Traveling Monk Wind

Painting by Albert Bierstradt

Painting by Albert Bierstradt

Clouds hang thick and brooding above me, as I stand on the deck. The rain comes and goes at its own bidding, with thunder rolling across the rooftops with little punch. The sun sets over the hogbacks, barely visible between the heavy cloud cover and a thin stretch of blue that holds to the mountains as if it were snow. Lightning flashes and a spindly thread of electricity that whips outward toward the fading sun calls a passing goodnight.

It’s the air that has brought me to the railing, leaning out just a bit to catch it moving along the house. Over the past two years a love affair with wind has been brewing and percolating within me. I feel as if she comes to my house for visits. Sometimes a loud and rambunctious toddler, rattling my crib for attention, while at other times, so soft it’s as if she were a lover. Tonight she is the cloaked traveler asking for a night’s stay and a stable for her pony. There is something mysterious in the night air and a feeling of intensity and anticipation, all the while holding a gentleness as she moves by. I decide I shall call her the Traveling Monk Wind and turn my face more fully into her presence. I feel the air moving past the cells in my body pulling the skies electricity deep into me. There is an alchemy in this moment that hasn’t escaped me.

The rain returns, but the wind does not abate. Things seem more silent, though the sky flashes and the clouds rumble. I really should go to bed, I tell myself, but I linger and then, linger still.

Painting by Albert Beirstradt

Painting by Albert Beirstradt

Double-U Trifecta

Photo by Noelle

Photo by Noelle


I stand in the parking lot and let the wind and snow penetrate my clothes. I think of standing at bus stops as a kid waiting on the bus for school or trudging home from after-school jobs because my mother forgot to pick me up. She wasn’t mean, just a little ADD and most certainly not on time for a single event in her life. She’d always say, “There you are!” as if she’d been looking for me a good while or naturally expected me to arrive out of thin air.
Photo by Noelle

Photo by Noelle


It’s occurred to me, of late, that my problems as they relate to the notion of waiting really do stem from this. Years of waiting for my mother to be ready to leave or to show up. I’m not blaming her now. Just aware where this whole crazy waiting bus got started.
Photo by Noelle

Photo by Noelle


Christianity, as a rule, teaches a lot of waiting, too. Waiting to be worthy for things, waiting on God’s good graces to slide your way. Not knocking the Christians either. Like my mother who got her “waiting” from somewhere else, then passed it on to me, the Christians have been passing it along, too. The rolling wave of work hard, worthiness and waiting. A ‘Double-U” trifecta that forms the worst sort of box. Always feeling like you have to prove yourself somehow. Push more, demonstrate more, work harder, than wait for that tipping scale when your worthiness reaches some magical goodness quotient and all that you strive for will arrive.
Photo by Noelle

Photo by Noelle


As I stand and feel the snow beginning to cover my lashes it occurs to me I shall let this wind take these old notions out to sea. They no longer serve me. The whip has cracked long enough at my back. The old beggar woman inside of me is finally turning to dust on this gale. How absolutely lovely to know that. Really know it down deep somewhere near my solar plexus. Like a winter sun suddenly pulsating into a white wind.

Now… ah, now, to live it.

Photo by Noelle

Photo by Noelle

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/

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 blacks 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

In-Between

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Seed: Photo by Noelle

As the night’s cool, even if the days have not, my mind ponders the autumn. A sacredness for transition points has settled into my soul of late. The awareness that one thing is ending and something else has not yet bloomed. I feel that inner toggle switch laying idle in my hand, as there is no clear direction yet to take. One season eases out slowly in the daylight hours, while another is tiptoeing in at night. I find myself embracing, more and more, in-between spaces and allowing the peace it brings to sink deeply into me. Intuitively, I see the power in their lack of direction or action.

There was a time when everything in my life had to have some clear direction. Some plan, clear outcome, a certainty provided on the front end that all would be well. I realize our entire culture has built this need for safeguards and assurances in. We have insurance polices for every possible eventuality. Contracts to ensure everything goes according to plan or someone else will be at fault if it doesn’t. We have schedules and calendars and smartphones that offer alerts so nothing can be forgotten. We are all so afraid of the unknown, the unexpected, the misdirection, which, in the end is never a misdirection. Spiritually speaking, we are always going in the right direction. It can only be the wrong direction by our reaction and resistance to where we are.

I’ve come to understand the weakness in the constant hunger to know where things are going. A hunger that is always driven by fear. Given how little we can predict ahead, I was surprised when it dawned on me how much of my life I’d lived with a low-grade anxiety. Constantly seeking ways to know the future or like some boy scout, be prepared for every possibility. For a woman who would never describe herself as anxious, it was a revelation.

Now I watch the leaves turn as a summer wind lifts the edges of my skirt. I sense myself leaving a number of things, but also feel no clear planting of my feet into something else. An older version of me wants to pull out the notepad and make lists so something can be accomplished to get it all moving to somewhere. I smile and breathe down her fear. She’s worried nothing will get done. She’ll end up wallowing in no man’s land without a life. She’ll miss the boat, she’ll be left behind. Oh, the calamity of no plan!

Today, I’ll just enjoy being nowhere. The sun is up and there are hours left to play. As a destination, nowhere is a grossly underrated place to be. If I possess any doubt about this all I need do is stop and listen. Ah, see, starlings have filled the cattail beds.

Bare Feet

Bare Feet: Photo by Noelle

Bare Feet: Photo by Noelle

I remember Wayne Dyer speaking of walking on grass in bare feet whenever he couldn’t sleep. He traveled so much that he’d learned to do this whenever it was possible and found he slept well, with little jet lag. He believed the body finds rhythm when it touches, intimately, the earth.

Sleep, for this menopausal woman, is an art form I am determined to master. So sandals in hand I stepped onto the grass. The sprinkler system had run earlier and the grounds were all wet. The water was cold, but the air warm enough it wasn’t unpleasant. I began walking the lawn planning on a tour or two before donning my shoes and finishing my walk. I found the cool, soft feeling of the grass so pleasant though, that I lingered.

After a time, I stepped out onto the cement sidewalk, and then the hard-packed dirt and scrub grass of the further path. Each sensation registered in my feet with acute awareness. Seeds stuck to my soles, some hard and older, many soft and fuzzy. I felt the ragged edge of a stone and the cushioned step of a bed of dandelions. A burr in my little toe stopped me short and was remedied just as quickly. Without shoes each step registered clearly in my mind. The weight and length of each stride became a mantra of sorts. Surfaces were rough or soft, warm or cold, hard or permeable and the impression of each experience kept me keenly aware of where I was. Not merely lost in thought, but lost in sensation.

I walked without shoes for almost an hour.

When I was a child I spent all summer free of shoes. My soles would be tough as shoe leather by summer’s end. I traveled woods and lakes, streams and bogs. I loved adventures that involved climbing trees and hopping stones. Huck Finn had nothin’ on this tom boy knee-deep in lake muck looking to catch a painted turtle. As I walked I thought a lot about her, skin tanned, shins scabbed and dirt under every single fingernail.

After a day in front of computers, breathing canned air and pondering life under fluorescent, I find she is a welcome visitor to my mind and my feet. She pushes out a sterility that has settled in on the shirt tail of professional attire, heels and security badges. The walk has turned from an exercise in sleeping to one of being awake.

If anyone’s interested I slept seven hours straight. Thank you, Wayne….