Friday, February 21, 2014

Icicle Contemplation

This morning, it is nearly 40 degrees (F) outside, and I am sitting on the porch looking out the window and watching icicles melt slowly. I have been experiencing some anxiety about the day ahead, but watching the icicles drip calms me. Being so absorbed, I notice that I am not thinking about my appointments. Mindfulness of the melting icicles has cut through the anxiety.


And then I begin to focus on each drop of water that falls intermittently from the icicles that line my windows like exterior curtains. I'm drawn in and focus intently on each droplet. How are they speaking to me? What do they have to teach or awaken in me?

It's the water cycle, of course - as so often is the case. Each drop of water connects us with everyone else - and all life - on our planet. We live in a gigantic terrarium in which each drop of water is recycled endlessly as it passes through liquid, vapor, and solid states depending on the conditions. Water is always on the move; it doesn't stay the same.

I was especially transfixed by the point at which gravity freed each droplet from the icicle it had been part of. What was that like for the water droplet? Does it experience freedom or limitation when it is a clearly defined droplet? Or both? Does it fear landing and losing its individuality?


 What is it like to exist without a human mind?

As I watched each droplet fall from the tip of the icicle to the snowbank below, I wondered if the drop seemed like a lifetime to the water droplet. What is time like for a water droplet?


Does it remember being a snowflake, a dewdrop, a cloud, a river, a tear?

After many lifetimes, does it get easier separating from and reuniting with something larger than itself? Does it prefer being an individual or losing its individuality as it merges with others to take on the collective identity of an icicle, a puddle, an ocean? After it has become a snowbank, a river, steam fog vapor, and becomes a raindrop once again, is it intact or made of molecules from other former snowflakes and dewdrops, as well?

And then I think of our relationship with water. Our bodies are composed largely of water. And water also exists outside of us; we can collect it from a spring, pour it into a glass, and drink it. We have rivers running through us, and we can swim in rivers, as well. Water runs through us, is part of us, and exists apart from us. Boundaries are blurred.

As usual, when I contemplate water, I realize we are not separate from the rest of life. Living things are never lost, only transformed. We just might not recognize the dewdrop when it becomes water vapor and returns as a snowflake or a feather in a frost painting that appears on our window one morning.


That thought makes me smile.

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The photographs in this blog and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a "custom print" in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears. 

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Science of Frost

Fascination. Awe. Astonishment. Wonder. Bliss.

All these words describe what I feel when I am immersed in a white-frosted wonderland on frigid winter mornings.


As with other natural phenomena, I tend to fall in love first. Pure astonishment and wonder, like a child. Then, sooner or later, I want to know more about the subject of my fascination, do some research, and see how the research compares with my own observations. And I like it that way because I think too much knowledge to begin with can get in the way of wonder and awe. I also suspect that fascination is an important part of the learning process for many people. (Perhaps even a learning style?) Help me to open my eyes and be fascinated by something, and then I'll not only want to learn more about it but also will want to: 1) know how it's connected with everything else, and 2) take care of it. That, in my opinion, is the role of a true teacher. In the current, data-obsessed educational climate, it seems the only outcomes that are deemed ultimately important are those that can be quantified, measured, and monitored. Imagine if fascination were given such importance in schools! Quantifying fascination, caring, connection, creativity, etc. sounds utterly absurd, but imagine the implications of gauging the health and effectiveness of our educational system in part on such attributes! My guess? More engaged learners, for starters. A new generation with a passion for learning.

Anyway... Back to the current focus of my fascination: frosted trees on frigid mornings.


It seems the technical name for my current photography obsession (a.k.a. "the effect") is either hoar frost or rime ice. I'm leaning toward hoar frost, but the two can be quite similar in appearance and are distinguished by how they are formed. Hoar frost is like frozen dew and develops when water vapor (gas) freezes (becomes solid), whereas rime ice occurs when supercooled water droplets (liquid) freeze (become solid) upon contact with a cold surface (such as a tree branch). From what I understand, hoar frost forms uniformly around exposed surfaces, whereas rime ice is deposited on the windward side.

  
However, the more I read about hoar frost and rime ice, the more confused I get when I zoom in and scrutinize my photos because I swear I can see both. Some photos suggest hoar frost, whereas others seem to clearly show rime ice. So the jury is still out, and my inquiring mind intends to consult a meteorologist for answers. There is a lot of steam fog rising from the surface of the river in the area I like to photograph, but it seems the pertinent question is whether the vapor froze before or as a result of coming into contact with the tree branches.

