Recently I heard a radio interview with an artist who contended he wanted people to look at his work. He said folks go to “see” a movie, but people really “look” at paintings. Without mentioning there can be art in making films just as there is creative expression in other media, I disagreed in his use of the two viewings as one being superior to the other. I believe the question lies in whether either results in true recognition. From its beginning, Stones and Feathers has been a blog subtitled “A Different Way of Seeing.” Contemplative seeing, or seeing with the eyes of the heart is a work of the spirit as well as simply receiving images. So much of my photography and writing is simply an effort to pin down these results and express my gratitude for them.
This video was prepared by a student in a class taught by my friend Sheila Otto. Sometimes I experience something so penetrating and true I weep. My granddaughter Skye once told me the beauty in a red strawberry she was slicing made her whisper. When I viewed Dietrich Ludwig’s film, I cried while I whispered “Thank You.” I share the video with his permission and in tribute to my son, Ben, a man with an extraordinary, different way of seeing. His physical vision loss as yet has no surgical correction, but he lives every day with courage, fortitude, and the beauty that is experienced by seeing with the eyes of his heart.
The film also spoke to me since I was diagnosed in 2005 with Fuch’s corneal dystrophy for which there is no cure, only transplants as an option. My vision deteriorated so rapidly that I (who had been Ben’s reader and driver for so many years) became unable to read or drive. I received cornea transplants in May and July of 2006 and have very good vision at present although still followed closely by the surgeon. I am grateful to the two donor families who made these surgeries possible for me by their gifts.
Please note that the young man who created the video is dyslexic. He has trouble with letters and numbers, but pictures are his best way of learning and communicating. That is the reason he has chosen to work with photography. Thank you, Dietrich Ludwig, for what you see.
I love the other living creatures God made who share my garden! This amazing dragonfly, butterflies who have found their host plants in the dill of my herb garden or milkweed along the path, ladybugs who help control other insects, the earthworms in our compost, birds that sing a hallelujah chorus to us every morning., even the naughty squirrels that raid the bird feeder. Each has its own lesson to teach, its own joy to share. May I have eyes that see, ears that ear, and a heart tuned to sing God’s grace!
“Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea, Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.” ~ from Henry Van Dyke’s poem set to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
Of the many plants we tend in our garden, this fern has been around the longest. In fact, it is the only plant that has lived with us in a number of homes and gardens of all kinds and in different places. When we lived in an old Victorian house in the town both Joe and I grew up in, I found this plant in a garage sale. That was in 1981! So for over 30 years now, this fern has endured! In the 1980’s, it moved with us twice. When our family moved to California, then within a year to Indonesia, I left it in my sister’s care. When we came back to the U.S. in 1992, she gave it back to me! It has endured drought, hurricane force winds, various divisions and repotting. What stories have surrounded these fronds that keep on growing and greening! I guess you could call it a faithful fern. It lasts. It keeps on keeping on!
That is why it reminds me of the people in my life I am blessed to call friend, those who through many years and over distances of many miles and circumstance are still part of my life, outlasting storms and dry spells. I am grateful for fern and friends and the faithfulness of God in His provision and sustaining of that which keeps plants and relationships alive, enduring, and growing.
On the edge of our church’s prayer garden, a massive cedar tree stood like a guardian of the corner for many many years. Not as beautiful as the spreading arms of the oak tree nearby, yet its stature and twisted, pitted trunk, spoke story to all who stood beneath it. Because it was diseased and damaged, there had been concern about the damage it would do if it came down on its own, creating danger for the many children and adults passing underneath daily. The time came three weeks ago as a storm with high winds was forecast when a decision was made to fell the tree – a wise decision, but a sad one. Here are photos of the fallen giant and a small poem in memory of a very large friend.
If I had another life I would want to spend it all on some unstinting happiness.
I would be a fox, or a tree full of waving branches. I wouldn’t mind being a rose in a field full of roses.
Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition. Reason they have not yet thought of. Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what. Or any other foolish question.
-Mary Oliver, excerpted from “Roses, Late Summer”
I admire Mary Oliver’s poetry. These lines, as do so many of hers, tug at my heart with an “oh, yes.”
I read between her lines that for me are describing the desire to be rid of the prickling, thorny, uncomfortable, and sometimes unnecessary things on which we spend ourselves. Oliver chooses a fox, a rose, and a tree – all created by God and lovely, although we are never told those things were created in God’s image. Only man, with all his questions and fears, is said to be made like Him and for being with Him, not just His creation. Only we have reason and relationship. I revel in this life in relationship with my Creator and the family He has given me. I know who answers my foolish questions and calms my fears. I am practicing happiness as I celebrate this moment. I think Mary Oliver likes what lies between her lines when I read them.