Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Category: What Nature Reveals

Back into Presence

Back into Presence

It’s true: Everything is impermanent. Even seasons of inertia. Thank goodness.

A couple days ago, I finally had my first inspired idea after returning from the seven-day silent mindfulness meditation retreat. It happened without trying, and it felt like it came from a deep place. So now, instead of just framing photography for my upcoming exhibit, I’m painting the frames, too, for a color-coordinated, shabby chic look. It makes a big difference and feels so much more “me.” I’m psyched.

This morning, more inspiration came. I think it’s back. It seemed to come in response to getting carried away by a wave of emotion last night. One step back, two steps forward.

I’ve been doing well embodying mindfulness since the retreat. However, now my son is home from college and has transportation issues. We live in the country, and he can’t get a summer job without reliable transportation. All he has is a bike, which he’s determined to ride. However, the roads around here aren’t safe for bikers, especially when it gets dark, and to make a long story short, I ended up getting hooked by sadness last night. I felt bad about not being able to offer him more than I can, and then sadness morphed into regret for all the mistakes I’ve made in my life that resulted in him not having a car to drive this summer.

Every so often, I acknowledged this is regret and noticed where I felt it in my body. And then I got hooked again. Regret is my seductive teacher. It keeps returning until I’ve learned what it has to teach me and don’t need it anymore.

But everything is impermanent. Even challenging emotions. This morning, I woke up feeling better. During my walk, I recognized: Regret is disempowering. Come back to the present. 

Then I noticed the trees and the new leaves they’re putting out, still a tender, bright shade of chartreuse. I suspect trees don’t regret last year’s foliage or any previous year’s. That’s in the past. Now they are starting fresh with a new generation of leaves. New determination to grow. All that matters now is the leaves that are emerging this year that can capture sunlight and help the tree to grow.

Then it occurred to me that I might want to go home and get my camera because the trees were showing me something about my own nature. On the way back to my car, I noticed an oak tree that hadn’t let go of all of last year‘s leaves. They are brown, papery, and shriveled and such a contrast to the tender, bright, new leaves. I considered the tree holding on to what no longer serves it a rather unappealing quality – and a contemplative image I wanted to capture. So home I went, to get my camera.

When I returned with my camera and started photographing oak and maple trees, I felt completely back in my element. Waiting for the wind to quiet down is a great opportunity to embody presence, and this is what photography has been for me all along: an invitation to presence. Presence when the conditions are right and presence while waiting for the sun to go behind or emerge from a cloud or for the wind to calm down. Photography as a portal to presence. It’s a significant part of my spiritual practice.

I don’t need my camera to embody presence. But I do tend to pause and linger a little longer while waiting for conditions to be more favorable for capturing the image my heart desires that somehow speaks to me. And that right there is the way I want to live my life. It’s the answer to the koan I brought back from retreat about goals and contentment.

When conditions aren’t exactly the way I want them to be, I can focus on being present to and allowing what is. Then, when conditions are right, I can put all that much more presence into the photography. And if the conditions don’t present themselves, then I haven’t wasted my time because I’ve embodied presence and stillness and can walk along like that until the next inspiration arrives! In the meantime, I’m not tempted to put my energy into anything that distracts me from what feels right because I already feel so content and peaceful.

Without even trying, I returned home with this blog post. I didn’t have a goal to write today, but it arose from the stillness.

There’s a season for putting out bright, shiny new leaves – new possibilities for growth. There’s a season for full, deep green leaves collecting maximum sunlight for the growth part of the cycle. There’s a season for letting go of leaves because it’s not time for that anymore, and they’re not needed. And there’s a season for rest and reflection. Each of these seasons is impermanent and important, and wherever we are in the cycle, may we let it be as it is. May we trust in the seasons of our lives and not try to fill them with compulsive activity. In presence and stillness, growth comes without us needing to try so hard.

