A Hole in Me Pocket

Clement Park at dusk: Photo by Noelle

Clement Park at dusk: Photo by Noelle

I most certainly have a hole in me pocket. Every day I am full of time, but before I know it half of it is gone out a hole in me pocket. I stitch the blasted thing up, but the next afternoon I find myself in the same straits. Too much to do and not enough time to do it in. For someone who praises peace and breathing room this damn hole is most bothersome indeed.

It seems no small irony that all of our technological advances were intended to give us time and yet I feel more robbed by them every day. I was reading an article about the Greek isle of Ikaria. The New York Times dubbed it the place where people forget to die. They have an extraordinary number of octogenarians. They say their lifestyle hasn’t changed in a hundred years. They walk everywhere and garden. They remain connected to their faith and dine on fresh food and good wine. They never hurry. They sit in the sun without sunblock. They laugh a lot. This story plays itself out in Okinawa, Japan, too. People bike and carry their own groceries, and eat fresh food each day. They stay connected to their passions and talents. They breathe slower and speak less of troubles.

Autumn Leaf: Photo by Noelle

Autumn Leaf: Photo by Noelle

John Muir wrote in 1912, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” I wonder how such a man as this was not the most guiding force in our country’s evolution? How did we get money and busyness confused with the acquisition of peace and contentment?

There is a deep lesson here I don’t want to forget. Something that moves me about laughter and sitting in the sun. How much do I really need to get done everyday? Who is cracking this whip? What would happen if I planted something and sang to it, rather than worried about what was on my schedule? What would happen if I consciously found ways to step outside the machine?

I feel I might find others and there would be wine with some good cheese, time spent gazing at the horizon, all enjoyed after a lovely, scenic bike ride. I think this might be true. I think there are others like me wanting to feel dirt on the bottom of their feet.

Bike trail, Ken Caryl: Photo by Noelle

Bike trail, Ken Caryl: Photo by Noelle

Into Your Meditation

Book cover and photography by Noelle Vignola and Lulu.com

Book cover and photography by Noelle Vignola and Lulu.com

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, than this absence from my blog has certainly been so. My book has finally launched on lulu.com. It will arrive to Amazon and Barnes and Noble in late February. A labor of love and community that has taken three years to bring to fruition. Although in truth, I began the road to publishing almost twenty years ago. If I step back even further, I hear my mother’s voice of oft regret at not writing more or sending her pieces into magazines that goes back almost fifty years. A line of women longing to see themselves in print. It is a very difficult feeling to express holding your book for the first time. I have never had children, but I imagine the feeling might be akin to the feeling of holding your child for the first time. Something powerful and deeply intimate.

We have a tendency of being overly focused with outcomes, objects, and the far-reaching stuff we’re seeking. Yet, life has nothing to do with stuff. Even as I hold this book, I realize the entire journey was the gift for me. The book is a lovely reminder of an adventure well taken, but not what all of this time was about. It was a wonderful carrot tweaking my rabbit-y nose when I would wish to listen to the voice of defeat or fear. It was the light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel that said I would get here eventually.

We have many fantasies about our long-wished for successes. When we arrive at something it is never like the fantasy, because the person having that fantasy had not taken the journey yet. The one holding the book or the film or the painting or stands on the floor of a new business has. From this perspective the fantasy seems paper-thin and a bit silly even. The reality of who you have become on your way to that success far exceeds anything you could have possibly imagined. I feel deeply that what happens from here is all icing on the cake. I am compressed carbon, a winking, bright diamond in the sun. Success has already been awarded to me.

For now, if you wish to check out experts from the book or even more lovely wish to buy it, you may click on the link here or the one to the right of this post (Thank you Lulu.com for a lovely website):

http://www.intoyourmeditation.com/

New Year’s Eve

From vivaboo.com

From vivaboo.com

The door is not nearly as grand as one might think. The knob of solid brass, though tarnished from use, glows enough in the dark of the unknown to show me where to lay my hand. The threshold is clear, clean and unobstructed. The frame sturdy and the width large enough for me to pass with anything I wish to carry into this new year. Though not a word is spoken as I stand here, I also know it offers me the chance to walk through naked and with nothing at all.

From wallpaperup.com

From wallpaperup.com

I pull in on the great billows of my lungs the promise of this fresh moment. I let the taste of adventure and mystery to linger deliciously upon my tongue, savoring the prospects of all that I have yet to become. Each new day, of course promises this, too, but there is something unique about New Year’s Eve that speaks to the magic of transformation and opportunity. That calls out into the twinkling darkness of the heaven’s one’s excitement at what’s to come.

