Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern

Interior of peach peonyAs I attempted to capture the layered luminescence of my Mother’s Day peony (gifted to me by my youngest daughter), I moved closer and closer into the blossom until I was literally lost in the sweep of petals and the sense of an inner path. I was transported back to Antelope Canyon in Utah, where I took the photo, below, last year while visiting my older daughter.

The canyon walls felt like flower petals; the petals, like the canyon. Each came to me thanks to one of my two daughters. Both images speak to me of fragility that displays as strength; and vice versa. And both look like themselves while conjuring multiple other associations.

Inside Antelope Canyon, UT

Inside Antelope Canyon, UT

Within these petaled walls
my eyes slip, a  silken slide
over and around each curve
a sensuous swirl of motion caught
in stilled waves of light.

conscious cairn-versation

rock cairnThis is a conversation I have been wanting to have. For weeks, actually. Why conscious cairns? Because I have come to realize that the significance of cairns depends entirely upon context. On mountain sides, they tend to signify the direction to follow when a trail is unclear, as across sheer rock. When constructed within a clearly marked circle, they are more likely to hold ritual significance. But the cairn constructed along woodland trails or in open meadows would most likely be an act of art. Which is what brings me to conscious conversation about them.

At Red Rocks, a woodland park in downtown Burlington, VT, where I daily walk with my cherished canine companion, I have taken to observing the ups and downs of several cairns. By which I literally mean, that one day a beautiful cairn is up, carefully constructed with artful balance baffling the eye while challenging gravity. The next day, it is gone. Not merely fallen down; but carefully dismantled, its component stones scattered  or buried in an apparent attempt to undo any memory of its prior existence.

I dwell on this because, while there are clearly people like myself who enjoy both building and contemplating inventively piled stones, it seems there might also be those who feel, for whatever reason(s), somehow threatened by them. At least, this is the conclusion I have reached, short of issuing a questionnaire to walkers in the park. A thought I did, at least fleetingly, consider, being of curious constitution myself.

Instead, I patiently re-build the three cairns I have taken personal interest in when they are down. I carry on conversations with my imagined source of their destruction. I marvel at the additional creative ways others have placed mossy stones within decayed trunks; piled and bridged flat stones to create a waterfall effect; worked stone, branch and birch bark into complex sculptures that celebrate the interaction of human creativity with found natural objects. They feel to me like celebrations of life. Clearly they have been created with conscious intent – if not to guide our way, then to invite us to stop and contemplate a while. Like Tom Woodman, in his short “Zen and the Art of Cairns,” I could sense that someone had shaped the environment through piling stones in certain ways and my appreciation of the landscape was richer because of that. I do not need to understand the particular message behind such an action of conscious creation in order to appreciate it.

moose lessons

Moose stranded in trees by the lake

Photo – Jim Hester

See the yearling standing there, trying to decide whether he’s between a rock and a hard place or just between the devil and the deep cold waters of Lake Champlain? A week ago he made local history by leading truckloads of Fish and Wildlife employees on a wild moose chase. They were trying to chase him back into the woods. Which is where he was until he leaped across the road right smack in front of my car, with them in hot pursuit. The end of the tale being, he led them to a shed housing several dozen plants of marijuana. Busted by a moose on the loose! Only in Vermont.

Look again at the photo, taken one week later. Poor thing was run ragged by the earnest fatigue-wearing men waving their arms to encourage the yearling back into the woods. Seems he backed himself right up to the lake and doesn’t realize he has an out. But he also doesn’t have either his solitude or his mate, who apparently is lolling about in a backyard less than a mile south on the same lake shore while he has become something of a local celeb, starving under trees that could feed him and mere feet from the largest dish of water imagineable. Continue reading