Beauty in Unlikely Places

Last week as I started to step up into my truck to leave and begin a list of errands, I walked by beauty I would surely have missed if I had not stopped to look at a spot on the garage floor. I bent to look closer and was flooded with pleasure at finding this  art right there in the middle of an otherwise unattractive canvas. The beveled glass in a side door to the garage was a prism creating a spot of perfect rainbow colors. It was just the right moment of time and light and I stepped unknowingly into that moment. It was a Mary Oliver “pay attention and be astonished” time, however brief.

I believe we miss many of those moments because we are not paying attention and do not expect to find them. Opportunities like this one call me to slow down, stop, and wonder..

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson




Surprised by God

IMG_1406This folk art crèche from Mexico was given to us as a 25th wedding anniversary present.  We lived then in Indonesia, and many of our friends were expats who had lived around the world.  The couple who gave it  had names similar to ours and the gift tag read  “A Mary and Joe from Mary and Joe to Mary and Joe!’

Thinking of Mary and gentle Joseph as simple Joe and Mary somehow gives another dimension to these little nativity figures. seeing my sweet granddaughters as they laugh and cry and run to hug me helps me give flesh to Mary , too. In her innocence, trust,  and willingness to say yes to what seemed impossible, she modeled for me the miraculous outcome of being surprised by God.  This touches me in a way that none of the Madonna masterpieces in all of art history.


Yes, we have seen the studies, sepia strokes

across yellowed parchment, the fine detail

of hand and breast and the fall of cloth –

Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Titian, El Greco, Rouault – each complex madonna plotted at last

on canvas, layered with pigment, like the final

draft of a poem after thirty-nine roughs.

But Mary, virgin, had no sittings, no chance

to pose her piety, no novitiate for body or

for heart. The moment was on her unaware;

the Angel in the room, the impossible demand,

the response without reflection. Only one

word of curiosity, echoing Zechariah’s How?

The teen head tilted in light, the hand

trembling a little at the throat the candid

eyes, wide with acquiescence to shame and glory –

“Be it unto me as you have said.”

from Accompanied by Angels, Poems of the Incarnationn, by Luci Shaw

Small Silent Places

100_1868I sit very still and silent on this early Advent morning as light enters for a new day, casting shadow art on the wall that shifts and changes like rippling water – for me an illustration of the intersection of art and faith. I think of the ways God lets us know He is with us.

“In the small, silent places within us is another voice, one that beckons us into the foolishness of faith, that points our gaze to the birds and the flowers, that, in unguarded moments lets our muscles relax, and our hearts lean into loved ones, in unexpected whispers we hear it, calling us to remember your promises, your grace, your faithfulness, and suddenly, we discover that it is enough.   Amen”   John Van De Laar


Of Gardens and Poetry


A garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy.
~ Luis Barragan

 plants and rocks and water

change with every shift of light

 mystery of creation

murmuring  stories

singing ancient songs

Alchemy of Sorrow


shattered petals fall

fragrant still

garden gift of grace

“Sorrow fully accepted brings its own gifts. For there is alchemy in sorrow. It can be transmitted into wisdom, which, if it does not bring joy, can yet bring happiness.”

— Pearl S. Buck

Light Comes


Advent: season of waiting, expecting, preparing. One morning recently, I walked toward my front door and stopped, stilled with the beauty of light and shadow which shimmered in early morning sun streaming through our leaded glass door. As I received these images with my camera, I considered how much our Advent and Christmas pondering is like this – the shining of Light into our lament and darkness, beyond our closed doors, past our barriers of grief or bewilderment, settling into the curve of yearning in our hearts to create that  which can strike us still with its mystery.

“The light would never be so acceptable, were it not for that usual intercourse of darkness. . .God will have them that shall walk in light to feel now and then what it is to sit in the shadow of death. A grieved spirit therefore is no argument of a faithless mind.    ~Richard Hooker

” I’ve remembered this truth again and again as my ups decline into downs, my highs into lows. This reminder only confirms what I know but still need to learn. Light comes not in spite of the darkness, but to balance and penetrate it.”  ~Luci Shaw



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.

Video from KarmaTube

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.

Art of Advent

Art of Advent

Cherishing story and image long loved

Opening to untold story, unpainted canvas

Breathing lingering frankincense and myrrh

Gathering rosemary, remembering.

Opening to untold story, unpainted canvas

Blessing fresh possibility

Gathering rosemary, remembering

Unfurling swirl of mystery

Blessing fresh possibility

Breathing lingering frankincense and myrrh

Unfurling swirl of mystery

Cherishing image and story

Framed Art

My kitchen window frames an ever-changing work of art.  The Morning Glory and Moon Flower Vines grow and twine, spreading their heart-shaped leaves for morning sun to cast light through.  The pea vine tendrils hurry to fill the gaps.  Then there are the blooms!  White tissue paper blooms at night for the Moon Flowers.  Rich purple trumpets herald morning for the Glories, and the brightest cerulean blue buds are offered by the pea vine. If that weren’t enough show and variation, light changes the colors as the sun moves across the sky all day long.  I know it is just a window frame, but the gifts of the Creator it contains are never the same twice, and always make me breath a “Thank You” as I reach to pour my coffee early in the day, and at every kitchen sink task all day long.