Surprised by Hope

“Sometimes I arrive just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter.” Ansel Adams

11989258_10153672549613573_284230582_oI opened my patio door this last week to snap a picture of something red, for the #SeptemberSurprises photo challenge group I participate in. I planned to zoom in on the apples on the tree, but just as I raised my phone to snap a shot, this little gal flew up the feeder and paused for a moment. Her mate with the beautiful ruby throat buzzed excitedly around her, then flew away, concerned about my presence.

This is the same humming bird that got trapped in our sunroom a few months ago, when someone accidentally left the door open. As we attempted to free her, she began flying frantically around the room, banging into the windows. She eventually collapsed exhausted on the floor, after attempting multiple avenues of escape. I carefully lifted her outside onto the patio with my dustpan, then fed her some nectar with a spoon for a few minutes, until she was strong enough to fly away.

Since that day, we have had a connection with each other. She is not afraid of me when I stand by the door. She usually lets me know when the feeder is empty, by hovering at my kitchen window to get my attention, then darting back and forth between the feeder and the window. She often stops by to say hello when I am doing dishes. She makes my heart sing when I see her. I call her Hope. She often arrives at the perfect moment.

Weekend Percolations: 29Aug2015

11752642_10153666293063573_192302158_oMy favorite cookbook, Simply in Season, has some great recipes for the fall harvest. I love using the fresh produce from the garden. This cookbook is arranged by season and the index is arranged by produce, so I can quickly find all the zucchini or tomato recipes.

The more I learn about acupressure points, the more I realize the power of this ancient system of balancing the body.  It’s amazing that by holding a few points on the body, I can relieve various aches and pains and improve my overall wellness.

I’m fascinated with the book Song of the Spine by Dr June Leslie Weidner. Did you know that the top 12 vertebrae of the spine are “tuned” to the 12 note scale, which then repeats for the bottom 12 vertebrae of our spine? Each vertebrae has its own tone and frequency, which corresponds to one of the notes of a chromatic 12 note scale. The vertebrae resonate in the order of the 7 white keys on a piano first, followed by the 5 black keys of the piano and then the same order repeats for the lower 12 vertebrae. We have an amazing body.

11973373_10153664285328573_861380738_oTry this beautiful coloring book for stress relief. The drawings inspire creativity with a clever eye spy twist.

How mindful are you? Here are tips to increase the intention of being more present in your life.

Take a second look at some interesting photography

Here’s some wisdom for living, from someone older than you.

I have a friend who calls himself a “constructionist” because he likes to build things. I was impressed with his clock project with all the different moving parts. I think he is a very creative artist.

photos and haiku
visual expression of words
peek inside the soul

Weekend percolations: 07Aug2015

Here’s what’s percolating this week.

Drum SkinsI’m enjoying Susannah Conway’s August Break 2015.  Each day I have a new prompt. It has become a mindful meditation practice. Each day provides an opportunity to look for the objects and post a picture. I have challenged myself to think outside the box and come up with a slightly different take on the prompts. On day 3, I posted pictures of my drum heads, for the “skin” prompt. On day 6, I posted a page of shaped note music for the “notebook” prompt. Each prompt causes me to slow down and look around me for ideas. I created this collage with PicMonkey, my favorite photo editing website.

Several people have asked me about how our family made these beautiful hand drums. I created a video to show the process of building a drum from start to finish. It was labor intensive, but the sound is better than the fiberglass drums I’ve purchased in the past. I wrote a poem on the inside of my drum, so a part of me is inside the drum. We made Djembes, Ashikos, a ceremonial DunDun and a Native Frame Drum. The vibrations touch me at the bone level.

I’ve been working with several clients recently who have problems with posture while working on the computer. I came across this clever video about office posture.  With a few minor changes to the workspace and a few stretches, the sore neck and stiff back can be eliminated.

John O’Donohue is one of my favorite Irish poets. He first introduced me to the concept of “soul friend” or Anam Cara in Gaelic. His writings have helped me learn to explore my inner landscape.

We’ve been enjoying the sour cherries and blueberries from the farmer’s market. Twice this week we had a very tasty Sour Cherry Berry Crisp recipe from the Blogging over Thyme blog. I added extra blueberries since we didn’t have blackberries. My husband tops his off with ice cream. Yum!

mandala-yin-yangMy mother told me not to play with my food during meals. I discovered that food can create beautiful mandalas. This picture on the left, taken by food artist Amalia Bussard, is called mandala-yin-yang. She uses healthy food to create beautiful works of art. Sorry Mom, I’m going to try this out this weekend.

Speaking of artists, I love the Bone Sigh Arts website. Artist Terry St Cloud describes bone sighs as “an understanding and connection of the heart that is bone-deep and soul-wide expressed in words and color; something one gives to oneself or another to help heal and remember.” Check out her exquisite watercolors and drawings.