Trying to get some clarity, I brought my macro lens outdoors this morning, and here is what I captured: 



Basically, this is why I get so excited when the temperature is below zero when the sun rises and I don't have to rush off to work. Whatever it's called, the effect is stunning! 


It is also dazzling when the frost falls in gentle, shimmering frost showers throughout the morning. (There is probably a technical term for that, too, but I'm going to just enjoy the show and leave it at that.)


Here is some brief video I took of that happening:

 
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Again, I can't tell for sure where the frost showers come from: the crystals deposited on the tree branches or the air. After observing the frost showers for a while, I noticed the trees had lost some of their white coating. There was a gentle breeze at the time.

Whatever the technical term is, the bottom line is that I am grateful for the opportunity to experience the beauty of four distinct seasons, especially during years like this when winter reveals its full glory!


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The photographs in this blog and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a "custom print" in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears. 

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Friday, February 14, 2014

On Perception (and Frosted Trees)

What a winter we have been having here in the Northeast! Lots of snow and frigid temperatures. But it is also the most exquisitely beautiful winter I can recall!

In early January, I fell in love with frosted trees. It's as if they appeared for the first time out of nowhere, leaving me wondering why they'd never made an impression on me before - and also causing me to anticipate sub-zero (°F) mornings with great excitement.

One morning last week, I woke up, looked out the front windows, and to my surprise and delight, the island in front of our house was frosted with ice crystals, as were all the trees along the river.


I couldn't remember that ever happening before right in front of our house. Surely, it must have at some point, but it probably didn't register because I wasn't looking for it. Seems we tend to believe what we can perceive and tend to perceive what we are looking for! And there are certain habitual ways in which each of us perceives the world around us, leaving so much to fall outside of our radar.

That reminds me of an image that came to me recently, all of a sudden. I'd love to draw it but think it's beyond my current skill level! It's an image of a picture frame surrounding a scene containing separate shapes that look like people, a hill, a sun in the sky, etc. But the complete picture extends WAY beyond the frame. The frame seems to be the size of a postage stamp, and the picture is at least the size of a house. But I couldn't even see the complete picture. It seemed to extend beyond the limits of my perception even when I zoomed way out. But the part I could see was like an enormous, intricate mandala or fractal pattern, and the separate figures inside the tiny frame actually extended beyond the frame and were all linked together in the larger pattern; they weren't separate after all. Oh, I wish I could draw it because words don't do it justice! It reminded me of the warehouse metaphor Anita Moorjani used to describe what she perceived during her near-death experience, which I wrote about in a previous post.

Getting back to that beautiful, frosted morning... It happened to be a work day, and when I left the house, the sun had risen just enough to flood the frosted island with light and make it glisten enchantingly.


Although I don't usually perceive the world musically, that morning's extraordinary crystal sunrise was accompanied in my head by a song that has yet to be born. I still can hear every detail in my mind, and only three words that repeated like a mantra: All is yes. Again, my level of skill does not allow me to adequately express it musically with the light, playful harp or electric piano accompaniment and the mature female voices I heard in the theater of my mind. Words are inadequate. But every morning since when I notice the frosted tree "effect," the song plays again in my mind like a joyous celebration.


Of course, I couldn't help it. I had to make a brief detour on the way to work to do the February equivalent of stopping to smell the roses. In fact, I got into the habit of wearing my cold-weather outdoor pants and boots on the way to work and changing into my work clothes upon arrival, for I cannot resist compelling scenery along the way. There have been a few mornings when I deeply regretted not being able to linger for an extra 15 minutes in the frigid cold!


One recent morning, I dreamt that I had become close friends with a renowned photographer. We hit it off instantly and were like platonic soulmates. I was able to ask him all kinds of photography questions. It was like I had my own photography dream mentor! (Upon waking, I had the impression that it was Louie Schwartzberg, my favorite cinematographer.) And it didn't surprise me at all that, in waking life, it ended up being the most perfect morning ever for winter photography. And it wasn't a work morning, either! I snowshoed for hours with my camera in the sub-zero, frosted wonderland along the river and was filled with peace and joy. Nature medicine at its finest!

