Friday 8 July 2016

Contemplative Photography Workshop - the Final Day

After five marvellous days, the Contemplative Photography workshop has come to an end. I will need time to fully integrate the experience, but I feel privileged to have been taught by such an inspired teacher, Peter West Nutting, and to have shared the experience with such talented and welcoming fellow travellers. As always with peak experiences, I'm feeling contradictory pangs: I'm anxious to return home and reconnect with my loving Bill, while at the same time already missing the daily discipline and delight of the workshop.

I hope to blog more about the experience in the weeks ahead. For now, here are some initial thoughts on this final day's exercise.

Today's focus was to winnow down the photographs I recorded during the week to the three that best reflected the theme of the workshop. It was tough! With the help of my new Minneapolis friend, Kassie, however, I made the hard choices. I helped her do the same thing with her photographs.

Here are two quotations that frame the winnowing/discernment process:

"Essential to the practice of discernment is learning when to say yes and when to say no. In this way, we frame and give limits to how we devote our energy." - Christine Valters Paintner

"Discernment is a process of letting go of what we are not." - Thomas Keating

And here is today's poem:

The Ponds, by Mary Oliver

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count them -

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided -
and that one wears an orange blight -
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away -
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled -
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing -
that the light is everything - that is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

Here are my top three photographs. I hope you enjoy them.

Detail from the sculpture "Community" by Joseph O'Connell. The sculpture is in the entrance to the Benedictine Sacred Heart Chapel on the campus of the College of Saint Benedict.

Purple scarf in the College of Saint Benedict bookstore.

Shadow of the water tower at the western end of the college campus.

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