I have this existential thing about needing to believe everyone, every thing on the planet, has a purpose.
Like mosquitos and blackflies are really really annoying, but they feed frogs and spiders and birds and fish and apparently are even good for the pollination of blueberries. And spiders are kinda creepy, but they make those awesome webs, and what would life be without the glint of light on their complex octagonal web shapes in the morning dew?
Monsieur Clown invited me to do a guest post over on one of his collaborative blogs, Black Box Warnings - here is the story...
Thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast images with some patterning before and after the application of an app, Glaze, that gives a further patterning effect…
Stripes on stripes – nature meets un-nature
Fallen cherry blossoms – chaos on structure
Floral patterns, twigs bent to a pattern, a wall of messy pattern
As it happens, for the last week or two I’ve been photographing patterns – snapshots, really, just to record the ones I see, to be able to remind myself of patterns.
These were all taken at the ROM, mostly through glass, just taking note of the variety of creativity used in patterns.
In a sense, any spiritual path is largely a matter of misdirection, something meant to conceal an appalling and marvelous fact…
~ Henry Shukman
There is the traditional idea of a 4 day fast in the outdoors being a Vision Quest – something that young men and women would do to find their direction, their animal, their medicine, their place in the world. But it’s something that can be done many times in a lifetime, separating oneself from the demands of everyday life and reconnecting with the Earth, with Spirit, with whatever Questions have arisen in ones life.
I went into the one last weekend with a desire to break down my ego, my identity, my idea of myself as I have constructed it thus far, and see what lay deep in my heart of hearts – to forget for a while who I think I am as a film industry person, kind of smart, cynical, jaded, or as a sole-support parent, strong, determined, or all the confused stories with men – a mid-life kind of Question.
But of course it was not all particularly pleasant – the ego resists.
The first stumbling block was on Saturday, when, having only been fasting for some 18 hours or so, we were required to stand in a semi-circle in the afternoon sun to receive Teachings before we went into the sweat lodge. As we stood there, listening, the sun beating down on our heads (I’d forgotten a hat), I saw the black begin to encroach on my peripheral vision and I fainted.
The ground was soft, the grass cool – somehow I didn’t fully lose consciousness as I usually do when this happens – and I lay there for a moment enjoying the moist cool grass until I was rested enough to get back up again.
Remarkably, no one noticed. We all crawled into the sweat and went through rounds of hot rocks and steam and drumming and song and were cleansed.
Later that evening, one of the helpers came by and asked how I was feeling. When I mentioned having fainted, there was a little flurry of activity and finally it was decided I should sleep on the couch in the house just in case, and do a modified version of the fast, eating a little when necessary.
I was pissed.
This was not the way it was supposed to go. This was not what I wanted, sleeping on the couch like a wuss. I wasn’t even especially hungry.
In the morning I went out around 5 to my tent and began the day, looking at the sky and listening to the birds and beginning the rounds of smudging and prayer and meditation, attempting to silence the chattering monkey mind.
Already I could see the hint of a lesson, already I could see that the thwarting of my willfulness, the denial of my ego’s determination to maintain an image of strength and self-sufficiency was something I would have to absorb as part of the process.
And the modifications didn’t really interrupt much – still the long hours of the days were spent on the land in silence, contemplating the water, the song of the birds, the shifts in the weather. I prayed and prayed for strong dreams, or for a visit from an animal, for some kind of moment, some special epiphany or revelation that would make coherent cohesive sense to the quest.
Sunday night I had a dream. But it was not the dream I was hoping for – there were no eagles or tigers or goddesses of light with magical purple stones and songs I would wake up singing… No. Just some jumbled stuff about hanging onto some crappy thin old futon mattresses, about not letting go of junk that it would really be best to let go of.
Out in the tent again, lighting my smudge, my thumb was getting calloused and burnt from the lighter, the sage and tobacco had almost run out. I was cleaning up my little area of paraphernalia when I noticed a small ball on the floor of the tent. Mud maybe? No, it had a smooth shape to it. I looked again – it was a curled up slug.
Ewww. A slug in my tent.
I looked at him for a moment and thought, well, slugs are kind of like snails but without the shell, and snails can be pretty, so…
So I found a little twig and let him crawl onto it and put him outside my tent door.
Once out in the wet dewy grass, the slug unfurled himself and began to crawl up a blade, slithering and swaying with a slow sensuous movement, with what looked like such delight in the wet, in the green, in his element. His antennae waved and contracted in the soft sunlight, his body swayed happily in the morning breeze. It was suddenly a moment of such great beauty, of such a tremendous simple joy in life itself, that I burst into tears.
That’s it, I thought. This is my creature-teacher. This is who has come to show me what I need to see about the universe, about life, about myself.
This is the lesson in humility, but also in the direct immediate sensuous pleasure in life itself.
Now, back at home again, I remind myself: I am a slug.
Just back from a 4-day fast at a lodge – The Lodge of the Sacred Fire of the Thunder – out at Six Nations.
The parameters: no food, no water, no electronic devices, no talking, no books. Only a tent, a sleeping bag, a journal, the necessary clothing, whatever spiritual paraphernalia – rattles and smudge essentials and the like – and the time and space to be at one with Mother Earth.
The first morning I woke up well before dawn, cold and stiff but thrilled at the cacophony of birdsong that surrounded me. Just outside the door of my tent lay a sea of sprinkles of frost, each blade of grass with a tiny little droplet at its tip.
It was so beautiful, of course I wanted to photograph it, but had no camera, no camera-phone even. All I could do was be in it, and marvel at its beauty. And the longer I was there, mute and helpless in the face of its perfection, the more I fell in love.
This is the heart of the teaching.
Hours and days were spent wandering the land, gazing out at the Grand River, watching the shifts in the weather, the shapes of the clouds, listening to the rain, the call and answer of all the different birds, observing the strange movements of the animals, the insects, becoming acquainted with the dried husks of last year’s blossoming, seeing the small buds of the new season begin.
This is culture when its center is the Earth, the Sky, the Waters, the Fire.
Back at home, I commune with my camera, my computer, my phone.
I do love them too, but not quite as much.