Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Tag: Movies and Videos

What If No Stepping Stone is For Naught?

What If No Stepping Stone is For Naught?

Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”   -Anne Lamott

I finally watched the movie, Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. It was selected by Mindful.org as the “mindful film of the year” and really struck a chord. I’m drawn to stories of people embarking on pilgrimages of self-discovery that involve backpacking through the wilderness, and Wild features a woman who is grieving the death of her mother and decides to hike 1,100 miles solo along the Pacific Crest Trail to reclaim her life, which had been thrown into disarray in the wake of her mother’s death. Unlike my sister, I watched the movie prior to reading the memoir on which it was based. Now I want to read the book!

Watching the movie made me aware of a deep-seated desire to do something out of the ordinary to honor my own grief and rebuild my life. I yearn for a rite of passage – a touchstone for transformation.

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Part of me longs to take a backpacking journey – as portrayed in Wild or The Way – or to retreat to the solitude of a simple cabin in the woods for a few months to get some perspective. I just want to stop the world for a little while to take inventory and forge a new vision – because my world changed ten months ago when my mother died, and it will never be the same again. I will never be the same. I want to create something fresh and vital from the ashes and make the most of this “one and precious life.”

At the end of Wild, a voice-over summarizes the woman’s journey:

But if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do a single thing differently. What if I wanted to sleep with every single one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if all those things I did were the things that got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?

It took me years to be the woman my mother raised. It took me four years, seven months, and three days to do it without her. After I lost myself in the wilderness of my grief, I found my own way out of the woods. I didn’t know where I was going until I got there on the last day of my hike. Thank you, I thought over and over again, for everything the trail had taught me and everything I couldn’t yet know.”

-Cheryl Strayed, as quoted in the movie adaptation of her memoir, Wild.

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I have some of my own “what ifs.”

What if situations that seem dreadful or unfortunate on the surface teach us something? What if walking through the darker corners of grief is part of our journey? What if people who appear as adversaries are actually helping us to awaken and move on? What if getting pushed to our limit is exactly what we need in order to change?

What if I’m here to do my work in this world by using my particular nature and programming to the fullest, rather than trying to force my nature to conform to incompatible situations? What if my nature/essence/personality is no accident and serves a purpose that I have yet to understand and utilize fully?

During the winter, I prayed for clarity…and received it. And I’m grateful for it, even though the timing feels inconvenient. I have resolved to walk through a door that, for years, I’ve been afraid to walk through, even though doing so still scares me. And that’s why I’m now praying for courage – because not doing it would be too great a compromise. Certainly, there will be other “problems” that arise when I walk through that door, but at least I will not compromise my spirit any longer. That is a burden too heavy to bear.

I think of how preoccupied I was with what “to do” with my life – meaning what kind of work to do. For a long time, I equated work with livelihood but have since come to define it much more broadly, as the energy we give to the world. The specifics of it don’t seem as important as the context in which it is carried out. I acknowledge the importance of being in an environment that is aligned with my principles and values what I have to offer, an environment in which I have freedom to be myself and to release my best, most authentic energy and talents into the world. I’m realizing that if conforming to a system or environment devastates your spirit, you must have enough self-respect and faith to move on. When a situation isn’t compatible with your nature, you owe it to yourself to say, “No, thank you,” and move forward…because it would be a waste of your precious life not to. I think it would be a tragedy to get to the end of this life and see that I wasted time failing to express my highest nature by remaining stuck in something that requires me to be someone I’m not – something that binds my wings and has lost its spirit, meaning, and purpose. Remaining stuck is like clinging to a rotten branch. It’s allowing the lower, fearful self to be in the driver’s seat. It’s not living.

No, thank you. I was made for more than that!

I wonder: Does everyone go a little crazy while navigating the wilderness of grief – each in our own way? Can you ever be the same again after losing your mother? And is “sameness” something to even wish for? Or is it one of the great delusions? (As a photographer, I would answer yes because it is becoming apparent to me that, based on the interdependent nature of this world of form, nothing remains exactly the same from moment-to-moment.)

In recent months, I have been spending time watching the Battenkill River flow. Its movement is much more dramatic than the flow of the Hudson River in front of my house. The roaring Battenkill inspires and influences me greatly and has been teaching me about letting go and dislodging the fear-based belief that my present set of circumstances is the safest, healthiest place to be.

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The only thing I know at this point that my mother’s death has awakened me to the gift, opportunity, and brevity of our human life. Status quo appears to be over. And rather than focus on the time, money, and energy wasted on something that ended up not being a good fit, I can be thankful for all I have learned and the ways in which I have grown as a result. No stepping stone on our path is for naught. We wouldn’t have gotten this far without it. But it is not the end of the path. There is more to come.

In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Work is love made visible.” And when it’s time to move on, may we do so with love, gratitude, and confidence.

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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 (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Let Your Light Shine!

Let Your Light Shine!

Happy Winter Solstice!

To celebrate the return of the light, I created a new video that pairs my photography with my favorite Solstice song, “Thank You, Sunshine,” written and recorded by The Zucchini Brothers. I hope you’ll enjoy this musical/visual meditation – and please view it in HD!

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, 2014. 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 (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Water Lily Reverie

Water Lily Reverie

Recently, I made a commitment to myself to meditate every day. Usually I do mindfulness meditation, but sometimes I do guided meditation in which there is instruction to visualize yourself in a place in which you feel most relaxed and at peace. The image that has been coming up for me is floating in my kayak on a leisurely, summer afternoon amidst luminous, white water lilies.

