force, power, strength, destruction, rebirth, transcendence, inspiration, enlightenment.

Truth and Knowledge.  Light and Heat.  The Intellect and the Emotions.

“Baptism by Fire” restores primordial purity.  An intermediary between the Source and all of us tiny Particles of Awareness.

Fire is a good visual representation of our emotions.  Anger, I believe, is the most destructive – a raging inferno.  Passion, the most inspirational, a slow intense burn.  Love, a steady light.  Life, the precious spark.

The blaze in the feature photo above represents that out-of-control burst of anger.  Hatred.  The stare of death.

While this image . . .

Fire +

the steady, passionate burn of the heart.  That electric heat, tingle of fire, with the brush of a lover’s hand.  A slow, deep delicious kiss.

And there’s another image I truly love, from my background of being a health care provider – The Keeper of the Flame.  I found this pin at a military surplus store.  I was told it was a German medic’s pin.  The hands delicately cradling that life force.

Keeper of the Flame

And here’s one, a story for another day, perhaps, of a long ago camping trip in the mountains of Colorado.  The howling winds channeling through the mountain pass.  Filling our eyes with smoke and ash as we reached for those life-giving flames.

Cold in Them Mountains

But anger.  Yes anger is the most destructive.  A fire that can consume us.  Destroy us physically and mentally.  We might think it’s directed outward, but the amount of negative energy that burns within can kill.  An insidious suicide.

I end with a link to a friend’s blog.   Lucid Being recently posted “Solving the Anger Issues! – Open Leader.” It’s a good read.

As for that spiritual burn in all of us – don’t let that fire go out.

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BORING

A few days ago, I posted a piece about attention spans and when people will “bail” from reading additional text.  As a writer, it’s helpful to know what’s happening in the reader’s mind so we can craft ways to capture their attention.  And that Bailer’s Point actually ties in nicely with the fourth “Brain Rule” discussed by John Medina. *

People won’t pay attention to boring things.

It seems that when we encounter any stimulus our brains go through a number of discrete phases to process that information.

Intrinsic Alertness – our ability to detect something.

Phasic Alertness – our ability to focus on that something.

Executive Network – our ability to decide what to do about that something.

And despite what people may think, the brain’s attention spotlight can only focus on one thing at a time.  We process concepts sequentially.  Task shifting, or multi-tasking, delays accomplishment time by 50% and increases errors by 50%.  We’re just not wired well to do multiple things at the same time.  We are also much better at detecting patterns and then extrapolating the meaning of events than we are at registering and remembering the details of those events.

We saw before how readers can check out within seconds if their attention is not corralled, and listeners, it turns out, can only hold on for about 10 minutes before tuning out.

So what enhances or extends attention spans?  How can we reach into the readers’ or listeners’ brains and shake their frontal lobes around without screaming PAY ATTENTION?! !

We can add emotion!

It seems emotion coupled with information not only captures attention, but it significantly improves retention.  People remember personal stories bathing in feelings better than they will rote recitations of facts, no matter how intriguing we might think those facts are.

As writers, we need to try to engage all of our reader’s senses.  So they can taste it, hear it, smell it, feel it, breathe it in.

But it also turns out that we need to give people frequent breaks.  As a lecturer, that may mean switching topics or keeping the presentation short.  As a writer, it means we need to effectively use punctuation.  Let the reader come up for air once and a while.

That’s one reason I like to use sentence fragments.  Even though were not supposed to 🙂

And on that note, I’ll call it quits today.  Except if I can hold your attention a little longer, there are a few more fun pics at the bottom of this virtual page.

***

Feature Photo: An old hotel in an 1800’s mining town has a character all of its own, but by bending the light and showering it with color, we add emotion.  Fire!  It draws in the eye and holds the attention.   With blogging, I’ve found that a great pic can really draw in the reader.  Of course, what I think is great others might find boring.

Past Posts on Brain Rules by John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist.

Move Your Body, Move Your Mind

Writing to Survive

Wired

I hope you all have a day of excitement filled with brain candy.  Here are a few more pics I played with, turning the ordinary into a little something more.

Bisbee - 53 - Castle Rock + CF

 

Ramsey Canyon 25th - 7 - CF13-26

Horseback Riding - 1 +MC100+Enamel

Miller Canyon - 3 +Solarize 245

Sunset from the Little House + Enamel

 

Halcyon Days

You’ve probably heard this expression before – oh those good old “Halcyon Days.”  It’s a phrase filled with the nostalgic remembrance of the endless summer days of our youths.

But I have a few more references for you today.  The first is to an on-line publication of that same title that you really need to check out.  It is absolutely beautifully done, and I’m honored to have had one of my poems picked up in its Autumn issue – “An Oil Painting for the One I Love.

The next is to the original source of the term, which ascribes to days in the depths of winter’s grasp.

