Sunday, June 18, 2017

Magic Tree

Great Bay Mother
CC Jean Stimmell: 6/17/17
Apparently there are now video games about digital magic trees. I prefer real ones like the one I seek solace under – and receive revelations fromin –  embraced in a mysterious world where water meets the land along the edge of Great Bay.

Compare the majesty and sacredness of Great Bay Mother with the video magic tree below.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Tao says we can learn from water

The Tao
Cascades at Franconia Notch, NH: 9/24/15
CC Jean Stimmell

The Taoist philosophy expressed in the Tao Te Ching points us toward what our essence is, beyond language and thought: natural patterns, rhythms of nature, wisdom related to the systemic nature of what is already here.

"Water seeks its own level; lowly and humble. It serves as it goes, as humans could; it returns again and again.  It is patient; it wears away the hard rocks. On the surface it is reflective, showing the ripple effect of any impact; dropping through space it cascades, and it runs underground secretly..."*

 * Notes on water and The Tao taken from Heaven's Fractal Net: Retrieving Lost Visions in the Humanities, Volume 1 By William Joseph Jackson

Monday, June 12, 2017

We Two Together: The Earth and Us

We Two Together: a sculpture by Michael Alfano,
currently on display at the Mill Brook Gallery
Photograph:: CC Jean Stimmell

We Two Together pulls at me, drawing me in deeper and deeper, a visual manifestation of recent thoughts and feelings. We Two Together is a sculpture by Michael Alfano, currently on exhibit overlooking a lush garden pond outside the Mill Brook Gallery and Sculpture Garden in Concord, NH. The sculpture depicts two lovers, joined as one, surrounded, in turn, by the greater whole of nature’s embrace.

We Two Together resonates with me in the same manner as an ecstasy poem I recently read by the Sufi poet, Rumi:

Your Love lifts my Soul from the body to the Sky
And you lift me up out of the two worlds.
I want your Sun to reach my raindrops,
So your heat can raise my Soul upward like a cloud.

It also triggered thoughts about a provoking piece by Paul Kingsnorth in the current issue of Orion Magazine1, suggesting we deal with climate change by awakening our sense of the sacred and practicing a new animism. His thoughts correspond with my own thinking.

I was converted to the notion that our Earth is a living, breathing organism since the 1960s, after first viewing that iconic photograph from space of our heavenly blue spaceship earth, and later read James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis, which outlines how all of us as living beings interact with our inorganic surroundings to create a self-regulating system – a giant living organism – maintaining and perpetuating ideal conditions for life.

That notion still fills me with awe: it blows my socks off! To my way of thinking, indigenous folks around the world have been right all along: the Earth is a living being; She is our Mother.

I am engulfed in that same soaring sense of awe when I view We Two Together. Not surprisingly, I have diametrically opposing feelings for both our government officials and mainstream consumer society who laugh at the idea of a living earth and sadly, as a secondary result, poopoo the threat of climate change.

Who can deny, in our technological society, we take the earth for granted, treating her like an inert object: either a storehouse of commodities to be used and discarded, or as scenic, background prop to our lives, as if we were staging a movie.

Increasingly, however, in this age of man-made climate change, we pollute  at our own peril. While more of us perceive the danger, most offer as solutions only new government regulations or technical fixes. But, like the domestic abusers we are, I fear we will continue to defile the earth until, if and when, we recognize her sacred nature.

We have no choice but to change. The question is, will it be in time? Our survival  – along with most life forms on planet earth – depends on us stepping up in time to reclaim our primal forbearer’s reverence for our home.

 Kingsnorth, in his essay, is not sure if we need a new religion, but he makes a powerful case for a renewal of the sacred to re-awaken in us a sense of awe and wonder for something bigger than us:

What could that something greater be? There is no need to theorize about it. What is greater than us is the earth itself—life—and we are folded into it, a small part of it, and we have work to do. We need a new animism, a new pantheism, a new way of telling the oldest of stories. We could do worse than to return to the notion of the planet as the mother that birthed us. Those old stories have plenty to say about the fate of people who don’t respect their mothers.

In the spirit of Rumi, poetic teller of the oldest of stories, we must reclaim our Earth for who she really is: a living, breathing body, our beloved other. She is our Mother, supporting and cradling us, the source of all life.



