One Minute Monologues 003

11/17/2011 — 02/04/2012

  1. 11/17/2011 — We can serve our life, bring forth our life, live our life anywhere, within any context, every circumstance. We don’t have to have anything to be who we are. Prisoner of War camps are as good as Penthouses for serving the needs of soul and expressing what is ours to make plain in the world of concrete facts and apparent reality. The ongoing theme of the Hero’s Journey is adapting ourselves to every present situation and bringing ourselves forth to meet what we find there. Joseph Campbell said, “It took the Cyclops to bring out the hero in Ulysses.” We become “who we always have been and who we will be” (Carl Jung) in response to what each day delivers. We cannot think that we are to be consistently the same forever, living today exactly as we lived yesterday, repeating our clichés and platitudes on cue without thinking, and calling that being alive. The pattern we repeat is to engage each moment with creativity, imagination, compassion and courage—meeting the needs of the situation as it arises with what we have to offer—and see where it goes. May it be so with us all!
  2. Cedar Island Ferry seen from Springer’s Point, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—In Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot says, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” This is an excellent summation of the Hero’s Journey, the Search for the Holy Grail, the trek to the Land of Promise, the Spiritual Quest, and the scope of the Process of Individuation. We seek ourselves, our Self—and in searching, find, in the words of Carl Jung, “We are who we have always been, and who we will be.” 11/17/2011
  3. Pied-billed Grebe, a Bog Garden Personality, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—Who wouldn’t fall in love with this guy/gal (How would we know?)? This little duck is alone on the pond (no other Grebes present), and seems to be quite at home with that. He/she dives and scoots long distances underwater, evidently for the sheer joy of it. The books say you rarely see these babies flying, and I’ve never seen him/her air-borne. She/he is the most active duck of those gathered (Hybrids, Mallards and Ring-necked Ducks at the moment), the most alive and definitely the most interesting. I wish for her/him a long and happy life, and wonder how long she/he will stay before migrating on. 11/17/2011
  4. Cypress Balls, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—Overheard at Barnes & Noble: “She said, ‘There are two rules to writing: Write what wants to be written and Don’t have to know where it’s going.’ ‘That’s crazy,’ he said. ‘If that were all there is to it, any fool could write.’ ‘The fools can’t keep the rules,’ she said.” 11/18/2011
  5. Take-off, Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We are often freer than we think we are. To fly we have to spread our wings and trust ourselves to the air. To what do we trust ourselves? Playing it safe is no way to live if it keeps you from living. What are you saving up for? 11/18/2011
  6. Air Borne, Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—“Where do we go from here?” “What now?” “What next?” Hmm. We aren’t here to think all this out, we live it out. We will see where we go from here, what now, what next, when we find ourselves on the way. We hamper the journey by trying to pin it down: “This, then that.” We’ll see. Our life is not a gradated series of accomplishments, a sequential set of steps from, say, Pre-School to PhD (And then what?). When I tell people I write 500-ish words a day and spend 2 to 5 hours photographing the world, they ask, without exception, “What are you going to do with it?” I take pictures and I write. I don’t think about what I’m going to do with it or what is going to become of me. I’ll see where it goes but. I’m not in charge of the going. We do what has life for us and see where it goes. If you are withholding yourself from what has life for you because you don’t know what you would do with it or how you would make it pay off or how you would defend, justify, explain, or excuse its place in your life, I recommend that you stop thinking about all of the things that don’t have anything to do with doing what you love, with what has life for you, and start doing it. And see where it goes. 11/19/2011
  7. In Flight 01, Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We don’t want to change. We don’t want to be different. We just want our lives to be better—to have things go our way more often—to get what we want. We will do anything to get what we want but the one thing that is absolutely guaranteed to give it to us: Change what we want. The process of spiritual development, of spiritual growth, calls for change. Development is change. Growth is change. We become different over the course of the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest. We think differently. We believe differently. We behave differently. We live differently. Not what we want to hear. We have to change in order to hear that we have to change. This will not be easy. 11/19/2011
  8. In Flight 02, Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We begin every journey where we are. The path to where we need to be lies under our feet. What’s the next step? Pay attention. Be awake, aware, alive to what is calling your name here and now. What inclination, interest is stirring? Don’t know? Ask for help. The invisible world is replete with would-be helpers waiting for a truthful invitation. There is a catch, however. To ask for help, we must be serious about receiving it, we must actually need it and depend on it to move us along the path with our name on it. You know all the stories, myths and fairy-tales, where the hero spurns the help that comes because it doesn’t come as expected or lead where the hero wants to go. The hero wants to go up and the path goes down and the hero says, “No way am I going down!”? When we ask for help we have to mean it, and take what comes, and go where it leads, trusting ourselves to That Which Knows because we have declared ourselves to be empty, not knowing what to do now, next. Empty is the place to be but, we have to remember that we are empty, unseeing, and allow ourselves to be led. 11/20/2011
  9. In Flight 03, Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—Since the Age of Reason we have thought we could think our way to a perfect world, with justice and love for all. Well, like it or not, wherever the left brain goes, the right brain tags along, demanding to be taken into account. We cannot create much of a world with intellectual capital and spiritual destitution. So, back to the starting blocks we go—to develop eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands to go along with the brain that calculates, formulates and reasons. If we can get the ratios right, we’ll have a chance at that perfect world. 11/20/2011
  10. In Flight 04, Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We take our peace, and our consolation, where we find it. Maybe it’s in the flight of a Great Blue Heron. Or in waiting for a Great Blue Heron to fly. And for the light to be right. And for the wind to stop blowing. And to be good enough with the camera and its controls to not miss it when it happens. No one can dictate to us where our peace, where our consolation, is to be found—and we must refuse to let anyone deny us the right to where we find it. And we must know where it is to be found. And go there often. 11/20/2011
  11. In Flight 05, Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—In my neighborhood it is a Christmas tradition to hang large balls made from chicken wire and wrapped with lights in the trees in our yards. It is a task requiring careful planning and execution and each year it comes down to waiting for night to fall to see if the photo cell on the six-plug receptacle will work. I generally have to reset the device, but I can’t tell until darkness comes to know if resetting has done the job. It’s all a great mystery to me. I’m quite helpless to do anything that will let me know things are in working order. I’ve tried covering the light cell to no avail. I have to wait. Aha! It works! or Dang! Have to go reset the thing. Which will it be? I wait. This year, it works! But who knows what next year will bring? We have to wait to see. No assurances. No certainties. Our lives are great mysteries which we are quite helpless to control. We do what we can imagine doing and wait to see how it all works out. May it be well with us all! 11/20/2011
  12. Coming Down 01, Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—Knowing what we can live with is knowing where to draw lines, set boundaries, get ourselves backed up and turned around. It’s a right brained thing to know “No Not For Nothing” when we see it, but to know what we know is a left brained decision to tune in, listen up, pay attention to the red flags our right brain is waving before our eyes. Knowing is one thing, and knowing what we know is another. We generally know more than we know we know and so. We have to make a point to check in with the Knower who lives in our right brain from time to time. This is what devotional moments, or meditation, or prayer are good for, checking in with the Knower—feeling what we are feeling, seeing what we are looking at, hearing what we are listening to, noticing how it is with us—so that we might draw the lines that need to be drawn and say “No Not For Nothing” when it needs to be said. 11/20/2011
  13. Coming Down 02, Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—Our life is our charge. We are responsible for its care and tending. Life doesn’t just happen, any more than tomatoes and cinnamon rolls do. Life isn’t automatic, guaranteed. All our vital signs can be perfectly normal and we can be as dead as the oak leaves blowing across our lawns. Life is meaning, enthusiasm, emotion, vitality—and we have to cultivate these things, serve them, by living to be alive, intentionally, deliberately, willfully in every day that comes our way. So. What will you do to bring yourself to life in what’s left of today? Tomorrow? 11/20/2011
  14. Used in Short Talks on Contradiction, etc., Springer’s Point Oak Panorama, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—The stress of life will wear you down if you don’t have a buffer, a way of cushioning the impact of “normal wear and tear” and extraordinary blows and burdens. Buffer’s come in all styles and sizes. You have to find the ones that are right for you. Could be time with the dog or a five-mile run. A slow walk through the woods, a rocking chair with a glass of wine or a cup of tea or coffee. My favorite all-weather, anytime buffer is a sounding board—a person or a small group of people who let you air it out without advising, directing, suggesting—without even sympathizing. We need a community of the right kind of people who listen closely and ask the right kind of questions that take us to the heart of the matter: Conflict ID. All of our stress is the result of conflict, contradiction, opposition. Something is happening that we don’t want to happen (even a promotion at work or a fat inheritance can be stressful in that it has implications we don’t like). We have to square up with the ambivalence: On the one hand this, on the other hand that, and on other hands, that, that, and that. Making the conflict conscious helps with the emotional adjustment and nothing aids consciousness quite like talking. We don’t think it, see it, until we hear ourselves saying it. There is nothing like a sounding board for keeping us stable and sane. If you don’t have one, form one—a community of the right kind of listeners, hearing us to the truth of our life. 11/21/2011
  15. Heron Dance, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—This is really the last one. And, it’s too cute, but. We all can be too cute if we want to be. Inhibition has its place but. It can’t be allowed to run the whole show. We have to permit ourselves to be inhibited about being inhibited. And draw the line against drawing lines. And be too cute, or too something else, anything else, why not, when the situation calls for too something, too anything, rise to the occasion, I say. Strut your stuff, I say. Show them a thing or two, being too something or other. 11/21/2011
  16. Sassafras, Blue Ridge Parkway, Mt. Pisgah Inn near Brevard, NC—It is about work and we are about lazy and there you are. The whole problem laid neatly out before you and I haven’t even had breakfast yet. What could I do with a little biscuits and gravy, ham and eggs, toast and coffee? That’s another problem. I don’t do breakfast. Things are as they are because I don’t eat breakfast. I’ll take full responsibility—which is what we all have to do where the fact of our laziness is concerned. We have to pick ourselves up and step into the mess and do what we can with it without hope of anything being significantly different in our lifetime. Both Gandhi and Winston Churchill are credited with saying, “Nothing worth doing is accomplished in a single lifetime.” We think if it can’t be done by nightfall, forget it. If there is no hope of immediate success why do it? We are easily stopped by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the four questions that kill all incentive and initiative: “Who Cares? Why Try? What Good Would It Do? What Difference Will It Make?” We say it’s hopeless so we aren’t going to waste our time trying. The first step toward the way things ought to be is to look Hopelessness in its ugly red eye, spit in its face and say, “Get out of my way damn you! I have work to do!” Everything rides on our doing the work that is ours to do no matter what. Hopeless is just a bump in the road.  11/22/2011
  17. Black Walnut, Price Park, Greensboro, NC—Everything rides on our being open to that which arises within. We can’t ignore the inner world or think that our aims and goals are the only aims and goals. Consciousness works out a partnership with the unconscious, collaborating on what needs to be done and how it is to be done. We do not impose our will on our life. We align ourselves with our life’s will for us—in a “Thy will, not mine, be done” kind of way. 11/22/2011
  18. Used in Short Talks On Good And Bad Religion–Leaves on the Water, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We keep looking for God “out there,” “up there,” “over there” to help us with the life we are living. You can see how well that’s working. We need to shift the entire religious orientation. It—what we are looking for—is not “out there” but “in here.” It is between you and you. It is found in working out the relationship, the partnership, between ourselves. It is found in the integration, the harmony, the oneness of selves, of who we are and who we also are. Bad religion says, “Shun the devil.” Good religion says, “Welcome the Prodigal home.” The work of good religion, of the spiritual quest, of the Hero’s Journey, the search for the Holy Grail and the Promised Land, is the work of bringing the conflicts, the contradictions, the ambivalence to life—that is where the vitality lies. Bad religion would have us suppress, deny, ignore these things. What we are seeking is not found in suppressing the truth but in bringing it forth. Make your inner conflicts and contradictions and ambivalence real, present, alive AND WORK THEM OUT. We work them out by asserting the authority we have over them—they are our children, our creation, we are their mother, their father—and listening to them with compassion and grace. They all have value, they all have something to say, something helpful to offer, and they all, believe it or not, have what they take to be our best interest at heart. We are the Prodigal’s father/mother welcoming all of our children home, receiving them well, honoring them with our attention, and working out the relationships among them. This is the work of oneness, of wholeness, of reconciliation and peace. It is Rumi’s “The Guesthouse” being experienced in our own life. 11/23/2011
  19. Colors of Fall Abstract 06, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—In the beginning there was something. There has always been something. You could call it God, or the Unconscious, or Chaos, or the Demiurge, or a Carbon Atom. It’s been called all those things and more, and it has always been conceived of as something. Not nothing. Nothing has never been posited. Even those theologians who came up with “Creation ex Nihilo”—“out of nothing”—didn’t mean nothing. God was there to create “out of nothing.” Well, anybody can see that if you have God you don’t have nothing. So. There has always been something. In the beginning there was something. And here we are. You can’t deny the fact that we are here, now. How we got here and why we got here and what we are doing here and what we are to do now that we are here is all subject to debate and speculation. Lots of people have ideas, but what we know is that here we are, and the question that hangs in the air is “Now what?” ¿Aquí estamos y ahora qué? How we answer that question tells the tale. 11/23/2011
  20. Marsh Road Sunset, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—We like this, we don’t like that. We bounce through our life like a pinball being flipped from one side of the machine to the other. Like. Don’t Like. Good. Bad. Yes. No. There is a perspective beyond Like and Don’t Like that enables us to do what is needed where we are, never mind liking or not liking. Emergency room nurses and doctors and technicians are beyond liking or not liking. They do what is needed without thinking about how much they like or don’t like it. They respond to the moment, to the situation, as it arises without the opposition or partiality that we bring to the things we meet each day. With awareness of what we’re doing, we could do what needs us as much as emergency room clientele need the people they find there, and live as a blessing and a grace, beyond like and don’t like. 11/23/2011
  21. Reedy Fork Trail, Greensboro Parks and Trails, Greensboro, NC—An iPhone Photo—We have to play with the moment to see what might become of it but. We develop an adversarial relationship with our life somewhere along the line and lose the capacity for playfulness. Life becomes serious business and we become bulldozers, forcing our way along the path of our own choosing, oblivious to the possibility of fortuitous intrusions, disruptions, distractions, plowing headlong toward goals we know will be grand. Let’s see a show of hands from those who think this strategy is working. You could do worse than engage your life in a spirit of play. You have done worse. Are doing worse. You have absolutely nothing to lose. Even a bulldozer would like those odds. 11/24/2011
  22. Red, Price Park, Greensboro, NC—The path unfolds before those who see things as they are—and also are. This means seeing what we look at, hearing what we listen to. Seeing things as they are and also are requires the spirit of right interpretation. What is being said? What is being revealed, expressed? How many possibilities can we imagine? Put them all on the table. Walk around the table. Consider the table. Don’t go with the most obvious, the usual, the unmistakable meaning. Look. Listen. Ask the most pertinent meaning to come forth. Respond to the situation as though that meaning is the authentic meaning, never mind the smoke screens and the red herrings. You go for the meaning of this here, this now. Right seeing. Right hearing. Right understanding. Lead to Right knowing. Right Doing. Right Being. This all adds up to Right living. You can’t beat that with two books of etiquette. Big ones, at that. 11/25/2011