From Pinterest images

From Pinterest images

To the wise and quieted mind this wondrous anticipation has all the charm of a child on Christmas morning. It holds the wild hopes only a seaman stepping onto his ship bound for uncharted seas can know. This moment in the dark hours leaving one year to enter another is a sacred passage to those with an open heart. A heart that whispers as it passes through the doorway, “I am ready”.

The Force

From Star Wars: Part 4: image take from fanpop.com

From Star Wars: Part 4: image take from fanpop.com

Today, I send into your meditation The Force. From Star Wars comes the famous line, “May the Force be with you.” The curious thing about the phrase is it suggests there are times when The Force might not be with you. As if it were a bit like luck. Either you have the good fortune of its company and have been given the special training to use it, or so sorry little Jedi, The Force is with Darth this night.

Possibly the greatest spiritual revolution in the last five hundred years is the awareness that we can never be separate from this great Force. Regardless of religious or cultural understanding we are always in The Force. There is no outside of it. We can resist it, ignore it, refuse to acknowledge it, but “it” is never gone. Even without one prayer given we are never bereft of its presence or available guidance. Any sensation of separation is entirely on our part. Any story we tell of our bad luck is a story we are creating to explain things we don’t understand. It is a story based on a Force that has forgotten us to avail itself of what we believe to be worthier warriors.

We all have a kind of romance with the notion of “The Force”, yet here we are fully loaded with all the power we could ever need, yet find ourselves frequently feeling adrift on galactic winds. Floating directionless in a foreign galaxy longing for a master like Obi Wan to help us find our way or bestow upon on us the wisdom we so desperately seek. We tell many variations of the general theme that we are, somehow, lost and alone. We’ve come to believe we need a nail-gripping challenge of a death star to push past our limits and know the true depth of our essence.

Image from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: taken from blastr.com

Image from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: taken from blastr.com


All of us have an inner Yoda. A voice, an inclination, an intuitive compass that guides us at all times. We may be lousy listeners or worse navigators, but what we seek is in this immediate now. This Force is within us, because we are it and it is we. We quiet ourselves in meditation that we might come to hear this Force, not so much in words but in feeling and a deeper knowing. In fact, we are so beautiful in our power that naked we possess the ability to heal beyond our wildest dreams. Sitting here all alone in our small lives we have the power of the greatest warriors that ever walked the Earth. We are not alone for we have been deeply woven into the fabric of this universe by an energy that spins the finest silk thread out of stardust.

Spoken more accurately, the line should read, “May the Force be known to you.”

 

Christmas Tree

 

 

From: Letstalkabout.co.uk

From: Letstalkabout.co.uk

Today, I send into your meditation a Christmas tree. Few things are quite as beautiful, even in their simplest garb, as a Christmas tree standing alone in the corner of a darkened room. With the children off to bed and even the fire burned down to embers, its value transcends holiday gifts and punch bowls full of nog. In the quiet of the late evening it shimmers and draws all into the mystery. Though the light cast is not bright, there is a magic within it notwithstanding. The ambience of the tree pulls us in as surely as moths to a flame. As a symbol of late December it has brought the Christmas holiday into most homes whether Christian or not. We are drawn to the flickers of light that dispel the darkness, regardless of our secular or religious notions. All have come to share in the delight at midnight hours its curious luminescence.

From moddb.com

From moddb.com

On this great earth are many things, but of late, a thread of violence, greed and despair has consumed our times. Such suffering has gripped our planet and it is often difficult to turn away. What shall dispel this darker part of us? What can illuminate the human heart in such a way as to cast out shadows? Where shall the light come to push that ebony veil back a few feet that we might breathe more deeply?

From hdwallpapers11.com

From hdwallpapers11.com

Until we come to know fully our own luminescence, we will always feel the oppression of that curtain about us. If we can awaken within ourselves our own shimmering light, we become like the Christmas tree, a beacon in dark corners. We alter the darkness not by demand, but by attraction. As we become our true brilliance, all come forward wishing to bask in the glow. Awakened our light joins others dangling so delicately from the tree of life that says:

From coverhdwallpapers.com

From coverhdwallpapers.com

“No darkness shall prevail this night.
No suffering shall lay waste upon my door.
For I am the lone star beaming forth into the firmament.
I am the light that dispels shadows.
I am the voice that calls to others – wake up, see who you are!
See how your light shimmers – see how beautifully it glows.
I hold the power to wipe away darkness in the most dispirited souls beating magically, wildly within my breast.

I shall not listen to the wind that shakes the limbs with fear for I hold fast and true to this branch.
I hold fast and clear to this moment.

I am the mystery!

I am the light!”

