Journal

Maybe

Maybe

My eyes blinked open a little earlier than usual to pink light streaming through my bedroom window. Barely out of a dream, I jumped out of bed, grabbed my camera, and dashed across the road to the riverside. The sunrise sky changes from one moment to the next, and I had to wait for a few cars to pass before crossing the road. The opening lines of this poem started drifting through the air as I wondered if the sunrise colors would wait for me to cross the road.

After capturing some images, the dramatic, early sunrise colors faded, and I lingered on the riverside as the rest of the poem developed. (Fortunately, there is a small notepad and pen in my camera bag for such occasions.) Before the sun appeared above the tree line, I returned home with both a picture and a poem. 

Maybe

Maybe it’s not the sunrise sky.
Maybe it’s the way the budding trees
Are silhouetted by the angle of backlight
Or the sound of a woodpecker across the river
Providing percussive accompaniment
For the songbird symphony.

Maybe it’s not the great blue heron.
Maybe it’s the cluster of forget-me-nots
Growing out of the rocky wall
As you paddle by.

Maybe it’s not reaching a certain
Destination or state of mind.
Maybe it’s the sound of your paddle
Dipping into calm, reflective water
Or each footstep touching the ground.

Maybe it’s not the white swan
But how it inspired you
To pay closer attention
And to have enough hope
To take the next step.

Maybe it wasn’t getting the shot.
Maybe it was being there
And experiencing what was there
Instead of being disappointed
By what wasn’t.

Maybe waiting for the sun
To emerge from or duck behind a cloud
Is an invitation to notice
Something small and lovely
That would have remained unnoticed.

Maybe it’s not something tiny
But taking in the whole landscape
That includes you sitting or standing here,
Part of it all, breathing.

Maybe it’s not a sight but a sound
Or an opportunity to adjust
The focus, the angle, the depth
Of your field of awareness.

Maybe what you were looking for
Was just one of infinite possibilities
And your expectations not being met
Is a gateway to something greater.

Maybe it’s not about happy-ever-after.
Maybe it’s feeling alive and engaging
With the magic of the moment,
Which is the only moment we have.

Maybe it’s not the place you go to
But the person you’re with,
Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Maybe it’s not a particular thing.
Maybe it’s the emotion it calls up
And how it can wisen you.

Maybe what you set off in search of
Isn’t what you will find.
Maybe its purpose was to set you
On the path in the first place.


© 2021 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Pausing for Presence

Pausing for Presence

This morning, I was about to share an image online. I’d been holding onto the picture for a while, in no hurry to share it. It was just a simple picture of something I appreciated as the sun rose one morning. No particular words had come to mind yet, only a sense that whatever words I patched together would be simple and few, as recommended by Mary Oliver in her poem, “Praying”.

The website wasn’t loading. While waiting for it to do its thing, as the spinning ball of eternity spun, I became aware…of the songbirds singing. They brought me back into Presence: a here-and-now state of awareness beyond thinking that is such a sweet, expansive homecoming. 

The Internet was down. Again. However, the computer connectivity issue seemed so small – barely a ripple on the surface – in this spacious field of awareness. Because I was connected with and immersed in something so much bigger, like the ocean that holds all the waves.

I decided to turn off the modem. While I was standing there waiting for a couple of minutes to pass before turning it back on, I noticed that the origami fish mobile hanging from the ceiling above the modem was very dusty.

Noticing its condition was an opportunity to give it some love. I went to the kitchen to fetch a cloth and a step stool and took a few minutes to clean off the dust. 

Becoming aware of how things are in the present moment is an opportunity to shine the light of love someplace that needs it: perhaps your body or whatever story is running through your mind. You might allow an area that’s holding tension to release or remember that you don’t have to believe the thoughts and stories. Or you might reach down and pick up from the floor the paper clip you’ve walked past how many times?

While waiting for the modem to reboot and for my laptop to restart, I felt my feet planted firmly on the floor and noticed my body breathing. I felt peaceful and noticed the sensations of peace in my body. That’s all it takes, and it can happen in any moment. All you need to do is remember that Presence is an option.

One beautiful lesson I’ve learned from my mindfulness meditation practice is that times of waiting are exquisite invitations to return to Presence. After taking that sacred pause – which might only be three deep breaths – you can return to whatever it was you were dealing with, with more awareness and serenity. In the space of a pause, you might even see it in a different way. 