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I wanted to share the sensation of floating gently from one exquisite water lily to the next, guided by joy and beauty. So I partnered with ambient musician, Roy Mattson, to produce a short video. I feel that Roy’s shimmering, tinkling, radiating sounds provide a perfect voice for water lilies and the energy they emanate. I hope that by watching it, you will be transported into a state of relaxation!

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 The photographs in this blog 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, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this blog’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 (www.river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Seasons of a Lifetime (Video)

Seasons of a Lifetime (Video)

This morning, I went to my parents’ house for my mom’s hospice intake appointment. But first, I assembled my last Mother’s Day card and gift in an envelope that I decorated with a little extra color than usual and brought it with me. I’ve been working on the gift for quite some time and am excited to share it. But first I’d like to explain how it came about.

My first ever photography exhibit is scheduled for September, and I wish my mom could be around to see it. I already have all the prints framed and considered having a special viewing earlier for my mom. However, my September exhibit will feature autumn-themed photography, and surrounding her with fall images during springtime didn’t feel right.

Then I had a brainstorm: I could organize a special exhibit for my mom to see while she’s still able. In a wild burst of inspiration, I saw all the details: Instead of only featuring autumn themed photos, this exhibit would include images of all the seasons. I would call it Seasons of a Lifetime – and include photos from the various “seasons” of my parents’ lives grouped around each seasonal display. Since I already had the frames, it was just a matter of ordering different prints – which I did immediately, for time was of the essence.

However, the day after I came up with this idea, my mom was admitted to the hospital, and I reconsidered the practicality of planning an exhibit. I already felt overwhelmed by everything on my plate and didn’t have the energy to try to find an exhibit space and make the necessary arrangements. And even if I could muster up the energy to pull it off, there was no guarantee my mom would be well enough to attend – or feel up to being in public. As is normal for people in this stage of disease, her world has been shrinking; she has begun the cocooning process.

Finally, I came up with the idea of creating a virtual exhibit that my mom could view from the comfort of her home at her convenience. I would intersperse my nature photography with snapshots of my parents, traveling symbolically through the year (and more or less chronologically through their lifetime) from spring through winter. And to take it a step further, I would accompany the slideshow with some of my mom’s favorite music. In a final burst of inspiration, I decided it would be even more meaningful if I included music recorded by someone who is very special to her. I contacted her guitar teacher, Larry, and his wife, Nancy – who became dear friends of my parents in recent years before moving to Colorado – and asked them to record some music for it. They graciously got on board with the project, and our dear, mutual friend, Sam, edited the final tracks and got them to me so I could finish the project just in time for Mother’s Day.

In the meantime, I had paired the slideshow with prerecorded songs in case I needed to rush the project (if my mom’s condition were to decline). I was amazed at how perfectly the songs by “Iz” and John Denver fit the pictures I’d already imported and arranged in iMovie, and ended up keeping those songs and saving Nancy and Larry’s contribution for the final song. I put their other songs on a CD for my mom to listen to, for she loves to listen to Nancy’s voice, and all three songs they recorded will be part of the soundtrack for my mom’s services and celebrations.

While creating the video, it struck me how one photo represented a whole era that was our life at the time and felt as if it was the way things always would be. But in both hindsight and the larger scheme, it was so fleeting – just a three-second blip in the video. Life goes so fast and changes right under our feet without us even noticing – so enjoy it while it’s happening because these are the moments and memories that make up a lifetime!

My parents must have several thousand family photos, and my siblings and I have our own collections, as well. The pictures I went through with my parents don’t even scratch the surface of the lifetime we have experienced together, but I had to stop going through photos at some point and actually create this video! Some of the scans are better than others.

With that being said, I’m pleased to share the finished product – which I watched with my parents this afternoon after the hospice nurse left. I guess it’s my way of helping my parents to review their life and see how truly good a life it has been. On the DVD (which I created in iDVD), I also included two videos I made with my mom earlier this year and described in my blog post, “A Very Special Recording.” I hope you will enjoy journeying through the seasons with my family.

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The photographs in this blog 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, 2014. 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 (www.river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Flower Parade: A Visual Meditation

The Flower Parade: A Visual Meditation

Today I would like to share a video I made over the weekend for my mom, who loves flowers.

I have started measuring time in flowers. All along, I hoped my mom would live long enough to see her flowers come up in the Spring, and many of the purple and white crocuses already have come and gone. Now the daffodils are in full bloom, and the lilac buds are getting bigger each day.

I recently showed my mom a photo I took of a tiny lilac bud to let her know they’re on the way, and we talked about how lilacs are simply the best, most fragrant flowers of all (well, tied with orange blossoms and jasmines, in my opinion). My mom used to bring lilacs to my grandmother. The gift of lilacs is something she and her mom had shared for as long as I can remember. I long to clip some lilacs from the bush in our front yard and bring them to my mom so their fragrance will fill the house and lift her spirits.

Lilac time is the next milestone I hope she will be able to experience once more. Then again, she loves her roses, too. But we’ll take it one flower at a time and not get ahead of ourselves, for each should be savored.

I love it when the light shines through!

I originally had intended to make this the first video for which I partnered with a talented local musician who produces shimmering, relaxing ambient music. However, during production, I realized I had to use a version of Pachelbel’s Canon in D from my mom’s CD collection. I think she convinced both my sister and me to have it as the processional song in our weddings, and she also wants it to be played as people arrive for her funeral service. So there was no question in my mind that my flower images needed to be paired with Pachelbel and to save the partnership debut for the next video!

It’s a very relaxing video, and I hope you will enjoy it.


E-mail subscribers, click HERE to play video.

 

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The photographs in this blog 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, 2014. 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 (www.river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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