From freejupitor.com

From freejupitor.com

Yellow Submarine

Electrical lines, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO

Electrical lines, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO

As I look upon the post-processed images I often feel I have stepped into another life. A life separate from the hike that actually took place. As if I have been given a second life laid on top of the first where art, light, and shadow burst into life and I get to live the experience in some other fashion. I see the blues and backs or deep yellows inside the photographs as if through Yellow Submarine glasses. Glasses that alter the reality of the land into patterns of shapes and highlights. Nothing is really the same in the image as it was on the trail. The other senses are suddenly shut down and my inner eye is the only thing firing on all cylinders.

I am also different, curled up under a blanket, nose deep into my smartphone. I am pouring back out within a very tight focus, what the trail poured in.

South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO: Photo by Noelle

South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO: Photo by Noelle

South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO: Photo by Noelle

South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO: Photo by Noelle

I see the four Beatles long-legged images from the Yellow Submarine poster flash through my mind. The psychedelic movie and madcap song that have nothing to do with dirt trails, but in my artistic mind they seem connected. I am distorting the image, the way their music often distorted our minds. A little Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds again. Nothing is as it seems.

Electrical lines, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO

Electrical lines, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO

I am there in the image, as I was when I took it, but I am also not there now, as the image has a life of its own separate from the hike. I am hearing birds and feeling the frost, but as I tweak the image I hear Ringo Starr’s throatier voice proclaiming that we all do live in a yellow submarine.

The beauty of all creative endeavors is they shift our focus, even if only briefly, from what we believe is real, to what is also real, but must be powered by our psycho-emotive-spiritual energy. My creative world is no less real to me than the feeling of cliff face beneath my hand.

Bear Lake Valley Park, Morrison, CO: photo by Noelle

Bear Lake Valley Park, Morrison, CO: photo by Noelle

A few years back my friend, Juan Crocco in Chile turned me onto photography. Up until then photography was for me just people standing by monuments taking pictures of themselves or photo albums filled with images of children opening up Christmas presents. I didn’t even own a camera and hadn’t taken an a photograph in over a decade. I’m not particularly nostalgic, so have never spent much time looking at photo albums. In my last couple of house moves I had, in fact, jettisoned ninety percent of my photographs and albums.

McCook Point, Niantic, CT: Photo by Noelle

McCook Point, Niantic, CT: Photo by Noelle

McCook Point, Niantic, CT: Photo by Noelle

McCook Point, Niantic, CT: Photo by Noelle

Juan encouraged me to take photographs while hiking as a mindfulness exercise. I was going through a rough patch and he thought this might help. Wise man. It did more than help. It healed me.

I interact with images taken not as an observer to what had been there, but what I might find now. I am on a treasure hunt. Seeking shadows and reflected light. There’s a conversation going on between myself and the image. I am not cataloging my hikes. I’m talking to myself in symbols and abstractions that affect me deeply at an emotional level. Thus, for me, photography isn’t about what was there, so much as it is about what is now inside me being viewed through the effected image. An inner art I am not aware of until I begin to work with the image. It’s this crazy blending of photography and my own personal mojo that creates something else entirely in the end. I live the joy of the hike and then I live the joy of the art.

Winter Prairie at Day Break: Image II: Photo by Noelle

Winter Prairie at Day Break: Image I: Photo by Noelle

Winter Prairie at Day Break: Image III: Photo by Noelle

Winter Prairie at Day Break: Image II: Photo by Noelle

This pattern, now rooted in me, has become a pattern of living and altering, experiencing and awakening. It has been growing like prairie weeds out of the images and into my day to day life. There is what is here in this moment, physically and then there is what is in this moment more abstractly. The things in my life that live as highlights on the edges of things. Shadows that create contrast not darkness or fear. I want to alter my vision. Don my Yellow Submarine glasses and see that world from some other angle entirely. To live with a little psychedelic energy in my soul. Not through drugs or other altering substances but through the spirit in me. The bigger eye that sees so deeply into things the things I look at deeply change.

“In the town where I was born
Lived a man who sailed to sea
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines

So we sailed up to the sun
Till we found the sea of green
And we lived beneath the waves
In our yellow submarine”

(McCartney/Lennon/Harrison)

TheBeatles-YellowSubmarinealbumcover
“Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles, album cover art by George Martin

Georgia Phase

Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe

Some time back I attended what was supposed to be a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Museum. There were O’Keeffe pieces, but most of the exhibition was made up of her contemporaries. There was a film which depicted many scenes from her later life after husband, Alfred Stieglitz died. In the film she is often depicted walking alone amongst rich red canyons and tall white cliff faces adorned only in her trademark black. A woman sitting on a viewing couch next to me whispered to her friend, “What a lonely woman.”

O’Keeffe, interviewed in the film, couldn’t have described herself any less lonely if she tried. She was a woman completely at peace with her solitary, creative nature. Her eyes are serene staring at the desert sand. Her fullness seemed palatable to me, as the old celluloid film fed out at the end.

