This morning I have finished Cynthia Bourgeault's seminal book, The Wisdom Jesus, which ends with a chapter that examines the Eucharist from a wisdom perspective. In that chapter, she tells of her first accidental experience of communion: she was in her 20's, had gone to a Catholic church to hear a London boys choir, and, not having paid much attention to the stream of language surrounding the music, suddenly found herself being ushered forward to the communion rail.
Despite her lack of preparation or even understanding of the event, she nonetheless experienced the act as a direct encounter with Jesus, and still sees that it always contains within it that potential.
After finishing my reading, I meditated as usual, then came to my computer to check email and blog, and I found myself explaining that although my husband sees me primarily as a writer, I still prefer photography because it has been for me a more direct experience of the divine. Perhaps because I am less trained in photography, and because it tends to be more of a response to a stimulus than a conscious effort on my part, it often surprises -- and feeds -- me.
Writing, on the other hand, is something I have been trained to do, have done for a living, and do all too easily. Words spill out too readily for me, and frequently in established patterns with seductive rhythms that can sometimes keep me from writing thoughtfully and honestly. In fact, one of the reasons I began my poetry blog is to force me to choose my words more carefully; it's an attempt to make my writing more centered and less facile.
And now that I am writing this, I see that the difference between writing and photography, for me, is not dissimilar from the difference between Eucharist and "church."
Communion, for me, is like photography; a way of tapping into Spirit. And though, in church, there is language around communion, to me it is pure poetry and -- perhaps more importantly -- a constant, predictable flow of words enriched by centuries of use in communities around the world. But "church," with its messy mix of politics, power, money, hidden agendas, factions, asumptions, pre-conceived notions, pat responses ... I find it very difficult to be in that space. Precisely because I have been trained in church, have done it for a living, have been "good" at it, successful at it, because I know how it works and how to use its language and patterns to appear religious without really tapping into the heart of faith.
So why this image? I think because it captures the tension I'm feeling right now between the call to be and do what I was, and was good at -- to return to the land where my gifts and experience are clear and have clear use and value -- and the longing to stay in this quiet thoughtful resting space that has grown so comfortable these last few years. The image is about integration, an attempt to find new ways to connect my past self -- a quilter, a teacher of quilting -- with my current self, the photographer. There are many layers of self and life here, interiors and exteriors, sea and forest, sunrises and sunsets. And it contains, at its heart, an image of spirit, which, whatever the surface may appear to be, must be integral to whatever new life is emerging here, whatever path comes next.