I came home and described the wonder of the silence (punctuated occasionally by the sound of a woodpecker knocking) and the gentle frost showers that seemed to fall from the frosted trees, high up where the rising mist turned to ice crystals. Those closest to me expected I'd write a poem about it, but instead I created a video.

Even when it seems endless (which it's not!), winter can be downright dazzling! I invite you to enter the lovely stillness, peace, and joy that I experienced that morning. This is my valentine to you. Happy Valentine's Day!



Email subscribers: Click HERE to view video.
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFp3mXBjLrM&feature=youtu.be

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The photographs in this blog, in the above video, and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a "custom print" in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears. 

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Be That Now

"When we know ourselves and pursue our own path, there is only one possible end to it and that is self-fulfillment." -Sister Joan Chittister

There has been a lot of Big Stuff going on in my family lately between my mom's pancreatic cancer, my dad's sudden hospitalization and surgery, and my children's father being diagnosed with lymphoma. It's pretty crazy. When I called my spiritual guide for guidance, I learned that she had been in a serious car accident with her husband and was in a body cast.

What is going on here?

Well, the obvious answer is: Life. And, I imagine, quite a bit of transformation, too.

Dissatisfied with certain aspects of my life situation, I had been wondering for a while what's next. Where does my energy want to go? And while that question still lingered unanswered, the above crises manifested. In the midst of it all, one day the words "mindfulness coach" suddenly arrived in my awareness. And I have been feeling drawn to work that is holistic and healing in nature - or at least a holistic, healing-oriented environment.

Two weeks ago, my dad was admitted to the hospital for surgery, and my sister and I took turns staying with our mother and visiting our dad in the hospital until he was discharged five days later. The first night I stayed with my mom, I had a fascinating dream in which I was walking along my favorite gorge trail in Ithaca, New York during the winter. I'd never been on it in the winter and began by driving (which couldn't be done in waking life), but it was only plowed a short way. So I got out of my car and began walking the trail and was surprised to see that lots of other people had the same idea. (I didn't realize you could access the trail during winter, and in waking life a large portion of that trail has been closed for several years). Some people had even set up their own personal spaces along the trail. At the top of a hill, two rainbows - possibly both double rainbows - appeared in the sky at the same time. I continued walking and ran into a woman I apparently knew. I told her of my desire to be a healer. She was an energy healer and immediately went into a trance standing only a couple inches in front of me, to see what she could pick up about me as a healer. Soon, it seemed another entity came through her. I felt the energy shift very strongly and physically. (It even seemed to jolt my actual physical body.) Then she put her hands together so her thumbs and other fingers were touching and formed a circle from which a lapis lazuli colored light emanated.

I've often heard that what you seek is already in you waiting to be discovered and activated. The essence of the thing you want to do (when you whittle it down to its core) need not wait until the future when you have more education or a different employment or financial situation. You can do it - and be it - now. For instance, a wise woman helped me to realize that my waking intuition and dream-time desire to be a healer doesn't necessarily indicate a career change that would require me to go back to school (which really doesn't appeal to me). It's something I can do right now without changing any of the outer details of my life.

I have had enough life experience to know that my happiness ultimately does not depend on changing circumstances or conditions, but developing a harmonious relationship with the present moment - transforming reality from the inside out. Accepting responsibility for our own happiness implies not making excuses for why we can't be happy now or putting happiness off until some future time when circumstances and conditions are finally aligned. My wise mentor encouraged me to realize that I already am a healer by the way in which I share my photography and interact with my students, family, and others. Being a healing presence does not require another graduate degree. It requires being present and allowing that presence to flow through me and make my own little corner of the world a better place.

I have received formal education in psychology, social work, and transpersonal psychology, and my first serious career aspiration was to be a clinical or counseling psychologist. I thought that was the only way I could help others to enhance their psychospiritual health. However, I think about my hair stylist and how uplifted I feel after an appointment with her. What my hair looks like is beside the point; it's the way I feel after talking with her. She is a healer. Anyone, in any position, can be a healer via their authentic presence. What matters is that we can find something to love enough to continue doing our paid work so our authentic essence can flow into the world. We need to be aligned with the present moment, which is much easier than waiting for conditions to align! When we are aligned with "what is" right now, we experience joy. And our energy is a blessing to the world that can ripple onward.


Perhaps there will come a time when it feels right to make changes. But for me, that time is not now. Now it's time to retreat into the sanctuary of the present moment and find peace, experience grace, and bring presence into action.
 
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 © Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.