findingexpression

awe, humility, hope and a few other things I might notice


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No signs of Spring

Long sigh. I love winter, but… these are our only signs of Spring so far, in addition to the bird chirping in the morning which is lovely.

See the spot of the river where the water is not frozen…

And then there are the occasional sightings of bare ground on driveways.

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I know it has not snowed overnight by seeing the oasis of a bare patch outside where you can see the road. Amazing.

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Branches, berries and burrs

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Winters colors. Beyond the white out conditions and the grey skies on less dramatic days there are many colors to be found in winter and they brighten my spirit with their boldness.

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Does anyone know what each of these are? The red berries may simply be called winter berry and the orange may be bittersweet.

How about these?
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What wondrous things are you finding outside in winter?


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Photographic excerpts from TransCanada

Trucking from Montreal to Vancouver. It was my first cross-Canada trip and the sights were amazing. I captured a few images while bouncing along in the passenger seat. See my August post for more details on our trip. Suffice it to say that I don’t want to go by truck again. There was almost no time to see the sights or get to know the countryside, but enough to be in awe of its beauty. If we ever go again I would bring containers to pick blackberries, a good appetite to eat the blueberries from the roadside stands, a traveling coffee maker (nothing out there except the few and far between Tim Horton’s stops) and hiking boots to explore the land. Probably some mosquito repellent too and a jacket! It was cold even in August. And we would take time, lots and lots of time.

Lake Superior. We drove the long route, somewhat by mistake, but what a beautiful view for days along the lake. I spent hours dreaming of buying a cabin, bringing up 3 months of supplies and settling in. Winter would be a major challenge though. It was already cold at night in August. Isolated, but beautiful.

Lake Superior. We drove the long route, somewhat by mistake, but what a beautiful view for days along the lake. I spent hours dreaming of buying a cabin, bringing up 3 months of supplies and settling in. Winter would be a major challenge though. It was already cold at night in August. Isolated, but beautiful.

Long long way through Ontario. Forests for 2 days. This was one of the most open views on that part of the highway. Most of the time it was wall to wall trees or the lake.

Long long way through Ontario. Forests for 2 days. This was one of the most open views on that part of the highway. Most of the time it was wall to wall trees or the lake.

Never did get to see a moose. This was good fortune for driving, but unlucky for the naturalist in me. We later saw signs for bear, elk, and cougar. We did get to see 5 big horn sheep taking a picnic on 3 feet of ledge near Golden, BC.

Never did get to see a moose. This was good fortune for driving, but unlucky for the naturalist in me. We later saw signs for bear, elk, and cougar. We did get to see 5 big horn sheep taking a picnic on 3 feet of ledge near Golden, BC.

A winter sentinel. Even the small towns had some kind of mascot in the town common.

A winter sentinel. Even the small towns had some kind of mascot in the town common.

Rural Saskatchewan. Wide open and hay beyond all imagination.

Rural Saskatchewan. Wide open and hay beyond all imagination.

Dusk on hay fields.

Dusk on hay fields.

around and around we went

around and around we went

slowly

slowly

speechless

speechless

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took a break to smell the flowers

took a break to smell the flowers

Pacific coast

Pacific coast

Burnaby Central Park- filled with Sequoas and enough blackberries to fill several containers. Blackberries seemed to line every road side, yard and field.

Burnaby Central Park- filled with Sequoas and enough blackberries to fill several containers. Blackberries seemed to line every road side, yard and field.

What we brought back from Vancouver- cedar trees. That's a mighty long hike to the East coast (courtesy of Loblaws).

