an inevitable whisper

While on a photographic quest for an amazing epic scene, the small moment in the tiniest corner of the woods can speak as loudly, if one knows how to listen beyond one’s intent.

On the way to a waterfall, a stream whispers under a tree. Fallen leaves quietly look for a place to release their tannins. Moss gently lingers across the heavy wet bark.

This soft entropic scene slowly drifts me along its slide back into material. And the scene whispers to me that death is an illusion, or an imaginary ego point in a process that is concerned with the larger return of existence.

I release any bitterness about being a part of what this scene whispers into my ear. The inevitable has softly spoken in this small round corner of the woods and I gently accept it.

miniature tree

We see miniature trees everyday off in the distance. Such a common site gets easily dismissed. But a photograph can cross back over that threshold and aside from any tilt-shifting emphasize this feeling of the miniature.

I think this taps into feelings I have for what is smaller than me. And the tendency to see small things as cute. Protective feelings arise over these baby trees. It’s the deep satisfaction that can come from caring for an aquarium or crafting a train diorama.

Whenever we peer into a microcosm, the observations run simultaneously with the realization that we just might be in a microcosm to a perspective beyond our awareness. Perhaps this is at the base of the religious belief in a higher power. I often wonder about beliefs as side effects or reactions to such phenomenological occurrences as an optical effect.

Would we take better care of things if we saw them as miniature? Maybe it’s time to walk around looking backwards through binoculars at things that are difficult to have compassion for, in order to help out.

Next time a conflict arises, should I just miniaturize the source and care for it instead of miniaturizing myself into an unnecessary struggle? Just like a Buddhist monk might miniaturize desire itself in order to miniaturize suffering?

Or maybe in the future, AI will read our emotional responses and adjust them to a calmer state for better decision-making by employing this feeling of the miniature, while controlling our evaluations so that the decisions made are best for its purposes. The same kind of therapeutic brainwashing seen in cults only turned into an algorithm, for our own benefit of course.

a fixed reflection

The camera compresses the world into a frame. The transitory becomes fixed in an illusion. Smoke trapped underwater. Cloud textures trapped in rocks. The horizon is a stroke of ink, or a line of difference, drawn by the camera’s position.

As my consciousness defines what I see, have I not become the calm of a still lake for a passing moment? And what is calm but the sustain of some already faded state? An identity already loosened up and breaking down into something else, as I hold on to the fixed reflection of what it briefly was to me.

Hard Foam

Somewhere in Yellowstone

What appears as foam from a breaking wave is a hard crust of geyserite. The appearance is soft and the material hard. When I look at this, I alternate between feeling like I’m on a strange beach and at a geyser in Yellowstone. The seascape comes in and out with the tide of the landscape. The experience and the reality clash instead of their usual interlacing. A metamorphosis suspended. Bouncing between two places without ever totally arriving.

River Path

I’m a child again.  The car seems like a cavern on wheels.  Mom and dad are yelling at each other. I slink to the back row and slump down to look up and out the window.  I brace myself for each violent bend in the road by the river. The gravity pulls me with a force greater than my entire being.  I fear we may slide off the road.

My sweaty little hands hold on to the seat as I press myself into it with my feet. The momentum hurls forward as the brakes squeal.  Dad bites his fist then punches the ceiling rapidly. Mom screams bloody murder.

We take another turn and I feel that dread of being on a rollercoaster beyond my threshold.  I stare up at the trees pirouetting away, as my body is jostled at the whim of this death car. Gushing downstream, they are heading for their abyss, and I, unseen and forgotten, am along for another ride.  

Decades later, I return to the river roads of Colorado.  I sit on the rocks at the bank of the river. It’s movement is as big to me now as that car was when I was a kid.  The turbulent water mimics the chaos of my parents. The domineering boulders loom over me and cast blue shadows on the whitewash.  My eyes catch momentum with the tortuous river. Its roar drowns out the distant screams of memories.  

And the flow carries me to another river.  A smoother river with gentle turns and a wider pathway.  An ancient river who has the most curious objects floating down it.  On the banks, I wait and collect whatever comes my way. The water has particles in it that sparkle with the warmest light.  It washes over the rocks in a cleansing way. The soft sand molds itself to my foot. If I swim in it, it’s as wide or narrow as I want it to be. 

This is an ancient place of sustenance for people of cultures formed along rivers all across the world and ever since we’ve been a species. There are currents of this water that flow from the oldest rivers of consciousness.  It’s where Charon waits with his ferry.  

My familiarity with this deep river feels etched into my biological self.  The habitual patterns of ancient people gleaming along my nervous system like the golden light slipping over the surface of the river. 

And the feeling of being in a vessel far bigger than me returns. Only this time, the car has transformed into a ship who forms to whatever shape the river takes.  

And so I play River Man by Nick Drake.  And his melancholic tone twists and turns into the most delicate sentiment.  The beauty of sorrow transformed by the flow of guitar playing. There is an immensity of courage in this kind of work. 

Where tragedy becomes art. Where trauma and loss are whitewash, more process than cause for resentment. Where everyone must navigate a path within this overwhelming flow of shared consciousness.             

The Immensity of Randomness

The hoodoos left behind in this amphitheater of erosion wear the costumes and masks that disguise randomness as they sing the chorus about the illusion of essence with labels of purpose so easily shifted by angle and light.

These curtains of erosion hide the absurdity behind them, for I raise my camera and point the lens at what it pretends to capture: eternal formations defining my mortal position more than the immensity of randomness.

This curse of the fixed image (and labels) and its fate as a screen made me think of this interesting observation made by Albert Camus: “In Italian museums are sometimes found little painted screens that the priest used to hold in front of the face of condemned men to hide the scaffolding.  The leap in all its forms, rushing into the divine or the eternal, surrendering to the illusions of the everyday or of the idea – all those screens hide the absurd.” -Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus (p. 91)