  23. Cedar Island Ferry Sunset, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—We have to give ourselves adventures. We go forth to meet our life. We can’t just huddle in our comfortable routines waiting for some Snow White, some Handsome Young Prince, some Fairy Godmother to show up and hand us happily ever after. This is hard work, finding our life and living it. It’s the HERO’s journey, not the Slacker’s Slide into Glory! We venture into all kinds of things we’ve never tried before. New dishes at restaurants. New restaurants. New routes to work. New jobs at work. New work. New, new, new! What is new about your life today? How can you expect to have an adventure in a life in which nothing is allowed to change? Do something today you’ve never done before! Get into the old rut of doing something new everyday! See where it goes. We are here to see where it goes, you know. To do that we have to actually be going. Not sitting in our favorite chair with our hands in our lap watching the Telly, reading a book, working on the computer. The Hero’s Journey requires us to go somewhere we’ve never been, do some things we’ve never done. I wouldn’t kid you about this. Why would I lie? 11/27/2011
  24. Pamlico Sound Sunset Panorama, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—I changed my mind about homosexuality in the 70’s listening to gay people talk about being gay. I think that’s the way it works. When we stop listening to people talk about Those People, and start listening to Those People, things change, whether the people in question are gay or Communists or Muslims or Hispanic Immigrants or some other manifestation of The Enemy. When we listen to The Enemy a shift occurs and they become increasingly less Them and increasingly more Us. It is strange what listening with understanding will do for you, to you. Listening, though, is listening and not arguing, debating, haranguing, ranting, attacking… Listening is the path to peace and reconciliation—if we listen to Them and not those who talk about Them. Which, of course, is my problem with Talk Radio. 11/27/2011
  25. Silver Lake Sunrise, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—We live in two worlds—the visible, physical world of literal, tangible, apparent reality and the invisible, spiritual world of symbols and images and emerging meaning. Since the Age of Reason, we have been living as though the visible world is the only world. The Hero’s Journey, Spiritual Quest, Search for the Promised Land and the Holy Grail consists of reestablishing our connection with the invisible ground of existence and wandering around in the symbolic nature of the “real world” going, “Wow!” with our increasing immersion into meaning. Let’s say you fall in love. Happens all the time with everybody who is a little bit alive. It isn’t about the person with whom you fall in love. It’s about you. The other person is a mirror reflecting back to you the aspects of yourself that you need to bring forth. What are the qualities that you find attractive in the other person? What do you anticipate him/her bringing to life in your relationship with him/her? In your life? What is missing that he/she will supply? These are the things you need to bring forth in yourself—latent qualities and traits and interests which you are to develop in you. The other person may help you with that work or hinder it, which determines whether he/she is actually worth your time or simply functions to wake you up to the wonder of you. The work of bringing yourself forth is the thing of true value, not the relationship with your new-found honey. Don’t let the literal person distract you from the symbolic truth of his/her place in your life. And Do The Work! 11/28/2011
  26. Lake Brandt Reflection, Bur-Mil Park, Greensboro, NC—It is a universal experience to sleep and dream of The Impossible Situation. We find ourselves in a fix for which there is no solution. Now What? One of the attractions of Action/Thriller’s like the Indiana Jones movies is watching him come up with a way out long after normal human beings—that would be everyone in the audience—had given up and submitted to their fate. Fate is what happens to us when we abandon our destiny. Our destiny calls us to find a way—THE way—the ONLY way. Just like Indiana Jones, or Luke Skywalker, or Harry Potter, or Frodo, or any of the heroes and heroines of lore. Our destiny requires us to sit with “Now What?” until the light blub goes off over our head, something occurs to us and we see the way: THE WAY. The way to our destiny within the impossible situation of this here and this now. Do Not Give Up! This is the universal message behind the universal dream of The Impossible Situation. Do. Not. Give. Up. Do not abandon your destiny, your calling, your work, your gift, your genius. Do not quit serving it until the end and do not accept anything as the end until your final breath. Any other perceived end of the trail is premature. Until then, Find The Way! Our destiny is counting on us. its hopes are pinned on us. It sits on the edge of its seat, holding its breath, crossing its fingers, praying that we will come up with “Now What?” again and again, living in its service all our lives long. Amen! May it be so! 11/29/2011
  27. View from Grandfather Mountain, Grandfather Mountain State Park, near Linville, NC—Serve the gifts that are yours to give, bring them forth as needed in each situation as it arises and see where it goes. If you can find better advice, take it! 11/29/2011
  28. Hatteras Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Hatteras Island, Buxton, NC—What does liking or not liking something have to do with it—with the life we are called to live? How many of us like to change diapers? Like to wash clothes? Like to vacuum and mop? Since when does liking something or not liking it get to determine what we do? What needs to be done is the question. What needs us to do it is the question. Liking it or not liking it is completely irrelevant—and in the way. Growing up is growing beyond like and like not. It’s stepping into a sphere of life where we live to bring our best forth to meet the situation as it arises, like it or not. The pitcher’s job is to put his, or if it’s softball we’re talking, her best into each pitch, never mind what the other players do after that. Never mind liking or not liking how the game is going. Live beyond liking and not liking. Live to do what needs to be done in the moment of its doing, as it needs to be done, and let that be that. If you are going to like something, like being alive no matter what. If you are going to not like something, don’t like being unable to respond to the moment because you are so gripped by your resistance to the moment that you miss the moment and the chance you had to bring forth your best and grace the world. 11/30/2011
  29. Used in Short Talks on Contradiction, etc., Greenbriar Highway 01, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN—The only rule of faith and practice is this: Live truthfully. This doesn’t mean always tell the truth. It means live a truthful life. A truthful life squares up with what is true and what is also true, and does not pretend that the opposite of truth is a lie. The opposite of truth is truth. Stand between the opposites and live in ways that take the polarity—all the polarities—into account. Maintain the tension of the contradictions. In this way, you force awareness, awakening, realization—which, of course, increases the tension which brings about the shift, and sometimes the explosion, which transforms the situation and the world. This does not make for happily ever after. It makes for the hard, endless, work of integration, reconciliation, peace, harmony and justice for all. And it’s hell because it’s difficult. And it’s heaven because it’s worth the effort. Israelis and Palestinians working it out. You and your sister, or sister-in-law, working it out. Being deepened, enlarged, expanded in the process. Becoming True Human Beings by living truthful lives. 12/01/2011
  30. Ocracoke Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—We come alive in trusting ourselves to our life, our destiny—trusting that there is a life that is our life to live beyond the life that we can think up on our own—opening ourselves to that possibility and seeing where that takes us. This is the formula for adventure on “the wheel of fortune and pain, the circle of life.” It connects us with the invisible world and requires us to find our sustenance and courage from the depth of that connection, a connection that is grounded in trust, or to use the biblical term, faith. We have to believe that it is real, more real than anything in the visible world of normal, apparent reality—and live as though it is so. Our life waits, wondering if we have what it takes to take up the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest, the Search for the Land of Promise and the Holy Grail. Time will tell. 12/02/2011
  31. Hooded Merganser, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 02, 2011 — We need a little help along the way, a little wind in our sails, a pick-me-up, a lift, a boost. There are people who do that for us. We feel better in their presence, are blessed by their being. We don’t know what it is. They don’t know. But. It’s real, and we are glad to be numbered among their friends, those who mediate the gift of life, and bring us to life by the quality of the time we spend together. May we all have enough of people like that in our life, and may we be like that in the lives of others. May it be certainly so! 12/02/2011
  32. Sumac, Blue Ridge Parkway near Rocky Knob, VA, November 02, 2011 — I’m sitting listening to soft, quiet Christmas music, thinking this is my first Christmas retired. I don’t have to do anything, oversee anything, orchestrate anything. This is how Christmas should be. And I invite you to look at the birth of the baby Jesus as the birth of our individual destiny—the awakening of us to the fact of our destiny, of the life that is ours to live. We are born on Christmas Day, born as the Christ, the Anointed One—each of us being anointed for the life that only we can live, to do what only we can do. Merry Christmas to you all, and with it, the realization of your own calling to gather yourself up and live the life that needs you to live it. 12/02/2011
  33. Puckett Cabin, Blue Ridge Parkway, Groundhog Mountain, VA—Aunt Orelena Puckett was a mid-wife who helped deliver over a thousand Appalachian babies, though she and her husband John did not have a child of their own. Life is funny that way. Our cross to bear is the disparity between how things are and how we want them to be, the difference between the life that is our life to live and the life that we wish were our life to live. How well we square up to that discrepancy and live with it, bear it, tells the tale. We have work to do and we cannot allow hopelessness and difficulties stand between us and our work. We are to bring forth who we are no matter what. We all are, each of us is, the Christ, Emmanuel, the Anointed One—anointed, chosen, for the life that needs us to live it, that only we can live, that no one but us can live. We cannot dismiss that as unworthy of us because it doesn’t match up with our inflated ideas for ourselves. Each of us is the Christ as only we can be the Christ. Our cross to bear is the question of whether that will be good enough for us, whether we have what it takes to bring forth who we are as a blessing and a grace to the world no matter what. Our cross is the question to which we are the answer. 12/03/2011
  34. Ocracoke Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC, October 27, 2011 — Integrity is being who we are. And also are. It is not being who we are not. Too much of the time we are required to be who we are not by lives that are out of synch with the life that is our life to live, that is our destiny to live, which usurped by the powers and principalities of the way things are—you know, money and politics, and politics has as much to do with making our parents, or your spouse, or your in-laws, etc. happy as it has to do with Democrats and Republicans. Our work is to do the work that is ours to do—over the opposition and resistance we meet from all quarters. This is the work of integrity against the forces of disintegration. Which gets us to the fundamental question of life, living, being alive: Whose side are you on? 12/03/2011
  35. Rock Castle Creek, Blue Ridge Parkway near Tuggle Gap, VA, November 11, 2011 — Some of us have less to like about our parents, or our spouses, or our lovers, or our jobs, or our dogs, etc. than others of us, but. If we live long enough, all of us will have more to not like about our life than we want to deal with. If we live long enough, we all come up against it. “It” being how things are as opposed to how we want things to be. What we do in response to that will tell the tale. I recommend squaring ourselves up with the truth of how things are and the truth of how we wish they were and working to integrate, reconcile, these contrary truths. That means facing the discrepancy and bearing the pain, the tension, of the consciousness of contradictory and mutually exclusive truths until a shift occurs. The shift will probably occur in us, allowing us to adjust to how it is and how it also is and go on with our lives to the extent that is possible. All of this, of course, is hell. The Hero’s Journey is not a stroll through the meadows of spring. We pay a price to be alive but. There is consolation along the way but. We have to choose wisely among what appears to be consoling. A six-pack for breakfast and dinner is not the right kind of consolation. Always the picking and the choosing. Can’t something be easy? Death is easy. Life is hard. We can die in 10,000 ways, and in a lot of them you have to look closely to see how dead we are. What is helpful? What is harmful? We know this better in retrospect, which means we have to back up and tun around right often. It’s all a part of the path, and you’ll have a lot of good company along the way, and everybody will be in the same boat, on the path. 12/04/2011
  36. Two Ducks Flying, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, November 30, 2011 — These are our parents, these are our sibs, this is our point of origin and the date of our birth, this is our hat size and our shoe size, the shape of our nose, the quality of our smile, our affinity for math or English, music or art, the curl of our hair, the color of our eyes, the stuff we stepped into, that came with us, at birth, that waited like a great welcoming party to give us what would be ours to work with, the facts of life, our fate. And in the background, there by the door, waiting its turn to bless or curse, depending on our point of view, wondering how we would receive its offering, hoping for the best, stood our destiny with the other gifts of birth, our work, our life, the meaning and purpose that call us forth as we call them forth, creating us anew and breaking our heart again and again—Mary’s baby waiting at her crib for her to carry and birth and bury—destiny’s child with child, the story of us all. We are all the Virgin born to give birth if we will in this God-forsaken place and time—of all places and times why this one why these facts, this fate in which to work out this destiny? Wrong question. Will we do it is the question? Will we say YES! and serve our destiny within these facts, this fate, no matter what all our lives long so help us God? …Will we? 12/05/2011
  37. Triple Falls on Little River, DuPont State Forest, near Brevard, NC, October 14, 2011 — Our destiny is a warm puppy looking for love without pedigree or papers hoping we will pick it up, receive its gift, share its life for as long as life lasts but. We have our eye on a big show horse that we can ride to glory, waving and smiling to a world of admirers cheering and calling our name. We don’t get to choose our destiny. We get to serve it. Or not. We get to say yes or no—not: That one over there, the big one, showing off. Our destiny is a puppy hoping we will pick it up, carry it home, treat it well for no reason beyond the joy of loving what is ours to love, do. What’s important may not be what you think it is, may not be what you want it to be, may be a puppy waiting for you to love it for life and see what happens. 12/06/2011
  38. Nags Head Sunrise Panorama, Nags Head, NC, October 23, 2011 — There is our idea for our life and there is our life’s idea for us. This is the arena of death and resurrection. If we do not die to our idea of what our life is to be and live to serve our life’s idea of what it is to be, we die without having lived. If we die to our idea of what our life is to be, we are resurrected to live in the service of our life’s idea of what it is to be. This is to have life and have it abundantly. But. There is nothing in that about fame, fortune, glory, easy living and having it made. All we get is life. And. That is more than enough. 12/06/2011
  39. Pamlico Sound Sunset, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC, October 31, 2011 — You are writing the book of your spiritual development out of your experience—your awareness—of your own growth into you. We are all in the same boat on the path, and each path is unique. We find our own way on a path that we make as we go. Joseph Campbell has said that if we are on a path that has been defined and described by someone else, it is someone else’s path—not our path. We have to get off that one and find the way that is our way, or allow it to find us. As we engage the invisible world, we discover that magic, mystery and miracle are as real as the old stories suggest they are, and that help is rarely what we want or expect but always just what we need if we can be open to it coming as it does from the most unlikely and surprising sources. We also encourage and sustain one another in the work to become who we are, True Human Beings with gifts that will bless and restore the world. 12/06/2011
  40. Cedar Rock Falls, Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC, October 13, 2011 — I’m sure I could take better photographs with better scenes to work with but. My scenes are my scenes. I’m limited to the time and place of my being. Any scene could be better at a different time, with different light. When I walk into a scene, that’s what I have to work with. The task is taking this scene, here and now, and doing what I can with it. I could take better photos if I had more to work with. We could live a better life with better choices. Our choices are our choices. The people we live with are the people we live with. What can we do with this life, these choices, this here, this now? What is the best we can do with what we have to work with? We all could have a better life with more to work with but. This is it. We walk into a scene, we step into our life. Now what? 12/07/2011
  41. Rock Castle Creek, Rock Castle Gorge, Blue Ridge Parkway near Tuggle Gap, VA, November 03, 2011 — One of the Laws of Photography states: “We are always limited by our equipment.” For instance, Jay Maisel says, “The more equipment we have, the fewer photographs we take.” A lot of equipment is limiting. A little equipment is limiting. There will always be photos we cannot take because of our equipment, too much or too little. So, we resign ourselves to taking the photographs we can take with the equipment we have on hand. We live with our limitations and do what we can within the restrictions thus imposed. Sound like life to you? It should. We are always limited. The art of living is coming to terms with that which limits us and living as fully as possible anyway, never the less, even so. We cannot do this once and be done with it. It is a continuing adjustment, a never-ending dance with limits and life. So put those dancing shoes on and step lively now. 12/07/2011
