Archive for January, 2010

The Glow of Patience

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Glowing Stones

Glowing Stones on Pebble Beach

One of the most striking characteristics of being on a beach is the contrast between the constant tumultuous onslaught of the waves and the comely patience exhibited by the rocks, pebbles and sand.  The beach faces the waves of the ocean, big or small, without fear or even a wince but on the contrary, uses the power of its turbulent water to obtain a polish that evokes calm and serenity in the hearts of its visitors.

This polished look did not happen overnight.  Much time had to pass before the beach could help people feel peaceful as they walked along it.  Old souls are like that as well.  They have this tranquility about them, this glow that only comes from from years of endurance, years of riding out the tribulations of life with demanding patience.  I was thinking about this the other day when read a qoute about patience online that now, in all my impatient frustration, I can no longer find; that patience is  conducting oneself with constancy in the face of both good and troubling times.  I wanted to use that quotation and while searching for it again, I found the above quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

When I read that, I said to myself – ‘Exactly!’  That is Mother Earth’s secrete.  Back in the spring of 2006 in Issue #10 of the Organic Light Photography Newsletter I examined what it meant to be patient.  Here is the last paragraph of that issue.  It seems fitting here.

Learning how to move at the speed of time: that is, finding a balance between haste and sloth, something that we call patience is really nothing other than living our lives at the speed of time. It seems like such a difficulty but in reality, it is not that hard. Everything is destined to occur when it is supposed to and nothing we do can bring a future moment in time to us any quicker nor can we do anything to slow time down. No one knows this better than one who has lived a long life. Something that occurred to me a few weeks ago while leading a workshop in Big Basin State Park in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Father of the Forest

 There in the middle of the forest was a tree that the park service had named the Father of the Forest. An ancient Sequoia Semperviren estimated to be older than 2000 years. With a girth of 70 feet at its base and towering more than 250 feet above the forest floor it truly did give the sense of standing at the foot of a great father. Its age most apparent from its shear size and wrinkled bark covered in moss. While other trees one-fourth its age or younger are found toppled over very near by, this tree stood firm. One cannot reach such an age without an immense amount of patience. Something the younger trees failed to learn from the ‘Old Man’ in their rush to uproot and just fall over. Patience is what allows one to grow old. It allows a person to live in the present, neither longing for the future nor sorrowing over the past, and to appreciate what one has from the many blessing we take for granted every day. It is truly humbling to think that this old tree waited all this time for me to come by to teach me the importance of patience. I can only hope that we as humans can learn to foster patience within ourselves so that we can live as peaceful a life as this ancient tree.

Peace to you all.

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“Whoever is not grateful for blessings is asking for them to vanish.  Whoever is grateful for them ties them up with their own tether.” ~ Ibn ‘Ata illah

All to often life takes hold of us and runs us so ragged that we forget to appreciate our blessings.  From our health to our homes to our friends each is such a blessing that words fail to adequately describe.  I don’t know if we ever really understand or appreciate the significance of these blessings.  I do know that I am guilty of forgetting and when confronted with the loss of a blessing, only then do I realize what a blessing it was.

The great spiritual Guide of the 13th century Ibn ‘Ata Illah in his famous Aphorisms said “Whoever is not grateful for blessings is asking for them to vanish.  Whoever is grateful for them ties them up with their own tether.”  2009 was a hard year for most of us.  We have seen much good fortune vanish.  Businesses have disappeared, jobs lost, homes foreclosed on, people left homeless and in some cases worse.  I need not remind  anyone of all that as we are still in the midst of the fallout, and we probably would all like to forget all that and move on to better times.

The consensus among all those who have written commentaries on the Aphorisms of Ibn ‘Ata illah is that we show ingratitude for our blessings when we misuse them.  Blessings are a gift from the Divine for us to use to bring us closer to the Divine, to recognize the Divine, to give thanks to the Divine and to show appreciation for what we have.  I think we could all understand how we would feel if we graciously gave someone a gift who then scoffed at, ridiculed and disregarded that gift.  We would be hurt, regretful for giving it and possibly wish that we could take it back.  It is chilling to think that being heedless of the good things in our lives would result in those very things being snatched away from us, but it does happen.

To tether our blessings we must appreciate them.  We must use them properly and care for them.  I am sure, like me, we all have more blessings than we can enumerate or even realize.  Nevertheless I want to reflect on two.

Photography is something that fell into my life that I never intended on.  It was truly a gift as it has helped me realize how beautiful a world we live in, which is an amazing blessing in its own right.  Every photo I make has significance to me and hopefully to others as well.  One photograph that I made in the spring of 2003, ‘After The Rain’, has risen head and shoulders above all the rest.

After The Rain

Photographed on the foundation of respecting another’s property while most were violating it, After The Rain, reached the 250th print sold late last month!  Most photographers that I run into on the art show circuit that offer limited edition photography limit their editions at 250, at such high number it is assumed the edition will really never be discontinued.   Reaching this number is a hallmark for me, a mark I never thought would occur but very grateful it was met and hopefully it will continue to meet new marks.

The caption that accompanies this photo eludes to showing gratitude for the rain – “As gentle rain falls from the sky it moistens the hard sun baked hills and the Earth drinks to its fill. Seeds, from a generation of grasses and flowers long gone, drink as well. And with that drink they start to come to life by the Mercy of the Merciful. In their gratitude for the Mercy of life they come out in blazing colors glorifying the One who sent them the Rain and the One who gave them Life. The Mercy of God, the Creator, follows the rain, as the Rain is God€™s Mercy. For without it, all life would cease. Be grateful for the rain, the flowers are.”

However, our gratitude needs to encompass much more than the rain and we need to appreciate every moment we have, the sweet ones as well as the bitter ones, for without the bitter moments, the sweet ones would not be as sweet.  At that level, we would find all of our blessings well tethered.

Desert Fare

The second blessing that I want to reflect on is the patron.  As an artist in business the patron is absolutely crucial.  In fact whether the business is art or the manufacturing of microwave energy wave guides for communication satellites, the end customer who seeks your product is king and needs to treated as such.  Even if you are an employee you still have a manager that comes to you for your contribution to the end product, a manager who must be pleased with your contribution, and then takes it and promotes it to the next level.  Displease your pseudo-customer and you could find yourself …well let’s not go there.

I have always known that customer service and satisfaction is key in business and I have always done my best to treat my patrons well.  And even though I was always grateful for a sale, a registration for instruction or any request for any of my many photographic services, I don’t think I was ever truly appreciative of their patronage until this past year.  Patrons were definitely far and few in between in the economic desert of 2009.  Much like the desert wildflower bloom of 2006, one of the meekest on record, as depicted in the photo ‘Desert Fare’ above, patrons were still there.  That spring did not dazzle photographers nor the viewers of the photos captured, but we photographed it anyway.  And like that, I still provided my services to those that still appeared from the barren economic wasteland we find ourselves in.  However, now each patron was the most important patron I ever had, for without them my ability to exist as a photographer would be put in jeopardy.

So I think that is all I have to say right now.  I know I lost some pretty heavy-duty blessings this past year and so I will definitely be tethering what I have left, you included – you are appreciated more than you know.  And hey if you think Organic Light is anything of a blessing in your life…well, I’ll let you put 2 and 2 together about how to tether it.

Peace to you all, and a better 2010!

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