I bow to the Buddha on my meditation altar. I bow to the leaves in the trees through which Source energy reveals itself. I bow to all my teachers, including unpleasant emotions that carry me away and eventually dissolve back into stillness. I bow to it all.

© 2018 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (River-Bliss.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, and feng shui consultant whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

The Grace of the Journey

The Grace of the Journey

Maybe it’s a little strange, but I can’t resist heading outdoors with my camera on frigid, winter mornings to photograph a frosty landscape. It’s so thrilling that I almost don’t even feel the cold!

I captured the above image at the beginning of a recent period of brutally cold weather. The weather forecast for upcoming days looked much the same as the conditions that morning, but I was surprised to wake up the next few mornings to no frost whatsoever. Apparently, it was too cold! In fact, it got so cold in the past week that I didn’t take my camera outside at all. Morning temperatures were around -20° F, without windchill!

However, one morning at the end of the deep freeze, Jack showed me an incredibly beautiful video of soap bubbles freezing. (He should have known better.) The frost forming on the bubbles was enchanting, and I remembered that ever since my children were little, I’d wanted to experiment with blowing bubbles when it was well below 0° outdoors. Finally (now that my youngest is 20), the conditions were right. 

So I mixed up a DIY soap bubble solution and headed outdoors with my reluctant assistant who no doubt regretted showing me the video. He blew the bubbles, and I attempted to photograph them. It wasn’t easy! Even though they didn’t pop when they hit the ground, they were like weightless, speedy tumbleweeds! There was a slight breeze, and whenever I tried to scoot a little closer to them to get a better shot, they rolled around too fast for me to catch up with them.

It was brutally cold that morning, close to -30°. Too cold for people and cameras to be outdoors for more than a few minutes, so I didn’t have much time to work with. In the narrow window of opportunity, I managed to get a few shots – but definitely felt the cold!

When Mother Nature doesn’t deliver, sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands and make the best of it. Whatever gets you through the winter!

This morning, for the first time in a while, I noticed some frosted trees in a certain area along the river. I had a plan: I’d snowshoe to the dam, which was next to the frosted trees, for a good view. I hadn’t photographed frosted trees from that spot yet.

So I started on the path but was delayed because I noticed glistening, frosty branches low to the ground along the river and couldn’t resist stopping for a closer look. I spent the next half hour or so photographing the delicate, feathered frost on low branches and noticed that, viewed through my macro lens, the frost resembled ferns and trees.

By the time I made it to the dam, there was no more frost left on the trees. However, I sat on a rock and appreciated the warmth of the sun on my face. After a string of such brutally cold days when the air hurt my face, it was a pleasure not to take for granted.

As I sat on the rock, I realized my morning walk was a metaphor for how I want to journey through life. You can have a destination in mind, but be sure to enjoy the journey! After all, we spend more hours working toward goals than we do attaining them, right? And when we achieve a goal, there’s always a new one to work toward. So we’re constantly working toward something.

But what do we miss along the way when we’re focused on a particular outcome? I thought of all the times I was on the river stalking herons or bald eagles, determined to paddle back home with a decent photograph but missing so many other opportunities along the way – like turtles, dragonflies, or the reflection of sunlight on the surface of the water projected onto the trees so it appears like cells of light flowing down the branches to the center of the tree. 

The other day, I got triggered by a situation and felt my life was falling short, in a big way. That kind of thinking is my kryptonite, and I spent the next day trying not to cross over to the dark side of poverty consciousness and general unworthiness.

Focusing on gratitude helped a lot. While showshoeing late in the afternoon, I felt grateful because there was enough snow for snowshoeing and because it stayed light late enough for me to go snowshoeing when I finally got home. Also, it was so wonderful to be outdoors breathing fresh air that didn’t hurt my face!

These gratitudes led to more, and before I knew it, my snowshoe walk had turned into a gratitude walk, which raised my energy and improved my mood. I realized how much I have compared to so many other people in the world. I have food on the table, a roof over my head, a warm coat, snowshoes on my feet, and everything I need. Furthermore, to borrow a line from Hafiz, “Any king would trade his throne for the splendor my eye can see.”

