Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Through Day-Blooms and Beads of Dew

This post was originally published on July 7, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.

This morning, I didn't start off in an ideal state of mind. I was consumed by thought and longed for circumstances to be different. I'm in the midst of making a major life change, and some days it takes more work than others to pull up the weeds of doubt and cultivate the faith necessary to "advance confidently in the direction of [my] dreams and endeavor to live the life which [I have] imagined," as described by Henry David Thoreau.

I went outside to get my sneakers from the car so I could take a walk. The daisies and spearmint leaves were still covered with dew, and the chicory and daylilies were opening, for it was their day to bloom - their one day to open up and offer their vivid colors to the world, to attract pollinators and play a starring role in the circle of life. It's the day they've been preparing for, the day they for which they were created. Daylilies take full advantage of their day in the sun by remaining in bloom for the duration, whereas delicate chicory flowers close around mid-day when the sun is most intense.


I stopped in my tracks to listen to the advice the day-blooming flowers offered about making the most of a brief existence. They said:
Quick!
Dry your eyes!
There's so much living to do.
Get to it! 
The day is young,
and the day is short.
Wake up and engage it.
Don't waste a moment
Wallowing in longing or regret.
You have this one day to work with 
the material of Here and Now
So make the most of it.

How interesting that the Chinese name for the daylily, xuan-cao, can be translated as "forget-worry herb" or "the plant of forgetfulness" because it was believed to alleviate worries by causing one to forget. When I stopped to connect with the essence of the daylilies, I forgot mine!

Then delicate beads of dew clinging to the leaves of weeds commanded my attention. Their existence as a single bead of dew is even briefer than a chicory bloom. If you sleep in or rush past, you'll miss them and never know they were there in the first place.


For about a half hour, I was transfixed by beads of dew on common weeds and captured 80 thoughtfully composed images in all. It was my morning meditation.


If someone were to walk by and see me gazing intently with my camera pointed at a patch of ordinary, green weeds, they'd probably consider it a bit odd. But if you were to look closer, you'd see the beads of dew clinging to the edges of the leaves and perhaps would find poetry in the shapes, contours, patterns, and reflections.


Spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, explains that making the present moment the focal point of attention produces a shift in consciousness from conditioned to unconditioned awareness. Even something as small as a bead of dew on the edge of a leaf can transport you from an unconscious, habitual state of mind to spacious presence and stillness. It can bring you back to the present moment and free you from the tyranny of the incessantly chattering monkey mind.
"And then you notice a miraculous thing... You see aliveness and beauty around you that you didn't see before. When you are in that aware presence, a deeper intelligence begins to operate in your life." -Eckhart Tolle
That deeper intelligence is where the juice is. It's where life really flows. Tapping into that is like entering an alchemical dimension.

As a Four on the Enneagram, my default programming tends toward romanticized thinking and idealization of what is not available here and now. Transformation for someone like me involves releasing wasteful fantasies and romantic longings and connecting with what is here right now and allowing presence and gratitude to arise. Presence and gratitude are potent elixirs for an alchemical life.

Instead of lamenting over what feels unattainable right now or feeling anxious about the future, through my half hour with the blooming flowers and dewdrops I was able to become conscious of the present moment, connect with what is, and do what I love most (photography). As I see it, that is making the most of the moment at hand and following the advice of the daylilies. It is a first step in the direction of engaging the magic and transformed the quality of my energy.

And it doesn't have to take a half hour. Awareness can arise in an instant when we pause to connect with the life that surrounds us.


The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) 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, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’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 (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Luna Moth Encounter

This post was originally published on June 18, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.

Last night, I did something I'd never done before: I attended a group session with a psychic medium. And it was mind-blowing. I hadn't planned to do it, but it's interesting how the universe works.

It all began with a visit from a luna moth Sunday night.

I was doing some work on the porch that evening. Before going to bed, I put everything away and proceeded to shut the porch windows. As I approached the last window, I noticed a lovely, emerald-toned luna moth about five inches wide, with elegant, feathery antennae, suspended on the screen. She seemed to be looking at me, waiting for me to notice. I gasped with amazement.


