I often speak of lessons I learn from my garden. I learn, too, from my grandchildren – all of them. My favorite lessons (and photographs) come suddenly. If I am not quick with thought and camera, I may miss the moment entirely.
Nora, like me, loves to be outdoors. Our back porch and yard face north, and the past 2 months have been unusually windy. The wind pushes over waters of the small lake behind our house,whipping tender foliage and flower petals and Nora’s long hair. She does not like the way the wind gets her hair in the way of what she is doing. On the day I took this picture, she had just told me she was mad at the wind, shook her fist at it, and yelled “Go away, wind!”
Of course, the wind did not go away I was not enjoying the wind myself, but when I look at this photo, I see much that is often missed in posed photography. Nora learned focus and determination in imperfect circumstance. The same wind that blew pillows off the porch rocker, snatched petals from the roses, and caused the tousling of a chlld’s hair was responsible for tears a grandmother shed over beauty.
Photograph courtesy of Jeremy Parker, January 2018
burst of beginning light-
clouds and water reflect
Grace in this new day.
Feather on the Breath of God
pay attention, be astonished writes Mary Oliver.
be still and know says a Psalm poem
what will surprise me today?
am I ready to receive that gift?
in shade under pine trees
stepping slowly through pine needles
careful in this dark corner
I laughed to find
one bright spot
from caterpillar to chrysalis
she watched and smiled and waited
gift unwrapped, waiting done
girl and butterfly, quivering with excitement
lift new wings and fly!
heart petals unfold
opening to mystery
leaving room for new seed
“Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the ploughshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring.”
Henri Frederic Amiel
I A few weeks ago Joe and I had a business appointment in Houston and stopped by to get lunch in a busy restaurant that is famous for the delicious enchiladas prepared in its kitchens. We enjoyed our lunch, but the food is not what stopped me on my way out. In the middle of an adjacent dining room sat this magnificent carved prayer rail. It might have seemed oddly out of place if not for its careful placement on wonderful Mexican tiles and my sudden realization that it delivered a powerful message: You can pray anywhere.
I quickly took my photo and wondered if anyone ever takes the invitation to kneel. All the way home I wondered about the prayer rail and thought of the stories it could tell. How many bent knees and clasped hands have rested on its dark wood? The same God who heard those prayers heard mine offered in gratitude.
bright in this dark spot
on evening’s path,
I find a star.
tomorrow the glow will fade,
breath and wish will blow it away
but for this moment
it is my gift of light
photograph by Jeremy Parker
When I first saw this photo, I almost missed the tiny, solitary figure of my 11 year old granddaughter standing still to gaze at the beauty of this mountain lake in Nevada. She and her sister hiked here with their Daddy, my son. They fished for trout in the clear cold water. I am thrilled to see that Maddie also stood still and experienced the wonder of tall reaching evergreens, and glistening lake with its ripples and reflections. I like to think about the beauty she experienced here, the sounds and fragrance of the woods. I have seen her Dad stand still and wonder, too. I believe moments like this do come suddenly, as glimpses, when we turn a corner. I am thankful I can experience this with her, prompted by a photo, felt deeply in my heart.
We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes… –Madeleine L’Engle, from The Rock That Is Higher
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