  42. Eno River Fall, Eno River State Park near Durham, NC, November 09, 2011 — We are the tip of the ice berg. What you see is not what you get. What you get is all the stuff underwater, hidden from view even our own view, unconscious—not just repressed and forgotten, but also never known, unknown but not altogether unknowable for eyes that see, ears that hear, hearts that understand. There is more to us than meets the eye and so, we have to be alert to the all-ness of us that we do not know—to motives, and interests, and moods, and agendas that are not ours but that are at work in us and through us in the service of ends and incentives we do not understand. Part of our work is to know as much of what is unconscious and unknown about us as we are able to know in the time left for living—listening to dreams and flights of fancy, to impulses and strange attractions—paying attention to what resonates with us, catches our eye, calls our name, and to depths of grief and sadness beyond what we think we have any right to feel. There is a world within that is every bit as complex as the world without. Honoring the invisible world with attention and respect is a step toward establishing diplomatic relations and negotiating treaties for the well-being of both worlds. 12/07/2011
  43. Ramsey Creek, Greenbriar District, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN, November 07, 2011 — I wish we could be counted on to do right by one another, which would also mean doing right by ourselves. We don’t know, or care, what right is. We just know what we want and we want more of it. We want easy. Smooth. Fast. Exciting. Happy. Shortcuts—we like shortcuts. Doing what it takes and paying the price to do right by ourselves and one another is not on the table. I don’t like that about us as much as I don’t like anything. Don’t you? 12/08/2011
  44. Thorns Panorama, Pisgah Inn, Blue Ridge Parkway near Brevard, NC—October 13, 2011 —  We spend a lot of time searching for the right place to be, the right people to be with, in order to unfold ourselves and step into the world. We have to have a receiving room it seems, not unlike any delivery room—a welcoming environment where we can come forth and survive. You might think that would not be hard to find, given that it is everyone’s fundamental need, to be safely born, but. The second birth is resisted by those who are still trying to get the first one down, and they are not hesitant to abort a soul aborning. We are left, if we are lucky, with a stall in a manger and only a few animals as attendants to witness the struggling birth of who we are. 12/09/2011
  45. Stack Rock, with Hawk’s Bill Mountain in the distance, Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville, NC—October 12, 2011 — May we know what is being asked of us in each moment of life—in each situation as it arises—and may we have what it takes to do what needs to be done. Our agenda, our interests, keep us from knowing what is being asked of us and prevent us from doing what needs to be done. We act with our advantage foremost in mind. We look for what is in the moment that we can use, for how we can exploit the situation to our good. And we lose another opportunity to bring forth what is ours to give for the good of the world. We do not understand the concept of what is to our advantage, or how what is good for all is good for us. This is what growing up entails, which is a synonym for the Spiritual Quest, the Hero’s Journey, the Search for the Land of Promise and the Holy Grail. Growing up. Waking up. The two are one, and that’s all there is to it. 12/09/2011
  46. Hanging Rock Vista, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC—November 03, 2011 — We have to be able to say, “NO!” and we have to be able to take “NO!” for an answer. We have to be able to draw lines and allow lines to be drawn. We don’t get very far along the path running over people or allowing people to run over us. The boundaries of relationship are capable of adjustment and relocation but. They are always in place and we do not have to wonder where we stop and someone else starts. Relationship does not exist where “NO!” is not permitted. Practice saying “NO!” without defending, excusing, justifying or explaining—without making it okay that you said no. Practice with your dog. It’s amazing how many people can’t say “NO!” to their dog. Or take “NO!” for an answer from their dog. Or know when to do which. 12/10/2011
  47. Swinging Bridge, Eno River State Park near Durham, NC—November 09, 2011 — November 09, 2011 — Aqui estamos y ahora que? Here we are, and now what? This is the starting point for everything that follows. It doesn’t matter how we got here, whose fault it is, what should have been done that wasn’t or what shouldn’t have been done that was, where we should be instead, how things might be except, but, only… HERE we are. Now what? Whatever we do in response to where we are will lead us somewhere, and there we will begin the process anew. Our life unfolds that way, one response to this here, this now, at a time. 12/11/2011
  48. Moonset 02, Price Lake, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—December 10, 2011 — It takes a while to get back in the groove. We have to give ourselves time. If you ride horses a lot and then don’t ride horses for a while, you can’t hop back in the saddle and ride like you were riding before the interlude. You can’t treat now as then. You have to give yourself time to acclimate yourself again to the horse, to the saddle, to the entire experience. You’ll be a bit off center, out of synch. The horse will know it and you have to be open to it. You can’t rush being the rider you were. You have to ease back into it over time. And get off your back about your disconnection with the horse’s back. It is a natural occurrence, being out of synch. You can’t not sing for a while and be on key. That’s why professional singers practice, practice, practice. And you think you don’t have to ride your horse regularly to be able to ride your horse like you want to? Or be with your grandchildren? It takes work being in the groove. Practice, practice, practice! And while I’m practicing taking pictures of birds in flight at the Bog Garden, I am not practicing taking landscapes in low light on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Don’t think camera practice is camera practice. Being in the groove at the Bog Garden doesn’t translate into being in the groove on the Parkway. Takes time, moving from one scene to another. Give yourself time. Be easy with you. 12/12/2011
  49. Used in Short Talks on Contradiction, etc., Moonrise Panorama, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—December 10, 2011 — We live on the boundary between yin and yang, in the tension created by what is true and what is also true, awash in the reality of polarity. Ambivalence is not not-knowing what to do—it is knowing this ought to be done and that ought to be done and having to decide what is to be done. The way through the opposites and contradictions that impinge upon our life begins with our rising above the conventional should’s, ought’s, and must’s that pretend to be “guides” and giving our own instinct and intuition free rein in determining when and where to do what. Consistency is out of the question. Sometimes we do it like this and sometimes we do it like that. We do it this way when it needs to be done this way and we do it that way when it needs to be done that way. Sometimes we say “Yes” and sometimes we say “No” to the same question. We strive to respond to the situation as it arises out of our sense of what needs to be done in that situation. This is the only kind of freedom—being free to live here and now as we determine, based on our consideration of all that can be taken into account, we need to live. They will crucify us, you know, but that’s a lot better than being buried alive beneath the directives of Those Who Know Best. 12/13/2011
  50. Goose Wars, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—December, 2011 — Worrying about things can be a way of getting to the bottom of them, coming to terms with them, squaring up with them, imagining different ways of dealing with them, rehearsing our response to them, making preparation for them… There is a place for worry in our life. There are things we should be worried about, planning for. And, there are some things we can’t do anything about until we get there. We have to trust ourselves to think things up as we go, to improvise, invent and astound, to meet the unheard of with the unheard of, and rise to the occasion. Bring life on! We are here for the living of it on every level! 12/13/1011
  51. Country Y Panorama, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—December 10, 2011 — Start with what it true. It could be anything. You hate your nose. Or you love it. Now, say what is also true about your nose. Say all you can say that is true about your nose. Soon you will be awash in truth about your nose. You can do this about every single aspect of your experience. What is true? What is also true? We are awash in truth. Contradictory truth. Off-setting truth. Mutually exclusive truth. And we side with one end of the polarity or another. What’s with this taking sides? With this emotional involvement with one aspect of truth? We’re pulling for truth against truth. No matter how hard we pull for this, that is going to still be true. No matter how we insist that THIS is true, that is also true. Face up to the truth of truth! Truth does not cancel out truth. Truth enlarges, expands, deepens truth. I’m going to get theological on you. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but by me.” What is also true? Jesus also said, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father.” Which way is it? “No one can come to the Father but by me”? “No one can come to me but by the Father”? Truth will do this to you every time if you stay with it. Which is what I’m recommending, that you stay with it. Don’t try to figure it out. Just be aware of all of it, of all that is true and all that is also true. And how you are going to decide what to do about it. This process will wake you up. Open your eyes. You will be a bigger, deeper person for it. Centered. Grounded. Good to be with. The good to be with part is the best part. You should do it just for that. 12/14/2011
  52. Branches, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—December 10, 2011 — The first rule of spiritual growth is: Take everything anybody tells you under advisement, that is, under careful consideration, and nothing as the final word. When I was a young spurt of a photographer, my advisers were in favor of manual focusing instead of auto-focus. Maybe they weren’t working with tri-focals, and it WAS in the early days of auto-focus cameras but. Their advice stuck with me through a number of significant failures on the focus front. I kept thinking they knew what they were talking about in spite of the of the mounting evidence to the contrary. Took me way too long to ditch the guru’s and go with experience. So. I’m telling you don’t listen to me, or anyone else, over what your own experience is saying to you. Listen to me when I say Don’t Listen To Me! 12/14/2001
  53. Three Goats, Appalachian Homestead near Todd, NC—December 14, 2011 — We have a difficult time distancing ourselves from the people in our lives who don’t understand the concept of boundaries, who are always invading, intruding, violating the space we think of as ours, who don’t know—or care—where they stop and we start, who insist that we do it the way they think it ought to be done and “get their feelings hurt” when we don’t. As far as I can tell, there is no  hope of relationship with people like that even if they are family or extended family members. We have to divorce them, either literally or metaphorically, to have a chance. The proverb “Good fences make good neighbors,” reflects what I think should be the Eleventh Commandment in the Old Testament (It is found there anyway): “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmark.” How to get our neighbor to understand and respect that is the best trick in the book of tricks—particularly if you do it without hurting his or her feelings. 12/15/2001
  54. Moonset Panorama, Price Lake and Grandfather Mountain, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—December 10, 2011 — Children stringing beads don’t have to have a reason to string beads. They are stringing beads. “Why are you stringing beads?” “Because I like to.” That’s reason enough. They aren’t making a necklace. They aren’t practicing hand/eye coordination. They aren’t burning calories. They are stringing beads because they like to. What do you do because you like to? How often do you do it? How long do you allow yourself to do it before you say something along the lines of, “Well, this isn’t getting it done,” and move on to something you have plenty of reason to do and no excuse not to do? We need to live more like children string beads. Because we like to. 12/15/2011
  55. Neighborhood Lights, Sunset Hills, Greensboro, NC—December 15, 2011 — What do you think enlightenment will do for you? You’ll still have to pay your bills. Your job will continue to be your job. Your life partner and his or her extended family, and your own family and extended family, will be the same. The people you don’t like will still be the people you don’t like. Your problems will still be your problems. The Dalai Lama was enlightened and the Chinese chased him out of Tibet. Jesus was enlightened and you know what happened to him. Enlightenment is not the cure-all for the things that are wrong about your life. You don’t seek enlightenment for things to finally be fine. It is no escape from the firestorm of life. So, what’s enlightenment good for? What is life good for? What do you get out of being alive? You’re still going to die. Who are we kidding? Being alive doesn’t do anything about any of the things we hate about living. Neither does enlightenment. But. With enlightenment, everything falls into place. Just as it is. And we stop battling to get it into place, into the place we want it to be. We stop wanting, needing, having to have life be different than it is. We just leave Tibet when the Chinese come for us. We do what we can do to deal appropriately with what must be dealt with, and we don’t let the fact that we have to deal with it interfere with our ability to be fully, deeply, alive in the time left for living. Why do we want to be alive? What does being alive do for us? What does life have to offer? If I have to sell you on life, you are too far gone to have any chance at enlightenment. It would be like the Dalai Lama talking to the Chinese about waking up. The better course is to leave Tibet. When enlightened people see an elephant coming down the trail toward them, they get off the trail.12/16/2011
  56. Clingman’s Dome Sunset Panorama 01, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC—November, 2011 —

    Don’t you have
    some sense
    of the part
    you play
    in creating
    the life
    you complain
    about living?               12/17/2011
  57. Ramsey Creek Panorama, Greenbriar District, Great Smoky Mountains Naitonal Park, TN—November 08, 2011 — A life of true value doesn’t just fall off the bus, doesn’t just appear at our door. We work it into being. We cultivate it, serve it. What has life for us has value for us. We must live consciously, aware of what has life, value, for us and what does not, aware of protecting our life, recovering it, living it. We have sacred items which carry our life and reflect what has value for us. My walking shoes and hiking boots, my coffee cups, my camera equipment, my rocking chairs… My life. What are the objects, items, that carry our life? These are our sacred symbols connecting us with life, reminding us of what has life and value for us. Keep them close. It’s hard to imagine living without the objects, items, that carry our life, that set us apart, announce us to the world, express the deep truth of our being, our soul, our Self. The deep truth of our being, our soul, our Self is exhibited in the objects, items, that carry our life, that ARE our life, without which we could not live. We make ourselves aware of our life, the life that is truly our life, by becoming aware of the objects, items, that carry our life. We have a life unlike any other life that has ever been lived, or will be lived, which we too often put under a basket, hide in a back room, deny, ignore. We cannot be alive without embracing our life, our individuality, and living in ways which express our uniqueness in the time left for living. Living the life that is our life to live does not mean recognition, fame, fortune, glory, etc. It means being alive. We are here to be alive. May we all be! 12/17/2011
  58. Molasses Creek Impressionistic Panorama, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteraas National Seashore, NC—October 27, 2011 — We can easily settle for a life of no value by mindlessly following the cow path from the barn to the pasture to the barn. We can life a life of no value by living as we are supposed to live, doing what someone says we ought to do, keeping them all happy. The military has a phrase for maintaining your own sense of true value under the thumb of protocol: “Defect in place.” The culture, any culture, is an oppressive system of protocol, of ought-to-be’s. We serve our individuality within the culture with symbolic acts of life. We fight for our life, for our right—obligation—to live our life the way it needs us to live it in the face of overwhelming opposition to our stepping out of line and being who we are. Under the heavy thumb of protocol, we have to remember who we are with symbolic acts of life. They cannot have our soul! We will not surrender our claim to the life of our own! So we carry objects, wear items, make gestures of life, to life, within the oppressive cultures of living to remind ourselves who we are and what we are about, keeping soul alive. Remembering we are “not that, not that.” 12/17/2011
  59. Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—November 21, 2011 — We see what is true and what is also true. We decide what needs to be done in response to it. We do it. And repeat the cycle endlessly. The road is always as long as it ever was. That’s the way it is, with a circle. We despair because it seems that we aren’t getting anywhere—like there is somewhere to be, like if we were doing it right it would be easier, we would see progress, long periods of time with nothing but peace and joy to deal with and things going our way. We think things ought to be going our way. And that there is something we can do to get them to go our way. Think positive thoughts and attract prosperity. Pray and keep the Ten Commandments and have Jesus run interference for us. Something. Sorry to be the one to break the news to you but. We do what we can think to do in every situation as it arises. And then, we do what we can think to do with the situation that developed in response to what we did. We never get beyond doing what needs us to do it in the situation as it arises. The good thing is that the situation will tell you what to do. Listen to the situation. Look at the situation. Hear the situation. See the situation. Those who can see, must see—and live as though they do. That’s all there is to the Hero’s Journey. 12/18/2011
  60. Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—December 17, 2011 — We all are Jesus, and the Buddha, when we succeed in getting out of the way. 12/18/2011