I'd never seen a luna moth before and had wanted to ever since reading Eric Carle's picture book, The Very Quiet Cricket, to my children when they were young. Even though I was quite tired, I took out my gear and spent the next 45 minutes photographing the luna moth from inside and outside the porch.


It felt like a very special visit, and before I turned out the lights, I pressed my hands together in a prayerful gesture, bowed to the luna moth, and thanked her for visiting.

Then I did something I never do, not knowing why: I woke up Jack to tell him there was a luna moth on the porch window. It was action driven by pure intuition. And then he did something he doesn't normally do: Instead of grouching at me for disturbing his sleep, he sat up and, in an interested tone of voice asked, "Really?" I was surprised that he wanted to see the luna moth. Unbeknownst to me, before he fell asleep, he saw a picture of one online and thought strongly about how much he wants to see one because he never had before. He fell asleep with the picture of the luna moth on his phone and thoughts of it in his head. In addition, he had an experience during the day that brought to mind someone named Luna. So when he saw the luna moth on the porch - right next to the table where he does his spiritual reading and writing every morning - it was very powerful and significant for him. The next day, after he explained the significance to me, I summed it up by saying that what we are seeking is also seeking us.

I went to work in the morning, and a woman who was a substitute teacher in the building had some free time and was sent to my classroom to help out. After the children went to lunch, we talked for a while. We'd conversed once earlier in the year when she was helping in my classroom.

I sensed we were on a similar wavelength and told her I had a story to share with her that I thought she'd understand. So I told her about the luna moth on the window screen, and she got the significance of it. The conversation deepened, and she asked me if I'd ever been to a psychic medium. She planned to attend a session later in the week and thought I might be interested in going and wrote down the information. The way she spoke of him gave me a good feeling. Even though it was an incredibly busy week with report cards due, my intuition nudged me to go.

So I did, along with my adult daughter, an open mind, and no expectations. When the psychic medium, Adam, entered the freshly smudged room filled with the earthy fragrance of sage, I felt immediately drawn to his gentle, loving, joyful energy. No ego! As he explained the process to us before beginning, the electricity went out - something which apparently hadn't happened there before! It's often said that disembodied spirits are able to manipulate electricity, and I felt the presence of spirits was strong.

The session lasted for two and a half hours, and there were probably 20 women (interestingly, no men) in attendance. An hour and a half into it, nobody had "come through" for me, and we took a brief break. I went to the deserted second floor to use the bathroom and whispered, "Come on, Mom! Where are you?" In my mind, I heard her say, "I'm here! I'm just waiting my turn." And that would be so like her - to stand back graciously and allow others to go first. She was never one to push her way to the front.

When the session resumed, Adam led us through a meditation to help us connect with loved ones who have passed on. My grandmother came through first, followed by my mom. (They were the same two who came to my daughter, seated next to me.) I asked each of them a question and received an answer. Then Adam went back to connecting with the spirits who were gathered to communicate through him. At one point, I heard my mom's voice inside my head say, "I'm next!" and my heart began to pound. Then Adam said my sister's name and mentioned a young boy with a musical connection. He said "she" (the spirit) was with him a lot. He said he saw an acoustic guitar, and I knew it was my mom coming through, so I spoke up.

For the next 10-15 minutes, so much information came through to my daughter and me from my mom and my grandmother! It seemed like my grandmother was there but letting my mom do the talking - which was often the case during their earthly existence. I am not going to relate specific information, but the content that came through via images, words, and the "language" of intuition was astonishingly accurate and meaningful. (I hadn't provided any personal information beforehand other than my first name when I signed in.)

Adam described features of a landscape I had been to recently and said that my mom had been there with me. He quoted - word for word - something my son had said to me three days prior about the ways in which my mom and I are alike and different. He knew my mom died of cancer and said she'd had it for two years then immediately corrected himself because he saw her bring her hands closer together in a "shortening" gesture and said she had it for two years but only knew about it for a few months. He referenced that I make "good bread" (which is true) and said that she (or my grandmother?) is with me when I make bread.

In addition to seeing an acoustic guitar, he saw an airplane and a theater stage. If I could illustrate my mom's life in three symbols, those would be the ones I'd choose. She was passionate about learning to play guitar during the final years of her life, had a career as a flight attendant early in life, and enjoyed a long career working at a performing arts center for 35 years, until retiring only a few years before she died. She and my dad met when they both worked for the airlines and always loved to travel. For her funeral services, the three objects on the altar (as per her instructions) were her guitar, her flight attendant hat, and an autographed baton given to her by her favorite conductor.


