Monday, September 30, 2019

Dream Within a Dream


"Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?"

- Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ghostly Objects


"Reality is a very subjective affair. I can only define it as a kind of gradual accumulation of information; and as specialization. If we take a lily, for instance, or any other kind of natural object, a lily is more real to a naturalist than it is to an ordinary person. But it is still more real to a botanist. And yet another stage of reality is reached with that botanist who is a specialist in lilies. You can get nearer and nearer, so to speak, to reality; but you never get near enough because reality is an infinite succession of steps, levels of perception, false bottoms, and hence unquenchable, unattainable. You can know more and more about one thing but you can never know everything about one thing: it’s hopeless. So that we live surrounded by more or less ghostly objects."

- Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Inseparability


"Our minds have no real or absolute boundaries; on the contrary, we are part of an infinite field of intelligence that extends beyond space and time into realities we have yet to comprehend. The beyul and their dakini emissaries are traces of the original world, inviting us to open to the abiding mystery at the heart of all experience, the inseparability that infuses every action, thought, and intention."

- Ian Baker (1957 - )

Monday, September 23, 2019

Noetic Quality


"But along with the feeling of ineffability, the conviction that some profound objective truth has been disclosed to you is a hallmark of the mystical experience, regardless of whether it has been occasioned by a drug, meditation, fasting, flagellation, or sensory deprivation. William James gave a name to this conviction: the noetic quality. People feel they have been let in on a deep secret of the universe, and they cannot be shaken from that conviction."

- Michael Pollan (1955 - )

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Listening to Trees


"For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness."

- Hermann Hesse (1877 - 1962)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Imaginatively Malleable Spaces


"We lack - we need - a term for those places where one experiences a 'transition' from a known landscape... into 'another world': somewhere we feel and think significantly differently. They exist even in familiar landscapes: there when you cross a certain watershed, recline or snowline, or enter rain, storm or mist. Such moments are rites of passage that reconfigure local geographics, leaving known places outlandish or quickened, revealing continents within counties.

The unknown is so inflammatory to the imagination because it is an imaginatively malleable space: a projection-screen onto which a culture or an individual can throw their fears and their aspirations. Like Echo's cave, the unknown will answer back with whatever you shout at it.

We cannot navigate and place ourselves only with maps that make the landscape dream-proof, impervious to the imagination. Such maps – and the road-map is first among them – encourage the elimination of wonder from our relationship with the world. And once wonder has been chased from our thinking about the land, then we are lost."

- Robert Macfarlane (1976 - )

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Creative Energy


"The thoughts, words, and emotions that human beings emit from moment to moment are constantly streaming forth from their bodies, forming creative fields that are visible in various colors, forms, and shapes. Some of these creative fields are hazy and cloudy in appearance, and they hover around the person in indeterminate patterns. Others are extremely tenacious, and they twine tightly around the person like a resilient string.

Each thought or emotion holds its own unique form of creative energy, and thoughts having a similar frequency band together to form a homogeneous creative field around the person who emitted them.

Where does our creative energy come from in the first place? Pure energy is always emitting from the source of the universe, brimming with infinite potential. This energy supports all forms of life, big or small. Each human being receives a steady supply of this same universal energy, and each of us assigns a shape to that energy by means of our words, thoughts, and emotions. This is the process of creation. The energy of any thought, whatever it might be, holds the potential for generating a creative field."

- Ervin Laszlo (1932 - )

Monday, September 16, 2019

Heart of the World


“As long as I live, 
I'll hear waterfalls and 
birds and winds sing. 
I'll interpret the rocks,
learn the language of flood,
storm, and the avalanche. 
I'll acquaint myself with the
glaciers and wild gardens,
 and get as near the heart
of the world as I can."

- John Muir (1838 - 1914)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Anaesthetic of Familiarity


"There is an anaesthetic of familiarity, a sedative of ordinariness which dulls the senses and hides the wonder of existence. For those of us not gifted in poetry, it is at least worth while from time to time making an effort to shake off the anaesthetic. What is the best way of countering the sluggish habitutation brought about by our gradual crawl from babyhood? We can't actually fly to another planet. But we can recapture that sense of having just tumbled out to life on a new world by looking at our own world in unfamiliar ways."