  61. Curve, Blue Ridge Parkway near Doughton Park, NC—December 13, 2011 — The only thing standing between us and God is, well, us. When we disappear into oneness with “Thy will not mine be done,” there is nothing but the Holy One for all to see. But there is a catch. Who says what “Thy will” is? That would be us. And there just might be a bit of conflict of interest going on. “Of course God wanted me to take that anchor. If not why would He have arranged for it to be left lying right there on that guy’s boat seat?”, said an acquaintance about a boat anchor he “found.” Funny how God’s will is always what our will would be if we were God, how God’s will so regularly coincides with what we think God’s will should be. Which leaves us conveniently able to live our life exactly as we think it should be lived. Which has created the world as we know it. If you’re going to fix something, fix that. 12/19/2011
  62. Blue Ridge Vista HDR 03, Near Craggy Gardens, NC, October 21, 2011 — The man or woman of your dreams is dreaming, too. If you want to increase your odds of finding Mr. or Ms. Right you have to work at becoming Mr. or Ms. Right, that is the Right Person You Were Born To Be. You do that by looking closely at your Dreamboat and identifying the qualities he or she would bring to life in your relationship. What characteristics set him or her apart? Those are the qualities and characteristics you are to bring to life in yourself and in your life. You are to become who you long for. The person of your dreams carries the projection of the aspects of yourself that need to be more strongly developed in you and your life. You see in him or her who you need to be, and your are wasting your time idly wishing to be redeemed, saved, sanctified and glorified by another. You are your work to bring forth as a blessing to the world. Get with it! 12/19/2011
  63. The Other Lone Cypress Impressionistic Panorama, Lake Brandt at Reedy Fork, Greensboro, NC—November 11, 2011 — We need a community of innocence (Innocent in the sense that it doesn’t have anything at stake in us, nothing to gain or lose by having us as a member) to listen us to the truth of ourselves, enlarge our perspective, deepen our understanding, expand our place in our own lives, bring us forth to meet each situation as it arises, call us to rise to every occasion in offering what we have to give to that which needs what we have to offer, enable us to be who we are and to do what is ours to do in each moment of our life throughout the time left for living. Now where are we going to find one of those babies? The stark absence of that which is most necessary for life in our lives is just ridiculous. 12/20/2011
  64. Cedar Island Ferry, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—October 23, 2011 — The transformation of perspective is another term for waking up, which is another term for growing up. You can’t wake up without growing up. You can’t grow up without waking up. And the transformation of perspective is at the bottom of it all. You could complete the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest, the Search for the Holy Grail and the Promised Land in the privacy of your own home—if you could figure out a way to transform your perspective from the inside. It takes being whammed by something from the outside, the Cyclops, say, to do that. It is not an inside job. 12/20/2011
  65. The Woods at Rock Castle Gorge 01, Blue Ridge Parkway near Tuggle Gap, VA—December 02, 2011 — We think it’s like this and it is really like that. We think it is one way and it is another way. No one just sits down and figures it out. Everyone hits the wall. And tries to run through the wall. And looks for a door in the wall. And complains loudly to all who will listen, or not listen, it is all the same to the complainer: “WHAT’S THIS WALL DOING IN MY LIFE???” And takes up alcohol and drugs to numb out about the ridiculous wall. And says in 10,000 ways, “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am” if it hadn’t have been for that damn wall. When we wake up we say, “Oh. That’s a wall. NOW I see,” and wonder why it took so long. 12/21/2011
  66. Lake Brandt Sunset Impressionistic Panorama, Greensboro, NC—If you see things like I do, you believe that we are working to achieve an environment that will allow us—all of us, every last one of us, worldwide, I’m talking—to play with our lives. What else is there? If we aren’t striving to be free enough of the pain and anguish and uncertainty of living to be able to play with our lives, what??? Well. Why put it off? Why not play right now with our lives, to the extent that is possible, as often as we can? Why wait? How long has it been since you played with your life? Played anywhere in your life? What has taking everything so seriously done for you? What has not allowing yourself the freedom to live lightly enabled you to do that you couldn’t have done living lightly? If you were going to do something playful, what would it be? See how playfully you can live in the next 24 hours. Your Christmas gift to me. No. To yourself! 12/21/2011
  67. Cape Hatteras Sunrise Impressionistic Panorama 01, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—October 31, 2011 — The older we get, the fewer plates we can keep spinning, and the more often we are apt to wonder, “What’s with keeping plates spinning?” This business of questioning why spin plates as we age is one of the developmental tasks of life. Each phase, or period, or age of life has its tasks. We crawl, then walk. We grow teeth then we lose them. There are tasks of life appropriate to each age of living—and it is crucial that we complete them at the time of their doing. The problem is, particularly as we age, that we don’t want to do them. We want to stay forever young. So we neglect the tasks of the last stage of life, pretending things are not what they are. We opt for plastic surgery instead of wrinkles. The list is long. We cannot avoid the developmental tasks and live well. Each age has its walls. Waking up requires walls. We wake up at the bottom of some damn wall. It’s the way waking up works. If we are going to be as awake as we can be in the time left for living, we are going to have to hit all the walls. Another term for “wall” is “developmental task.” We have to do what is asked of us by our stage of life. But we don’t want to. Exactly. That’s what makes a wall a wall. A wall would never wake us up if we wanted to hit it. We have to do what we don’t want to do whether we want to or not. 12/22/2011
  68. Across the Fence, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—October 20, 2011 — We rarely ever marry the person we marry. We nearly always marry our idea of that person. As long as the person we marry is content to play the game, things go along but. If she, if he, begins to bring herself, himself, forth, things hit a snag. Then we have to divorce the other person or divorce our idea of the other person or settle for a lifetime of conflict over who the other person is going to be. The same setup goes, of course, for us in the eyes of the other person. This makes marriage a very tricky enterprise, guaranteed to challenge our idea of self and other at some point, and perhaps all the way. As it does so, marriage becomes a wall, waking us up by slamming us down, forcing us to consider there on our duff in the dirt all those down to earth (Where else would we ever spend time pondering them?) essential matters: who we are, what we are about, what is important, what is true and what is also true and what we are going to do about it. The questions of life. 12/23/2011
  69. Urban Sunset, Charlotte, NC—December 23, 2011 — An iPhone photo—When we wake up, we see things as they are and as they also are which is how things really are. Once we see things as they really are, then we have to wake up to what truly needs to be done about it. It is one thing to see things as they are and another to see what to do about it. We wake up further when we find what we need to do what needs to be done. We wake up further when we do it and face the consequences, which creates another situation requiring us to see things as they are and as they also are, so we are forever waking up to this here, this now, what needs to be done about it and where we find what we need to do it. This is not easy. It is easier to be dead in one of the 10,000 ways to die and still be 98.6 and breathing with all our vital signs in place. So, why would anyone do it? There is no logical, rational, left-brained reason to wake up. It is a right-brain process that needs left-brain cooperation, collaboration. The left-brain has to trust the right-brain all the way. And trust is a right-brain thing. How things are and how things also are at the very heart of things. Living in and awake to the tension of polarities brings miracle into the mix and transforms all of life which we try to talk about with words like rebirth, deliverance, salvation, redemption, resurrection—which makes the work to wake up like the labor to be born. Why would anyone do that? Where would we be if we didn’t? 12/24/2011
  70. The Oak Tree, Blue Ridge Parkway near Rocky Knob, VA—November 02, 2011 — See. Do. Be. That’s the formula for life. See what needs to be done in each situation as it arises. Do it. Be transformed by the work to put yourself aside in favor of what needs to be done, which means doing what YOU need to have done when YOU need it to be done and putting aside your dumb notion that YOU should come in last all the time! Seeing what needs to be done means seeing what YOU need to be done for YOU (Like taking a nap, for instance, or just going to the bath room). YOU are as important as any other aspect of your life. YOUR needs are equal to all other needs that are present in any moment. You are to put YOU on the table with all the rest as you walk around the table and consider what needs to be done in each situation as it arises. YOU are your Christmas gift to YOU and to the world. You decide how much for YOU and how much for THEM, giving YOU equal rights to what needs you to do it. 12/25/2011
  71. Pylon Panorama, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC—December 25, 2011 — We grow up, that is, get older, thinking things are the way we are told they are. We begin to grow up, that is, wake up and take up the path to true human being-hood, when we understand that things are not the way we were told they are—and do the on-going work of experimenting, exploring and experiencing how things actually are and what they are asking of us in the here-and-now of our living. “Oh! So THAT’s how things are!” is the fundamental ground of revelation, realization, enlightenment. “Oh! NOW I get it!” is the liturgical response of the people to the experience of their experience. We “get it” only to discover that “getting it” is just a step on the journey without end, and, laughing, look for what we have yet to see. 12/25/2011
  72. Wetlands Sunrise Impressionistic Panorama, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC—December 26, 2011 — We have an idea of who we are. Maybe we want to be that way and maybe we wish we weren’t that way but. Our idea of who we are is frozen in time and place, unchanging and unchangeable through all eternity. “That’s just who we are,” we say. “This is just the way I am.” Wait, wait, wait. Stop the cameras. Cut, cut. Take it again from the top. Our idea of us is the first thing to go. Or, to put it another way, nothing goes until it does. Nothing changes until it changes. We don’t grow one smidgen beyond where and who we are until we change the way we think about ourselves and give ourselves the freedom to live in ways we have declared to be off-limits. “Un-uh. That’s not me! I don’t ____ (fill in the blank)!” We have to let ourselves show us what we are capable of—show us who ALL we are. You know how old people are said to be “set in their ways”? It started when they were 25, or 15, or 5. If you are going to be conscious of anything, be conscious of your stiff, frozen, inflexible, rigid, unbending, unmoving places and get out of your way. Let you show you what you can do, who you can be. Surprise yourself with your range of motion. Become who you think you aren’t. See what you are capable of before you die. Amaze yourself. 12/26/2011
  73. Wetlands Sunrise Impressionistic Panorama, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC—December 26, 2011 — We dumb our way to smart. We get it by not getting it 10,000 times, and then we forget it and have to get it again. And we just want to be there. Sitting in the cat bird’s seat. Sitting on top of the world. Sitting on a rainbow. With the world on a string. We want to skip all of the hard parts, pass on the work, and go straight to bliss. Bring it on. Now. Please. It isn’t going to happen. There is only the work. The work of seeing, hearing, understanding, knowing, doing, being. That’s all there is. There is nothing beyond that to lust for. What would life be without the work of life? The work of right seeing, right hearing, right understanding, right knowing, right doing, right being? Without the work, you’re dead. Don’t die before you’re dead. Do the work of life in every moment for as long as you are alive. 12/27/2011
  74. Little River, DuPont State Forest near Brevard, NC—October 14, 2011 — The Buddha died, it is said, from eating bad pork. Enlightenment doesn’t tell you everything. It just enables you to take everything in stride, bad pork and all. It enables you to play your position the way it needs to be played, no matter what. Keeps you from getting lost in mental anguish about the state of the world or your life. Keeps you present and accounted for, here and now, in order to live your life the way only you can live it for as long as life is possible. People keep looking for the advantages, thinking enlightenment is the path to glory. It’s the path to life. Life is the only advantage. Being alive has it all over being dead. Live to be alive in the time left for living—seeing things as they are and also are and doing what needs to be done about it. 12/27/2011
  75. Geese at Sunrise, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC—December 26, 2011 — Enlightenment gets you out of the way. Out of the way of the way. So that it is only you and the way—instead of you and your way. The way is not your way. This is what they are holding back from you, all those people who make quick bucks telling you what you want to hear: How to be happy and prosperous. How to get what you want. How to live the life of your dreams. How to have it made. “The Prayer of Jabez,” “The Secret,” and all books of this ilk are about you and your way and how to have it. Enlightenment stands in your path and asks unmistakably, “What are you doing on THIS path? THAT’s the path!” The Hero’s Journey requires us to give up THIS path in favor of THAT one. No wonder so many people talk about enlightenment and so few actually bother to be enlightened. 12/28/2011
  76. Hawk’s Bill Sunset, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—December 11, 2011 — We are to embrace our life—and all of life—as voluntary participants in “the circle of pain and fortune” that is the lot of all living things, all sentient beings. This is it, whatever your life has been and will be, that’s your life. What are you going to do? Not live it? Sit this one out? Wait for something more on the order of what you have in mind? You’re burning daylight here. Refusing to live by what light there is is to die before you’re dead. Why would you want to be dead? Ah, don’t tell me. “The Pain! The Pain!” Right. Pain is a pain, all right. And it is an individual call whether pain is a stopper, whether the pain is too great to go on. But I’m here to call you on, in spite of the pain, into what life there can be between now and the end of life. Live it! That’s what we do with life, we live it while we can, in what light there is, for as long as life is possible. And, in so doing we show what we’re made of. We bring forth what we have to offer as a blessing and grace before we are gone. Where would we be if we hadn’t come into each other’s life? Where would the world be if we opted to sit it out, holding ourselves aloof, waiting for something more our style? 12/28/2011
  77. The Cabin, Blue Ridge Parkway near West Jefferson, NC—December 14, 2011 — Understanding is what WE understand, not what someone else explains to us. You can’t take the someone else out of the picture, but no one can give us understanding. Remember Algebra with it’s x’s and y’s, or Organic Chemistry with it’s balanced equations? We all sat in the same classroom and heard the same lecture, the same explanation, and some of us got it and some of us, like me, never did. The switch is in us. We click or we don’t. No one can give it to us. We have to get it ourselves. We can only know there is something to get, some shift to experience, something beyond what we currently understand to be the way it is, and wait for the shift to happen. Until the shift happens, we trust ourselves to the Quest, to the Search, to the Journey, to the Way, to Ourselves. We trust ourselves to the Knower within and wait to know what the Knower knows. We trust ourselves to the Company of those who receive us well, and treat us well, and tell us to trust ourselves to know what we need to know when we need to know it, and listen us to the truth of our own experience. Which is the ground of being. And wait for the shift to happen that is called “Enlightenment.” 12/29/2011
  78. Price Lake, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—December 11, 2011 — We are on our own. It is all up to us. We are OUR responsibility. AND. We cannot do it alone. We need a community of innocence with nothing at stake in us (We don’t teach their Sunday School classes, or sing in their choirs, or give 10% of our income to their budget, or give up our Wednesday evenings for their Fellowship Suppers), who can listen us to the truth of ourselves and encourage us in the work that is ours to do. AND we need to connect with the invisible community within for their guidance and support and the resources that are available to us there. BUT this does not mean using either community for our own ends, to get what we want and live the life we have in mind for ourselves. Our idea of our life is the first thing that has to go when we embrace what has to be embraced: Living from a “Thy will not mine be done” orientation. At that point, we open ourselves to the wisdom of both communities in finding and serving ends worthy of us, and collaborate with them in guiding our boat on its path through the sea. 12/30/2011
  79. A “happy new year” reminds me of the phrase “one big happy family.” The happiness of the family is either a charade, a façade, or a hell-of-a-lot of work on the part of those who don’t mind doing their share of compromising, relenting and standing aside. Happy new years follow suit. Happy doesn’t just drop out of the sky, just land at our feet, just appear one day out of nowhere to thrill and delight. Happy is the result of authenticity, genuineness, compassion and compromise being worked out in the heat and grime of our lives. Happy is squaring ourselves up to the truth of how things are and how they also are and doing what can be done about the polarities within which we live—and making our peace with all of the things that cannot be done. Happy wrings us out and bleeds us dry. Happy is the satisfaction that comes with knowing we stood our ground with yet another manifestation of the Cyclops, facing what had to be faced, doing what needed to be done, and did not quit again. May your New Year bring forth exactly that kind of response to all of the situations you will encounter as a blessing and a grace upon all who can be blessed and graced by your presence, compassion, vulnerability and resilience. Amen! May it be so! 12/31/2011
  80. Blue Ridge Vista 05, Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC—October 21, 2011 — Here’s my staple blessing for the New Year: May you see things as they are (which includes seeing things as they also are). May you be clear and correct about what needs to be done in each situation as it arises. And, may you have the courage to do it. Amen! May it be certainly so!
