Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Category: The Wheel of the Year

Redefining Christmas

Redefining Christmas

I’m sitting in my living room this evening feeling grateful for the little things. All day, I’ve been trying to be okay with Christmas being different now, and not really knowing what that even means or what Christmas will look like from now on. This is the first year of celebrating Christmas without my parents and without their house as the center of our family get-togethers. Last year doesn’t count because we were too busy getting ready to sell their house, which involved so much work that it still makes my head spin when I think about it. On top of all that, I was sick with a really bad cold, so my adult children spent Christmas with their dad.

This year is different.

Our circa 1840 house is really small and cannot even begin to accommodate a small family gathering that includes a toddler who spends every waking hour exploring. My daughter, who lives with little Ava in a small apartment an hour away, doesn’t have a car. So the solution we came up with is to have our family celebration at the home of my ex-husband and his girlfriend (who live close to my daughter) so we can all be together in a space that can host a holiday celebration that includes a very active toddler. 

For the most part, those in my small family circle aren’t buying gifts this year, and that’s okay. It’s not too different from any other year, and it’s not just about financial circumstances because values are also a factor. I’ve never been into the consumer aspect of Christmas and would always make most of the gifts for my children or give them art materials. Christmas wasn’t so much about the presents as it was about being together. My favorite Christmases were when I had the kids for Christmas Eve, and we’d have a dinner movie theater in the living room. I’d make our favorite holiday foods from a menu we created together, and we’d watch a few Christmas movies and (in the earlier years) track Santa’s whereabouts.

This year, I mostly want to give the gifts of food, art, and creativity materials, but I’m feeling like there’s still so much to do with only one more day until Christmas because the snow and ice we’ve had for the past two days has put a damper on shopping for missing ingredients and supplies. But the down time has given me a chance to pause, reflect, and simplify my expectations for what I can accomplish in the next 24 hours. 

My mom was the one who made Christmas feel like a really festive occasion, a big deal. She loved buying presents, decorating their house and two Christmas trees (one real, one artificial). My mom was the spirit of Christmas in our family! For the most part, the store-bought gifts and larger ticket items (such as American Girl dolls) were under the tree at my parents’ house. 

But that’s not the case anymore, and my lack of consumerism really shows now because my mom isn’t around to cover for me! I feel some pressure (coming from nobody but me, of couse) to carry on my mom’s spirit of Christmases past. But without a home that can accommodate a family gathering, no space for a Christmas tree, and a very modest budget this year, it’s not realistic – and it’s also not me. A portion of my parents’ Christmas decorations are in boxes in my storage unit, but I don’t even have space to display them. 

I’m trying to be okay with this – with Christmas looking very different than it used to.

Earlier today, I spoke with my daughter to firm up holiday plans and told her I’m more interested in presence than presents but feel I should do more to make Christmas even a little more like it was when my parents were alive. She told me she was feeling guilty about not being able to buy presents for anyone except Ava. Seems we were both falling into the trap of thinking what we could do wasn’t enough.

We reminisced about Christmases when my parents were alive, and then she told me she can’t remember the presents she received at my parents’ house but remembers the feeling of everyone being together. We agreed that is what Christmas is really about. And we agreed to be gentle with ourselves and not put pressure on ourselves to do any more than we can do. 

In past years, I recall seeing lots of posts and pictures on social media of friends having big holiday celebrations complete with beautifully decorated trees and lots of presents. This year I’m on a 30-day Facebook fast and probably will avoid Instagram for a few days around Christmas, as well. It’s nice to see smiling faces and families celebrating together, but it’s still a sensitive time of year for me as I adjust to not having my parents or their house in the picture.

But let’s not allow our expectations for Christmas (or life in general) to be influenced by social media images. There is another reality.

Every day I work at the library, I’m in contact with many people who are homeless, and they keep my ideas about what Christmas “should” be like in check. They remind me of how much I have, even if it doesn’t look like much compared to the Facebook pictures and my assumptions of how other families live and celebrate. I realize that just showing up and being together is enough. It’s not the presents. It’s the presence that matters most. And we should be really grateful for everyone who can come together and celebrate with us. Thank God my daughter survived the car accident she was in over the summer and is alive and able to celebrate with us. 