Greek legend has it that Aeolus, the ruler of the winds, had a daughter named Alcyone.  Alcyone married Ceyx, the king of Thessaly.  Ceyx suffered the fate of drowning at sea and Alcyone, in her grief, threw herself into the ocean.  But instead of drowning, she was transformed into a bird, the Halcyon, and carried to her husband by the wind.

The Halcyon was said to make a floating nest in the Aegean Sea and, while brooding her eggs, she had the power to calm the waves for fourteen days.  This would occur every year around the Winter Solstice, usually 21st or 22nd of December.  The Halcyon is now commonly linked to European Kingfisher.

As time passed, the association with the brooding time of the Halcyon faded, and the phrase was just associated with the calm days of summer, as was used by Shakespeare in Henry VI:

Assign’d am I to be the English scourge.
This night the siege assuredly I’ll raise:
Expect Saint Martin’s summer, halcyon days,
Since I have entered into these wars.

Somehow, the phrase evolved into its present meaning of those happy endless days of our youth.

So, while I’m looking back in time today, I’ll draw another reference to a few more of my past blog posts that were pleasantly, and excitedly, picked up for publication.  I haven’t reminisced like this since my post 100th!!!

The following articles and poems were picked up by The Urban Howl:

Luminous, published under the title: Release Yourself From Your Thoughts – Be Luminous & Divine.

The Bear, published under the title: Bear Wisdom – Venture, Awaken & Emerge From the Den.

Hiking Through the Rhyolite, published under the title: If Your Soul is Open, Nature’s Spirits Will Speak to You.

Monsoons and Mountains, published under the title: Surrender Control & Let The Wind Take You To A New Adventure.

And,

Torrent, published under the title: The Torrent: Facing Our Greatest Fear & Risking Living.

I hope you have many Halcyon days to remember, and maybe this year around the time of the Winter Solstice, we’ll all have some 🙂

***

Photo: I was perched in these mountains last month.  Definitely a calm and endless day of joy.

Winter Encampment

I arrived at this current depot just in time for the Autumnal Equinox and now we’re upon October’s New Moon.  Harvest Time and New Beginnings.  Great symbolism to start a new season in a familiar location.  I was met by the song of the Owl.

But there is much preparation to be completed before entering the Bear Cave for winter.

The past three weeks have evaporated at a frantic pace.  Environmental remediation.  Attempting to free the area of toxins that my body must avoid.  But I’ve still been trying to maintain posts on the blog, tell stories, share travel.

While I begin work on the fourth chapter of “Contrasts,” I figured this autumn landscape by Wolf Kahn nicely captures the moment.  A German artist, it never ceases to amaze me how universal images are.

Sometimes we forget and our views become narrowed to our immediate surroundings.  We forget the commonality of times, events, planetary movement.  The air we breathe and water we drink.  Our shared evolution from that primordial soup.

So many things to bring people together, if we’ll open our hearts and see the connections.

***

A Little Magic

What happens when you mix the edge of a clear mountain stream with a bucket full of multicolored sedimentary stones, add a tablespoon of current reverberating off the bank, and then a dash of the afternoon sun’s refracting photons?  Well this . . .

River Rock

Photo:  Somewhere in Montana 🙂

Nature is Knowledge

Utah - Canyon Lands - Quote

Photos: I captured the one above in the early morning at Canyonlands National Park in Utah.  The landscape peering out from a natural rock bridge looks surreal.  As does the Green River Overlook below.  Like looking centuries back in time.  There is knowledge in nature.  So overwhelming, the scenes will bring you to inner silence.

Green River Overlook - Clean

“I have learned that the point of life’s walk is not where or how far I move my feet but how I am moved in my heart.”
Anasazi Foundation, The Seven Paths: Changing One’s Way of Walking in the World

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Skyline

Nature is by far my most favorite place to be.  It is there I feel like I belong.  Like I am myself.

But there is beauty in everything if we choose to see it.  This photo is of the city-scape of San Diego from when I visited.  And it is mesmerizing in its own way.

***

 

Reflections

I was having a lot of fun playing with the cameras at the zoo when I came upon a water feature with turtles and fish.  The plexiglass enclosure extended above the waterline providing multiple reflective surfaces.

And here’s the result.

The surface of the water is both transparent and reflective.  So you can see the turtles and the fish in the water, below the waterline.  But you can also see their mirror images above the waterline on the inside surface of the plexiglass.  It looks like they are swimming around me.

The palm leave floating half submerged also reflects off the inner wall of the plexiglass giving it the appearance of being both in and out of the water.

My reflection from the outer wall of the plexiglass bounces back to the camera so you can see me using my cell phone for the pic.  My digital camera hanging off my shoulder at my side.

While the woman walking towards me from the opposite direction reflects off the inner wall of the plexiglass, or possibly the surface of the water, or perhaps it is not a reflection at all, but the camera just captures her directly.  But it projects her to appear as though she is riding in my left shirt pocket.

What fun!

***

Zoo - Reflections