When we work toward a particular goal, the danger is that we will feel we’re not enough as we are right now and need to achieve the goal in order to measure up. But don’t you dare believe such toxic thoughts! When I tried not to cross over to the dark side where feelings of lack would convince me I was in need of something that would make me feel more whole and complete, these words came to me:

As I snowshoed and drove around, I repeated the words over and over because it was really important to reprogram my thoughts and let the message sink in. Create new neural pathways.

Our journey through life is so much more enjoyable when we appreciate what we already have and believe we are already whole and complete and don’t need to achieve a particular goal to have value and worth and to feel good. If we can have a lighter attitude of curiosity and joy and not be so heavy and serious, we can experiment with growing and expanding toward our goals without making our worth dependent on a successful outcome. We can notice more, follow our intuition, and feel good as we travel along, not only when we finally arrive. We can even give ourselves freedom to fail, which I believe is good practice.

This morning, falling in love with the frosted branches along the way made the whole journey worth it. The destination wasn’t dazzling, and therefore I didn’t get pictures of frosted trees. However, the journey – of curiosity and delight – made up for it. So this is a little reminder not to be so focused on the end result (whatever it is for you) that you deprive yourself of tiny pleasures, positive thoughts, and intuitive nudges that make the journey more delicious.

Enjoy the journey, knowing you are already enough exactly as you are right now!

© 2018 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (River-Bliss.com) 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. 

Little by Little

Little by Little

There have been a number of times this fall when I’ve begun to write something that felt sharable. However, throughout the month of October, I devoted my free time to traveling around Upstate New York and Vermont to photograph fall foliage and didn’t end up publishing anything. There were several experiences I wanted to write about, such as soaking up an amazing, positive vibe at Sandy’s Books and Bakery in a little town called Rochester, Vermont (en route to a waterfall I wanted to photograph) and having deep conversations with strangers that bordered on magical. Meeting my new tribe of delightful, kindred spirits with whom I will participate in group retreats on a regular basis over the next three years for the purpose of personal and spiritual growth. Personal revelations and challenges. Observing the first anniversary of my dad’s passing. Traveling twice to Watkins Glen to achieve my big photography goal of the year: photographing waterfalls on the gorge trail when the fall colors were at peak. The thrill of anticipating that just around the next bend, I would be standing in the scene I’d seen so many stunning pictures of through the years – and how exhilarating it felt to arrive at that spot. 

 

But the moment that really stands out for me and that I feel inspired to write about now is a much “smaller” moment, when I pulled in my driveway one breezy morning after walking the labyrinth down the road and noticed what appeared to be a butterfly circling gracefully around the backyard until it finally landed in the grass. As it soared through the air, I thought I could make out two wings but then noticed it wasn’t a butterfly after all. It was a leaf! The tallest tree in the backyard was releasing some leaves, and I found it really inspiring. I sat in my car for a while watching the tree let go of its leaves and noticed it did so in spurts, despite the constant breeze. It wasn’t a continuous process, and it didn’t just release a few leaves at a time. It seemed there were moments of letting go of a flurry of leaves all at once, followed by a resting period. A few minutes later, another flurry, and then more rest before it would be ready to let go of more. 

Even though it didn’t let go of its leaves at all once, it’s the season of letting go, and the cycle had been set in motion. The leaves the tree put out in the spring to capture and photosynthesize sunlight were no longer of use to the tree because it was time to simplify and prepare to rest for the winter. To turn inward. The tree was focused now on letting go and soon would release all its leaves, resulting in a colorful carpet of leaves covering the backyard. 