I drew the Yoga Nidra card from my Balance Resource Cards deck this morning for my self care practice of the day. Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation practice that progressively relaxes your body. I like Robin Carnes’s Yoga Nidra Ii CD the best, but Amy Weintraub’s Life Force Yoga CDs are also excellent. Try Yoga Nidra as a way to start out your morning routine or relax at the end a stressful day.

I’ll end with a Pep Talk from Kid President. I love that kid! He always makes me laugh, and laughter is good medicine! So have a chuckle and be well!

Be present in the moment

“God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful and painful.” Henri Nouwen

One way to be present in the moment is to take a Photo Walk each day. I discover all sorts of things to pause and savor. When I am busy with my “To Do” list, I miss the little bits of beauty and insight around me. Photo Walks cause me to slow down and notice the ever-changing world around me.

flowersThe hydrangea bushes have burst into full bloom. They form an impressive wall behind the house. They look like powder puffs. My husband brought in a few clusters and added bright orange Tiger Lily for contrast. He rarely buys me flowers. Instead, he cuts and arranges the flowers and decorative grasses from our property throughout most of the year. He often takes flowers to work for patients to arrange as part of their therapy session.

Each day, the garden changes. Today, a blossom opened on a lone squash plant in the upper garden. Will it will escape the notice of the hungry groundhog and deer? If it doesn’t, we have other squash and tomato plants that appear to be thriving in the side garden. The side garden is fenced in as a deterrent to hungry animals. The plants are much taller there, with multiple blossoms. I will look forward to cooking the squash later in the season.

My favorite time to walk around our property is early morning, before the sun escapes from behind the trees. There are all sorts of interesting shadows and patterns the sun makes throughout the morning. The grass is still wet from early morning dew, highlighting spider webs on branches and slug trails on the sidewalk.

When I take these early morning walks, I forget about the things that occupy my mind at other times. The joys and pains fade. I set aside the easy and hard moments. I look for the artistic evidence of the Creator in nature. God is present. God is in the moment. And when I return back to my routines and the things on my “To Do” list, I remain aware at some deep level that God is part of the easy and hard moments, as well as the joys and the pains.

Photo Walks are an important part of my “To Be” list. What is on your “To Be” list?

Photo Meditations

I’ve always enjoyed photography. I go through cycles of viewing life through the camera lens until my attention is shifted to other things, which causes me to push aside this practice. Eventually I am captivated by a view or a flower or an interesting photo on social media. Then I find myself reaching for my camera and resuming this spiritual practice.

I’m currently enjoying an eCourse by Susannah Conway called Photo Meditations 2015. This week I’m paying attention to lines and shapes and forms. Normal objects are transformed around me as I watch for these forms to appear in my camera lens. I completed Susannah’s April Love 2015 photo prompts earlier in the year and enjoyed the challenge of looking for those interesting views each day. It was fun to see how others interpret the prompts and inspire me with their discoveries. I like having a daily photo challenge to watch for as I go through the day.

I enjoyed Vivienne McMaster’s Be Your Own Beloved eCourse last year. I always learn new tips for taking photos in these courses. In addition to feeling more comfortable taking selfies, I was inspired by Vivienne to take Photo Walks on a regular basis, snapping photos of the things that captured my attention on that particular walk. I usually remember to do this when I go get my mail at the end of the driveway, so I often see the same limited number of objects to photograph around our property. That’s OK, because each season brings new perspectives.

Photography is a meditation practice. I find myself pausing to look closer at objects. As I take pictures, I see the details I normally rush past in the daily tasks. When I return from my walk, I review the pictures and share favorites with friends on Facebook, Instagram or Flickr. I sometimes use a beautiful shot as my screensaver on the desktop computer for further enjoyment.

My typical photo of choice tends to be nature shots. This eCourse is helping me see objects with a new perspective as I tilt the camera or zoom in for a close-up shot. Surprisingly, lines and shapes are all around me, forming interesting patterns. I like this shot of my piano. When I tilted the camera, I was amazed at all the lines I discovered. A good life lesson: Changing our perspective can bring new insights.piano linesThere are some great books on Photo Meditations. Howard Zehr’s Little Book of Contemplative Photography: Seeing With Wonder, Respect and Humility was my first introduction to photography as a spiritual practice many years ago. Eyes of the Heart:Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice by Christine Valters Paintner is a favorite resource of mine. It is full of practical tips and reflective questions. My newest find is Shooting with Soul: 44 Photography Exercises Exploring Live, Beauty and Self-Expression by Alessandra Cave. You can use it for inspiration with all the different prompts and ideas.

Do you spend time taking pictures as a spiritual practice on a regular basis? If you have not tried photography as a meditation practice, I would encourage you to give it a try. Notice the things that capture your attention and snap photos of them. Take a Photo Walk and look at the world through your camera lens. Look for interesting shapes and lines around your home.

Enjoy discovering the world through your camera lens this week!