What we brought back from Vancouver- cedar trees. That’s a mighty long hike to the East coast (courtesy of Loblaws).

working

working

popular advice column

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popular advice column

Popular advice column, seen in a lobby at a southern Ontario truck stop

I have previously posted some of my photos from our trucking adventures but will try to add in a little story here and there. At first going along in the truck was a jaunt, then a pain in the butt from sitting for so long, a serviceful journey to help my husband get through his work day, sometimes a slog, and now perhaps a journal of what I see around the US in places I would otherwise probably never go.  It always, well, almost always brings new sights, people and an evolution in our relationship as well. How could it be anything less when you are sitting next to someone for 12-14 hours a day, sleeping in a slightly larger than twin mattress and otherwise sharing in something akin to camping in a moving vehicle.

I don’t know if we belong to trucking culture, or if we are simply a segment off in the corner. Well, that’s me anyway, as a small billboard somewhere outside of Little Rock Arkansas told me recently, reading my mind and my heart at once-

“Observer”

That was the only word on the sign, posted for me; a job title, a life’s path, an accusation, or a statement of simple truth.

Like the gentleman who called out to me as I walked out of the shower hallway, through the driver’s lounge: “Feel better now” he said. I felt confronted and revealed in an uncomfortable way the moment he said it, a man sitting in a large room with 20 or more other men, me, a woman with a turban and a fresh face walking out from a shower, but I knew he meant it kindly. Yeah, I did feel better. And I feel better with a little time and observation that although the trucking pictures are far from great, they are shaken and tilted and have bug guts on the windows and reflections from the sun and metal, but these are what I see.  So now I include the reflections, the mirrors of the truck, the corner with my own fingers wrapped around the camera. I want the viewer to know how I see it, imprecise, blurred, raw, messy sometimes and beautiful all the same.


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Photo blog Southerly travels Spring 2013

My husband and I recently returned from 3 weeks of trucking through the south. Most of my new sights were in NC, SC and around Augusta, GA. I wish I could get out more and take pictures on the ground and the really wild places I saw, but here is what I have from our moving (up down and bouncing around mind you) adventures.

Of course we saw a very very small portion of these states and all from a roadside
point of view, but my initial impressions were that NC is more prosperous, quaint, more organized, cared for.
SC is a bit wild, isolated in its abandoned aloneness, not in any mean spiritedness.
That said, we did travel through a town that looked quite prosperous and quaint more like NC. I would love to see Charleston some day.

We traveled around Augusta GA, on the border of SC, the Savannah river area. There were entire rows of boarded up houses,
a multitude of shops selling vast quantities of car tires and lots of box stores and industry. We did not get into downtown Augusta or even near its true suburbs.

I loved the wildness of it.

I was surprised by the flatness of it- it was sandy and clay soil and nearly flat like Kansas yet still far from the coast.
There were vast areas of forest, fields, lots of farming (cotton, tobacco, wheat…). We picked up a load of carrots and another of sweet potatoes. We carried down 2 loads of chocolate chips to the Kellogg plant and absorbent pulp to a decimated factory for diapers- they had something like 1200 employees now it is only 60. On the day we delivered we only saw 3 people working. Tons of not only abandoned houses but small and large businesses, buildings, factories, schools, hospitals. I imagined the difficulty of finding good jobs, the importance of an anchor of industry or technology economy, the modest but sometimes rewarding returns of a strong back of agriculture.

The humidity in summer was already discernible and the isolation extreme for us northerners for any kind of extended visit.I could envision a lovely camp on a small pond though, a retreat in spring or fall. The people were friendly, generally speaking, and I never had to open a door for myself. It was quiet and Spring was more like summer as we got farther south. I was exhilarated by the light air and ran and even skipped just for the joy of it.

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Finding Expression

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I think there are people who take pictures because of the beauty of light, for excellence, to document history or to fancy themselves artistic or clever, to protest, to shock, for a slap in the face, a gritty statement or simply to delight. Then there are those that take pictures to see through life, as if the molecular level or truth itself could be revealed if we get it just right, suspend the breath and slowly breathe out, click. There are those that take pictures to touch the familiar through reflecting mirrors, a waltz with memory that is escaping our tendons and vessels and might hang on when grasped by a tiny aperture. Like a dancer’s hands on a man’s shoulders, bending every joint of hand and finger so tightly a million lines are engraved in them. If the lines are just right, from that tense alignment she can slice a thin sheet like lace or cloud and it forms a picture, a slide of memory that can be inserted between the neurons and disperse like ether in the mind.