There is a library patron who reminds me of my dad. He’s 88 years old, and we have developed a special bond. It makes me so happy to see his face light up when we interact.  Last week, he gave me advice about running cold water at the end of a shower, to close my pores. The only other person who ever told me that was my dad. I know little bits and pieces of this man’s story and am eager to learn more. Yesterday, he told me that a female relative (a cousin, I believe) invited him for Christmas, and he was happy she did because otherwise he would have spent Christmas alone. I had no idea! A week ago, I gave him one of my calendars along with a card referring to him as my favorite library patron, and now I’m thinking that might be one of the only gifts he will receive – which makes me so glad I gave it to him!

I’ve been thinking of him a lot today and am appreciating that I have family to be with on Christmas. Many people don’t. It can be difficult for divorced parents who alternate holidays to not celebrate with their children on the actual holiday. The years when we can spend the holidays together are special and not to be taken for granted. It doesn’t matter if you have a tree or any gifts under it. It’s the togetherness that counts. 

So please enjoy the company of your loved ones, and don’t put stress on yourself to have your holiday celebrations be anything more than what they are. Being together with whoever is able to show up is the greatest gift of the season. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake. 

May your holidays be filled with gratitude and love. And may you focus more on the love than any absences, and more on what you have than what you don’t. May you find a sweet perfection in what is.

© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer ( is a contemplative photographer, writer, and educator who lives on the Hudson River. Her work combines her passion for photography and writing with her deep interest in the nature of mind and perception and her love of the natural world.

Exploring Old Roots and Growing New Shoots

Exploring Old Roots and Growing New Shoots

What a difference one week makes! After the balance of sunlight tipped in favor of the Northern Hemisphere last week, I wasn’t ready for winter to end – which might be a first. Winter is the season of going inward, reflecting, and preparing for a new season of growth, and I wasn’t ready for the daffodils to shoot up so soon because my winter work wasn’t done. Although I was as thrilled as ever to hear a chorus of spring peepers for the first time when I drove by the creek one evening, at the same time, it felt premature. I needed more time! I was not ready to emerge from underground and shoot up with the daffodils and grass because I remained unclear about where I wanted to focus my energy and how I wanted to grow!

Mercifully, a week later, the energy has shifted. Perhaps it was the equinox, the full moon, the lunar eclipse, certain conversations, my prayers for guidance, the inner work, a breakthrough I had during meditation, a combination of the above, or some unknown grace. But now my energy is concentrated on a single purpose, and the seeds sown within me are ready to grow in the world. Apparently, I was right to trust the process and to believe clarity would arise in time – just as the plant world awakens every spring following a season of necessary dormancy. It was bound to happen.

As plants began invisibly sending out their roots, I found myself returning to both my spiritual and my photography roots. The waterfalls of Ithaca, NY provided my original inspiration for picking up a camera (an old Canon point-and-shoot) nearly 30 years ago, and in recent weeks, my passion for waterfall photography was reignited in full force. This month, I visited two waterfalls I’d never been to before. One was on a road I lived on when my children were young. I must have driven by it on nearly a daily basis but never noticed it! It’s an example of the countless opportunities and blessings that are overlooked when we’re caught up in our daily routines and don’t think to turn our heads a little more to either side and notice what exists in the periphery.

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As I processed my photos of that waterfall, I was drawn to the large rock in the middle of it (that resembles a turtle).

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It reminded me of a quote from Sufi master, Hazrat Inayat Khan:

“Stand through life as firm as a rock in the sea, undisturbed and unmoved by its ever-rising waves.”

It’s not the sea, but it speaks to me of believing in yourself, standing your ground, and being centered, even when there are many different streams of activity flowing around you and so much stuff going on that it can become distracting and feel overwhelming.

On Easter, I visited another waterfall and spent more than two hours in complete solitude working and worshipping in what felt like a private sanctuary. I sang, cried, prayed, gave thanks, and took plenty of photographs as the negative ions worked their waterfall magic on me.


When I was about to leave, it occurred to me that a large rock in the foreground of my final shots seemed incomplete without a simple stone balance. At that point, I was thirsty, it was time to hit the road, and I had to focus on keeping myself balanced on a steep grade in order to balance the stones…but I couldn’t resist taking a couple extra minutes to create a simple balance.