I love to observe nature and discover what it can tell me about myself and about human nature. On my way home from the labyrinth that morning, I drove by the storage facility in which I am storing many of my parents’ belongings. I’d intended to have a yard sale during the warmer months this year, but it didn’t happen because I had other priorities. This is my year of deep decluttering in all areas of life, and after decluttering the house completely during the first quarter of the year and doing lots of digital decluttering, clutter clearing my car, etc., it felt like I took a break, much like the tree in my backyard. But when I drove by the storage unit that morning, I reminded myself that I needed to resume my decluttering pilgrimage, beginning with my mom’s clothes. Perhaps taking that one step would get me back into the swing of letting go of stuff that has outlived its usefulness in my life and was only taking up valuable space.

I’ve been renting the storage unit for nearly a year now, and it has given me the gift of time to deal with my parents’ belongings that weren’t sold, donated, or disposed of when we sold their house back in January. I can’t put a price tag on that gift of time, especially since my home has no usable storage space for sentimental items. I stayed away all summer while attending to other matters, and it was hard to return when my son went back to college. When I raised the big, metal door for the first time in a while and was greeted by a roomful of things that are no longer needed by loved ones, I experienced deep sadness. However, I sat with the sadness and was present to it, and eventually it shifted into a sense of comfort as I sat on my parents’ living room sofa and smelled familiar fragrances that I hope will never fade away. And that’s probably why I don’t mind paying for the storage unit. Grief has no timetable, and I have no usable storage space in my home, so it’s not something I’m going to fret about.

My mom hasn’t needed her clothes in 3 1/2 years, and we’ve all had a chance to go through them to take what we want. When she was alive, she’d regularly donate clothing she no longer wanted to a local community organization. Her clothes were a big part of her identity. She loved having nice clothes to wear to social events. My mom was a very kind and classy lady who liked to look her best and always was dressed with a big, warm smile. And that’s why the huge bags of her clothing are still in my storage unit. Getting rid of them feels like letting go of a significant part of my mom – even though I realize she is not her clothes, and she would not want them in bags in a storage unit. She would want them to be worn by women who would appreciate them. 

Last night, I had a dream in which I was with my mom and wanted to talk with her about something that has been problematic in settling the estate. But in the dream, it seemed she was still alive, and it didn’t make sense to talk about her being dead when she was still alive, so I asked her if our “future selves” could have a conversation. Then I told her that she had passed away 3 1/2 years ago and that Dad passed away a year ago – and then I couldn’t say anything more than, “And I miss you so much!” because I was crying so hard that I was aware that my dreaming body also was crying. We gave each other a big hug before the dream ended.

I woke up from that dream ready to write this blog post and donate my mom’s clothes this week.

With the tall tree in my backyard as my mirror, I acknowledged that I’m spending this entire year (and beyond) doing what the tree was doing that breezy, October morning: letting go of what no longer serves me to make room for new possibilities when the time is right. Decluttering my life has been the most amazing process of enLIGHTENment. Probably the deepest letting go I’ve experienced this year relates to the habitual thoughts in my head – much of which was inspired by getting rid of physical things but some of which wasn’t. Thoughts and relationships are what I was busy clutter-clearing when I wasn’t going to the storage unit. Buddhists call it establishing “right relationship” to them, and it is very liberating! Decluttering your life is a profound act of mindful self-compassion or what I like to call tender, loving self-care. Self-love is not selfish. It benefits everyone. When you honor your most authentic self, you’re putting good energy into the world. And when you do it well, letting go is done with love, grace, and gratitude.

So, yeah… I have my work cut out for me inside that storage unit. But it will get done, one flurry of letting go at a time, and with grace, like that leaf I mistook for a butterfly sailing so exquisitely around the backyard on its journey to the ground.


© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (River-Bliss.com) 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.

Eclipse Stories

Eclipse Stories

Now that the solar eclipse is behind us, I wonder: What is your eclipse story? It’s a question that can be answered on a number of levels depending on how deep you want to go.

