Monday, October 3, 2016

About a year ago, I was watching the change of seasons and taking a notion from the trees up near a place called Rattlesnake Lodge, above the Blue Ridge Parkway. I learned a lot just thinking with those trees.

When the trees loose their leaves going in to winter, they do not fight with gravity. They dress up in their finest richly hued vestments and then scatter jewels all about. They make an offering of the most stunningly beautiful objects they can create, and then effortlessly let them go to the breeze, dancing their way to the ground with the gifts from all their neighbors where they’ll become a nourishing carpet to feed the roots of the neighborhood.

Just imagine that first letting go by the young tree. What did it think when it started losing its first foliage? And saw all its friends and family losing things? Did it think it would die? How many lettings go would it take to feel safe and confident going into winter’s season of harsh freezes and terrific winds - and threadbare? How many friends fell over in the ice storms? Maybe loss gets easier to bear over time. Some connections, though, seem so much more profound than others, and it seems they will not be bearable. And so I must pause and consider - how can i make the most beautiful offering to the universe at this juncture? What do I have to give to my surroundings in faith to the future nourishment of those around me?

Now I see a sign across the road that says: “God’s in control.” Two days ago I started the morning with a float and ended up lost, driving through hidden hills, towns called Luck and Trust, and up to the mountaintop of 360 degree views. Once I was clearly not on the road I intended to be on, not even going in the direction I intended to go in, I simply trusted the free falling and was led gently to a place I had been wanting to get to for a while but had no idea where it was. I had not consulted a map to see what direction I would have had to go in to get there. And now here I was, albeit ever farther from home than when I had set out toward my house. I had just lost a dear friend and was spending time in unexplored territory.

Now, I am just returned from a longer journey on which I lost another dear friend, quite unexpectedly and not in the best of circumstances. It is not for me to know all the hows and whys of this, yet I must decide how to walk forward along my own path, however invisible it may appear, and how to do this in a way that honors my friends who are gone, along with all the others, and the rest of the world I walk through. Perhaps if I were a tree it would be simpler - all my processes would be inherent and in concert with the movements of the celestial beings and in response to the terrestrial conditions. I wouldn’t have to think about where to go, what kind of work to do, how to interact with far away people and places. And yet, like the tree, fluids run by miraculous nature through my vessels and something animates me with the spark of life. In fact, if I think about it, that tree is as sentient as I am, even if it doesn’t communicate or travel in the ways that I do. I’ve had conversations with trees and learned profound truths. In spite of our disruption of their territories, trees communicate over great distances and have much to say. I remind myself often of how long they have been watching over me and I imagine how much they have seen, unable to look away. Our lives are inextricable from theirs. Were they not on the earth, we would not be breathing.

So as I prepare to embark on the next leg of my path ahead, taking me to new territories and peoples, I take another look at the trees about to drop their foliage. What do I really need to carry with me along the way? What process will support me where I am going? Best I polish all the gold I have and let it drop effortlessly away to dance in the currents about me, that I may be unencumbered to weather the next season. That I may carry in my heart of hearts those I hold dear, to walk with me; that I may learn to expand my heart space to learn with them how to travel the unseen worlds that are always right here with me.

And so perhaps today I can make this letting go a celebration by decorating and feeding the land around me with the treasures I have been holding onto. Perhaps I can celebrate my dear lost loved ones by polishing the gold they have left in my soul, as I am reminded by the golden falling leaves all around me.

After putting this post together, I came across this rich post on the Brainpickings site. Now I will dive deeper into the secret life of trees in following the Brainpickings thread.

I am grateful for the many gifts of synchronicity.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

New Website!

In the midst of my busiest season yet, I have been building a new website for my various offerings in the world. I hope you will enjoy checking it out at: I am still in process with it, and will be adding more resources to the site in coming weeks, but I think it's coming along. Thanks for taking a look.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Recent Photographic Works on Display in June and July

Recent photographic works were on display during June and July at Noble Wine Cellar in downtown Clayton, GA. Big thanks to all those who came out and supported Noble Wine Cellar and enjoyed tasting Georgia grown wines and Georgia made craft beers! Thanks to Jabe and Barbara Hilson for welcoming me into their beautiful space, and special thanks to those who purchased photos! It was such a pleasure meeting and getting to know the lovely folks who came and made the show a success.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Love Wins

There seems to be a consensus among many that God is Love. And yet, I have never heard anyone say that Love is God. I was thinking last year about the term “in love with,” and what it really means. Of course it is a feeling, rather than a thinking, term. But for some reason I got to thinking about it one day. I was feeling that it’s not about a person, per se. Really, I began to feel a sense of it meaning “in God.” And yet of course it is, and if only we were to treat it as such and realize this fully, how different the world would be. In this case, to love someone is to God them - in other words, as I love you, I treat you as God does. I am not looking for what I can get from you or how I can patronize you or idolize you. I am simply embracing you in your wholeness which is simply you. I have no wish to take from you because I am here to simply allow you to be your most complete and compelling self. I am here to nurture your inspirations, to give wind to your sails so you can navigate the waters of your life. I am here to inspire you with the beauty that is naturally emerging.