The sculptor and the painter too make choices about how hard to press into the mold, stretch the resin, or to allow globs of paint to form miniature mountains of emotion or fan it out to shallow rivers, moss, or translucent skin. Even an athlete is finding expression in outbursts of electricity or meditating on repetitive motions. Writers, we have to work with the enunciation of vowels, curving consonants obscured in ink and paper or worse, their facsimiles flattened on screens. We can employ the cacophony of k’s, and ch’s and staccato st’s like birds in late spring trees flitting here and there, the raucous and the sweet all a crash. We can swoon and exhale loudly on commas, bend question marks, pursue with semi-colons and ellipsis. A writer can call upon ancestors, archaic definitions and make glamorous or ridiculous new creations with amalgamations, innovations, detonating bombs or precipitatations.

What tools we use, where we direct the mirrors, this is the play. What tiny portion of a world cracked open, seeping, bleeding, or sweetening honey drips from ink on paper? I write and photograph to remember, to discover, to reveal, most of all to see, to turn the mirror in every direction. I cannot capture the beauty and allure of twilight in a photograph, but if I can hold the letters in my hands, fingertips brushing on sounds and forms like it was a new language, then maybe I can not only find expression, but carry you, the reader, on my gentle river of words.


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Longing to belong


Baba Prem Singh Ji, Anandpur Sahib, founder Dera Moyian di Mandi (dead men’s market, referring to our Maya world)
 
I used to think that choosing a monastic life was a way that people like me might escape not only from the world, but also from the pain of love, its loss or its absence. I thought that a commitment could be made, a discipline adopted, or a code agreed to that could fulfill the needs of our heart and provide ample solace because it would organize humanity’s chaos. Since I am a person who wants very little from the world and often as not want to recoil from what many call freedoms but I consider to be confinements I have felt the paradoxical need for some extremes in my life. I wanted to separate from Maya (illusion) and find truth and simplicity. I wanted to surrender to something larger than myself because it seemed only reasonable to observe that this world was crazy. I dreamed about living like the early New England colonists, but my parent’s and aunts quickly disregarded me for being overly romantic about dirt floors and naïve about living without penicillin. My personality could not accept any of the more common extremes like anorexia, drugs, suicide or even living in a cave, because, if for no other reason, they were ends rather than journeys. Also, I was never able to commit to those outermost extremes. I can’t even maintain a fast for more than a few hours. However, I did draw up plans for fasts in my mind and that’s exactly where they stayed, as psychological malnourishment. Then a path chose me by showing me, through the experience of yoga, that renunciation was a tool but without awareness it was an avoidance.

I began to understand my hunger. Through meditation and prayer my hunger grew and it expanded into emptiness and reached towards nothingness. The emptiness obliterated my collected emotional scars and made ridiculous and futile my attempts at deprivation. In the emptiness I realized that all I had was profound longing. That longing was a divine gift and for that gift I felt tremendous gratitude. I began to thrive on the source of that longing; it was love.

It has since become clear to me that not only as an ascetic, a nun, or priest of any persuasion, but as a simple adherent you cannot truly adopt a religious life, a spiritual life, unless you embrace love as a way of life. Disciplines, articles of faith and codes of conduct are guides. A very wise friend told me they are only signposts, don’t confuse the signs with your destination or you may never arrive. In Sikhism and I believe at the core of any faith, when we surrender to God we surrender to our profound longing; we surrender to love in all its wild abundance, its simplicity and its chaos.

With dedication to Baba Diaal Singh Ji, Anandpur Sahib, Dera Moyian di Mandi, who left his body 2/2013.