Life is not broken

Quote of the day:  “I’ve spent many years learning how to fix life, only to discover at the end of the day that life is not broken. There is a hidden seed of greater wholeness in everyone and everything. We serve life best when we water it and befriend it. When we listen before we act.”  — Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. in My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging

Yesterday I went for a walk in my beloved woods. It was so magical and beautiful.  Being there fed my soul. I would have liked to have walked there all day.  As it was, even though I walked for less than an hour, I knew I was probably walking too much. I’ve had some severe pain issues for a couple of months and walking for any distance seems to make it worse.  But I wanted to spend some time in the woods before all the leaves had fallen.  And I’m glad I went even though today I am paying a high price for my lovely walk yesterday.

I have been reading a marvelous book by Rachel Naomi Remen called My Grandfather’s Blessings.  Dr. Remen is an M.D. who has been counseling those with chronic and terminal illness for more than twenty years. As someone who has lived with chronic disease for her entire adult life, she brings her own personal experience and deep wisdom as well as her professional experience to her writing.

I have also lived with chronic pain and limitations for most of my adult life. I found her words comforting and inspiring. For more years than I can count I have tried to fix my health problems. And lived wishing to be able to do things that I probably will never be able to do. It is not likely that I will ever become a world traveler or be able to go all of the places I would like to go or do the things I would like to do.

As someone who loves photography, especially nature photography, it’s easy to get frustrated and angry or feel sad and hopeless about my limitations.  And sometimes I do.   The deepest parts of life seem to me to always carry paradox within them.  How do I honor my passion for photography and at the same time accept my limitations? What is the difference between acceptance of what is, and giving up?  It often feels like I am living a zen koan. All I can do is “live the question” and read the wise words of someone like Rachel Naomi Remen to help me understand that I’m not broken; I don’t need to be fixed. As Leonard Cohen says

“Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering /  There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in”

I don’t know how this photography gig is going to work with my physical limitations.  I don’t think I get to know.  I just walk one day at a time accepting what is, doing what I can, and being grateful for all of life’s blessings.  I hope I can befriend life and if I’m lucky make a difference for someone sometime.

One more quote from Rachel Naomi Remen:  “In befriending life, we do not make things happen according to our own design. We uncover something that is already happening in us and around us and create conditions to enable it. Everything is moving toward its place of wholeness. Befriending life requires that we listen for that potential which is trying to actualize itself over time. It will be there whether we are listening to a tree, a person, an organization, or a society. It is struggling against odds. Everything has a deep dream of itself and its fulfillment.”

What is your deep dream of yourself?


A Walk in the Woods

Welcome to Wolsfeld Woods SNA

Quote of the day: “But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost

As some of the last leaves were floating down on this calm sunny day, I decided to take a walk in one of my favorite places, Wolsfeld Woods Scientific and Natural Area.  These woods are a rare remnant of the original Big Woods that once covered a large part of south central Minnesota.  In the springtime,  I love to look for the early spring ephemeral wild flowers that bloom there before the trees have even leafed out — trilliums, hepatica, bloodroot, jack-in-the-pulpit, and dutchman’s breeches.  In the summertime I usually stay away because the mosquitoes are numerous and hungry – they’ll eat you alive. The fall, in Wolsfeld woods is my favorite time of year there, it is magnificent and wonderful.  Tall maples tower above your head. Golden above you, golden below your feet.  Walking there feels like entering a cathedral.

Soon autumn will turn to winter as seasons always do and the cycle will begin again.  Savor the fall days; they pass quickly.

God's Cathedral

Leaves coat the forest floor.  Golden above me, golden below me.  

In Hardwood Groves

The same leaves over and over again!
They fall from giving shade above
To make one texture of faded brown
And fit the earth like a leather glove.

Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.

They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
However it is in some other world
I know that this is way in ours.

                   Robert Frost

Fresh maple leaf on layers of dried leaves
Colorful leaf with dry leaf
Dragonfly on Dry Leaf

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

                                Robert Frost
Path Through the Woods
Autumn Path
Woldsfeld Lake View
Burst Milkweed Pods
Milk weed pod seeds
Woldsfeld Lake
Another Lake View
Wet leaf on the ground
SNA Signs
Sun through trees
Tall Trees
Tall Oak Tree
Tall Maple Tree
Wood pile by the trail

Being Where I Am

Quote of the day: “Wherever you go, there you are.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn

Pond Behind Our House - Reflections of Fall

This morning I looked out the bedroom window and noticed the wonderful early morning light creating wonderful reflections on the pond behind our house.  I decided to head outdoors to make some photos while the light was great.  I was amazed at the beauty I saw within a block of my home.   It reminded me that I don’t need to go somewhere special to be who I am or to grow or learn or change.