And, too, I am here to hold space for your heartache and disappointment when they come ‘round. I am gentle and kind, yet stern when you must know where your edges are. I don’t set or create rules to govern your world, rather I reflect back to you those you have created for yourself. This can get confusing because as we project our own rules onto the world, the world adheres to them and sometimes we forget we have projected them first. Coming back to us these rules are not always fair, and yet they originated with us. In Love and in God, for you I must be Grace. If in fact I am being my best self, this is my job in regard to others - and ultimately to my self. And so if I find myself grasping and sliding into drama, I realize that a) I have lost my Grace of the moment and b) I have projected my small self onto you and am not recognizing the Grace of God in you as an expression of Love.

There are those people around whom we feel most “in God.” I just saw something on social media talking about how we “love people.” But I don’t think it’s that we love people as an act. We don’t. There are simply those people around whom our barriers to the love that we are tend to fall away or dissolve more readily. I am simply a unit of pure consciousness/God/Love walking around with a body. Over time, I have built up, shall we say, armor around my “self” - one mask for this, another for that, a whole costume for certain situations. And all these leave residue around my spark of existence, thus making me seem like a separate, more heavy, solid thing - like a crystal that has been coated with layers of clay and dirt and seems of a different quality due to the weight and heft, when in fact there is a clear, bright crystal inside. Sometimes, though, I can find myself around a group of people or a person, or in a place, that acts as a warm bath of water or vibration that causes the dirt and clay to fall away, melt or slough off of the crystalline structure, and then light shines through and reflects and beams.

To love, to truly love someone, is to treat them as God would/does treat them. And so a worthy exercise might be to come to awareness around how we behave toward those we love and are in love with. Am I acting as God in Loving you?

Never think your love is wasted. People may say your love was wasted on the wrong person, the wrong cause or the wrong whatever. It is not for us to know why or how our love is evoked. Forgetting for the moment that all creatures deserve to receive love, however wretched they may seem, try to remember that love is coming forth. What a gift to find ourselves expressing that which we are divinely tuned to transmit into the world via our humble flesh vehicles.

When I think about my biggest love (even sometimes unrequited) what I feel most clearly is the impulse to create, offer and share of myself in so many forms and ways. The impulse to transmit the beauty I find and see and make in response to the frequency of another, the impulse to share the breathtaking awe and excitement exactly as it arises - without even a thought - simply a pure impulse to share to one with whom I feel a sense of the kindred godness.

The beloved may or may not know of this impulse in me, may or may not seem to deserve such a sharing, may or may not feel anything remotely similar, and may or may not even feel the gifts arriving. And yet, here I am with the divine spark leaping forth in my heart. And here is the spark of life erupting from my hands, my mouth, my being. Now I can work with this.

I can work with it in the name of the Beloved, or in the name of the Divine, or in the name of a nameless, homeless, formless being of my choosing - I can work with it in the name of that which I rest within, the boundless field of the One Consciousness, which I both inhabit and contain. Which brings me to the place where I can release and receive and make offerings all at once. What I do to one I do to all, what I do for one I do for all, what I take from one I take from all, what I receive from one I receive from all and so on. And really what does it matter what or whom evokes this impulse in me?

For quite some time now, I have been seeing heart shapes in the most unexpected ways and places. I have begun documenting them with photographs. Now you must know that for many an artist, things like this are very off limits. In art school it felt drummed into us that as artists we are not to focus on the sappy sweet stuff of kitty cats and hearts and sparkles. It’s just not done. And yet here I am, a year or so into actually photographing all these hearts. There have been hearts in the water, hearts in the sky, hearts on trees and hearts on the pavement. Nowadays everywhere I cast my gaze, it seems I am to receive one of these hearts. I can hardly believe that I have shared countless of these images on social media. It is so highly unlikely. And yet here I am, sharing about the hearts. One of my favorites was two hearts conjoined at the base of a mature Beech tree - somehow part of the trunk leading to the roots had formed these “siamese hearts.” Or the heart shaped opening in the clouds as reflected on water that I was photographing to capture the rain circles - only in the reflection was it facing me so perfectly.

