Water drops – on imitating

fuzzy thing and dropsOver the weekend I was messing around with the camera out in the country, experimenting and trying different things.
As I was framing and snapping and adjusting, I realized I was imitating Karen – realized there were photos of hers I had seen and been intrigued by, and as I looked through the viewfinder, I was semi-consciously trying to figure out how she did that
reflection treesAnd while failing utterly to get the same results, still I found I was teaching myself something via this imitation of a master.
Other moments it occurred to me I was trying to create an image like Sandra Bartocha’s images…
little wet sproutAnd again, failing completely. Yet in the process, little things were learned out about the angle, the blur, the light, the settings on the camera.

It has been almost 1 year now I’ve had this camera, my first digital camera.  We are still getting to know each other.

Mucking around like this in the rain, trying to capture something of the water and reflections and the glistening of water drops, working from an impulse of exploratory curiosity, fun as it was, I found the pictures I was taking bored me in and of themselves…
water drops, rainBut the  process of passing through these mediocre efforts was part of pushing towards something that might still be fresh and different and unique, that might interest me at least, even if no one else.

So then, back home, staring at the endlessly fascinating fish pond, I tried something a bit different –

water drops, orange fishTraining the hose onto the surface of the water, a process began of exploring the bursts of action and colour, of water as it met water…
sharp water drops, activeAnd wondering about the possible extremes of abstraction, I became curious and interested again…

sharpish water drops, active
blur cu water drops

The Moment

twiggy brush flowers

In a sense, any spiritual path is largely a matter of misdirection, something meant to conceal an appalling and marvelous fact…
~ Henry Shukman

There is the traditional idea of a 4 day fast in the outdoors being a Vision Quest – something that young men and women would do to find their direction, their animal, their medicine, their place in the world. But it’s something that can be done many times in a lifetime, separating oneself from the demands of everyday life and reconnecting with the Earth, with Spirit, with whatever Questions have arisen in ones life.
I went into the one last weekend with a desire to break down my ego, my identity, my idea of myself as I have constructed it thus far, and see what lay deep in my heart of hearts – to forget for a while who I think I am as a film industry person, kind of smart, cynical, jaded, or as a sole-support parent, strong, determined, or all the confused stories with men – a mid-life kind of Question.
But of course it was not all particularly pleasant – the ego resists.
The first stumbling block was on Saturday, when, having only been fasting for some 18 hours or so, we were required to stand in a semi-circle in the afternoon sun to receive Teachings before we went into the sweat lodge. As we stood there, listening, the sun beating down on our heads (I’d forgotten a hat), I saw the black begin to encroach on my peripheral vision and I fainted.
The ground was soft, the grass cool – somehow I didn’t fully lose consciousness as I usually do when this happens – and I lay there for a moment enjoying the moist cool grass until I was rested enough to get back up again.
Remarkably, no one noticed. We all crawled into the sweat and went through rounds of hot rocks and steam and drumming and song and were cleansed.
Later that evening, one of the helpers came by and asked how I was feeling. When I mentioned having fainted, there was a little flurry of activity and finally it was decided I should sleep on the couch in the house just in case, and do a modified version of the fast, eating a little when necessary.
I was pissed.
This was not the way it was supposed to go. This was not what I wanted, sleeping on the couch like a wuss. I wasn’t even especially hungry.
In the morning I went out around 5 to my tent and began the day, looking at the sky and listening to the birds and beginning the rounds of smudging and prayer and meditation, attempting to silence the chattering monkey mind.
water rushingAlready I could see the hint of a lesson, already I could see that the thwarting of my willfulness, the denial of my ego’s determination to maintain an image of strength and self-sufficiency was something I would have to absorb as part of the process.
And the modifications didn’t really interrupt much – still the long hours of the days were spent on the land in silence, contemplating the water, the song of the birds, the shifts in the weather. I prayed and prayed for strong dreams, or for a visit from an animal, for some kind of moment, some special epiphany or revelation that would make coherent cohesive sense to the quest.
Sunday night I had a dream. But it was not the dream I was hoping for – there were no eagles or tigers or goddesses of light with magical purple stones and songs I would wake up singing… No. Just some jumbled stuff about hanging onto some crappy thin old futon mattresses, about not letting go of junk that it would really be best to let go of.
Dang.
Out in the tent again, lighting my smudge, my thumb was getting calloused and burnt from the lighter, the sage and tobacco had almost run out. I was cleaning up my little area of paraphernalia when I noticed a small ball on the floor of the tent. Mud maybe? No, it had a smooth shape to it. I looked again – it was a curled up slug.
Ewww. A slug in my tent.
I looked at him for a moment and thought, well, slugs are kind of like snails but without the shell, and snails can be pretty, so…
So I found a little twig and let him crawl onto it and put him outside my tent door.
dew dropsOnce out in the wet dewy grass, the slug unfurled himself and began to crawl up a blade, slithering and swaying with a slow sensuous movement, with what looked like such delight in the wet, in the green, in his element. His antennae waved and contracted in the soft sunlight, his body swayed happily in the morning breeze. It was suddenly a moment of such great beauty, of such a tremendous simple joy in life itself, that I burst into tears.
That’s it, I thought. This is my creature-teacher. This is who has come to show me what I need to see about the universe, about life, about myself.
This is the lesson in humility, but also in the direct immediate sensuous pleasure in life itself.
Now, back at home again, I remind myself: I am a slug.
yellow snail