For years before I was laid off, I imagined that if I could only take 6 months off to do what I wanted to do that my health and life would magically improve.  Now that it has been almost six months since I was laid off, I’m here to tell you that there is nothing magic about being able to do what I want.

I still struggle with the same old health issues and all of the same baggage that I’ve carried around for years.  It doesn’t just dissolve because I’m living differently.  But I am learning to accept my limitations with more grace (I hope).  After pushing myself to move more and exercise more and ending up with worse pain than when I was working, I learned that I need to listen to my body and accept my limitations.

The old saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” has a lot of truth in it.  I think we’re taught to escape when life gets uncomfortable.  When I’m struggling with something in my life, I often want to leave.  I imagine going to another country to live, or to Northern Minnesota, or Hawaii.  Anyplace that’s not here.  I imagine traveling the world.  But no matter where I go, there I am.  If I cannot thrive here, now, I’m not going to thrive somewhere else.

And I am learning that it’s not so bad being me right here, right now, with all of my faults and failings and gifts and blessings.  All the good, the bad, and the ugly — the whole catastrophe!  Radical acceptance.

I’m accepting the health stuff, taking shorter photo outings so that I don’t end up in severe pain, getting enough sleep, eating more veggies, accepting each day as it comes.  And where I am right now, this moment, this day, is exactly where I want to be.

Here are some of the beautiful photos I took this morning.  Blessings to you this day!

Crow High Up in Tree


Gnome in My Garden


Frosty Leaves in the Yard


Leaves in the Grass


Pond View - My Back Yard (See the robin on the log?)
Another Pond View


Walking Path Across the Street


Down the Hill - walking path


On Golden Pond - beside walking path


Little bit of morning mist on the pond


Mallard Duck on the Pond


Crab Apples Near Walking Path


Rusted Roof on Bird House


Bird House on Fence


Squirrel on the Wishing Well


Two Leaves


Red Leaves


More Red Leaves


Hydrangea Flowers


The Street Where I Live


Autumn Beauty

Quote of the day: “listen to your life. see it for the fathomless mystery that it is. touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”  — buechner

The colors of fall...

I’ve been out for little photography outings the past 3 mornings.  Here are a few photos from my wanderings.  I am savoring every moment of this lovely fall weather.

Come, walk in the woods, wise old trees are waiting for you
An invitation to sit and enjoy the woods
Northwestern University Healing Garden
Taking Flight Statue, MN Landscape Arboretum
A Walk in the Woods
Flamingos - Como Park Zoo (see the baby flamingo on the right?)
Flamingos - Como Park Zoo (see the baby flamingo on the right?)

Walk in Beauty

Quote of the day:


“In beauty I walk


With beauty before me I walk


With beauty behind me I walk


With beauty above me I walk


With beauty around me I walk


It has become beauty again”

— Walking in Beauty:  Part of Closing Prayer from the Navajo Way Blessing Ceremony

Autumn Bounty

I went to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to wander and make photographs today.  Celebratory fall colors everywhere!  Even as I mourn the end of summer and coming of winter, I glory in today’s beauty.  May you walk in beauty always.

Pumpkins on the fence


Harvest Time


Glorious Shapes and Colors


Two of many fun costumed figures


Fall Glory


Artful Arrangement


Pumpkin Wall


Other Side of Pumpkin Wall


Another Artful Arrangement of Fall's Bounty

Just Sit the Horse

Quote of the day:

Annie: I haven’t ridden Western before. 

Tom Booker: Yeah. But he doesn’t know that. Just sit the horse. — The Horse Whisperer


Moon in the Early Morning Sky

I’ve been working hard on putting together my second photo exhibit.  It has taken me a long while to get going on this exhibit.  From picking the photos I would use, selecting a theme, or planning and sending out information on the opening party, I drug my feet.   In the beginning it felt too big.  I didn’t know where to start.  Just thinking about putting together a new exhibit brought all sorts of resistance to the surface.  I told myself, “I don’t have enough new work that’s good enough.  It’s not worth the effort.  No one will come to this show because all of my friends showed up for the last one.  It’s too much to bother for them to come to another opening.”

Even before I recognized all these thoughts as just another bout of resistance raising it’s ugly head, I started working on the show despite all of my negative thoughts.  At first everything I did felt like slogging through the mud. I reviewed photos, started collecting possibilities, and measured the space in the coffee shop. But it felt like it just wasn’t going to work. I felt as if I didn’t know how to pull this exhibit together.