So a couple of days ago - the day after Christmas and the first day the sun shone after many days of many inches of rain - I went for a walk in the woods. I had a clear destination in mind (a couple miles each way) along the river - Otter Rock (another story for another time). This day was so warm and beautiful, though, and the river was so swollen from all the rain that I didn’t stop at Otter Rock. After days of inactivity, I just wanted to keep on moving and feel my body working this day.

And so I continued along the way, welcoming Nature to give me a message of guidance, as I often do. Many times this guidance comes from a critter of some kind - a snake or a deer or a spider, say, once a snake eating a toad - or some feature in the landscape. Along this particular walk, I was called by a small creek in one place, startled a deer to blow in another and witnessed a strange, small four-legged creature dive into the bushes by the trail ahead of me (I’m still not sure what it was). And now I was on a stretch of trail I’ve never been on before. I had already passed by a small waterfall that Laurence and I had picnicked on years ago. Now I was about 3.5 miles out and knowing there would soon be the place I am looking for to sit in silence for some moments before turning back.

Just before reaching the place where I would turn back, I came upon a tree with a very (loud and) clear message on it. It is a dead pine tree, succumbed to the southern pine beetle, of considerable heft. On it someone has painted a message in the most vivid cadmium hue, replete with heart shaped O, "LOVE WINS.”

Related previous posts: Let Everything Be Love and Sending Forth

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mitigation (a poem)


In sanguine chador,
with a hint of cerulean
sky on her brow,
here is a girl
whose horrific suffering
is offset by her reflection.
She models the grace
we all doubt but long for,
that we can dare to keep our innocence
in the presence of our tragic wounding;
that our courage could be so great
as to look ourselves
in the face of our deepest pain
and remain standing,
remain whole, with our compassion intact.
With the divine spark in us
still capable of igniting
our deepest hidden ambition
to incarnate uniquely
here in this place,
here in this time,
leaning into that which we cannot feel
any other way than by crashing into it.
And the poet, silently bearing witness
from an earth-colored bed,
catches in a glimpse,
that ephemeral spark
dancing its lightning-fast,
almost imperceptible jig
between the implicate
hidden urge to exist
and the quiet blooming of life
emerging as this being comes of age.

This poem comes from a recent dream. It feels very potent, poignant and important to share in the form of a poem that describes the image received in a dream contained in a poem. This gives me hope and added faith that by making art and poetry, we may somehow, by grace, mitigate even horrific suffering in the world while maintaining the innocence we must embody in order to keep seeing the world whole anew in spite of great challenges to our faith and in the presence of continuing tragedy. Perhaps an image will follow. In the meantime, I will include the image nearest to my body while dreaming all of this.

Bearing ©Honor Woodard 2006

Friday, September 5, 2014

Emerging into Grace and Beauty

On Tuesday, I worked late up on the mountain and then grabbed a bite to eat. As I left the Ugly Dog pub and picked up a chocolate bar at the market, the sun was just setting. There is a place up in Highlands I’ve heard folks call “sunset rock,” and I thought to myself, if I head on up there, even if the sun has already just set, it will be beautiful because we’ve been having the best clouds ever this summer and tonight is no exception. So I followed the road that goes to “sunset rock” or so I thought. Instead, I was on a wild goose chase that ended me at a locked gate and so I turned back, trying to remember what turns I had taken. I made my way back down into town and passed on through to head on down the Dillard road toward home. Now it was just starting to fall darker dusk. As I wound down the mountain through Scaly I could see the bright half moon high in the sky which was still a bit blue. And when I arrived at the overlook to Blue Valley, night was falling and in the distance was a puffy long cloud, sparking with lightning. I pulled in, took a breath of awe at the sight of electrical energy lighting up the cloud like a flashing lightbulb and thought, “boy it’d be nice to sit and watch this with someone.” It didn’t take a moment for me to correct myself. I am a perfectly good someone to sit with and how many times in how many places have I had my breath taken away by the humbling beauty of nature? More than I can count.