  81. Pamlico Sunset, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—October 31, 2011 — We don’t just hand ourselves over to the invisible world, we stand between worlds and work out the connections, the implications. We receive our identity, our calling, our destiny from the invisible world and work them out in the visible world of normal, apparent, reality. “Who we are,” says Jung, “is who we always have been and who we will be.” But. The visible world can bury us beneath its requirements and demands. We can become too easily one with the visible world, buy too thoroughly into its ideas of what is worth our time and what is not. We forget too quickly who we are and embrace too swiftly who we are not. We have to distance ourselves from both worlds in order to be the point of contact for each. We live our way into right relationship with the two worlds. The path is easily lost and easily found—it is always under our feet, requiring only eyes that see, ears that hear, a heart that understands, asking only that we wake up, square up, grow up, get up and do what needs to be done in each situation as it arises—what WE say needs to be done after listening carefully to all sides, ALL sides. We live the adventure of seeing, hearing, knowing, doing, being as those who are awake, aware, and alive. Amen! May it be so! 01/01/2012
  82. Bass Lake 10, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—October 06, 2011 — Listen to the Inner Other and see how it goes. That’s my best advice. Oh, and if it doesn’t go so well, listen to the Inner Other about what to do about that and see where it goes. Oh, and be sure the Inner Other you listen to is not you. Tricky. Interesting. Could be fun. See where it goes. 01/01/2012
  83. The Beach House, Ocracoke Island, NC—November 01, 2011 — May we all be alert to moments of crucial importance when they come upon us! May we know what is before us and what is being asked of us and what the implications of acting, or failing to act, are! May we not be so lost in the concern for our own advantage that we miss the opportunity to serve a larger concern! May we sense the significance of each situation as it arises and rise to every occasion in bringing forth what we have to offer for the good that is the greatest good in that time and place no matter what! Amen! May it be so! 01/01/2012
  84. The Woods at Springer’s Point, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—October 28, 2011 — We don’t have any moments to burn. There is no time to waste. We cannot be flip and casual with our life. Everything rides on how we handle this here, this now—and all the ones following. This doesn’t mean we can’t be playful. Playful is one of the most important things to be. It means we can’t be asleep. Awake is THE most important thing to be. To be awake is to respond to the situation as it arises in the way most appropriate to that situation. To be awake is to know what’s what and what now. We can’t blow off any moment, any situation, just because things aren’t going our way and we aren’t in the mood to be attentive to any needs other than our own. To be awake is to live beyond our mood of the moment. It is to rise to the occasion and offer what the moment needs us to give. In every moment. 01/02/2012
  85. View From Grandfather Mountain 07, Grandfather Mountain State Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Linville, NC—October 13, 2011 — It is up to us to find the meaning in the flow of time—in the string of days—that add up to old age. Meaning doesn’t happen without our intentional participation in its production. It takes the determined pursuit of meaning, the willful engagement with meaning to live a meaningful life. Meaning and value—the two are the same—characterize the lives of those who know a good thing when they see one and do not pass it by, either because it is too much trouble, asks too much of them, or because they hope to find something better or just as good and a lot easier down the road. We seize meaning like Jacob seized the angel and do not let it go until we have received the blessing (and the limp). All meaningful lives pay a price for the experience of the wonder of meaning. Meaninglessness is free for the taking—not that we want it, but it is the only thing left those who let meaning go, who don’t have what it takes to hang on and enjoy the ride, who aren’t awake enough to know what’s what and what’s now. What’s what and what’s now where meaning is concerned is what matters, what’s important, what has true value. What’s now is throwing our arms around it, giving ourselves to it for better or worse as long as we both shall live—because we know there is no living without it, only the empty shell of a life that missed its chance at life when it had one. 01/03/2012
  86. Silver Lake Dawn, Ocracoke Island, NC, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, October 26, 2011 — Your primary relationship—the one you must tend and serve, love and honor all your life long, maybe, who knows, not even parting at death—is with your calling, your work, the work that is yours to do, that only you can do, your genius, your gift, your life. How many so-called “life partners” last nearly that along? And, if they do, how much of your calling did you both have to deny in order to maintain what is really a secondary relationship—and has to be recognized as such if we are to have any hope of becoming the True Human Beings our calling might bring into existence? Our calling is the gift and the curse that brings us to life and asks us to die again and again in its service. Apart from it we are lost and alone I don’t care how married or bound to another we are. Apart from it, our life is a wasteland and we are wearing a mask that does not fit, pretending to be what we are not, pretending we aren’t pretending, living shadow lives. Our “life partner” must be a partner in the truest sense in the life that is ours alone to live—and we return the favor, supporting our partner in his, in her, quest to bring forth and serve his, her, gift in the world. We help one another birth ourselves to life in our lives. In marriage, we are mid-wives to each other. That is a marriage, a partnership, worthy of us! 01/04/2012
  87. The Woods at Springer’s Point, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—October 28, 2011 — What’s different about us? Where are we changing, shifting, growing, developing? What can we do that we couldn’t do a year ago? Ten years ago? Where are we stuck, unchanging, frozen in time and place, continuing to respond to the same conditions in the same ways? Where is the movement in our life? Where are we coming forth, bringing ourselves forth, to meet our life, to express our gift, our genius in the here and now of our living? Where are we refusing to change, to grow, to shift, to move? Where are we embracing our stuckness because “That’s just the way I am”? Where are we as obsessed with achieving what is important to us as Voldemort was with achieving what was important to him—without exploring whether we are right about its value? Where do we see ourselves, hear ourselves, understand ourselves and ask, “How can we do this better?” What are we doing to change, grow, expand, deepen, enlarge, develop ourselves in response to our life and the gift we are asked to bring forth in our life? Hmmm? 01/04/2012
  88. Springer’s Point Silhouette, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—October 28, 2011 – In doing what is ours to do we become who we are. Doing is the only path to being. 01/04/2012
  89. The Woods at Springer’s Point, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—October 28, 2011 — Do the work, the work that is yours to do. Believe in the work. Be transformed by the work. This is the Revolution—the Revolution beyond all revolutions. This is a revolutionary as it gets. You cannot be more subversive, more of a dissident. Jesus and the Buddha, Gandhi and Lao Tzu… The list is long of true revolutionaries, True Human Beings, who did nothing to eliminate the suffering of their contemporary generation, but the work these people did transformed the world and led all who picked up their work by doing their own work to a better grasp of the world and their place in it. This is how it is to be with all of us. Do the work! May they say that about each of us when we have been gathered unto those who have gone before us. Amen! May it be so! 01/04/2012
  90. Another Barn, Transylvania County near Brevard, NC—October 17, 2011 — The Zen path to happiness ever after is to let go what’s going and to let come what’s coming. If you can find a better one, walk it! 01/05/2011
  91. October Colors, DuPont State Forest, Transylvania County near Brevard, NC—October 15, 2011 – When we wake up, we wake up to the reality of our gift, our work, our genius over time, over the course of our life. So THAT’s it! Who would have imagined it? The pearl of great price is the stone the builders reject. One way to spot what is ours to do is to pay attention to what interests us. What do we drift to? Where do we spend idle time? What do we do that isn’t required? What characterizes our way in the world? What do friends notice about us that may be invisible to us? What claims us and will not let us go? What keeps standing before us in a “Here I am and I’m not going away” kind of way? 01/05/2011
  92. Blackberry Stem 01, Price Park, Greensboro, NC—November 11, 2011 — Being who we are requires us to be who we are not. Who we are is always beyond who we want to be, who we are comfortable being. We cannot grow without growing beyond ourselves, beyond our current configuration, into who we are not, through who we are not. We expand, deepen, enlarge ourselves by becoming more than we have been up to any point. Who we also are is who we are not. So. In determining what needs to be done in the situation as it arises, in determining what is ours to do and leave undone, we cannot fall back on “who we are.” Changing diapers may not be your thing, it may not float your boat or toast your bread or top your chart but. If the baby needs changing, you change the baby. If the dog throws up on the carpet, you clean up the mess. Everything goes on the table as we consider what is to be done. We don’t rule out any possibilities. We may have to pick ourselves up and do the unwanted thing, like it or not. 01/06/2012
  93. Puckett Cabin, Blue Ridge Parkway near Rocky Knob, VA—November 02, 2011 — Our task is to grow up into the child we ought to be. And into the mother we ought to be. And into the father, And into all the roles of true-human-being-hood. A True Human Being gets the ratios right in each situation as it arises, coming forth to be exactly what is needed in the moment of living. But because the roles of true-human-being-hood are infinitely expansive we can only hope to approximate true-human-being-hood in any moment. We are never all grown up and resplendent in our Human-Being-Hood. We are always growing up into who we need to be here and now. The roles themselves are beyond us, expanding, deepening themselves as we approach approximation, so our work is never completed, finished. We cannot think we are ever grown up because we must always be growing up. There is no finished state to True-Human-Being-Hood. What is to be avoided is rigid compliance to an idea of how we ought to be in any moment. The moment calls us forth. We get out of the way! Each of us is to be all the roles a human being can be and work out for ourselves how much of what to be when. Life is art, play, a quest. 01/06/2012
  94. Mossy Boulders, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Greenbriar District, TN—November 07, 2011 — Part of the task before us is to find the magic in the scenes, in the moments, of our lives. Magic isn’t something we generate so much as something we uncover, discover, unearth, reveal. Eyes to see, see the magic that transforms the world and our place in it. We are never more than a perspective shift away from the wonder of being alive, even here, even now, in this old place, this old life. Who woulda though it? The trick is to see more than meets the eye, to see what meets the eye in different ways, to say more about it than is evident and obvious. What else is true, here, now? The Taoist approach is to find whatever can be found about the current situation that will lift us, buoy us, along to the next situation. Stop looking at wherever you are, at whatever you face, as a dead end. Everything is a step on the way to something else. You are just along for the ride. So. Enjoy what can be enjoyed about it and see where it goes! 01/07/2012
  95. The Woods of Rock Castle Gorge (05), Blue Ridge Parkway near Tuggle Gap, VA—December 02, 2011 — With apologies to Immanuel Kant, my version of the Categorical Imperative (because it is a must beyond all categories, moral or rational) is this: Wake up! Grow up! Face up! Square up to the way things are and also are and what needs to be done about it. Stand up and do it! Repeat the process in each situation as it arises. All there is to it. 01/07/2012
  96. Hanging Rock Vista, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC—October 03, 2011 — Which would we choose? “I will love you forever!” Or “I will treat you lovingly forever, regardless of how I feel about you.” 01/08/2012
  97. Fall Colors, Price Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—October 17, 2011 — We all need what we can give ourselves. We are new-born babies at every stage of our lives, hoping someone will pick us up, keep us safe, love us as we need to be loved, surround us with all the resources required to face what must be faced and do what must be done in each stage of our lives. We are the ones! We parent ourselves, nurture and nourish ourselves, and bring ourselves forth to meet the day. Every day. It’s all up to us and we cannot do it alone. We need someone to remind us it’s all up to us. 01/08/2012
  98. Rake’s Mill Pond, Blue Ridge Parkway near Floyd, VA—December 02, 2011 — We look for it everywhere, maybe this, maybe that, over here, over there, and not finding it, become frustrated, then angry, then despondent, then irreconcilable, empty, hopeless, dispassionate, cruel—perhaps only cruel to ourselves, but cruelty becomes our primary characteristic, evidenced in the life-denying, denouncing, way we live: carelessly, recklessly, excessively—and why not? What difference does it make how we live? Who cares? Not us. We quit caring years ago, when it became apparent to us that it doesn’t matter what we do, so why try? We give up because we know it doesn’t exist, life as we think it ought to be. We give up in protest because life as it is is not worth having. If this is the best we can hope for the joke is on us and we aren’t laughing. We’ll opt for making ourselves numb until we die. Anybody who tries to talk us out of it is a fool to think we’ll change our minds and live on any terms other than our own. Changing our minds is another term for shifting our perspective, for seeing things differently, for waking up, for growing up, for facing up to the truth of how things are AND HOW THEY ALSO ARE and what can be done about it (WHAT ALL CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT), for standing up and doing what needs to be done in each situation as it arises all our life long no matter what. Being alive hinges on being able to change our minds. 01/09/2012
  99. Remnant, Stone Mountain State Park near Roaring Gap, NC—November 04, 2011 — Life all around us spends most of its time waiting and very little of its time acting. Waiting for the right time to act. We spend most of our time acting and very little of our time waiting. Wondering why things don’t go more our way. We act with no inkling of the rightness or wrongness of the time of our acting. We invented the term “knee jerk reaction.” And the term “impulse buying.” And the term “shooting from the hip.” Which came along just before “shooting ourselves in the foot.” Nature waits, watching us ricochet through our lives like nuclear powered ping pong balls thinking we will get it eventually, which is what we are thinking, going after it on full throttle all the time.  01/20/2012
  100. Rock Castle Creek, Blue Ridge Parkway near Tuggle Gap, VA—December 02, 2011 — Our moods are not necessarily our own. If we find ourselves gripped in a mood arising “out of nowhere for no reason,” we might ascribe its origin to “a source of ancestral nature” and feel it while living around it. We do not know all there is to know. We do not know half of all there is to know. The entire invisible world is, well, invisible. Unconscious. Not Known. We do not know what it is capable of, what it suffers from, what its needs are, how we might help or hinder its operation. It’s a safe bet to assume that it is as much of, if not more of, a mess as the visible world of normal, apparent reality. It is also a safe bet to assume that our ancestors have experienced horrors we cannot imagine. Emotion must be felt, made conscious, witnessed, acknowledged in order to be assimilated, integrated, reconciled. We bear the emotional weight of the species and help the unconscious, invisible world work through its pain. Interesting theory, you’ll have to admit. Whether it is anywhere near accurate is a shot in the, well, dark. But how can it hurt to live as though it is? To think that the pain of the species is working its way out in us—that the invisible world is becoming conscious of its pain through us—as though we need more pain to deal with but. To divvy up the pain into “mine” and “theirs” makes it more bearable, more doable. Give it a shot and see if you don’t think it’s so. 01/11/2012