Despite the resistance, each step I took brought me closer to a vision of myself putting up another exhibit.  Finally on Monday I was able to transcend the inertia of resistance and move joyfully into the creative flow.  I could feel the creative juices flowing.  One step led to another and to yet another until I had finished selecting all of the photos for the show, editing and printing most of the photos, framed all but the last two photos, and planned the layout of the photos.

What began as a “just do it whether you feel like it or not” turned into a creative dance that transformed my dread of putting on another exhibit into excitement about the process.  May you find joy and a creative dance in your work.  “Just sit the horse,” and soon you will be galloping.

Another Early Morning Moon Photo


Autumn Rose

November Photo Exhibit

My second photo exhibit is coming soon (this the last one for quite awhile). I’d love for all my old and new Twin Cities friends to stop by and say “Hi” at my opening Thursday, Nov. 3, 7:00 – 8:30 PM at Dunn Bros Coffee, 66th and York in Edina. Here is a sample of some of the photos included in the exhibit.  If you can’t make it to the opening, the photos will be on exhibit for the entire month of November.

You snooze, you lose

Quote of the day: “The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.” — Brene Brown

Serene Pink Water Lily

Every day as I attempt to live my life awake, aware, and present to what is, I find the myriad of ways that I’m not awake, aware, or present.  Yesterday, I was ambushed by angry feelings I had been ignoring for too long.  I don’t do anger well.  In fact, I avoid angry scenes at all costs and I even fool myself into thinking that I’m not angry when I am.  If all else fails, I turn the anger inward at myself, instead of dealing with the relationship that isn’t working.  It is as if I feel that it’s spiritually immature to get angry or that it’s a dangerous business, that is best avoided.  So like the ostrich, I bury my head in the sand when anger comes calling.

How then, can I change how I relate to important people in my life, if I remain stuck in willful ignorance and denial when I am angry with them?  Not very well.

Last night I spent a long time journaling, spewing out my angry thoughts.  After awhile, the anger started moving and changing.  I realized that underneath it were feelings of sadness, hurt and great vulnerability. To speak out, to take up space, to be willing to make the cracks and flaws visible is part of living an authentic and whole-hearted life.  It takes courage and strength to hold oneself and one’s friends accountable. It’s often not the big stuff that ambushes me, but the little, petty, small stuff that seems like it shouldn’t matter.  The small stuff matters, if it is creating a barrier between me and someone I love.  Time to have a conversation with my friend and let the light shine through my cracks and foibles and failings.

Photos made last week:

Stone Arch Bridge in Autumn
Angles and lines - Guthrie Theater
Self-portrait - reflections of city on Guthrie Theater Exterior
Playing with Fairy Figure in the Woods


Embracing my desire to name myself a photographer, live a different life then the one I led before and put my art out there for the world to see has given me a much greater understanding of vulnerability.  The vulnerability of showing up as myself, doing the work, and putting it out there scares the hell out of me.  The not knowing and letting go of control sets off every all sorts of alarms in my monkey-mind.  And then I start feeling disconnected and down and start questioning myself and my life choices.  Fortunately, each time I get to the scared and doubting place, inspiration comes from many different directions at once and I realize that there are going to be bumps in the road and I will stumble sometimes.  I feel as if I am being held in the compassionate embrace of infinite grace and power.  Today I want to share some of the blogs and other resources that have become the “wind beneath my wings.”

I just started reading Jen Lemen’s blog at  Wow! I am so impressed with her writing and her courage and willingness to be real.

I also stumbled upon this about vulnerability:

Vulnerable Is Beautiful from Rachael Maddox on Vimeo.

And finally, I love Brene Brown’s blog:

May you find inspiration when you need it.  May you live in your heart.  May you find joy and peace.

There are no do-overs

Quote of the day: “Note to myself: there are no do-overs in life.” — Me

Temperance River meets Lake Superior


Temperance River meets Lake Superior

The two photos above were taken at the same spot a little less than a year apart.  The first one was taken in the evening during a light rain.  I loved the sinuous curves that the land and shadows created and wanted to go back and try to capture it again in better light.  I re-learned what I have known all along, that there are no do-overs.  Everything changes.  Nothing stays the same. The lake level was higher this year than last year, so the beautiful curves of land and shadow had disappeared.  At first I was quite disappointed with the second set of photographs.  But over time they have grown on me.

They are a reminder that photography is a wonderful teacher of life lessons.  Lessons like, there is no one right way.  Or when you see something that moves you take the photo now. You won’t have a second chance.  Likewise in your life, when something moves you, take action.  Every moment is a new moment.  Don’t try to hang onto the past.  Get out there and lean into this moment.  Find what it has to teach you.  Find what moves you now.  There are no do-overs.  But there are new experiences just waiting to be discovered.