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The view from my handlebars…

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Yesterday was unseasonably warm here in Buffalo. Hot, even. 85F in April. But it felt good. I had the day off, and after having lunch with my son, I rode over to Forest Lawn Cemetery for a bit of solace and to snap a few photos. I have posted and commented on this cemetery in previous posts and feel that we are lucky to have it. It sits in the middle of the city but one is transported while there. Besides all the souls that reside there, it is also an unofficial bird and wildlife sanctuary, and in many ways a human one as well. The feeling I have there is sort of like being in an outdoor sanctuary of a church…peaceful, yet inspiring. The sculpture above is one of my favorites. The artist is John Field, and the caption for it reads, “And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then you shall truly dance.” To see more photos of this place, click here, here, here, here, or here.

 

Urban Simplicity.

Sacred Ground (words and photos)

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Do you remember Moses at the burning bush?  God had to tell him to take off his shoes–-he didn’t know he was on holy ground. And if we can just come to see that right where we are is holy ground–-in our jobs and homes, with our co-workers and friends and families.  This is where we learn to pray.” ~Richard Foster


So last week after having breakfast with my sisters on a crisp winter’s day I rode my bike to the cemetery. As odd as it may sound, I find cemeteries beautiful. Peaceful. I find its sacredness calming and in a way connecting. I had some things on my mind and needed the calm.

Sometimes if I’m feeling stressed or disconnected I have a practice which I do. I think to myself how in some time (hopefully later than sooner) I will no longer be here. I will cease to exist in this particular bodily form. I do believe I will exist in some type of consciousness but cannot fathom what that may be. At some point I (my soul)—which is eternal—will shed this body like an old coat and move on to whatever there is beyond. We all will.

When I looked around at the monuments I thought of how each person had their own worries and stresses but in the end none of those worries matter. Some of the graves have large monuments built to honor their loved ones, but they are no more important than the smaller ones or even those unmarked.

I know this may seem a bit dark and even morbid, but it’s not. To me it is inspiring because it makes me remember what I have right now. Because that of course is all we really have…the now.

Thinking in these terms also helps me remember our connectedness and the holiness of everyday life. If, for example, there is something greater than I, a higher power, which I believe there is, then wouldn’t this source shed the same light on you and I and everyone equally? So if this is true wouldn’t we each carry a spark of light from this source within us, no matter our circumstances? And if this were true wouldn’t each of us be not only connected to one another in some mysterious way but also precious to this source in some unfathomable way? And if this were true would each interaction, each step we take, in some way be holy, sacred. The very ground on which we walk sacred.

I’ve come to this cemetery for years, for solace and photos. And I remember a while back, in the summertime, seeing a group of teenagers lying on the grass as if it were a public park. They seemed harmless enough, and happy, but inadvertently they were lying on a person’s grave. A cemetery worker saw them as he drove by. He stopped and I was close enough that I could hear what he said. He told the teenagers they were welcome to stay so long as they stayed on the road or benches or other public areas, because where they were currently sitting was sacred ground.

As I rode my bike through the paths of the cemetery last week, on a crisp winter day, I would stop periodically to snap a photo when something caught my eye. And when I did I would hear the sounds of wildlife as the cemetery is an unofficial animal sanctuary in the city. At one point a family of deer gracefully meandering through the gravestones. The sound of geese is always present as they squawk and cackle near the lake and stream. And circling above were a couple falcons searching for prey. The cycle of life, I thought. And I also thought of the irony…so much life in this place of graves. So much beauty.

Years ago I happened upon a book by the spiritual writer, Ernest Holmes, at used bookstore. The bookstore has since closed, and the owner himself has made his transition, but I still have the book. It’s simply titled, Practicing the Presence, and is the first book of New Thought I had read, which eventually changed the way I view things. When I first picked up the book I opened it at random and the first words that I read were, “The very place on which you stand at this moment is holy ground.” Chills ran up my spine as I read it and they do again as I remember this and type these words.

So as I stood there straddling my bike, my breath visible from the cold, I thought about this. It is true that nothing matters but now. The connections we have with one another and how we interact in this particular time we all happen to be passing through are all we have. Money worries are nothing. Annoyances at work, ditto. None of it means anything. The only thing that matters is love. For one another and all things. And as I stood thinking these things, for a very brief moment, the veil was lifted ever so slightly and I caught a glimpse of this. And at that moment I was standing on holy ground, and realized that each one of us is sacred. To each other but also to our source from whence we came and will ultimately return.

As I pedaled and coasted home I had a full belly from brunch, but also a full heart from my
contemplation in the cemetery. Now I have to remember to carry this with me throughout my days. And that will be the most difficult part.

 Urban Simplicity

Manipulating Light (and how it nearly broke me)…

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As you may have figured out by now I am fascinated by photography for so many reasons. And the more I learn about it the more I am understanding that it is (A) all about light, and (B) learning how to manipulate light. With that in mind, these are a few photos I shot with an ND filter (which is sort of like putting sunglasses on your camera)…it allows you to take really long exposures in the day time. And when photographing something like moving water it sort of slows it down. But the interesting thing about this series (I think) is how they came about. I really wanted to photograph some moving water and the closest (other than the Niagara River) is Serenity Falls in Forest Lawn Cemetery. I had never been to this particular location and after finding it I was a bit surprised to see that I had to traverse a small and muddy incline. With my tripod and camera slung over my shoulder I took one step, and then another. My third step slipped out from beneath me and for a brief moment I was airborne, only coming to rest on my camera and tripod which were on my back (ouch!). I then proceeded to slip and slide and sort of roll down the muddy path until I came to rest on the edge of what is known as Serenity Falls. Is the name a sort of joke, I wondered? Anyhow, after regaining composure (I was by myself) and brushing myself off a bit, I was able to check my camera to see that it was not broke. Nor was I…but I am rather sore today.  And this is what happened just before snapping these photos.


Urban Simplicity.