  101. Leaves on the Water, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—November 22, 2011 — If you are going to listen to yourself, you are going to have to create listening room. You can’t listen at full throttle, careening through your life, bouncing from one thing to another, volume on high. You have to be still. And quiet. Two things our life will not allow. When sitting, just sit. When listening, just listen. When sitting and listening, just sit and listen. Prayer is thinking and listening to your thoughts. Prayer changes things when you hear what you are saying and adjust your living accordingly. Meditation and prayer are great aids to “hearing yourself think” but. You have to listen. When you are under a great deal of stress, listening is the first thing that goes. Then we’re living blind, deaf. Not seeing, not hearing, not knowing what to do next. And so. The routine. Establish a routine. Make a space in your day, or several spaces, for sitting and listening. And sit. And listen. Regularly. If writing helps you listen, as it does me, then write. If playing the drums helps you quiet down and listen, then play the drums. Design your own space for listening to yourself and go there often. 01/12/2012
  102. Forest Lawn, Greensboro, NC—January 11, 2012 — No borders, no walls. That’s the essence of the Promised Land. The Chinese can take over Tibet but they can’t touch the heart of Buddhism. When truth is attacked, truth just becomes invisible, goes underground, shifts shape and lives on without borders or walls. When you have borders and walls you have a standing army and police on patrol, weapons at the ready. Truth asks us to die again and again—to relinquish our old life—in order to live, to embrace New Life—but. It doesn’t kill anyone. “Making disciples of all nations,” as in compelling their compliance whether they are ready or not, is ridiculous. Truth waits for readiness. We all wake up against our will but. No one can be forced to wake up against their will. Truth waits us out. And if we die first? Oh well. No boundaries, no walls calls for communities of innocence—innocent in the sense of having nothing at stake—to form as needed and disperse. Communities of innocence have no paid clergy, no buildings, no parking lots, no doctrine or dogma, no boundaries, no walls. They serve truth with compassion and grace. Communities of innocence enable us to hear the truth of our life, to know how things are and also are and what to do about it. Communities of innocence enable us to know what we need to know do do what needs to be done without telling us anything. Just listening. All it takes is honest conversation straight from the heart in good faith. Why is this hard? 01/12/2012
  103. View from Pilot Mountain, Pilot Mountain State Park, NC—November 04, 2011 — The Bringer of Fire does not bring anything new to anyone but, announcing, unveils what is already there, smoldering, awaiting the word of release, of recognition, to resonate and ignite what has been praying to brightly burn. In the beginning was the Word but. The Word was a mere invitation meeting readiness, uniting to engulf the great all-ness in creative flame. Here, in these little paragraphs, I hope to play the Angel to your Virgin Mary, stirring something that is already in place for you to bring forth for the salvation—the awakening—of the world, which you do, of course, by being awake yourself to the wonder of you. And if you are already beginning to turn away and shut me out, it is only fair of me to ask, “Whose side are you on?” 01/13/2012
  104. The Woods at Stone Mountain, Stone Mountain State Park near Roaring Gap, NC—November 04, 2011 — We are here to serve the Source. Forget what do you want to be when you grow up. It isn’t about what you want. Rich. Powerful. Happy. Famous. It’s all forgotten in the grip of what Joesph Campbell calls “the Mythic Vision.” The Mythic Vision is your sense of what the Source needs of you. Your experience of the Source’s need might come on you like falling in love. You may see a book title on some esoteric aspect of mathematics and be smitten, never to recover. You don’t find what needs you. It finds you. Your task is to not dismiss the white rabbit when it winks at you and says something on the order of “How about me, Honey?” We keep tossing aside the life, the path, with our name on it in favor of the life, the path, we have in mind for ourselves. Turning away from the Mythic Vision, we enter a Void of our own making. Serving the Mythic Vision puts us squarely in the center of the Hero’s Journey, with all it’s wonders and terrors. There is no Life like that one! 01/14/2012
  105. Colors of Fall Abstract, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—December 04, 2011 — When we speak of our experience with the Source, our words fall under the category of “You have to know what I’m talking about in order to understand what I’m saying.” We cannot talk about an experience to those who do not share the experience and hope for anything more than blank expressions or eye rolls and “Oh, no! Here we go again!” So we talk in order to find the people who can hear what we have to say and reply with words that are music to our ears. Know what I mean? 01/14/2012
  106. Four Mile Creek Wetlands, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC—December 25 2011 — We sustain and encourage one another for the task at hand: Bringing ourselves forth, seeing things as they are and also are, being clear and correct about what needs to be done in the situation as it arises, and doing it no matter what. The no matter what part is the stopper. It’s easier to follow a worn path than to make your own. Life, in the deepest, richest sense of the word, calls us to do what’s hard—no matter what. On our own, we don’t have a chance. We need the right kind of company—the right kind of people—on our side, those who are more on our side than we are, to wake us up to what we are doing and ask us, “Whose side are you on?”—getting us back into the work of blazing our own trail back to the Source by being aligned with that which is deepest and best and truest about us in every moment. 01/15/2012
  107. Spanning the Gorge, New River Gorge National River near Fayetteville, WV—September 24, 2011 — Want to beat aging? Be alive! Want to be alive? Do the work! The work that is yours to do. The work that is ours to do requires us to do it within the constraints and limitations, the terms and conditions of our life. As we get older, those terms and conditions change, become to some degree more restrictive, confining, yet the work remains the same. The work calls us forth, brings us out, unfolds us in increasingly surprising, amazing, astounding, bumfuzzling and confounding ways. The work is the Fountain of Youth—youth properly understood as vibrant, pulsating with life, eager to leap into the day every day to discover what the day holds and what we will do with it like gifts on Christmas morning. What does the work offer to us and ask of us today? How shall we serve the Source today, an a “Thy will not mine be done” kind of way? Where will our life take us today? Align yourself with the Source and see where it goes. It will be the ride of a lifetime, and perhaps—who knows—beyond. 01/15/2012
  108. View from the Barn, Tannenbaum Historic Park, Joseph and Sarah Hoskins’ Farm, Greensboro, NC—January 15, 2012 — To be alive we have to be interested in what we are doing. What we are doing has to be alive for us. We have to believe in our life—in the way we go about life, who we are, what we are about. We have to exhibit, express, our deepest beliefs, our highest values. The way we live has to be an authentic demonstration of what is important to us, of what matters most to us. “Don’t preach it, brother/sister! LIVE it!” We get caught up in the cultural obsession with having something to show for our effort—in having to see results, garner a payoff—and think “So what? Who cares? Why try? What difference does it make?” about the things that have value to us when they don’t accrue fortune and glory. And so, the test. Will we believe in what we believe in, exhibiting the values that have value to us, anyway, nevertheless, even so? Because that is where the life is for us and that’s all the payoff we need? 01/16/2012
  109. South Shore, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta—September, 2003 — There are things that are important, whether or not they are important to us. Compassion, for instance. Grace, Mercy, Peace. Justice, Kindness, Generosity, Gentleness, Tenderness, Authenticity, Genuineness, Joy, Patience… The list is long. These things don’t have to matter to us to matter. They are always in season. They don’t wait for us to feel like doing them to do them. These things comprise the center, the ground of being and life. They are the North Star of the spiritual journey, always there to orient, direct, enable us to find our bearings and bring ourselves back to the important matters. When we live in the service of the core values of the species, we place ourselves on the beam and serve the good while we wait for our personal sense of destiny and purpose to be restored. Life’s blows can disorient us, traumatize us and rob us of any sense of meaning and purpose. When that happens, the core values remain viable and vital—a life support system in the interim while we reorient ourselves and find our way back to who we are and what we are about. “Do justice, love kindness…” “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or worthy of praise…” Live to serve these things and they will get you back to the place of serving the things that are your things in particular to serve. 01/16/2012
  110. Urban Sunset, Old Ardrey Kell Road, Charlotte, NC—January 13, 2012 — All of my problems are imaginary. I make them up in anticipation of the real thing. I can’t wait. I am so eager for the Impossible Predicament, the End of the Line, the Dead End Dilemma that I hurry it up just to be able to stand transfixed, immobilized. It’s great. Scaring myself is what I do best. Inventing monsters when the real ones are on maternity leave. Gives me something to do. It is much better to sit and fret than to just sit. So I conjure up the dread du jour and cook it to perfection. I know it’s only a matter of time until the Shoe Falls. The suspense is killing me. So I hurry it up. It falls in my mind in differently chilling and increasingly morbid ways. I’m sure it’s a Dollar trait. Dollar, by the way, is from the Scottish word “dolour,” meaning sadness, grief, gloom, misery. I am proud to maintain my ancestral heritage, looking for better things to worry about than the course, common stuff that litters my life. If you ever get bored with your lot, let me know. I have monsters to share. Good ones. They will keep you awake nights. My pledge to you. 01/17/2012
  111. North Shore, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta—September 2006 — We can wake up but. We can’t wake ourselves up. We can’t help being awake or asleep but. We can recognize our helplessness. We can only be as awake as we are. Seeing what we can see in this moment leads us to seeing what we can see in the next moment. There is no seeing all there is to see in any moment. There is no seeing as a general state of being. Just seeing this, here, now. There is more to any moment than meets the eye. Any eye. See as much of the moment as you can see. Hear as much as you can hear. Perceive as much as you can perceive. Do as much of what truly needs to be done as you can see needs doing. No one can do more or ask you to do more. 01/17/2012
  112. Upper Falls, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC—January 16, 2012 — Energy and enthusiasm for the tasks at hand are functions of our affinity with the tasks, of the degree of our resonation with the tasks, of the depth of our belief in the value of the tasks. We can stand at a copy machine, copying someone else’s documents, with energy and enthusiasm, only so long. Comes a point they can’t pay you enough to run one more copy or free one more paper jam. You can feel like doing something that doesn’t exhibit and express who you are only so long. You can do something you don’t feel like doing only so long. When your heart isn’t in your life—your life, the life that is your life to live, isn’t your life, isn’t in the life you are living—and your task then becomes getting your heart and the life that is your life to live together with your life. This is a problem for a very large majority of human beings. We are living lives that do not belong to us. We are running someone else’s copies, pretending things are just fine. It’s time to dust off that soul mirror and stand before it and have a heart-to-heart talk with our heart. There is life to be lived yet, in the time left for living. 01/18/2012
  113. Hanging Rock Vista 03, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC—November 03, 2011 — I have one sermon: In every moment, in each situation as it arises, look around. See as much of how things are and also are as you are capable of seeing. See as much of what to do about it, how to respond to it, as you are capable of seeing. Do it. Repeat this process throughout all of the moments and situations of your life for as long as life is possible. Amen. May it be so! 01/19/2012
  114. Puckett Cabin, Blue Ridge Parkway near Tuggle Gap, VA—November 03, 2011 — Joseph Campbell says, “Everything that comes, goes.” He also says, “What remains when all is lost?” I say, if you know what remains when all is lost, you have it made. Now, look. Life is about coming and going. We make a big deal about both. A birth. A wedding. A death. A divorce. We worry about getting old and losing all our faculties. Our sight goes, our hearing goes, our teeth go, our mind goes. We agonize over all that “downsizing.” What remains when all is lost? Our destiny remains, for one thing. Our calling is still intact. We are to bring forth our gift in every circumstance and condition of life. We. Are. To. Be. Who. We. Are. No matter what. Wherever and however we are, we are to be ourselves, us, me, you. WE remain US, OURSELVES, when all is lost. The inexhaustible Source remains constant, always there, always with us, when all is lost. We have who we are, our calling, and the Source. That’s a Holy Trinity if there ever was one! What are we worried about? That isn’t going away! We can always do what is ours to do wherever we are, however we are, whenever we are. HA! 01/19/2012
  115. Dirt Road, Pilot Mountain State Park, Yadkin River Section, Bean Shoals Access, near Pinnacle, NC—January 18, 2012 — If we are wrapped up in, embracing and embraced by, the calling, the work, we can do anything, rise to any occasion, meet any obstacle. Then “one book opens another,” and every choice is charmed, and all roads lead home. But.  We cannot take up the call, the work, in order to be protected. Our heart has to be in the call, the work. We cannot take up the call, do the work, with one eye on what’s in it for us. Sin is the profit motive. Just try to be rid of it. Just try saying, “Thy will not mine be done” without thinking of the advantages that will accrue when we do “Thy will.” Only a good faith journey in service of the journey, of the call, the work, will protect those on the journey. Just try living in good faith exploiting good faith! PS: Being protected on the journey doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to you. “It rains on the just and unjust alike.” It means you have what it takes to do what needs to be done in dealing with the things you don’t like. You find help with the things you need help with, on the journey. 01/20/2012
  116. The Bison—a Panorama, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY—It is easy to talk ourselves into standing at the copy machine copying someone else’s documents all our life long. It is hard to talk ourselves into living our own life, bringing up from the inexhaustible source what needs to come forth, here and now. Standing at the copy machine is safe, secure, comfortable. We know how to do that. Living our own life is anxiety producing: The Unknown! Living life for someone else, the company, our parents, is well-structured and carefully spelled out. We have to work out our own life always. Living our own life requires us to work it out amid the details, the duties and responsibilities of the life we have lived up to this point. We hate working it out! We just want to be left alone to enjoy our life. Our responsibilities clash with our responsibilities! Damn it all! Lao Tzu is said to have said “To hell with it,” or words to that effect, and walked off into the forest. We all know the feeling. There is always something else to be worked out. We have to square ourselves up with this and this up with that. Juggling, dancing, forever. If we can add “laughing” to the list, we have it made. Can we work it out, juggling, dancing AND laughing? The test of true-human-being-hood! The holy fools are those who work it out laughing. They let come what’s coming and let go what’s going, laughing. When we laugh, we dance differently, we juggle with our heart in it. We are no longer resisting, we are just doing it in a way that is not-doing anything. 01/20/2012
  117. The Tree by the Side of the Road, Rural Virginia—January 20, 2012 — The toughest thing about photography is giving your eye something to see. You can’t take your eye somewhere without going with it. And a quiet day reading by the fire with a cup of coffee is out of the question. You want to do this and you want to do that. That conflicts with this. What are you going to do? Enlist the agony! Bear the pain! The only people who live pain free lives immune to agony are dead. They may be upright, intact, 98.6 and breathing, but they have been dead for years past counting. If you are going to be alive, you have to live with the pain and agony—the reality—of this negating that. Mutually exclusive wants, wishes, options, choices and desires characterize being alive. You get this by giving up that. You get that by handing over this. Trade-offs are the price of being alive. When you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t, be damned and be done with it. Make a choice. Decide. Get the camera and give your eye something to see. Or sit with the book and read. It’s your life, live it—and bear the pain of being alive! 01/21/2012