Friday, June 2, 2017

Trump's gift to humanity

CC Jean Stimmell: 3/29/17

Wiped out by climate change
 may our descendants rest in peace

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Felt sense of being watched

MFA in Boston 5/8/17

I was intrigued by this pastel painting Tree Trunk by Arthur Dove. I was drawn in enough to take this photograph of the painting, purposely including the reflections of other patrons in the gallery space because, to me, they enhanced my felt sense about the painting that I was being watched.

It was only later that I read the following quote by critic Paul Rosenfeld whose observations of Dove’s abstractions meshed with my own:

“The represented objects look at us. There is something behind them, something in them, which watches us inquisitively: menacingly at times, at others with secret complicity.”

Losing myself in an island

Jenness Island Spring
While it may seem counter-intuitive to get so worked up over such a seemingly boring subject, I have been fired up by David Hinton, a translator of classical Chinese philosophy, whose new book, Existence: A Story, makes the case that outer and inner are one.

As an added gift, his book has helped connect me in a profound way to a series of photographs I have been working on.

Hinton begins by reminding us of a fundamental difference in how East and West see the world. Descartes determined the current focus of western philosophy by stripping away everything that could be doubted until he found what he believed was the beginning place: “I think, therefore I am.”  

Conversely, to ancient sages in China, the beginning point of existence is found in the immediate experience of empty awareness, which underlies both the thinking mind and our identity as a person.

“Vast and deep, everything and everywhere: existence is alive somehow – and magically, mysteriously, inexplicably alive. Nothing holds still…This is the most fundamental nature of existence; and…it appears everywhere.”

Of particular importance to me was Hinton’s description of how a sect of Buddhists, starting around the year 700, discovered an unique method to access this “all-encompassing generative presence”: They did it by meditating on mountain landscape paintings, seeking to lose themselves in the misty, shifting configurations of the brush strokes.

Reading about how they meditated on misty mountain paintings, gave me the sudden insight that I have recently been doing something similar. But, in my case, I was losing myself in foggy island photographs, rather than swirling mountain paintings.
Jenness Pond Summer
My particular focus of meditation is a small, unnamed island on Jenness Pond, a close companion since before I was born. Taking the longer cosmic view of an ancient Chinese sage, my island has been a cog in the whole evolution of our Planet Earth in which, in some vital sense, I have always been a part.

When I meditate on my island photographs, I find myself starting in the present and then drifting back in time…

I still pass by my island almost every day, driving or during my evening walk, always smitten by her shifting transformations. I have passed by her almost daily for all my 71 years except for years away at college, my sabbatical in Vietnam, and a few years living here-and-there before building my house on land my parents gave me.

Growing up, my island was a constant feature. I not only walked by her daily to catch the school bus, but often played and fished by her shores, once even falling through new ice, foolhardily trying to skate by her too soon. When very little, I remember my father shooting two black ducks in her shallows. I think I even have a bodily memory being jostled by the rutted dirt road, riding by her while still in my mother’s belly.

Time frames shift…

I watch Jenness Pond fill like a schist bathtub as the last ice age recedes; I see the first pioneer species of plants take root; I smile as the first snapping turtle shoves herself clumsily up on a rock to sunbathe…as the first blue heron spears a fish…the first indigenous people gather clams in the shallows of my island.

Just as David Hinton suggests, by meditating on these images, the external world exposed in my photographic prints join seamlessly with the internal world of my mind:  Inner and outer –past and present – become one.

I now understand the truth of something Jackson Pollack once said: “I don’t paint nature, I am nature.”
Jenness Pond Winter

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

An enduring masterpiece from Mother Nature

Adam's Point Durham, NH
cc Jean Stimmell: 4/23/17
An enduring masterpiece from Mother Nature,
not an airbrushed illusion from Madison Avenue

Friday, May 5, 2017

E.B. White's Spring

Jenness Pond 5/2/17
CC Jean Stimmell
“There is another sort of day that needs celebrating in song – that day of days when spring at last holds up her face to be kissed, deliberate and unabashed. On that day no wind blows either in the hills or in the mind, no chill finds the bone. It is a day that can come only in a northern climate, where there has been a long background of frigidity, a long deficiency of sun.” – quote by E.B. White from "Spring”

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Gaia's Brain

Gaia's Brain
CC JeanStimmell: 4/27/17

I made this digital image
peering into the crevices of a rock cave:

To me, it feels like a real-time neuroimage,
a functional MRI of Gaia’s brain*

* I subscribe to the theory that Planet Earth
 is, in fact, Gaia, a living, breathing organism,
   with an all-encompassing, universal
 consciousness we all share.