On the surface level… I didn’t get any stunning eclipse photos because I had to work during the eclipse. But that’s okay because lots of other people had their cameras pointed at the sun to capture the phenomenal event. My friend Colleen’s 17-year-old son, who lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, managed to capture a stunning image of the eclipse that was selected for the “Daily Dozen” by National Geographic editors out of thousands of submissions, and my buddy, Peter, was able to achieve a quality representation of our partial eclipse via a DIY rig of his Canon Rebel DSLR. And there were many others, as I’m sure you have seen for yourself. Some of the most intriguing images I saw were of sunlight passing through trees and illuminating sidewalk shadows with hundreds of tiny, crescent-shaped lights – like moons, only they were suns.

It was disappointing to have to be indoors during this greatly anticipated celestial event. But when I arrived at work, I was delighted to learn we had permission to go up on the roof to view the eclipse. There were a few pairs of eclipse glasses up there to be shared, along with other viewing options that included a cardboard box pinhole projector and a colander. I watched the eclipse via NASA’s live stream, and when it looked like it was really getting underway, I went up to the roof. The moment I put on the glasses and looked at the moon partially covering the sun was one I always will remember: a WOW moment you might have experienced, too. What a marvelous sight!

I went back to work beaming and feeling supercharged with eclipse energy! I noticed all the people on computers, and it seemed surreal that something so magnificent was taking place in the sky at that moment, and they were indoors staring voluntarily at computer screens. How could you not be blown away by this? (Well, maybe because you didn’t have eclipse glasses or permission to be up on the roof.) I went back up for a second and third glimpse of the astronomical event and was wowwed all over again. The afternoon flew by, to say the least, and since it was quieter than usual, I was able to focus on my eclipse project. 

A few days prior to the eclipse, I came across the idea of “Absolute Yes” and “Absolute No” lists in the book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time by Cheryl Richardson. The “Absolute Yes List” is about priorities: What most needs your immediate attention in the next few months and makes you a stronger and better person? When making decisions, you can ask, “Is this an Absolute Yes?” That question cuts through a lot of schedule clutter and keeps what’s most important in sight. It’s also important to be aware of your absolute noes. The “Absolute No List” is a list of things that weaken and irritate you and lead you away from the person you want to be. The day before the eclipse, I started creating my lists while floating in my kayak on the river. During the eclipse, when I wasn’t up on the roof viewing the spectacle through special glasses, I engaged with the eclipse energy by putting the finishing touches on my Absolute Yes and No Lists and setting intentions based on them.

Yesterday morning, I took it a step further. I’ve gotten into the habit of paddling to a quiet spot on the river in the morning and stopping there to savor a cup of tea. Holding the mug of hot tea in my hands, I reflected on my yes and no lists and the feelings behind each item and practiced feeling those feelings. As I sipped the tea, I imagined I was drinking in those feelings that I really thirsted for. I realized that, most of all, I wanted to feel aligned with my Higher Self in both thought and action. Several items on my lists were about making time for self-care in the morning, and I realized that taking time to realign with spirit every morning is essential. This includes not checking email, messages, or social media or focusing on anything else until after I have spent some quality time checking in with myself. In other words, get on the Innernet before going on the Internet!

A couple of intuitive astrologers I follow stressed the significance of the period between this month’s lunar and solar eclipses and the current lunar cycle. They said that the effects of the solar eclipse may be felt for a few months after the actual event and that it is a good time for planning, setting intentions, and resetting/reorganizing your life in terms of what you want to do. Unexpected events, revelations, and endings might happen suddenly on a personal and/or planetary level, and it’s all part of a cleansing process.

I love a good metaphor, especially when it comes from the natural world. Whether or not you believe in astrology, the solar eclipse offers metaphors that can take your experience of it to a deeper level so that what happened celestially mirrors or activates something in you. For example, during a solar eclipse, the shadow blocking the light is exposed, and you can put on special glasses that give you the ability to actually see what is blocking the light. On an intrapersonal level, this translates to getting a glimpse of your shadow self and the unconscious blocks that might be sabotaging you and perpetuating illusions that you believe to be true about yourself and others. It can be inconvenient or even scary to become aware of your shadow side or the unconscious blocks and self-sabotaging factors that have been operating in your life behind the scenes. But these realizations are ultimately positive because becoming aware of your unconscious material is a first step in setting yourself free, which is something that can’t happen when it remains hidden. It is an opportunity for clarity, disillusionment, and empowerment. 