This afterthought of a balance was so simple that it barely qualified as my first official, outdoor balance of the year. However, it felt important to do, despite feeling thirsty, needing to get on my way, and not having level ground to stand on. Making the effort to create a delicate balance in front of the waterfall added a satisfying layer of meaning to the image. It spoke to something that was alive inside of me and needed to be expressed – channeled artistically, if you will – for there are times when you need to make an extra effort in order to create balance in your life.

In addition to returning to my photography roots, I recently had the great pleasure of returning to my spiritual roots and photographing the interior of the church I attended as a child. I hadn’t been inside the church (which has been converted into a performance and event venue) since I was nine years old but had vivid memories and dreams of the entire interior. I’ve been wanting to photograph it for years. Once, a few summers ago, I tried to enter, but the doors were locked, nobody answered the doorbell, and I never tried again. My son recently organized a film festival for young, local filmmakers that serendipitously took place inside my old church, so I seized the opportunity to explore and photograph it while he was in a meeting.

I was so excited to finally go inside after 40 years and was in my glory photographing my memories, including the brass banister on the stairs when you walk through the interior set of doors, the old choir room, the stained glass windows – all as I remembered them – and locating the various rooms, including the unassuming door in a corner that led to the Sunday School rooms down in the basement.


The space that was most radically different was the nave and sanctuary upstairs because all the pews had been removed, along with the entire chancel, including the resplendent pipes of the pipe organ. But it still smelled exactly the same. It was blissful to be alone in the former worship space as the late afternoon sun streamed in through the stained glass windows.


Prior to going inside the church, I expressed my excitement to a friend who also attended that church during our childhood. He was surprised I’d never been inside before and said he had attended a number of events there. Truth is, after returning to my hometown in my mid-30s, I was busy raising my children, was always on a tight budget, and didn’t get out much. I tried to go inside once, and because the door was locked, I assumed it was generally inaccessible.

However, when I left the church at the end of my son’s meeting and the following day at the conclusion of the film festival, the door remained unlocked. People were coming in for dance classes and other events. It was an active venue with doors that were not always locked.


The reality is that I tried to open the door once, and it was locked. And then I didn’t try again. Is that a great metaphor or what?


In recent months, I’ve been unearthing and releasing some deeply held beliefs and conditioning regarding money and entrepreneurship because it is time to make some changes rather than continue to repeat the same patterns that have not served me in the past. In the grand scheme of things, money is just another form of energy that shouldn’t be so weighty and intimidating. However, financial prosperity is something I have been passive about until now. It was a door I knocked on, but when nobody answered, I just moved on, believing it was locked and inaccessible, and I did not have permission to enter.


But now I have become curious. What if I were to find out at the end of my life that the door was unlocked the whole time, and I only assumed it was locked and lived my entire life as if that were the case – and never turned the doorknob? Or perhaps I tried just once and found it locked and assumed that was always the case, so why bother trying again? Well, there is a voice inside me now urging me to turn the doorknob and find out what’s inside the rooms I had considered off-limits. In other words, what is on the other side of fear?

That is the metaphor I take away from the church experience. Our circumstances aren’t what block us. Our assumptions about our circumstances and ourselves in relationship to them are what block us. What might we accomplish if we adjust our mindset and beliefs, become more adventurous, and empower ourselves to do something different this time – and actually turn the doorknob of the room we hadn’t felt worthy of entering in the past, instead of retreating to the familiar spaces?

It’s like failing to notice the waterfall on the street I once lived on because I never turned my head just a little more to one side. I can’t help but wonder: What are we missing out on by not doing something different? What kind of new shoots can we push up this year by challenging our assumptions and being a little more curious and adventurous? With nature as my mirror and guide, I believe it’s time to find out!

(Hmm…shoots…what a fitting word for growing a photography business!)


The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2016. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography ( Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂 

Where Love Sets a Table

Where Love Sets a Table

I want to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate. I also want to thank you for reading or subscribing to my blog and sharing this journey called life. I bare my heart and soul here in my writing while searching for metaphors in the natural world and trying to view personal challenges from a spiritual angle, in hopes that sharing my journey will be uplifting or insightful to you in some way. Mary Oliver wrote: “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” It is advice I take seriously!

To be honest, I haven’t been feeling up to celebrating the holidays this year. It’s the second year without my mom, and holidays will never be the same. She died three and a half years after her own mom died, and the loss of the matriarchs has put a serious dent in holiday celebrations. Technically, I am now the matriarch, but I guess I haven’t been ready to embrace that role yet. Grief is still rather fresh, and our family is still trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces and move on. This includes where and with whom to celebrate, given the various complexities of family life when divorce, grief, and other dynamics are part of the picture.