- Richard Dawkins (1941 - )

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Time Doesn't Pass


"In magic - and in life - there is only the present moment, the now. You can't measure time the way you measure the distance between two points. 'Time' doesn't pass. We human beings have enormous difficulty in focusing on the present; we're always thinking about what we did, about how we could have done it better, about the consequences of our actions, and about why we didn't act as we should have. Or else we think about the future, about what we're going to do tomorrow, what precautions we should take, what dangers await us around the next corner, how to avoid what we don't want and how to get what we have always dreamed of."

- Paulo Coelho (1947 - )

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Meditation


"Meditation has nothing to do with achieving a result. It is not a matter of breathing in a particular way, or looking at your nose, or awakening the power to perform certain tricks, or any of the rest of that immature nonsense…. Meditation is not something apart from life. When you are driving a car or sitting in a bus, when you are chatting aimlessly, when you are walking by yourself in a wood or watching a butterfly being carried along by the wind—to be choicelessly aware of all that is part of meditation."

- Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

Monday, September 09, 2019

Well Conceived Forms


"If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see divers combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well conceived forms."

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519)

Sunday, September 08, 2019

A Train of Moods


"Dream delivers us to dream, 
and there is no end to illusion. 
Life is like a train of moods
like a string of beads, 
and, as we pass through them, 
they prove to be many-colored lenses 
which paint the world their own hue..."

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Silence


"The reality that is present to us and in us: call it being...Silence. And the simple fact that by being attentive, by learning to listen (or recovering the natural capacity to listen) we can find our self engulfed in such happiness that it cannot be explained: the happiness of being at one with everything in that hidden ground of Love for which there can be no explanations.... May we all grow in grace and peace, and not neglect the silence that is printed in the center of our being. It will not fail us."

- Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968)

Sunday, September 01, 2019

An Unexpected Kindness


"Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken." - Maria Popova (1985 - )

Looking back over the life of my humble little blog, which I started in 2004 as an unsure, tentative "toe dip" into (what at the time) was still an untested world of on-line media, it has evolved into a quiet little oasis for me to spend time in, away from the stresses of life and job. Though it used to be replete with essays (something I look forward to getting back to, as time permits in the coming months), it has steadfastly remained a place for me to share my thoughts (albeit mostly via others' quotations in recent years) and images. Much to my surprise (and delight!), my blog has attracted (a still growing list of) people who find enough value in what I post here to "follow" my entries as they arise. I was reminded of this kindness - a fragile gift in this world that I try never to take for granted - while on vacation with my family in the Pacific Northwest (during which the image above was captured, on a beach on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula).

One beautiful morning during our stay, my wife and I were sipping coffee and "nature watching” with our binoculars in the solarium of a wonderful Airbnb home we had rented for our vacation. In-between numerous sightings of dolphins, sea-otters, eagles, and the like (each, an even more precious and fragile gift), I would occasionally glance at my iPad to continue reading my book-of-the week-vacation-reading biography (which on that day, happened to be of William Henry Jackson, whose photographs of the American West in the 19th century were, in part, responsible for the congressional vote that established Yellowstone National Park in 1872; but I digress). My iPad alerted me that I had a new email. I almost didn't look (and normally do not when on vacation), but look I did.

It was a lovely email from a recent "follower" who politely inquired about whether I'd abandoned my blog (reminding me that I had not posted anything new since the beginning of June!). While I post whenever I have the chance (and have new images to share), but have simply had no time for new work in recent months (a not uncommon occurrence throughout the 15 years I've had my blog), it didn't occur to me that I might actually have followers who'd miss my posts enough to send an email! The day this email arrived was already special - what, with a preternatural display of nature's beauty just outside our beachfront rental? - but my new follower's heartfelt concern for my blog's future (it is emphatically not abandoned), and the kindness he bestowed in taking the time to reach out to me, made the day that much more memorable. The impersonal sterility of our modern world makes it easy to forget (sometimes, but not on this day), that what connects us all are simple, genuine, human gestures, like one photographer reaching out to another over the technological ether to ask, "I enjoy seeing your pictures; you haven't stopped posting have you?" No, kind reader, I have not. And thank you so much for asking!

PS (to the person who sent me the email): You mentioned that you were also taking a trip, in your case to the Adirondacks in New York. I had emailed you a few "early" essays to tie you over until such time as I got back to posting, but forgot to include an old entry from a trip I made to the Adirondacks back in 2008. The entry - "Boinga, Boinga, Boinga" Shots - recounts a timeless experience that all photographers go through at one time or another. I have learned quite a bit in the time since I wrote that entry (in regards to the subject matter described therein), and will be sharing some thoughts in future posts.