When I ask about eclipse stories, this is what I’m getting at: stories involving life-changing realizations and events. Epiphanies. Things you cannot unsee once you’ve seen them, much like the moment I put on the special glasses and saw the shadow of the moon blocking the sun. My own eclipse story seems to begin last weekend, when I ended up at The Abode of the Message by “accident”. Being there helped me to realize I have a need to be part of a spiritually supportive community, and I put that high up on my Absolute Yes List

The day following the eclipse, I had a conversation with some co-workers during which a sentence came out of my mouth that felt a little too honest and self-revealing. Walking away from that conversation was a WTF moment that lingered as I floated on the water the next morning. It was an opening to a surprising realization that explained quite clearly why I haven’t had more success in a certain endeavor – a feeling that I have been misplacing my energy. My speech (which reflects attitudes, beliefs, and feelings) was blocking and even sabotaging my best efforts. Once I glimpsed that block, I couldn’t unsee it and realized I need to make some changes: Either do the work to remove the block or let go of the endeavor, and move towards something that feels more aligned with who I really am and what I really want. 

Similarly, since the eclipse, I’ve also been able to see more clearly the shadow side of others, which allows me to act appropriately and set healthier boundaries based on the clarity that seems to grow stronger every day. Again, disillusionment provides an invitation to either change yourself or your perceptions in some way or to let go of unhealthy relationships. Whatever you do, you can’t unsee what was hidden previously or continue on, status quo.

So, that’s my eclipse story so far. I might have missed out on photographing the eclipse this time around, but I hear that in 2024, our area will experience a total solar eclipse – and I will be ready for it and will make sure I don’t have to work, even though it was fun and memorable to hang out with coworkers on the roof viewing the eclipse through special glasses, cardboard box pinhole projectors, and colanders. And perhaps at that time, while looking through the lens of my camera at the shadow of the moon blocking the sun, I will reflect on the amazing and surprising ways my life changed course after the eclipse of 2017 when some pretty important truths all of a sudden became visible to me.

I wish the same for you.


© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (River-Bliss.com) 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.
Bathed in Light

Bathed in Light

A few evenings ago while taking a walk, I was stopped in my tracks by the irresistible sight of the late day sunlight illuminating chartreuse-toned, newborn leaves up in the trees. It was a stop-and-take-a-picture moment, which is my version of stopping and smelling the roses (except for when there are actual roses to smell!).

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can transport us into awe, joy, and gratitude if we are receptive to them. If we can even notice them in the first place. I am passionate about photographing such “magic moments” and have a library of nearly 10,000 images that is essentially a visual gratitude journal. It helps me to remember. It uplifts me. And it trains me to see the light in this world. Holding that frequency is what I feel called to do. There are others who focus on the darkness. There are some who insist, “If you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention!” There are those who are committed to finding solutions. There is room in this world for all of us. However, I know my place. I’m here to hold the light. Not in a Pollyanna sense, but in a despite-it-all sense.

I woke up this morning thinking of someone who often disturbs my inner peace. I tend to hold a negative opinion of this person, even though I realize s/he is hurting and has reasons for his/her behavior. Then the image of the sunlit, baby leaves popped into my mind, and I imagined visualizing people who annoy or upset me bathed in the kind of light that illuminated the tender leaves. I noticed how it felt to even think about doing that. My defenses were up. Why, though? What is so threatening about seeing people illuminated in the most flattering way, from an angle that allows us to perceive their goodness, which I believe is inherent in everyone, even if it’s buried deeply – perhaps beneath an overwhelming desire to be loved and accepted?