But I suppose the bottom line is that everybody has their own version of stuff like this going on and that holidays with family can be a balancing act between what is comfortable, what is expected, and what is “right” (compassionate and wise). Ram Dass said, “If you think you are enlightened, go home for Thanksgiving.” Funny but true!

As I wandered in and out of blue this week contemplating the realities and logistics of the upcoming holidays, I caught the following words drifting through the air:

Go where you are invited. Cook for whoever shows up. Where love sets a table and invites you to eat, that’s where you belong. Go to the table that love has invited you to, and feast. Be grateful for what you have and for who shows up, and don’t let that gratitude be overshadowed by mourning who or what is missing. Arrive with something to share, but most of all, bring your best, most loving self.

Holiday logistics can get complicated, and the complications tend to get me down year after year. But I finally realized that what’s most important is to celebrate with your tribe, even if it must be done on a different day than the actual calendar holiday. If there are too many places people need to be, and you can’t fit a proper celebration into one day, then why not celebrate Thanksgiving on another day? That way, the love can flow without anyone feeling rushed, disappointed, resentful, or guilty about already being full from another meal. Sometimes you have to think outside the box to make room for the love that wants to flow in your life.

I also feel inspired to mention that it’s hard when the people you love aren’t around to celebrate with you because they are no longer of this world. But it can be even harder when loved ones who are still alive are absent, such as in the case of divorce, breakup, estrangement, illness, etc. If that is the case with you, please know that you’re not alone.

There may be people we really wish we could celebrate holidays with, but for whatever reason, it can’t happen at this time. A particular friend comes to mind who is going through excruciating heartache very similar to something I experienced years ago. I am wrapping this beautiful soul in as much love and light as I can muster.

Today is a day to for gratitude, and perhaps in time, we can even be grateful for the tough times and the challenging relationships that ultimately help us to grow our compassion, understanding, and wisdom and to be of greater service to others.

Although it saddens me that my beautiful friend is in such pain, I am grateful that my own experience allows me to be more present to her and to have faith that she will get through this difficult chapter with even more light to offer the world. As I struggle with my own personal issues that sometimes feel overwhelming, I remind myself that the hard work I’m doing now will allow me to be even more helpful to others in the future. I just have to choose to continue doing the work rather than throw in the towel when it comes to growing my soul. The work will get done because the part of me that wants to evolve is stronger than the part that is content to stay stuck. At some point, there will be resolution, empowerment, and no more tears. No matter what the personal outcomes will be, greater compassion for others is a certain payoff and one that is worth the work.

One thing I know is that when I think of others around the world who feel the same way, a portion of my sadness transforms into compassion, and I just want to radiate love and positive energy, hoping it will travel to them on a ripple in the energy field and ease their pain. So if you happen to be someone who is suffering, I hope you feel it. I’m giving an extra push in your direction!

Whether Thanksgiving is a joyous celebration or a trigger for unresolved issues resurfacing (or varying degrees of both), may we make room for the miracle of gratitude – for blessings large and small and for the table set by love and those who show up around it, whether literally or metaphorically. May we be fully present at the table we are invited to and to those who accept our invitation and company – for what matters most is where we are, rather than where we are not. On this day, may we focus on the abundant blessings and goodness in our lives, rather than on who or what is missing.


The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

September Mist

September Mist

After a late night canning, dehydrating, and otherwise processing another bushel (my fourth this month) of freshly harvested vegetables, I needed to sleep in this morning! However, the street noise prevented that from happening. After trying for a while, I finally gave up and opened my eyes, knowing it would be irresistible.

And it was. It was downright amazing.


It was an Oh. My. God sunrise (uttered with the utmost reverence).


And to make it even more astonishing, a low-flying bald eagle flew right over me as I stood on the dock in awe of the misty, colorful landscape that surrounded me.

I am in the process of generating a list of monthly themes for a forthcoming book that has been in the works for quite some time. Here in the Northeast, September is rich in visual and spiritual themes to appreciate and contemplate, and the morning mist is certainly one of them. Though it covers a portion of the landscape, it also reveals the brilliant and otherwise largely invisible designs of spider webs. The mist fascinates me every September.