That fullness is what is lingering in my mind as I awaken. It remains dark and utterly silent as my feet touch the floor of my bedroom. O’Keeffe appears to still walk the cliff faces of my dreams and it seems wrong to turn on the lights. I see her standing dark against the red stone faces and I feel her satisfaction. I know instinctively her joy. This is what energizes me to leave early for the trail knowing the sun would turn last week’s snow into mud soon enough.

Georgia O'Keefe

Georgia O’Keefe

Steam plumes out from my nostrils and I resist the urge to stay inside the warm car. I wrap my scarf about my head and step into the canyon. The parking lot had been empty and I saw no one ahead on the path. The sky is still it’s deep dawn blue, not warmed by a sun that has yet to crest the hogback ridge. Temperatures remain close to freezing and frost dusts every blade of grass.

Though there is a part of my brain that loves to rail against physical discomforts, my spirit is brimming with joy. I love the early morning hours and feel immensely proud for having managed to pull myself out of a perfectly cozy bed to done hiking boots and head out. It may not exactly be an act of courage, but it must qualify as a sign of a great adventurer.

Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe

I sense Georgia’s spirit all around me. Delighted to be free of the familiar and dropped into the cold boldness of a Colorado morning. As if listening to me a kestrel’s piercing call echoes off the far cliff face. It calls again and again. I wonder if it thinks another is calling back or if it delights in hearing it’s own voice return to it. I stand and listen for a few moments until the cold spurs me on.

Rabbits scurry into the brush and voles are heard digging beneath a thick autumn layer of fallen leaves. I see a coyote far off and have a moment of thinking I should hide to see if he’ll come closer, when I realize the ridiculousness of the idea. I’m in winter barren landscape dressed in a bright orange scarf and psychedelic running pants, surrounded by billows of steamy breath. If this is not enough of a calling card to the coyote’s keen eye, he surely has not missed the sound of my step upon dirt and gravel. He turns west and heads down the slope to the lake and glen below confirming my notions.

Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe

As expected the earth is rock hard and the signs of previous hiker’s slugged out journeys are quite evident now in footsteps frozen in mud. My body heats as I hike higher through the canyon, while my nose and face remain persistently numb with cold. I wrap the scarf tighter across my face and rub finger tips that are not fairing much better. A pair of mountain plovers seem to be following me along the trail with their soft peeping calls coming and going as I move.  I occasionally see a head rise above prairie grass as if finding it’s bearings before it drops back down and disappears again into the field.

I marvel at how un-alone my aloneness is. Loneliness never comes to call sitting munching almonds between two yucca plants, as full now as they were in the spring. This is what Georgia knew. There is no aloneness in this harsh, barren space. Only fullness awaits my lone steps as I turn a corner disturbing sparrows, bellies full of winter berries. A mountain jay alerts the entire dale that I am upon the trail and a pair of nuthatches swoop my head as they dive into a thicket. I crest the ridge and morning rays hit my retinas full on and I stand wonderfully blinded by the light. Within moments my nose begins to run as my face thaws in winter’s only heat.

Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe

Like O’Keeffe I’ve come to accept that I need periods devoid of human contact. I hunger far more for nature’s peace, which isn’t really quiet at all. Something in the way the wind moves through the grasses quiets my inner world and heals my overwrought senses from electronic environments awash in fluorescents. This aloneness is not antisocial or agoraphobic. It has nothing to do with hiding in one’s home, avoiding the world, but more about engaging the earth at another level entirely. Winter brown leaves lacking the good sense to fall to the earth rattle in the thickets with each gust of wind and I could dance across the prairie, a winter’s sprite in delight. This is the fullness in Georgia’s eyes.

The wide open expanses, the calls of birds and the movement of who knows what amongst the thickets is a balm to my senses after a week working inside a hospital. Here the chattering calls of three magpies feels as if a divine hand has rested upon my thoughts, and pulled from me the sounds of monitors and staff chatter, phones ringing and the persistent clicks of computer keyboards. Even in winter’s pseudo-death there is so much life here that all the faces of those lost and suffering in hospital beds fades away into the silent creek.

Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe

As I come into the farther vale I rest my hand across the top of tall grasses my own kind of spiritual braille. I am remembering myself. Remembering my carefree nature that hears the squish of the first, sun-warmed mud puddle and knows life is really good. It may take me an hour to come back up the valley trail that crosses the ridge, but in that sweaty, muddy, jay-squalking journey I will feel the blood in my veins and rejoice in the good fortune of two fine legs. I will know myself the adventurer and revel in her singular nature.

I stuff the scarf, no longer needed into my pocket and look upon a squirrel whose cheeks are full of nuts he still hopes to bury. I am alone here and not alone at all. I am full and also empty. And so it is, I have dubbed this moment in my life, like Picasso’s Blue Phase, my Georgia Phase.