Adam explained that my mom is still very strong around me because I talk to her frequently, and she wanted me to know that I need not worry about these conversations keeping her earthbound because it's perfectly healthy and fine, and she has free will to come and go. That really spoke to me because when I have my conversations with her - out loud if I'm alone or inside my head if I'm not - I often tell her that I don't want to pull her back here. I worry that missing her so much or trying to communicate with her will prevent her from moving on to where she needs to be. So this seemed to be a direct response from her to my very sincere concerns about that. Adam didn't say this to anyone else in the room.

The experience leaves me convinced that Adam truly was in touch with a dimension in which our deceased loved ones continue to exist. I could write many more paragraphs about the content that came through - meaningful and relevant content, including specific messages to my daughter and me and details about us that very few people are aware of. However, it would be difficult to truly understand the potency of it without experiencing the energy in the room. That is something I can't convey verbally. I've continued to process the experience for the past 24 hours, making connections and remembering more details. One connection I didn't make until this morning was that right when the energy was shifting from someone else to my daughter and me, Adam saw the image of a butterfly and said that when certain animals are around you, the spirit of your loved one is with you.

The luna moth!

The same luna moth that led me to Adam's group session in the first place, when I followed my intuition and shared the encounter with someone I barely knew.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) 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, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’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 (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Floating Under the Moonless Sky

This post was originally published on June 16, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.

Oh, the bliss of being out here on the river during late sunset! Come float with me.

It's getting dark. The colors in the sky are quite vivid, and I'm floating in my kayak. The birds are singing their goodnight songs, the frogs are croaking, and I'm feeling incredibly light. There is an unidentified, sweet, floral fragrance in the air, and so far I've seen two beavers swim by me. Such peace! I breathe slowly and deeply.
 

I have not a care in the world. Everything is right with my world. Everything is hush. All personal concerns are so far away when I'm out here floating. They can't reach me and have no pull on me. I smile and fill with joy.

The colors deepen from moment to moment. Being under this sky is like watching an enormous Polaroid picture developing.


I worked an 11-hour day today and have so much to do in the next eight days that it makes my head spin when I think about it. But not right now. Now is all just peace. I feel so light. I'm dictating into a voice recorder so I can write, and then I will write so I can remember that this state of being exists. It's one big ahhhhhh.

The first light I see is a plane making its way across the sky as its reflection sails across the water, almost like the flight of a mosquito because of the gentle ripples on the surface of the water bouncing it around.

This is the real me. The unconditioned stillness. I recall when I felt grief deep down in my bones. Now I feel peace and joy just as deep. A line from Kahlil Gibran's "On Joy and Sorrow" from The Prophet goes through my mind: "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." It's not an unbridled, frenetic joy but a balanced, full-bodied joy steeped in tranquility. When you've been down as low as I've been recently, it's such a blessing to feel this way. You really appreciate it.

I perceive a lengthy decrescendo of birdsong. Fewer birds are singing now.

I observe two pinpoints of light in the sky, which I determine (after several minutes) to be celestial bodies, perhaps Venus and Jupiter. One is larger and brighter, and the other is tinier, fainter, and higher above the horizon. I could have sworn they were airplanes. It's so hard to tell what's moving and what's stationary out here. I'm drifting on the water, the clouds are floating in the sky, and I can't tell if the pinpoints of light are moving or if everything around them is.

The sky grows dimmer, and the air becomes cooler. It feels wild to be out on this great river alone with all these sounds in the stillness under the darkening sky. I feel so alive, even tingling. Surely, this spacious serenity is my more natural, open state. It feels like being Home.

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have this wish I wish tonight.
I wonder: What does my heart wish for? To follow love, not fear, and to experience right now what it would be like to let that energy flow like this river. Imagining this makes my whole body smile. Makes me feel vibrant and liberated.

I look in the direction of the swamp - where the frogs are croaking in the distance - and notice what at first glance appears to be car lights coming down the road. But they're not. The fireflies have come out! I've been waiting to see them flashing their light in the darkness, looking for love. The light show has begun. Now there are no birds singing at all. The sky is almost completely dark. There will be no moon tonight.