When I came back inside after experiencing the extraordinary sunrise on the river, my son was getting ready for school, and I beseeched him to stop what he’s doing and go outside NOW. I told him he needed to stand on the dock and be surrounded by the mist. Although he didn’t get caught up in my sense of urgency, he did make it outside a few minutes later. From inside the house, I watched him take it all in and felt he was possibly learning the most important lesson he’d learn all day: How to stop, tune in, and experience the grandeur of the natural world. How to fill up with the light of the sunrise. How to notice and appreciate the simple and magnificent moments of life.


A few afternoons ago, I gave him a ride to his dad’s house and noticed an adjacent field glowing pink from some kind of grass that accents the September landscape. I admired it and told my son I wanted to photograph it. He replied, saying it’s incredible in the morning, when it looks like a blanket of clouds covering the ground in the morning mist.

I returned the next morning to experience it myself. It was a dreamy and captivating sight. I was grateful that my son shared his observation with me.


And I was even more grateful that he noticed in the first place. Actually, he admitted later that his girlfriend was the one who noticed it first. But it must have made an impression on him, and that is the whole point.

It’s a blessing when someone awakens us to beauty we wouldn’t have known about or noticed otherwise. Sometimes we need others to open our eyes to the artistry and magnificence of the world around us, that we ourselves are part of. I believe that anything that enriches and inspires us helps us to water and grow the God-seed planted in us. And I have a feeling that expanding that part of our self and the universe is what it’s ultimately all about.

May you have a blessed week!

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The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Waterfall at the Edge of the Wilderness

A Waterfall at the Edge of the Wilderness

It is May, the month my mother died last year, on the 27th. And lately I have been experiencing a gaping, intense sense of loss.

It’s not just the loss of my mother. It’s how her death has opened my eyes to the brevity, gift, and opportunity of our human lives and shown me what is not working in my life and what needs to change. After a fairly frenetic summer and fall, I spent a long, dark winter wandering through the vast wilderness of grief. Deep snowfall covered the path for several months, and I lost my way, bewitched by shadows and longing for light. It was a very long winter of record-breaking snowfall. But below the thick, silent blanket of snow, there was movement. I confronted issues that were long overdue and witnessed people close to me undergoing painful yet powerful transformations. To witness extraordinary transformation – to know it is even possible – is a blessing. Even in the deep darkness of winter, there is a light that can nourish us and help us grow if we choose to turn toward it.

Eventually the snowbanks melted, the first flowers bloomed, and the birds began to sing again. Trees and shrubs sprouted buds from unpruned branches still hosting the lacy ghosts of last year’s blooms.


The snow and ice to which we had become accustomed melted, and the water began to flow. The river levels rose, and grief took on a different, more fluid quality that came at me in waves, like labor contractions. Some particularly huge ones hit this week.

Again, it wasn’t just the loss of my mother – although that is big enough on its own. There is a confluence of loss arising in my heart, including the loss of my profession and having an empty nest earlier than I had planned. Two nights ago, I began sobbing uncontrollably. I felt grief and loss deep in my bones and in my heart. It was perhaps the deepest manifestation of emotional pain I ever have experienced in my life. I became a human waterfall that continued to flow all day yesterday. When a stranger wished me a good day and smiled at me, it brought tears to my eyes. And it occurred to me that when we have reached the limit of what we can endure and feel so broken, we are about to learn that we are much stronger than we believed ourselves to be. It is an opportunity to redefine our limits and our lives.  And to remember the importance of basics, like getting enough sleep and exercise.

Putting up the May pocket chart calendar in my empty classroom, I had to blink back tears – especially when I put the 27 card in place. Tears flowed again when I took out the May books and came across some Mother’s Day books – which I realize I will not be able to read to my class this year.

I checked my email and, as if on cue, received A Note from the Universe that read:

“Any and all forms of separation, disconnects, divides, partings, breakups, and goodbyes are temporary. Very. You’ll be together far, far longer than you will ever be apart.”

Realizing I was having a grueling day, a woman whom I consider a soul sister assured me that it will get better and that even when you think you have gone backwards, you will find that you moved forward but just didn’t know it. She assured me that I will be myself again, but it will take time. She said I will never forget but will find peace. I am grateful for her wisdom and friendship.

