Wednesday, May 27, 2015

California Retreat

Last week I went to a meditation retreat in California.  The nice thing about traveling to the west coast from Ohio is that it is easy to wake up early and for this night owl the morning light is quite a treat.  Every morning before breakfast I took a nice stroll with my camera.  The first day I didn't go very far because I was obsessed by how the sun was hitting the weeds along the road.  I sat down to photograph the pineapple weed below and then noticed the clover next to me.  In every direction I looked, the light was hitting every thing in the most spectacular way!  

I thought about doing a whole post just about the pineapple weed above and took dozens of photos of it.  I love the way the light illuminated the conical lime green orbs. 

At least once a day I took the dirt road in the photo above and ended up at the oak tree below.  One day I tried to have a rest against it and ants crawled all over me.  I had to strip down to my skivvies and give everything a good shake.  Luckily it was just me and the wild turkeys doing our dance.

I was also quite impressed by the size and beauty of pine cones along the road.  And I felt lucky every time I found a "star" dandelion like the one below.

I also have to mention the amazing colors of the muscle-red wood and peeling bark of the manzanita tree above.  Every one of the manzanitas had such character and strength - maybe from living in such a dry environment.

My friend Jodi and I also found lots of oak galls on our walks.  They reminded me of the Japanese art form of creating shiny balls of earth and water called Dorodango (check it out it is awesome!), although I prefer the cracked, earthy appearance of the galls.  If I made mud balls I would want them to look like this.

After a week of soaking in all this beauty and sitting in meditation I realized that the mystery both surrounds us and lies within us.  Whether you prefer looking out or in, it doesn't matter...but look at it...notice it...for it permeates everything... everywhere... at all times... if we only have eyes to see it.

"After chopping through dense salal and hacking off ironwood bushes for an hour or so, I stopped, exhausted. I found myself standing motionless, intensely aware of all of the life around me, the breathing moss, the chattering birds, the living earth. I was as much a part of the woods as any millipede or cedar tree. At that moment, too, I was aware of the mystery." -Margaret D. McGee

"Existence is a mystery.  We aren't here to solve the mystery...we are only here to see that we are the mystery." - Matt Kahn

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Muir Woods

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world."  -John Muir

Last week I visited a friend in California and we took a day trip to Muir Woods to see the redwoods. It was a Saturday and we were worried it would be crowded so we almost didn't go.  But I am so happy we went because it was a place unlike any other.  Although there was a decent crowd of tourists there is an air of majesty and quietude that permeates these woods.  The tallest tree is over 250 feet, the widest over 14 feet, and some of them are over 1,000 years old..  One feels dwarfed by these giants and it is easy to feel that we are just a blip on their aged radar.

It is ironic that my favorite photo from Muir Woods was of a giant horsetail (above) and not a giant redwood.  But if you follow this blog you know I love repetition and getting up close to things.  And I really liked the way the many thin threads of the horsetail perfectly illustrated John Muir's quote. I picture myself trying to tug on just one thread knowing that it will move all the threads.  I also learned that the roots of the redwood trees only go down 10-13 feet, but they spread out nearly 100 feet interconnecting with the roots of other trees.  I picture them helping to hold each other upright when it is windy.

It was also interesting to learn the importance of fog to these giant trees.  Apparently the trees are able to take in fog that has condensed on the leaves through tiny pores.  I never thought about trees "drinking" in the fog before this trip.  (I learned here redwoods were the first trees found to move water in both directions.)

Maybe it's because I am reading Sally Kempton's book about the many-armed yoga goddesses, but when I saw this last photo it appeared to me to be a goddess looking down at me waving all of her arms. Just looking at her now I feel her power and am humbled to have had the chance to stand at her feet and observe her majesty.