  118. Black Birch, Rocky Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway near Tuggle Gap, VA—January 20, 2011 — People kill themselves to avoid bearing the pain of life. “Life is suffering” is one of the foundational realizations of Buddhism and of life—of being alive. Life is lived on life’s terms. Those who cannot accept life’s terms turn away, numb themselves to the truth of existence with drugs and alcohol, distract themselves with the 10,000 diversions, or sit facing the wall moaning, “Poor me, poor me.” Some people can’t take it. Can’t pay the price of being alive. Can’t live on life’s terms. They reject “the deal.” Demand a better one. But. This. Is. It. We can always imagine a better world than the one we live in. We don’t get the world of our dreams. We get this world, just as it is. We live here, now, or not at all. Takes courage. Takes concession. Takes accommodation. Takes acquiescence. Takes waking up. Growing up. Facing up. Squaring up to the truth of how things are and how they also are, and of what needs to be done in response, and doing it, no matter what. Standing up and doing it. Bearing the pain. Being willing to be alive anyway, nevertheless, even so. Let’s do it. What do you say? 01/21/2012
  119. Appalachian Still Life, Blue Ridge Parkway near Rocky Knolb, VA—January 20, 2012 — Coleman Barks tells a story about his granddaughter’s soft ball team’s lopsided loss to their cross-town rivals. The winning team gathered outside their dugout chanting, “We Won! We Won! We Won!” His granddaughter’s team spontaneously started a chant in front of their dugout: “We Lost! We Lost! We Lost!” You can’t beat that for how it needs to be. That is the Buddhist concept of joyful participation in the suffering of the world. Somebody wins and somebody loses. That’s how it is and it’s just fine. When we see suffering and pain, not as the end of all hope and meaning, but as the threshold to the reconciliation of ourselves with how things are and also are—to the integration and oneness of ourselves with all things—the shift happens and we say “Yes!” to life as it is, embracing the wonder of it all, and continue the journey to ourselves, the Source, Home. Fran Tarkenton, the pro football quarterback with the Vikings and Giants, talked about missing everything about football when he retired—the wins and the losses, the touchdowns and the sacks, playing in the rain and mud, snow and broiling sun. That’s it. We are alive. We win and we lose. It comes and it goes. And it is a completely wonderful, unbelievable, unimaginable experience. We will miss it so much when it’s gone—or would if we weren’t dead—that it behooves us completely to embrace it fully and live it with our eyes and hearts wide open, joyfully participating in the sorrows and the triumphs of life in this world. 01/21/2012
  120. Mabry Mill, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, VA—January 20, 2012 — YOU do it! YOU are the one! YOU are the only one who can—who can do it the way YOU can do it. Your life, of course, that is. No one can do it like you can, or has any business trying, or has any business telling you how to do it. Our place is to get out of your way and cheer you on, trusting you to do what you see needs to be done as it needs to be done according to your own sense of what needs what you have to offer. The thing to bear in mind—the guiding principle, so to speak—is that as you do what needs to be done, you aren’t trying to do anything with it. I was walking slowly along a Charlotte Greenway with my camera when who turned out to be a sure enough make a living at it photographer walks by with his girlfriend, stops and asks me, “Who are you working for?” like I was on assignment from National Geographic. I asked him, “Who are you walking for?” The three of us laughed and enjoyed a conversation that got me to a place where something caught my eye. This is the attitude we take when we do what needs to be done. We walk for ourselves. We take pictures for ourselves. We do what needs to be done because it needs to be done—NOT to do something with it, turn it to our advantage, exploit it, profit from it. We are not here to make a profit. What are you going to do with a profit that would be better than doing what needs to be done in the situation as it arises as only you can do it? Hmmm? 01/22/2012
  121. Sidna Allen House, Hwy 52 near Hillsville, VA—January 20, 2011 — This from the Virginia is for Lovers travel guide: “This capricious, if provincial, expression of the Queen Anne style was briefly the home of the notorious Sidna Allen. Allen was member of the so-called Allen Gang involved in the Carroll County Courthouse shooting in 1912. The house, finished the year before the shooting, was designed by Allen and his wife. It was built by Preston Dickens, a local carpenter, with Allen assisting. Allen dreamed of the finest house in Carroll County, and the house was his dream come true until confiscated by the state after his conviction for the courthouse incident.” What that says to me is that you have to know what is important. That’s your primary responsibility. You have to be able to tell a white rabbit from a wild goose—and you can’t pursue a wild goose past the point of recognition. If you set your jaw and pursue your way come hell or high water, you better be right about your way being the right way. Good judgment is your only guide. 01/22/2012
  122. The Farm House, Rural Virginia near Hillsville—January 20, 2012 — If you do what truly needs to be done, you will be surprised—perhaps shocked or appalled—at what you find yourself doing. You can’t approach your life with fixed ideas about what you should do or not do, about how life should be lived. The more fixed your ideas, the less alive you can be. Life is fluid, moving, sometimes like this and sometimes like that. Always “like the wind that blows where it will.” You will probably not be able to defend, justify, explain or excuse what you do. The left brain won’t know what the right brain is doing. 01/22/2012
  123. Midnight Hole, Big Creek Campground, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the TN/NC border—Our rituals seal us off or open us up, depending on how conscious we are of the rituals, of whether we see through them or hide out in them. Singing the Doxology or repeating the Apostles’ Creed, making coffee or watching the fire in the fireplace, can open us to the moment of our experience or close us all from all moments, from all experience. OM can be just another way of avoiding the pain of being alive or enable us to transcend the pain with compassion and grace for our circumstances and all those with us in this here, this now. It’s a question of how awake we are and how awake we are willing to be. Seeing means seeing everything as it is and as it also is. Our rituals remind us to see, and seeking, look beyond what is apparent to what is also true. Grace before meals can connect us with all those who are responsible for, who had a part in, getting this meal to this table—including the plants and the animals that were sacrificed in our behalf. It is a humble experience to thank all—the Great Allness—for our life, to realize how dependent we are upon all that contributes to our living and keeps us alive. And for what? What are we doing with the life that so many, so much, contributes to? In this way, the ritual of grace becomes a point of meditation, opening us to depths beyond the apparent reality of this hamburger and these fries in the worst hamburger joint on the eastern seaboard. There is always more to see than meets the eye. See what you can in every moment. 01/23/2012
  124. Bass Lake Reflections, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—Joseph Campbell quotes the Bhagavad Gita as saying, “Get in there and do your thing! Don’t worry about the outcome!” That’s quite different from what a lot of us heard growing up, “Keep your nose clean and to the grindstone, believe in God and say your prayers, do your part and God will take care of you (through every day, o’er all the way) and it will all turn out well for you in the end.” Most of us didn’t hear anything about doing our thing. We heard a lot about doing God’s will, but that was far removed from our thing. We were sinful, you know, and our thing was a bad thing. We were misled. We need to unlearn most of what we have been told is true, and learn how to know our thing when we see it and how to throw ourselves into doing it, not worrying about the outcome. That’s my wish for us all! 01/23/2012
  125. Totem Dawn, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, NM/AZ —  Another aspect of the Bhagavad Gita paraphrase by Joseph Campbell, “Get in there and do your thing! Don’t worry about the outcome!” is the “Get in there” part. “Get in there into your life just as it is! Don’t be holding yourself back, waiting for a better life, the life of your dreams, perhaps, life as it ought to be. Get in there now! Don’t hold ANYTHING back! Step right into this ‘vale of tears,’ into the suffering and pain, into the uncertainty, the fear, the anguish, and bring yourself forth there, here, now, doing your thing as only you can do it, as you were born to do it, to hell with the outcome. Bring yourself forth as the Virgin brought forth the Christ Child, into the squalor of the manger and the terrible instability of Roman occupation, and the inability of the religious leaders and political authorities and even the masses of the people to receive with understanding what he had to say. It’s always that way with those who have the courage to be the next incarnation of the Christ within. Just another manifestation of the Cyclops waiting to bring out the hero in all of us. So get in there and do it!” 01/23/2012
  126. Virginia Landscape, Hwy 52 between Fancy Gap and Hillsville—January 20, 2012 — Edward Hicks painted over a hundred versions of “The Peaceable Kingdom” between 1820 and his death in in 1849. That’s having to get it right—having to do it well. This is the primary distinction between the artist in both the practical arts and the fine arts and those who aspire to be artists by doodling around, owning all the props and wearing the costume. A plumber is as much an artist in what he does as the painter or the poet is in what she does. What makes them both artists is the drive to do it well. My wife has never taken a landscape photograph in her life, but she has landscaped beautifully and well the yards of every house we’ve lived in. It’s where your gift lies. Everyone is an artist who knows what gift she, he, has been given and lives to serve that gift, to bring it forth and do it well according to his or her own sense of perfection, no matter what the critics say—and the critics there be many whether they get paid to write reviews or snicker about your flowerbed as they walk down the street. What do you have to do well? Who says when it’s done well? Joseph Campbell said, “If you can do something you love to do without fear of criticism, you will move. You will feel the joy in it. You don’t have to move more than an inch to feel the joy. Remember, the Buddha’s third temptation was duty, doing what people expect you to do. That’s the censorship fear.” Live your art, express your gift, do your work—and do it well, according to your own sense of completion. 01/24/2012
  127. North Carolina Wetlands, Guilford County near Summerfield, NC—January 15, 2012 — In order to wake up we have to bear the pain, the discomfort, the uncertainty of waking up. Waking up requires us to leave the fixed ideas—the things our Mama told us, or the Preacher told us, or the Bible told us, etc.—behind and begin trusting our own judgment based on our own experience and our own intuitive, instinctive, sense of what needs to be done in each situation as it arises. The transition between always knowing what to do because somebody told you to do it and why would they lie and deciding what to do even though there is no way of knowing for sure if that is the right thing to do but you are going to take a chance and be responsible for dealing with the outcome no matter what it turns out to be—this is a terrible place to be, emotionally, psychologically. This is growing up, leaving home, waking up to our own sense of how things are and how they also are and what needs to be done about it. It is much easier to follow orders, to go where we are led, to do what we are told. We get the shakes and the 2AM terrors when we take our life in our own hands and live it as we think it needs to be lived. Another of the 10,000 manifestations of the Cyclops blocking our way, saying to us, “If you want to wake up, grow up and be alive, you’re gonna have to come through me,” grinning. 01/25/2012
  128. Wetlands Sunrise Panorama, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC—December 26, 2011 — The moment does not last or return. This is the foundational lesson of photography and of Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Don’t be throwing away any moments. Treasure each one. Do with it what needs to be done with it. It is a pearl of great price—and the stone tossed aside by the builders. So, which is it? It’s your moment. Which do you say it is? 01/25/2012
  129. Wetlands Sunrise Panorama, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC—December 26, 2011 — We—that is the “I Want, I Fear, I Lothe,” side of us—have to disappear in order that we—that is who we are called to become, the True Human Being, the Christ, the Buddha, within—might come forth into the world of normal, apparent, reality. We disappear and come forth into the moment of our living when we see the moment as a meditation point and allow it to open us to the truth of how things are and how things also are. Our life is not the arena where we amass what we want and avoid what we don’t want, but the matrix within which we are born and grow into who we are. The goal of the spiritual journey is our emergence into our self. Our self is the pearl of great price and the stone the builders reject. So is the moment of our living. We have to see our self and the moment for what they are and for what they also are, and consciously move from the wanting-fearing-loathing me to the trusting-gracious-compassionate me in an “It is no longer I who live but the Christ who lives in me” kind of way. We do this by allowing the moment to show us who we are and who we also are and let go what is going and let come what is coming—in a “The old has passed away, behold the new has come,” and “I must decrease (so that I might) increase” kind of way. It’s all laid out there in the holy writ of all religions. Only takes seeing to know it is so. 01/26/2012
  130. Revolution Mill, Greensboro, NC—January 26, 2012 — People don’t want to do the work. They want to read about the work, listen to lectures about the work, watch interviews of people who are doing the work, but they don’t want to do it themselves. You. Have. To. Do. The. Work. Waking up. Growing up. Facing up. Squaring up. Standing up. And doing what needs to be done—what needs you to do it—in each situation as it arises. People just want to feel better about their lives, their lot, their place in the world. They don’t want to do the work required to get better. To have a life. To be alive. They just want to have it made and be happy. Don’t let me be talking about you. 01/26/2012
  131. Textile Mill Ruins 01, Franklinville, NC, Built in the 1930’s, closed down in the 1970’s, burned in 2010 — January 25, 2012 — Think of the work as running consciously, intentionally, with full awareness into an unmovable wall. It is impossible. It cannot be done. The work of being a True Human Being. Ridiculous. Whose idea is this? The Wall is what we encounter when we take what we have to do, what has to be done, what is ours to do (ending poverty, feeding the hungry, preaching the gospel—some gospel, any gospel—paying the bills, etc.), in one hand and what we have to do it with (the nature and circumstances of the life we are born into including our genetic makeup, call it our fate) in the other hand and try to get them together. In each of us, our fate (what we have to work with) meets our destiny (what we have to do). In that equation, our perspective, outlook, attitude, courage, spirit makes all the difference. Our Moxie hits The Wall. How much can we take? How long can we keep up our spirit for the work, our Moxie for the Wall? How soon do we have to have results before we say to hell with it and see how much beer we can drink before we die? Two things keep us going. The title of a Paul Watzlawick book, “The Situation Is Hopeless But Not Serious” is one key to keeping at it. We are losing but what do we have to lose? The other is the splendid company of those with us who also understand the nature of what we are about and wink at us from time to time as if to say, “Let’s go show that Wall a thing or two!” 01/27/2012