At the water’s edge, I recently watched several geese floating peacefully. Whenever a wave approached them, they floated calmly,  gracefully, and effortlessly up and over it, as if not phased by it in the least. Oh, to navigate the waves of life and loss with such grace!


And I know I can do it. I have an incredible toolbox that has been underutilized in recent months. Now that spring has arrived, life feels more spacious, and it’s time to put those tools into fuller use once again. First of all, I must restore my own center as the axis about which my life spins, for it has wobbled.

Now that the snow has melted, the labyrinth I love to walk has revealed itself and invited me to enter. Filled with a bittersweet mix of gratitude and sorrow, I walked through the threshold of arched willow branches and along the winding path to the center. The sun was descending in the sky and shining through the daffodils surrounding the labyrinth, giving them the transparency of stained glass mandalas.


The scene was just like it was a year ago, when I found it so breathtaking that I called my mom and asked her if she wanted to see something beautiful. She said yes, and I immediately jumped in the car, picked her up, and brought her to the labyrinth to be amongst the flowers.


I continued to walk the labyrinth with hot tears streaming down my cheeks. One step at a time, I returned…to myself and to my sacred space. And the sunlit daffodils whispered: This is your life. Enter it fully. And I knew these words to be true.


And I shall do so, with gratitude. This little life of mine is far from perfect, and there is much room for growth. But it is mine, and it is time to shake off the spell of the wintry wilderness and reclaim it, one mindful footstep at a time.

As for all that no longer fits or that moves beyond my embrace:

I release you to the universe with gratitude for the gifts we have given each other and for the seeds we have planted in each other. We exist forever in the places we were together and in each others’ memories and heart. All is well. And in the end, love is all that remains.

And so I wake up to the spaciousness of this new day, this new month – no longer a waterfall but with a heart budding with hope and open to the generous offerings of spring. The daffodils seem to be a good place to begin.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

So Much Goodness in the World

So Much Goodness in the World

This week, with great enthusiasm, I observed two telltale signs of spring: the first daffodil shoots


…and a bluebird perched in a tree.


I can’t remember ever seeing a bluebird! I’ve always thought of them as rare. A couple years ago, I dreamed a bluebird was in my back yard and have wanted to see one ever since because I attributed special significance to them.

These signs of spring accompany a noticeable increase in birdsong and a change in the appearance of the willow trees that dominate the landscape as they shake off the drabness of winter and take on a brighter, light auburn tone.

I woke up this morning inspired to view pictures of spring. As I browsed through my photo library from last spring, I recalled how my daily search for beauty fueled me to care for my dying mother. The photos were organized chronologically, and following pictures of her last few days and memorial events was a long and diverse parade of flowers that continued without missing a beat despite her absence. I needed more than ever to connect with the abundant beauty of the world as I began to grieve. It was my medicine. No matter what horrific events the news tells us are taking place in the world, and despite all the factors that dampen our spirits or condition us to lead fear-based lives, I have faith that love and beauty outweigh the darkness and can save us every day if we allow them to.

In my last blog entry, I wrote about the theft of almost all of my husband’s musical equipment while he was substituting at a school for the day. That (Friday) evening was a very heavy one as the reality of the loss set in. But over the course of the weekend, he surrendered to it. I watched him sit on the floor somberly making a list of everything that was taken from him. He wasn’t in a hurry to tell people what had happened. He was too busy compiling the list and letting it all sink in. Some of the most difficult losses were like old, familiar friends that carried higher sentimental than monetary value – for instance, a bag he got at a Grateful Dead show when he was young and had used to tote musical accessories for decades. There were other personal things of a similar nature that can’t be replaced. And yet (he reminded me whenever I expressed sympathy), they are just things, and the most important things in life aren’t things. These are the sentiments of someone who has been tested greatly in recent months and has responded by immersing himself in spiritual teachings and making the conscious decision to evolve and apply the teachings to his life rather than give up or be a victim. It is a brave choice we can make every day of our lives when we wake up and refuse to let our lives be run by unconscious programming.

The lyrics of the song “Drive” by Incubus come to mind:

Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can’t help but ask myself how much I’ll let the fear
Take the wheel and steer

It’s driven me before
And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal
But lately I am beginning to find
That I should be the one behind the wheel

Whatever tomorrow brings
I’ll be there with open arms and open eyes

Whatever tomorrow brings
I’ll be there, I’ll be there

So if I decide to waiver my chance
To be one of the hive
Will I choose water over wine
And hold my own and drive?