Culture

fire cu 2
Just back from a 4-day fast at a lodge – The Lodge of the Sacred Fire of the Thunder – out at Six Nations.
The parameters: no food, no water, no electronic devices, no talking, no books. Only a tent, a sleeping bag, a journal, the necessary clothing, whatever spiritual paraphernalia – rattles and smudge essentials and the like – and the time and space to be at one with Mother Earth.
The first morning I woke up well before dawn, cold and stiff but thrilled at the cacophony of birdsong that surrounded me. Just outside the door of my tent lay a sea of sprinkles of frost, each blade of grass with a tiny little droplet at its tip.
dew drop
It was so beautiful, of course I wanted to photograph it, but had no camera, no camera-phone even. All I could do was be in it, and marvel at its beauty. And the longer I was there, mute and helpless in the face of its perfection, the more I fell in love.
This is the heart of the teaching.
Hours and days were spent wandering the land, gazing out at the Grand River, watching the shifts in the weather, the shapes of the clouds, listening to the rain, the call and answer of all the different birds, observing the strange movements of the animals, the insects, becoming acquainted with the dried husks of last year’s blossoming, seeing the small buds of the new season begin.
This is culture when its center is the Earth, the Sky, the Waters, the Fire.
dried qal shapes
Back at home, I commune with my camera, my computer, my phone. 
I do love them too, but not quite as much.

Early summer in the city

laundry

Early summer in the city and I start my days in the paradise of our back yard. There is a soft coo of turtle doves in the air, the high chirps of sparrows and robins.  The mornings are cool and fresh, pungent with lilacs – May has given us a series of purple and white blooms.

bush

lilacs

sprinkles

purple toystory star

Heading down to work on my bike, the sun has risen a little higher into bright towering blue sky days.

Passing through the cool of Allan Gardens park, the homeless guys are still on their benches, emerging from sleeping bags and newspaper blankets, starting their daily routines.

Out onto Sherbourne St, the summer emerges in full force – the streets are starting to exude that heat, the concrete gathering up the suns rays and radiating back a thick smelly weight of warmth.

corner

red building

broom

Taxis cruise by, lazily looking for fares, windows down, music wafting with nostalgia for Pakistan or Jamaica or Senegal or Colombia – mini-worlds on wheels.

A woman – a face perhaps from Yemen, shy and distrustful – holds her head scarf at her throat as she crosses the street.

Groups of men sit outside the soup kitchen, arguing loudly, passing the time, waiting for the next meal to be served.

If it is this warm in May, people say, what will it be like in July and August?

sherbourne st

mother and child

bus stop