  132. Light on Grandfather Mountain, Price Lake, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—December 12, 2011 — We are stuck with the problem of having to interpret our experience correctly in order to incorporate it properly and respond to it well. The meaning we assign to things determines the way we live with things. It all comes down to eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands. When we flub up the basic tasks of seeing, hearing and understanding, things go downhill fast. Here’s a hint for you: It is all metaphorical. Here’s another: Everything is a starting point for meditation. Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Cinderella can be read as the process of a young woman’s maturation into the strength of her own womanhood and tackling life as a fully operational human being, waking up to the masculine/active powers of her own makeup. Is that the right interpretation? Sit with it and see how it sits with you. See where it leads you. See what it has to offer. And decide for yourself how you will interpret the fairy tales. Do the same with everything whose meaning you have assumed you’ve grasped. Consider how else you might have interpreted the event/experience. See where it goes. How things are is neatly complimented by how things also are. Fixed ideas and One Way Only Thinking are the quickest ways to get untracked I know of, Oh, except for Telling Ourselves What We Want To Hear. 01/27/2012
  133. Textile Mill Ruins 02, Franklinville, NC—January 25, 2012 — Built in the 1930’s, closed down in the 1970’s, burned in 2010 — Play to the right crowd, that’s what I say. Live to make the right people happy—to please the people who know what’s pleasing. You find these people by pulling up from your own depths what is deepest, best and truest about you and seeing who smiles. In his Flower Sermon, the Buddha held out a flower, which is where every sermon should stop, and one person in the crowd smiled. You may find you are working with the same percentage. Great. Play to that crowd! Keep them before you when surrounded by the glassy eyes and the cat calls and the complaints and the sarcasm as you bring out the flowers. You’ll be just fine. 01/28/2012
  134. Used in Short Talks on Contradictions, etc., Country Y, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—December 13, 2011 — We have to work it out. The Work is working it out. The Way is working it out. We work it out with ourselves, with one another, with the Neighbor and the Enemy and the Sister-in-Law (you know the one I mean), with all sentient beings everywhere. Working it out is reconciliation, integration, peace and wholeness. Working it out is coming to terms with mutual exclusive interests, wishes, desires, claims—with contradictions, conflicts, ambivalences internally and externally. We have to work it all out. We have to work our lives out, what we will do and not do, how we will live, who we will be. There is no end to it. Negotiation and compromise, kid. Negotiation and compromise. If you can walk up to that and give it a big, juicy, wet one right on the kisser, you have it made as much as you can have it made, and you’re one of my kind of people. 01/28/2012
  135. Tobacco Barn, Guilford County, NC—January 27, 2012 — The first order of business, maybe the only order of business, is figuring out how to get our way. Crying works for a while, sometimes forever. Most of us have to learn increasingly sophisticated ways of getting our way. Power, control, seduction are three favorite cards to play. We barter. We trade. We buy low and sell high. The only thing money is good for is getting our way. Indoctrination and propaganda? Somebody’s strategy for getting their way. You have it. I want it. And I have to figure out how to get it. This is the basic dynamic at work in all of our relationships: Getting what we want while keeping other people from getting what we have. Then comes along the idea that getting, having, owning, possessing, acquiring, amassing isn’t what we think it is. We, some of us, wake up to the realization that what we value is over-rated. Sometimes that leads to despair and despondency and sometimes it comes in conjunction with the crazy notion that there is more to life than living would lead us to believe. That we are being asked to give up everything, so to speak, to give up our attachment to things, to let nothing matter more than our allegiance to That Which Calls Our Name. And we follow That Which Calls Us along strange paths, into the company of unfamiliar people who we recognize as friends—no family—into the land of no boundaries or walls, and know what it means to be alive for the first time. 01/29/2012
  136. Glencoe Mill Village, A Renovated Mill House Community, Glencoe, NC—January 29, 2012 — Cotton beat the everlasting hell out of the working poor. From the field hands who chopped Johnson Grass and then picked and stuffed into long bags for a penny a pound, to the mill workers who inhaled cotton dust and belonged to the company, we rose to the top of the textile world on the backs of those with their backs to the wall. We are doing the same thing today with the Chinese labor market. Profit making becomes profiteering in a wink. And we all like a bargain. Who pays for the savings we relish? It isn’t The Man. The Man always makes his. But, what to do? The Man is laughing because we have no effective recourse. A world-wide minimum wage would be a start. Think that would float at the UN? About like Gay rights. Here is one more place where what is right and what is wrong is very clear and no mechanism exists to right the wrong the advantaged classes always exact on the disadvantaged classes across societies and cultures, nations and ages. But, what to do? Wake up. Each one of us. Individually. Personally. Compassionately identify with the “least of these my (and your) brothers and sisters” world-wide throughout time. It will make a difference for the good by changing even slightly how we live. How we live matters. 01/29/2012
  137. Pecan Hulls, Old Ardrey Kell Road, Charlotte, NC—December 26, 2011 — The real difficulties have no solutions. There is no fix for much that is wrong about our life. Alcoholism and Autism and Alzheimer’s and I’m only in the “A’s.” I haven’t gotten to a parent dying prematurely or a child dying at any time. We would all be old by the time I got to the end of the list. The list has no end. We labor beneath burdens we cannot bear or lay down, deal with problems we cannot solve. Don’t let it get you down. This is the way it is but. It is not the only way it is. It is not all there is. There is also what needs to be done, what needs us to do it, the life we have to live—anyway, nevertheless, even so. “Oh, but how can we go on?” we say, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” It’s called Walking Two Paths At The Same Time. This doesn’t cancel out That. We have problems that have no solution AND we have a life yet to be lived. We cannot be dying before our time. Our task, our work, is to live until we are dead, stiff and not breathing, but alive and looking for that which needs what we have to offer, for the life that needs us to live it—not because it’s a duty but because it is a joy, it’s where we come to life, it’s where we counter the weight of the world with life and light and peace and all the other old values that are at the heart of all that is worthy of us. Life is sorrowful AND we embrace The Deal and “participate joyfully” in the beauty and wonder of being alive, doing what we can imagine doing to establish “the other pole” and maintain the polarity between sorrow and joy all our lives long. 01/30/2012
  138. Glencoe Mill Door, Glencoe, NC—January 29, 2012 — Repeat after me: This is it! This is it! This is it! And this: If it gets better it will be because of what I do to make it better! There is magic out there, don’t get me wrong, but it is largely conditional on what we do in response to how things are. That makes us, in a manner of speaking, the magicians, the wizards and wizettes. We bring magic to bear upon the way things are by the way we respond to the way things are. We keep waiting for magic to happen to us. It happens THROUGH us. Big difference. 01/30/2012
  139. Flood Plain Wetlands, Lake Brandt, Greensboro, NC—January 21, 2012 — Our perspective is the magic wand transforming all of life, the magic carpet whisking us into new worlds. Our life rides our perspective into all it might become. 01/31/2012
  140. Pecan Hulls, Old Ardrey Kell Road, Charlotte, NC—December, 26, 2011 — To what do you say no? To what do you say yes?  Your no’s and yes’s have gotten you to this point in your life. How have you been doing? 01/31/2012
  141. Textile Mill Ruins 03, Franklinville, NC—January 25, 2012 — Built in the 1930’s, closed down in the 1970’s, burned in 2010 — We are constantly having to adjust ourselves to how things are. This is not what we do best. We hate it. We would prefer alcohol in large quantities. Or any one of the 10,000 addictions to divert us from the task at hand: Squaring up to how it is and doing what must be done about it. Every year I have to do my taxes. Think I rush gleefully to embrace the task? How long does it take? Maybe four hours, with regular breaks for sustenance and courage. It might as well be Life At Hard Labor. I’m going to publish an eBook of these photos and reflections but I have to use a program I am not familiar with to format the content. You would think I was fifteen having to call a girl for a date. Or having to dance with the girl once we got to the party. And you would think I might get better at just doing what has to be done. Hate to disappoint you but. I buck and snort all the way. And you can’t tell me anything to make the process easier. I’m going to hate doing taxes next year. And the year following. Adjusting ourselves to the way things are is not our strong suit. It’s another manifestation of the Cyclops laughing at us, drooling. And we have to gather ourselves again, draw ourselves up and go spit in his ugly damn eye. That’s just how it is. 01/31/2012
  142. Stone Mountain Vista, Stone Mountain State Park near Roaring Gap, NC—November 11, 2011 — Start with what excites you and see where it goes. This is not easy. William Alexander Percy nails it: “They cast their nets in Galilee/Just off the hills of brown/Such happy, simple fisherfolk/Before the Lord came down…” Before they went with what excited them. And found out where it took them. But. It remains our best bet at what James Hollis calls “an interesting, meaningful life.” Understand though, it won’t work out like you think it might, hope it will. Back to Percy: “Contented, peaceful, fishermen/Before they ever knew/The peace of God that filled their hearts/Brimful, and broke them, too.” The peace of God is being on the beam, on track, fulfilling your destiny, doing what your life needs you to do and knowing you are right in the center of where you need to be. You pay a price to be there. The Cyclops grins, knowing about our tendency for second thoughts, our lust for shortcuts and Easy Street, the likelihood of our cutting and running. See where it goes! Abdicate control! Trust yourself explicitly to whatever “fills your heart brimful.” It will be quite the ride. 02/01/2012
  143. Tobacco Barn 02, Guilford County, NC—January 27, 2012 — We are all Moses in search of the Promised Land like a man on his ox looking for his ox like a woman with her sunglasses on her head looking for her sunglasses. We are what we seek. “Thou Art That!” “Get in there and do your thing, and don’t worry about the outcome!” “Start with what excites you and see where it goes!” This is not difficult. We make it difficult by wanting someone to explain it to us, and hand us the rules, and give us a road map, make certain we are doing it right, and tell us what to do. It’s your life—LIVE IT! From the ground up. From the inside out. Beginning right now. And don’t keep score. 02/01/2012
  144. Black Birch B, Blue Ridge Parkway, Rocky Knob, VA—January 20, 2012 — Prosperity is having enough money to buy what it takes to do what needs to be done the way only you can do it—to do what needs you to do it. We buy the tools required to do the work. Maybe you need a Grand Piano. Or a barn. You need a set up. A poet needs something to write with, and on. We need enough money to pay the right bills. We have to know what the right bills are. And the wrong ones. And incur the right ones. And we have to use the tools we buy in the service of the work that is ours to do. We can’t settle for looking like a writer, with the latest laptop and maybe a beret. We have to actually write. Every day. Not when the mood strikes and we have an inspiration. A big hat and spurs don’t a cowboy make. Or a pickup. It takes more than a pickup. You have to be able to back a trailer. And get a cow in it. Exactly when does a cowboy become a cowboy? It’s a heart thing. A being thing. Not a costume thing. A cowboy is a cowboy when a cowboy does what cowboys do. Mend fences, brand cattle, shoe horses, roundup strays… It isn’t about having the cowboy look about  you. Same goes for the work that is your work to do. You. Have. To. Do. The. Work. You can’t just buy the tools. 02/01/2012
  145. Rock Castle Creek, Rock Castle Gorge, Blue Ridge Parkway near Tuggle Gap, VA—November 03, 2011 — Everything is an entry point for reflection and meditation, a threshold to another world. Everything has metaphorical qualities—there is more to it than meets the eye—inviting us to consider what else—what all—there is to it and wake up to possibilities and alternatives beyond counting beneath the surface of our lives. Every strong emotion, love, attraction, desire, fear, anger, desperation, despair, loathing, hatred, jealousy, resentment…is a call to consider what is going on here. What is the pull, the push, the compulsion, the obsession ALL about? The antecedents come together in a great Gordian Knot of emotional entanglement and it is our place to untie the threads and see where they lead, remembering, experiencing, reconciling, integrating, incorporating, deepening, expanding, enlarging, seeing, hearing, understanding, knowing, becoming, growing and repeating the process throughout our lives, meeting ourselves again and again until we all are one. 02/02/2012
  146. Greenbriar Highway, Greenbriar District, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN—November 30, 2011 — Enlightenment settles us into our life, into the way things are, into how it is with us and what we can do about it, into what is called for from us in response to the way things are. If you couldn’t bat .350 before enlightenment, you won’t be able to bat .350 after enlightenment. But, if it mattered to you before enlightenment, it may not matter to you after enlightenment. Enlightenment shifts what’s important, rearranges priorities, increases the amount of stuff we send to the dump. Lightens our load. Dances us along the way. 02/02/2012
  147. Flowers of Spring, Crocus, Bicentennial Garden, Greensboro, NC—February 02, 2012 — We do what is ours to do, say what is ours to say, right up to the end and let that be that. Why hold anything back? Why wait? Know what the pressing matters are and tend them. Things are always coming up which push other things to the side. When you break your arm, you may not type for a while but. You do what you can while you can when you can how you can in doing what is yours to do, saying what is yours to say. And trust that it will be enough. We all die before the work is done, before the things that need to be said are all said. That’s the magic of the work, of the talk—it lives on, and we all take our turn, as we are able, serving one another in the task of life. 02/03/2012
  148. Grown Over, Near Sparta, NC—February 02, 2012 — This was once the Big House. Still is a big house. “Time and chance happen to us all.” So, we have to be awake to Joseph Campbell’s observation, “Everything that comes, goes,” and let that be, because it is, and stop acting like living in the Big House is something, because it isn’t. 02/03/2012
  149. Used in Short Talks on Contradiction, etc., Flowers of Spring 02, Crocus, Bicentennial Garden, Greensboro, NC—February 02, 2012 — We need a weapon to defend ourselves against those who attack and kill, brutalize and destroy. There are bad guys (mostly guys, anyway) who rape, pillage, burn or worse and laugh about it. The Dali Lama flees the onslaught but seeks protection of those who have weapons and will use them in his defense. It’s a fine line that is wasted on me, not killing but taking refuge with those who will. All the heroes had weapons. Give us laser swords to carve out a safe space for our OM’s and peaceful way of life. So what if it is a contradiction? Everything is! Give us something with which to draw a line! “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword” is no excuse to not use the sword—those who DON’T live by the sword die by the sword! At least, with swords in hand they have to think before the run us over, or through. Ah but, the meek and defenseless drift through time as refugees with no place to settle, to be. Bullied about, told to leave, praying for deliverance and hoping to just be left alone. The monks and hermits seek poverty and high mountain caves to have nothing to lose and nothing to invite attack, the rest live on the run, the plight of the gentle-hearted and kind, who can’t be intimate, authentic, genuine and real without being vulnerable and exposed. It’s a hell of a price for true-human-being-hood, but warriors have their own brand of brokenness with which to deal. And those who know know we heal one another with sighs too deep for words. 02/04/2012
  150. Flowers of Spring 03, Crocus, Bicentennial Garden, Greensboro, NC—February 02, 2012 – We’ve never had optimal conditions within which to work but. Our conditions have brought us forth in a way that optimal could not have done. So don’t think twice about your working conditions. “Get in there and do your thing and don’t worry about the outcome!” (Joseph Campbell) 02/04/2012

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Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

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