The first few stars are twinkling in the sky, the fireflies are flashing below, and all the light is reflected on the water like a mirror. Some fireflies are near the ground, and some are way up at the very tops of the trees.

The sight I'm most drawn to (besides the light of the fireflies) is the rippling light on the water, the reflection of the last remaining light in the sky. Light and darkness dance on the surface of the water in a wavy pattern.

I barely can make out a beaver swimming in front of me. I can only tell by the interplay of light and shadows moving silently on the surface of the water. If I were to start paddling, the beaver would slap its tail on the water, adding a percussive touch - like a kettledrum - to the swamp symphony.

Now there's almost no light whatsoever, so I decide to head back to the dock. This is such a different state of consciousness than the gravity of being on land.

But there is grace upon returning home, for the light of hundreds of fireflies flashes in the back yard in a spectacular light show. It looks magical, like the light of hundreds of fairies - and fills me with delight.

I hope you can feel it, too.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) 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, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’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 (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Waking from the Dream

This post was originally published on June 13, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.


The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
-Hafiz

I'm getting tired of writing about grief and loss. My plan was to write my way through the first year without my mom. It's not that I thought the feelings of loss would disappear or diminish after the one year marker had come and gone. I just didn't want to dwell on them - for there is so much else going on! So much else to write about! Positive, beautiful stuff.

There have been many moments in the past week when ordinary images have awakened me in some way. For example, waking up to the rising sun shining through the window filled me with gratitude and a simple prayer: May we rise in the morning fully aware of the value of the gift of this new day and resolve to bring our highest self into expression. In other words, may we wake up and shine! May the first thought we think when we wake up in the morning be positive and hopeful and set the tone for the day.


On the creek yesterday afternoon, I was able to get closer than usual to a great blue heron and was impressed by the bird's keen attention, which I interpreted as not thinking or planning but simply being fully present, and from that state of presence discerning where to be, what to do, and when to act. The heron reawakened me to the value of here-and-now presence.


Opportunities to awaken and expand our consciousness surround us all the time, whether or not we notice them. It's a matter of mindfulness and perception.

I could write about either of the above images - or many others, as well. But this is an extraordinarily hectic time of year as I wrap up yet another school year and attend to a dizzying array of paperwork, meetings, and deadlines. There really isn't much time to write during most of June, so I haven't. Then along comes something that demands to be written, immediately - for last night, I dreamed of my mom. And it threw me.

I barely had enough time to fall asleep before I dreamed that I walked out of the living room, and when I returned, my mom was sitting in the chair. Sometimes in dreams, it takes me a few moments to remember that she has died in waking life. But this time it was instant. I exclaimed, "Mommy!! It's so good to see you!" (I haven't called her "Mommy" since I was a young child.) Then I woke up.

The dream only lasted for a few seconds, but it took my breath away. I felt a bit panicked and anxious upon waking and realizing acutely that I will never again experience that particular joy and comfort in this lifetime - for she is physically gone forever from my life.

I've written previously about the waves of grief. When these waves hit, they hit hard. It feels like a wave crashing over me with such force that it knocks me over, and I lose my footing. I suppose I should just allow myself to float back up to the surface without so much resistance to "what is". It's a very unpleasant feeling.


I believe it is also an invitation to go deeper and to get in touch with who I Am at the core. The totality of (my) consciousness, where I experience love through being the most loving person I can be, rather than depending on a certain person to fulfill certain emotional needs. It is so much more fulfilling to relate to others from the higher, infinite Self than from the lower, egoic self. The higher Self is like a sun that shines its light freely. It doesn't need anything from another person in order to feel complete. It is free to appreciate and enjoy the other without any expectations, to be grateful for what was and what is. It is able to find beauty in the present rather than focus on what is missing. When we walk with presence and gratitude, we don't worry about the future because we trust our footsteps and know we will be okay. In this manner, each step blesses and enriches our journey.

I recently listened to an Enneagram presentation by Robert Holden and was struck by the notion that on a spiritual level, there is no such thing as a broken heart. Our expectations and hopes break, but not our heart. The essence of who we are can’t be broken because it is made of love. When the waves hit, it's useful to remember who we are when we're not suffering and to reconnect with the groundless being that can contain it all - the ocean, itself, which is so much greater than a single wave.