Hmm… It felt like my ego asserting itself again. (I named her Susie Q, by the way.) Cling to an unflattering view of someone else to…make me feel better about myself? Simplify my world? But the feeling of tightening, closing, and cutting myself off doesn’t feel good. It feels like shrinking and constricting. It doesn’t feel intuitively right.

It feels much better to soften, open, and connect with someone’s higher nature, to bathe him/her in the light of love and compassion. It doesn’t mean I have to do anything differently. I don’t necessarily have to get any closer, interact more, make myself vulnerable, or take on responsibility that isn’t mine. It’s really not about the other person as much as it’s about freeing myself from a narrow, limiting view that prevents me from expanding and evolving (which is what I think I’m ultimately here for).

All I know is that it feels good in every cell of my being when I’m able to shine some love and compassion on the stories Susie Q creates and to see others as beings of light rather than boundaries by which I define myself. And I am grateful for the power of images to awaken me so that, like the sunlit leaves freshly emerged from tight buds, I can open and expand and gather more light.

If you’re not doing so already, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Instagram!


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, 2017. 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 (River-Bliss.com). 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!  🙂 

Every Morning

Every Morning

I woke up this morning feeling more peaceful than usual, with some words going through my head: The sun still rises every morning, no matter what is going on in your life or in the world. It rises whether the sky is clear or covered with a blanket of clouds. It still rises at the darkest time of year and on days that carry an emotionally charged significance. The sun still rises every morning, no matter what is going on. Attune to that as you discern what to do about everything else.

The words kept spinning in my mind like horses on a merry-go-round, and I watched them go around and around again until it finally occurred to me that there might be a reason why they came to me at that moment, like a morning alarm, with such persistence. So I opened my eyes and looked out my bedroom window, and sure enough: The sunrise looked more compelling than I had seen it in quite some time, although I was catching the tail end of what I knew had been deep, fuchsia clouds becoming lighter by the moment. Had I opened my eyes the first time the words spun through my head, the colors would have been much more dazzling.

It feels great to wake up on the river again every morning, after spending so much time away tending to my parents’ house. But I return home with greater clarity and a better idea of what I ultimately want and am considering moving this year due to changing circumstances and certainly not because of the view. I have become accustomed to a fabulous sunrise view of the river and love being able to store the kayaks on the dock and simply walk across the street to paddle during the warmer months. I would miss that view and the easy kayak access so much.

Then I remembered that, for a few years, I wasn’t even able to enjoy kayaking on the river because of the massive General Electric PCB dredging project that one year took place literally right in front of our house. Other years, it happened so close that the constant boat traffic made it unsafe to venture onto the water.

It was anguishing to live on the river and not be able to do the thing that made it so worthwhile to be here in the first place – the activity I looked forward to during the cold months. Kayaking was the way I released my energy after a rough day at work and how I restored my peace of mind. I called it “paddling for peace.” Many summer evenings, I’d float close to our dock, taking in the sunset sky canvas and wishing I could bottle the feeling and share it with everyone. That’s why I started this blog four and a half years ago.

The dredging years were long ones, but now they are in the past. We got through them. Now we can kayak again and enjoy the peace of this quiet stretch of the Hudson, without any dredging traffic barreling past us, only the occasional pleasure boat.

I remember the day we went kayaking on the river and paddled around the bend only to discover a fleet of dredging equipment anchored there. So that was the source of the increased boat traffic! The feeling that, “This is really happening, and right in our own neighborhood!” was sad, infuriating, surreal. It felt like an army had invaded, and there was no escaping it. 

It wasn’t the only time there was tension and danger around the Hudson River that flows by my house. My next-door neighbors still have the remnants of a Revolutionary War field hospital on their property. This is where the Battles of Saratoga took place, the Turning Point of the Revolutionary War. And predating that, there were conflicts between Native American inhabitants and French, Dutch, and English settlers. Some quiet evenings, I would go paddling after sunset and think about how dangerous it would be to navigate the river alone throughout history, and yet, there I was. I could almost feel the spirits of former inhabitants and soldiers around me. Even though the dredging project was a big deal, the river has known worse. Despite all the struggles and strife it has been witness to, it still flows.