It’s driven me before
And it seems to be the way that everyone else gets around
But lately I am beginning to find
That when I drive myself my light is found

On Sunday, I urged Jack to go public with his story in hopes that someone would hear about it and come forth with useful information. In addition, people had a right to know what was going on in their back yard – including my dad, who literally lives right behind the school and my friend, who lives across the street. So Jack sat down at his computer and let his heart do the talking, and he shared the result on social media. The response was like wildfire. His phone and laptop blew up for days with messages from people expressing sympathy and appreciation – both for the musical memories he created for so many children and families over the years and for his positive, loving attitude, which I believe the world needs desperately. Many people wanted to know where to send money to help him replace his stolen equipment, and we didn’t feel comfortable giving our address to strangers (however well-meaning they seemed to be), so I started an online fundraiser – which also took off like wildfire. People from far and wide contacted him, including newspapers and news stations. He had several interviews – the first of which took place three days after the incident.

It’s interesting what snippets end up on the news and in the papers. Jack’s intention was to spread peace and love, which has been his professional motto for years (“Peace, love, and understanding: Spread it all around the world!”). But the spirituality with which he responded to this crisis ended up on the newsroom floor for the most part – and it was the message he wanted most to convey to the world. Brief quotes taken out of context appeared as nonchalance to some people who could not accept his radical, spiritual belief that everything would be okay and his refusal to harbor ill feelings toward those who stole from him.

The public did not hear the private conversations between us – how difficult it was for Jack to open himself up to receiving money and offers of equipment from friends and strangers. When the donations started rolling in, he worried about what to do if they surpassed the amount needed to replace his stolen equipment. He was adamant about not accepting more than he needed because there are so many other people in this world who are in greater need. With regard to any excess donations, the two best options seemed to be to refund or pay it forward. It was a bridge we would cross if we came to it. And it’s an important back story that I want people to know about because some unconscious people have made it clear that they cannot fathom the possibility of a person facing this kind of situation with a positive, loving attitude. They say it’s not natural and that it doesn’t make any sense. And I suppose it doesn’t when one sentence is inserted out of context within a news segment or article based on an interview that the public doesn’t realize took place days after the incident occurred, after Jack had time to process it and make a conscious decision to proceed with an attitude of peace and love. It takes faith and familiarity with someone’s character and personal circumstances to understand that love is a viable, healthy response to tragedy – a brave and radical choice.

It’s interesting: I have faith in the beauty of the world to support me when crises arise or when the daily grind of life wears me down. I retreat into the natural world to recharge my battery and adjust my attitude. I realize it’s not the answer for everyone, but it is strong medicine for me. However, I’ve had what feels like an impenetrable lack of faith with regard to financial security. For years, Jack has encouraged me not to stay stuck in a rut based on fear of the unknown. Do what you love, and the money will follow. In his own words:

Will you struggle? Sure. But it will be a different kind of struggle. The difference is that your energy will be put into what you love, and you will do what you need to do to make things work. It’s nothing compared to the struggle of getting up every day and spending your days consumed with work that feels wrong, in an environment that weighs you down. When you live your life with purpose and give your gifts fearlessly to the world, you will open yourself up to possibilities you can’t even begin to imagine. So many of your beliefs about what you need will fall away, and what you really do need will come to you when you live an inspired life aligned with your Higher Power. Take that leap of faith. Jump out of the plane, and don’t worry about the parachute opening. It will.

These are radical words that fly in the face of everything we have been taught and conditioned to believe. I’ve come across the basic message countless times in spiritual circles throughout my adult life. Reading (and even understanding) it and living it are two entirely different experiences. Part of me considers it magical thinking in which a responsible parent (and the family breadwinner) can’t afford to indulge, and another part of me thinks that kind of faith is the missing ingredient that keeps me from moving forward into a more fully expressed and fulfilled life. I wish I could have that kind of faith – as much as some people wish they could find beauty in the world when they are feeling down and battered by life.

We all have so much to teach one another, don’t we? So many ways to inspire one another. Although many people aren’t ready to remove fear from the driver’s seat and allow Spirit – love, harmony, and beauty – to steer them through life, our words and deeds are constantly sowing seeds in this world. And although it’s not always easy to have faith, as poet Mary Oliver challenges (in an excerpt from her poem, “Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness”):

what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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