 

There's oh so much I wish I could talk about with my mom, but I won't be able to, ever, in this lifetime - at least not in the way we were accustomed to communicating. It can be painful to awaken from a dream to the realization that I don't have a mom anymore and will never experience the joy of seeing her in the same room as me. When I fall into ego and forget who I really am, it feels so lonely. And when it happens, it's time to call upon the inner Mother and nurture the little egoic self with kindness and compassion. It is a call to be present to the beauty and goodness here and now rather than get lost in yearning for what is missing. To experience love by loving, rather than yearning for love. Generate it from within.

Why do we characterize others with qualities that we think we don't have in ourselves and therefore need from them, when who we really are contains the totality of consciousness? The solution is not to look to others for what they can give us - to fill our holes - but to expand our consciousness and cultivate those qualities in ourselves. And then we can REALLY love, from a source that is a blessing and not a burden for others.

From where I am writing, I can see the river sparkling with sunlight. It's time to engage with the splendor of this new day, one grateful footstep at a time.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) 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, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’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 (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One Year Later

This post was originally published on May 24, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.
Soon buds and leaves will fill the empty spaces. In the mind of this love The fissures mend themselves. -Sharon Salzberg
This week marked my mom's first "angelversary." In the early evening on Memorial Day last year, our family gathered around her bed to say goodbye. She passed on during the night, in the wee morning hours.

This year, Memorial Day weekend was pretty rough as I remembered each day leading up to her death. Ideally, I would have been more mindful and resilient, but I was worn out from various personal and work-related matters and was not at my most resourceful. I cried a lot. However, one morning later in the week, I woke up feeling peaceful and hopeful. Mercifully, the energy seems to have shifted.

On the evening that marked the official anniversary, the weather and the colors of the sunset were essentially the same as they were exactly one year prior.


There was a familiar holiness to the evening, a deep, comforting peace in the air. Before going to bed, I stepped outside and savored the intoxicating fragrance of black locust blossoms that permeated the warm, evening air as a few fireflies flashed under the light of the rising moon. I returned to the practice of writing in a daily gratitude journal, realizing that gratitude makes all the difference in the world.

The remainder of my mom's ashes were interred during the week, and yesterday, family and a few close friends gathered for a ceremony at the cemetery and formed a circle of love around her grave. The circle of the year - a long cycle of holidays and rituals - is now complete.


But I have to say... This past year has been the most intense, challenging, and vulnerable year of my life, as I tried my best to adjust to the physical loss of my mother and best friend. The toughest parts have been not being able to pick up the phone and call her to share news and yearning for the kind of presence only a mom can provide.

I journeyed deep into the wilderness, although on the surface I continued to go to work every day and did my best to fulfill my various roles and responsibilities. I functioned to the best of my ability despite feeling like I was living two different lives. And I learned so much.

I learned a lot about the nature of codependence and the importance of putting our foot down even when it breaks our heart to do so. I learned that we can neither depend on anyone else to rescue or complete us, nor can we save anyone from doing the hard work that is necessary for their own growth. The best we can do for others is to be a loving, radiant presence - a beacon of light and inspiration rather than a sponge. I learned not to look to anyone else to give me what is already latent inside me, for others can only support me in finding it within. I learned that what matters most is love and that we can only love and nurture others to the extent that we love and nurture ourselves. I learned what true love feels like and that it is free from the desire to possess or control and supports our genuine happiness and well-being.

I learned that grief comes in waves that can throw you off balance if you're not mindful, and I know what it feels like to have my body ache with the heaviness of grief - to feel it in my heart, solar plexus, and sacral chakras, and deep down in my bones. To feel it so intensely that I want to scream at the top of my lungs or do whatever I can to expel it so it won't suffocate me, even though resisting it only makes it worse. It's not just the loss of my mother but the loss of so much else as well. To restate it in more hopeful terms, it has been a year of clarity and clearing the way for what's next - even though I don't yet know what's next.


Perhaps most important of all, I've learned that when I feel shattered, empty, stained, and severed, my core essence remains whole, immaculate, radiant, and indelibly connected.