I remember when I drove across the country and around it some to look at schools for Acupuncture - back in 2001 after I was laid off from my last magazine job in New York. There were times I was driving west when the setting sun seemed to be falling past an ocean, but I was only halfway across the country and this was just the illusion from being high in the mountains looking down on flatlands with a dust-filled cadmium sunset. There were so many times like this when tears of gratitude just fell right out of my eyes as my heart opened up wide. And it opened just like this to the cloud full of lightning. I was reminded of how this life is a journey into beauty for me. Much of it has been solitary - not by design, but more by chance, I think. And that’s perfectly ok. There will be a time I am sharing these experiences of transcendent beauty with another, and it will be all the richer (or it won’t and that’s ok). We live in the midst of so many myths - about love, success, what’s important, what is of value, what we’re supposed to do, what we’re not supposed to do, and so on. One of the hardest ones for many of us, I think, is the one that says that we have to be paired up to enjoy life.

It is at times when I am immersed in the achingly perfect beauty of nature that the myth is shattered. At these times, I feel myself melt into this all that is-ness. It is here that the lightning filled cloud is also my heart full with joy, and the fading charcoal-blue light is my breath. There is no wish to capture it on film and no desire unmet to share the experience because the experience fills me more completely than any other I’ve met so far. It fills me to the edges of the universe (if there were edges).

And so it is that over the last decades of my life I have become more and more permeable to nature, to beauty, to all that is. There are times I feel breathed by a boulder, drunken in by the river, made steam by the sun and spread thin by the wind.

On another recent Tuesday after work up the mountain - about a month back - I was in the place where I received the inspiration for the “Blessing” post. Down the Glen Falls trail at the bottom, where the big salamander watches over the lower creek, the air was different. I found myself whispering almost silently there, and more of a speaking in breath than a whisper. More sacred than a whisper, my breath was a softening into a thick world of magnetic space. My words felt as though thick vapor merging with slow liquid, just hovering in the air. I noticed this as something profound. Where normally I go about talking to myself aloud with no compunction, here in this place it was as if the atmosphere let itself be known to me with a gentle force of presence, all encompassing. This was the place where the boulder I had rested upon had breathed me, and now I felt the place - this particular stretch of woods where water that pours vigorously over Glenn Falls slows into a gently laughing creek before cascading once again - was now also breathing me, and I could feel it in my hands, my mouth, my bare feet. I could feel it in my heart - in my whole essence of being, where I rest in God. And of course this is what it is to rest in God, as we do.

So as I was sharing with a friend about the cloud full of lightning the other day, and how I spent half an hour just watching in awe, I found myself saying that this, of course, is what it’s all about, for me anyway. I am here to, as deeply and profoundly as I can, engage the unfathomable beauty here on this gentle planet. And as it happens, this friend and I for as long as we have been alive have loved this place and its beauty and it has made us in large part what we are. We live in a place where every day we hear ourselves say out loud, “it just doesn’t get any better than this.”

Having said this, as luck or chance or Grace would have it, I have been able to say this whether I am here or just about anywhere else. In Florida for massage school I was in such a place, by the amazing Payne’s Prairie, and even the pasture where I lived behind a horse farm, and so many points in between.

After a while of engaging the beauty - I’ve been doing it consciously for more than a decade (and probably way longer) - it grows easier and easier to see.

Now, I find my self at the edge of the Mystery, diving back into her void as I embark in a month or so on the next leg of my journey to points unimagined. And to mark this time for me, this morning on my pond a great dragonfly emerged from her naiad shell, dangled a while with her fine glass wings still glued together, gave a flutter and took flight after an hour or so - right out into the big wild world. Such grace and poise - solitarily finding balance, breathing new air, testing out wings only dreamed of and never yet unfolded. Feeling her way up through gravity and into the air, into the light of morning in this little hollow where she was an egg not so long ago.

I felt so in awe of her transformation - one I cannot even begin to fathom. And, perhaps like dragonfly, my dreams have been guiding me so clearly that I, too, will know the flight path, the lay of the land that has been calling me across time and dreams. It’s such a big beautiful bright wild world out there - so much more beauty to be engaged and reflected - so much beauty to be transmitted through the unique lens that I am. There is much to do, and I am ready to test the air.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Darkness Inside

The Darkness Inside

It’s been an intense and heavy week, with the suicide of one of the most ebullient, brilliant funny people ever to walk the planet and the senseless killing of a young man by a so-called “lawman.” Of course there’s always plenty of difficult stuff going on at any given moment, but this week, for whatever reason, it feels like there is even more of a call to action around these happenings.

We can never know what was in Mr. Williams’ thoughts and feelings that caused him to lose all hope or will to go on living, and we can certainly not imagine what was going through the mind of the officer who shot the young man in Ferguson, MO. What we do have to work with, though, is our own shadow. So many of us wrestle with our shadows throughout our entire lives.