The year when the dredging project was scheduled to take place right in front of our house, we considered finding alternate housing because we were concerned about safety issues such as airborne PCBs. So I did lots of research and had informal, off-the-record conversations with scientists who did not have a personal or professional bias or vested interest in perpetuating any kind of propaganda. I monitored the data recorded online daily and contacted the media when I noticed airborne PCB levels were elevated for a number of days in a row. I also found a more inviting body of water for kayaking, where there was a kayak available to me. I made the best of a challenging situation.

Aside from having limited or no access to kayaking on the river, the greatest challenge during the dredging years was discerning fact from fiction between the two opposing camps. Simply stated, pro-dredging environmental groups asserted that removing as much of the PCBs as possible from the river was integral to the long-term health of the river ecosystem, whereas local, anti-dredging groups countered that the PCBs had sunk deep down below the river and that wildlife was returning to the river because the river was taking care of itself naturally. The anti-dredging camp believed the PCBs were less of a problem if you just let them be and that dredging would stir them up again and create a “toxic soup” that would set the health of the river ecosystem back decades. So one side was saying to leave it alone – let the PCBs stay way down below the river – and the other insisted they must be removed and that G.E. must be held accountable for its actions and make it right. Yes, dredging would be a massive, messy, disruptive undertaking, and the PCB levels in the water would increase for a while, but conditions would improve over time, and the river would be much healthier. The conversation was about maintaining status quo vs. literally stirring up a huge, toxic mess.

Not a scientist myself, I listened to the arguments coming from both sides. Once, I sat quietly on the riverside, asked the river what it wanted, and listened deeply. It seemed the river preferred to have the toxins removed. My personal preference was to be able to continue enjoying the river – my little paradise – but ultimately I wanted whatever was best in the long run, for the greater good. If dredging would produce widespread, long-term benefits, then it was worth some personal sacrifice and temporary disruption. Believe me, there was nothing fun or beautiful about dredging up suspected carcinogens that had been put into the river decades ago. It was disturbing to watch the sloppy process up close, and we had front row seats for a time.

Meanwhile, I watched great blue herons gulp down fish that were swimming in PCB infested water, only to migrate in the fall and bring traces of PCBs with them, contaminating other parts of the earth. It is impossible to separate a river from the rest of the world. It flows to the ocean, which covers the whole planet, and has a whole ecosystem of its own that attracts wildlife that comes and goes. It’s also part of the water cycle that involves vapors rising in one place and falling in another. 

You see where I’m going, right? This isn’t “really” about PCB dredging any more than the movie, Field of Dreams, is “really” about baseball. Though the dredging metaphor may not be perfect, I have been getting that feeling again.

Whether the massive, ambitious, and expensive Hudson River PCB dredging project will be viewed in the long-term as a success, a catastrophe, or something in between has yet to be seen. All I know is that we got through the dredging. It didn’t last forever, even though it felt like it would at the time. And from experiencing it, I learned there are times when we must defer our personal interests and preferences to pave the way for more widespread, long-term benefits and perceive the process from a far greater perspective…or we will make ourselves crazy. We must have patience. To do this is a radical act of faith that hopefully is neither ignorant nor complacent. Sometimes short-term disruptions produce long-term benefits and greater awareness because they motivate us to do our research and inspire us to take action. To come together and be more involved. To speak up and communicate from the depths of our hearts. To look out for one another. Sometimes situations that seem dire and threatening serve to raise our personal and collective consciousness and show us what we are really capable of.

Although the dredging years were challenging and sometimes scary (especially when PCB levels seemed to spike), we finally made it through to the other side.

And we will do it again, one sunrise at a time.


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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, 2017. 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 (River-Bliss.com). 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!  🙂 

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