For about 25 years, I've had recurring nightmares in which a door of my house couldn't be locked. I feared an intruder would enter and harm me. On Memorial Day, I dreamed that two different doors had broken locks and was afraid when I heard a man call my name in the distance. Then I noticed two adolescent boys entering the garage and shooed them away. They returned later and took some of my possessions, which I demanded that they return. When they gave them back to me, I looked at the objects in my hands and realized I had no use for them. I told the boys they could have them - and anything else they wanted. I realized I was surrounded by things that I no longer needed and wanted to open up the garage and let people come and take what they wanted and thereby lighten my load. I wanted to let go of all the stuff, rather than hold onto it, and realized there wasn't anything that really could be stolen from me. It was a wonderful dream that had a deeper meaning and also filled me with a strong desire to purge so many possessions in my waking life. Get rid of what no longer serves a purpose to make room for something new.

On this anniversary of my mom’s passing, I feel as if I am emerging from the forest. I spent a full year wrestling with the illusion of separation and loss and becoming clear about what is not healthy for me. Letting go is a process, but I am finding my way back to the Source and turning toward the light. My backbone, which had softened for a while, is on the mend.

 I'm sensing that all the while during the deep, dark winter of grief, I was like a chess piece being moved by the unseen hands of a master. I am beginning to sense the brilliance of this cosmic dance we do on earth and the energies that come to our aid. Perhaps what felt like a humbling fall from grace is all part of the dance, and there are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn and grow.


Recently, I took my kindergarten class to see local puppeteers perform The Wizard of Oz. Before the performance, I summarized the story for them, and tears welled up in my eyes when I talked about how each character yearned for something they thought they lacked. They put their faith in the great and powerful Wizard of Oz to give them what they desired. However, in the end, Oz explained to them that they had these qualities in them all along. At the end of the show, Glinda assured Dorothy that now that she knows in her heart where Home is, she will be able to go there. And after she returned home, she always remembered and was enriched by her adventures in Oz.

What a great metaphor for the past year.

This morning, I woke up and realized that, like Dorothy, I was wearing silver shoes of protection fashioned by my mom’s love for me as I wandered through the enchanted forest. All is well - and I believe it always has been.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) 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, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’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 (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Difficult Rock

This post was originally published on May 24, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.

There is a place on the Battenkill (river) where I spent a lot of time during the winter. Little did I know that it overlooked a prime spot for balancing rocks! A narrow, rocky island was visible through the winter, but I didn't realize it was accessible, public land.

The Battenkill roared along all winter long with such velocity that I couldn't imagine attempting to cross to the island. But now it's late spring. The water level is lower, and the river bubbles along peacefully. It's safe to cross to the incredibly beautiful, peaceful spot that is literally in the back yard of the private property to which I had access.


I go to the river often and sit in the center with my feet in the water to learn what the rocks can teach me about balance. The harmony of all the sounds - the rooster crowing, the children playing, the birds singing, the river flowing - soothe the soul and make me grateful to be a small part of it all.



Most recently, I spent about 45 minutes focusing on a single rock. It was reddish and very bulky and nearly came to a needlepoint at the tip on which I wanted to balance it. It felt like a rock that couldn’t possibly be balanced. But I believed I could do it and wanted to prove to myself that what looked and felt impossible was actually within the realm of possibility. I found that rock intriguing and believed in its potential for balance. In my mind's eye, I already could see it balanced and knew it was lovely and worth the effort.

One thing I appreciate about the practice of stone balance art is that my most dominant sense (sight) is not particularly useful during the actual process of balancing. I need to rely primarily on my sense of touch, which gives me the opportunity to further develop it. I work with attention and gratitude as the river sings its song of change and flow; the rocks whisper of stillness; and my heart, mind, body, and spirit fall into alignment in deep and harmonious collaboration with nature.

After about 35 minutes of trying to balance this one rock, I started to wonder: What’s the point? Why would I want to spend my time trying to balance this rock if it’s that hard to balance? Well, the point was to show that I could do what seemed impossible - what I put my mind to. To help the rock experience the balance it seemed to long for when I held it in my hands. It eventually did click into balance, and it was gratifying.