Of course if we kill our shadow, we cease to exist. Yes, this, if we kill our shadow, we cease to exist. And this, right now, seems the ultimate challenge we are facing in the world (and maybe always). There is an historical fear of the darkness inside and outside of us. And of course the darkness outside of us is merely a reflection of the darkness inside. As Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” And on one level, I interpret this to apply to what I am saying - that our shadow, our darkness, our inner demons will appear to us in our “outer world” if we fail to address them within us.

Of course we project our own darkness on all manner of scapegoats “out there.” And of course it is the imagination that fuels the fires of fear. When we truly meet ourselves and each other we can only always come back to God. Our own true essence is merely that. And we really are all the same in that way. It is only in our imaginations that we stray so far from balance and become separate, unhappy, better than, lesser than, afraid of, angry at, anxious about, fearful of and so on. So long as we keep drawing a line in the sand around us or our family, our property, our territory, our country, our….. So long as we keep this imaginary line around whatever it is we call “us,” we are feeding the fires of war - internal, external, local and worldly.

And it seems the more smug the masks we wear, the more extraordinarily out of balance we become. If I am struggling with my inner shadow in a locked embrace of war and I wear a painted face that presents a wholly different visage, then I am only adding powder to the keg with a long fuse. The consequence becomes more dire because I must overcompensate for the image I am trying to portray.

So in the case of those like the “lawman,” perhaps we externalize our shadow so we can take aim and shoot it down, only to find out that now there are even more shadows everywhere we look and this continues a viciously dangerous cycle. And in those of us with depression, we keep trying to kill off the parts of ourselves that keep stirring up the trouble, and in some cases that becomes suicide. The problem is, these places that we are trying to kill off are the wounds that most need our love and acceptance. And it is only in learning to love these hurt places, these scary shadows that we have any hope to survive moderately intact.

I was talking with a friend in St. Louis last night after hearing about looting and riots and SWAT teams and tear gas in Ferguson, and all I could think was that if only the police department’s first response to what happened was to gather the community in grief and support of each other, some kind of healing could begin to occur and there could be some grace. This morning I am happy to see that a captain from their state patrol (i think) was walking with the protesters. And we begin again.

In my own life, lately, I have been embracing those with whom I have had strained relationship in recent times. I came to the realization that it is up to me how I want to be in the world and no matter the cause of dissonance, it is to me to reset the harmony and create resonance in some higher or more neutral vibration.

We all have shadows to struggle with, and many of us are always seeking escape from them. We can keep running from our shadows our whole lives long, and we can keep attacking them when we cast them onto others. But again, killing our shadows - be they the shadows we cast in our souls or those we project onto others - we are killing our selves. Each murdered child is me, each soul who falls to suicide is me, each fallen soldier is me, each innocent murdered by police is me, each civilian killed in a senseless war is me - and so are all the killers, me.

And so I must remember, shadows are cast by light - that ephemeral thing we are all made from - and if we can remember that there is texture and detail in the shadows (just ask any seasoned photographer) and that it can be quite beautiful if we learn to explore it more deeply, and in fact all we need is to adjust our lighting or focus to better see it.

This reminds me of a poem I wrote the day I received a call from my late friend Joe, telling me he had been diagnosed with the cancer. Joe, of course, had many demons that he was managing quite nicely by growing organic vegetables, throwing pots and working tirelessly for our environment. The poem is in an earlier blog post:

It is light that defines us
shadow refines us
solidity is only an illusion
we can only see our shadow
from our delusion of self
our true Self contains us
while the ego just claims us
as different, as separate, as whole
our Oneness becomes us
as we see the wholeness
that mostly eludes us
when we look as from loneness
we’ll continue this dance
with our shadows
as long as we walk in the light
and just as we dream
in the nights in between
it’s ours to keep our life bright

Thoughts to walk away with...

The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.

The length of a shadow depends on the angle of the light source.

Our shadows move when we do, and sometimes they pass us by.

We can appear to disappear when covered by the shadow of another. The temperature changes and everything feels different, but we don't have to change unless we let our imaginations get the better of us and throw us into fear.

Our shadows can be diminished by additional light from other sources that act as "fill."

AND SO, please, let's keep shining our lights for ourselves, for each other, for our precious planet hurtling through space. And let's try something different with our darkness inside - how about we make shadow puppets and give voice to the darkness made visible.

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