The large, red rock remained balanced long enough to photograph it. It was a windy day, so conditions weren't ideal for keeping the rock in a state of equilibrium. After it fell, I picked it up to rebalance it. However, after a few seconds, I felt that familiar, lopsided heaviness and decided to let it be. I’d already gone through so much trying to work with this challenging rock and get it in balance. Why go through that again? Why not move on to a different rock that’s not so difficult?

And so I did. I imagine many people would consider it a waste of time to focus so intently on that one rock. When I work with other stone balance artists, they tend to put up many more balances than I do in the same amount of time. But I don't regret the time or the full attention I gave to that rock. While I connected with its energy, the hypnotic sound of the flowing river carried me into deeper connection with the life energies around and within me. My state of mind was elevated to a place of peace and equanimity that transported me beyond the habitual preoccupation with thought, where stillness and wisdom speak. For a brief eternity, I was in perfect harmony with that bulky, red rock, and it was wonderful. And I learned a lot by working so intimately with its unique properties.

And then I moved on to heart-shaped rocks, for they had something to teach me, too - and stayed balanced longer!


Every rock has something to teach, if you care to listen. And so I go to the river every chance I get, to learn from the rocks as the river sings its song.

Click HERE to hear the song of the Battenkill.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) 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, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’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 (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Fascinated by Ferns

This post was originally published on May 13, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.

Spring is in full force, and I am fascinated by ferns all over again. Fiddleheads, in particular.


Shade-loving ferns have existed on earth for nearly 400 million years, making them among the oldest organisms on the planet. When they are just starting out, clusters of newborn ferns look like a family growing up from a little nest. Heads bowed to the center, they seem to be looking out for one another. There is a strong sense of connection.


What is so intriguing about ferns? Why do they command my attention at this time of year? It must be their spiral nature, which brings to mind a labyrinth.


When I doodle during meetings and conversations, I often produce spirals. The act of creating a spiral design, beginning at the core and expanding outward, is very centering and satisfying. I have many pages of notes embellished with fields of coiled fronds filling the margins.


At the center of the fern's spiral is a brilliantly packaged blueprint for what it will become.


Ferns strike me as metaphors for centering and then expanding core consciousness and energy outward. Universes expanding.

 

If you look closely, there is much going on at the center of a coiled fern frond.


A few days ago, I harvested and ate fiddleheads for the first time. They were ostrich ferns, which are recognizable by the brown, flaky covering at the center, bare (not wooly) stalks, and a U-shaped trough that runs through the front side of the stalk (the side facing the coil). I washed and steamed them for 14 minutes prior to sauteing them lightly with olive oil, garlic, tamari, baby portobello mushrooms, and a touch of black pepper. (Next time, I will add a little sesame oil.) They were delicious served over gluten-free pasta!


Over the weekend, my daughter invited me to her house to harvest some ferns growing abundantly in her yard. It turned out they weren't the right kind to eat, but they were spectacular to view up close, nonetheless. I was transfixed by the patterns and textures.

 

When I returned three days later to the huge patch of ferns I photographed (and ate) above, they had unfurled and grown so much!


Spending time observing ferns reminds me that the healing patterns and rhythms of nature offer themselves freely, requiring nothing of us other than our attention. They invite us to slow down, notice, and become steeped in awe, fascination, wonder, and gratitude. There is so much beauty and inspiration waiting to be discovered in every stage of a fern frond unfurling!


The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) 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, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’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 (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mother's Day Anyway


This post was originally published on May 6, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.

I did not intend to write a Mother's Day post. I meant to write about ferns, which I fell in love with all over again this week. However, when I walked the labyrinth this morning, I realized that ferns will have to wait.

Tomorrow will be my first Mother's Day without my mom, and I wanted to pretend it's just another day. Skip it. I made it through the week with my kindergartners. A substitute teacher read them a Mother's Day story, and my classroom volunteer took the lead in helping the children put together a Mother's Day gift. She bought all the supplies and planted flowers in terra cotta pots they decorated with Sharpies. She is an angel.

While walking the labyrinth this morning, it occurred to me that the best way to remember and honor my mom on Mother's Day is to be the person she raised me to be. The person virtually every mother tries to raise her child to be. Simply put: A good human being.

There is a big difference between being and doing. My mom and I were forever at odds when it came to doing - the more superficial layer that made us appear to be so different. Being is who we are at the core, and it is where we are much more alike than we are different. It is the manner in which we travel rather than what we do along the way.

As a mom, I know from personal experience what mothers want for their children and how forgiving they are. Our moms don't want us to suffer or have a difficult life. They want us to thrive.

I know my mom would want me to be happy, kind, and hopeful about the future. She'd want me to be gracious and to bring light to this world.


Spend more time with family.


Keep company with people who are good to me.


 Work hard but also relax and have fun.


She would want me to do what I love


 ...and to continue growing and cultivating new interests and friendships.


She'd want me to have a smile for everyone I meet - and that is probably the biggest and easiest thing I can do to carry on her essence because it comes naturally to me.

My mom modeled all of these qualities to me for nearly 50 years, so I have had a good teacher.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama often describes his mother as extremely warmhearted, kind, and gentle and considers her his earliest teacher of compassion. He explains that when we are babies, our survival is completely dependent on our mothers, and therefore we learn warmheartedness and compassion from them. He advises parents to give children maximum love and affection so they may develop these qualities. Some mothers are kinder and gentler than others, and I was fortunate to have an extraordinarily nurturing mom who made you feel like the most important, wonderful person in the world. This didn't only apply to her own children but to everyone with whom she interacted. That is how many people describe her. Being raised by such a loving, nurturing mother not only helped me develop those qualities but also served as the basis of my belief in a benevolent and forgiving Universal Life Force.

After walking the labyrinth, I went to my dad's house, where my mom's tulips were in full bloom. Her gardens look so lovely this year, and I spent quite a while walking around the yard photographing them.


How wonderful that her flowers continue to come up in the spring even after she has departed from this earth. The flowers represent ways in which my mother made the world more beautiful - acts of kindness that carry on.


The dainty lilies of the valley caught my attention. No flower transports me back to childhood like lilies of the valley. They grew at the edge of our yard right next to the swing set when I was young and emitted such a sweet fragrance that must have combined with leisurely hours of play to produce a sweet, indelible memory. I used to imagine that if you shook them gently, lilies of the valley would tinkle like little fairy bells.


Upon spotting the lilies of the valley, I had a mental image of a few lily of the valley sprigs on the kitchen windowsill inside a miniature vase I got from a trip to Hawaii. I remembered how fragrant the mini bouquet smelled when I walked by and knew that if my mom were still alive, she'd clip a few lilies of the valley and put them in that little vase with the broken handle to brighten up the kitchen. So that's what I did!


Sometimes we parents are surprised when our children don't recall experiences that we believed would make a big enough impression to be remembered. But sometimes it's the smallest gestures that become planted deep inside us and grow into lifelong memories. Tiny but comforting gestures. As a mother, I find hope and comfort in that.


As much as I have wanted to just wish Mother's Day away, it happened anyway - a day early. And it seems my mom even made an appearance! As my dad and I drove past the local recreational field, a car was backing into the road from the parking lot just as we went by. It was my mom, in her car (the same one in which we were driving)! I exclaimed, "There's Mom!" It was so matter-of-fact, but when I was alone afterward, it hit me: Perhaps she has been trying to get through to my dad, but he needs some help to notice? Several friends have claimed they have seen her, but this was the first time I saw either her or her twin with an identical car! There's more to this story because of the context in which it took place, but I'll just leave it at that.


Last night I went through pictures of my mom to send to someone who is making a video about the hospice house in which she died, and I came across pictures of her and my grandmother together. They both died within 3 1/2 years. Each was the epitome of kindness. Until recently, I was able to lean on them for the nurturing that nobody else in this world can provide. But now they're gone, and I am the matriarch even though I don't feel ready to step into that role. I didn't see it coming so soon! It is a role I will need to grow into, and I hope everyone will be patient with me. I'll get better at it as time goes on.

Fortunately, my mother and grandmother provided me with nearly 50 years of role-modeling, and every time I act with kindness and compassion, I feel their spirits being channeled through me. And thus, their legacy lives on.

Although many tears have been shed today, I realize I'm not alone walking this twisting, turning path of grief. And that does bring some solace. My heart is with everyone else who is missing his or her mom on Mother's Day.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) 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, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’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 (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.