And that is exactly the point of the picture I was about to share online, of a dried out hydrangea I found on the ground during a walk. Pausing for presence allowed me to see it in a different light. Pausing for presence again as the sun rose over the river the next morning brought the hydrangea to mind. Then I composed an image that felt simple yet satisfying.

Like Presence.


© 2021 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Staying Close to Home

Staying Close to Home

Staying. It’s a word that sums up what I’ve been practicing for the past year, both on and off the meditation cushion.

On the cushion: staying present to what is right here, including the challenging emotions that arise. Investigating a little deeper instead of resisting, fleeing, or fantasizing about being somewhere else. 

Off the cushion, in daily life: staying close to home and exploring what’s right here. Taking a closer look. Sure, there were places I wanted to travel to. However, with everything going on, it felt more right to stay close to home.

I thought of it as an experiment. In lieu of traveling, I explored the natural areas around me: the river, local parks and hiking trails, and the town I live in.

What I’ve found by experimenting with staying is that it leads to great freedom and appreciation. What liberation is greater than the capacity to be content right where you are, with things as they are, right now, no matter what is going on? When you can access that, any goal, destination, or striving is just icing on the cake. You don’t rely on such things to provide a sense of fulfillment that is absent in the present moment. Happiness is here and now. And you can carry it with you into whatever you pursue and wherever you go.

Returning

I grew up in Saratoga Springs, a small city in Upstate New York that has received numerous national accolades. Slogans like “Saratoga: The Summer Place to Be” made it feel like the center of the universe! I went away for college and after graduating spent the next 12 years moving around. Naturally, as my worldview expanded, I considered how my hometown fit into it. During those years away, I adopted a stereotyped image of Saratoga Springs and swore I’d never move back. However, that changed when I was raising two young children. 

I returned to the area 21 years ago, which allowed my children to grow up with extended family nearby. They were close to their grandparents and great-grandmother. I sought out kindred spirits and experienced Saratoga in a new way. And I stayed.

As I’ve discovered when my meditation practice has lapsed throughout the years, sometimes the value of getting away from something is eventually realizing what it contributes to your life. Then you can return in a more intentional way, with gratitude and a sense of this is part of who I am. Returning to Saratoga Springs as an adult gave me the freedom to perceive and interact with it in different ways.

For the past 12+ years, I’ve lived on the Hudson River less than ten miles from Saratoga Springs. When I was growing up, my family didn’t engage in nature-based activities or venture out this way. It’s hard to believe I lived so close to the river all those years and never experienced it. Living on the river, I appreciate being able to visit Saratoga Springs on my terms, with plenty of breathing room from the summer tourism.

The summer of 2020, however, was different than any other summer.

A Path Back Home

Aside from working at the library and filling up my water jugs at the State Seal Spring, I tended to avoid Saratoga Springs during the summer, when it was overrun with tourists, and it was notoriously difficult to find parking. However, during the summer of 2020, both the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the racetrack were closed to the public, so there were far fewer tourists in town. Even with more locals flocking to the parks, it was quieter than usual.

It was an invitation to explore.

The uncertainty and groundlessness of the time drew me to sources of stability, which I found in nature: birdsong, flowers coming up on schedule as they do every year, the sound of spring peepers across the river, the nighttime sky, and so much more. Nature provided a variety of anchors that awakened me from the trance of thought and brought me back to the present moment many times a day.

The geographical landmarks from my childhood called to me in ways they hadn’t before. I made frequent visits to the Saratoga Spa State Park to investigate and appreciate more deeply the natural resources that had served as the backdrop of my childhood. During 2020, I spent a lot of time on the Vale of Springs trail, which I started to regard as “the path back home”. There was something deeply comforting about returning to what had been present in the background all my life and had drawn people to the area for centuries. It gave me a sense of stability in a time that felt so unstable.

At first, I was drawn to the Geyser Island Spouter, a mineral spring that over time created a large, stage-like tufa (mineral deposit). I sat meditating at the edge of the creek on the back side of the Island Spouter, and it felt wonderful there. I loved the sound of the water and the energy in the air. Locals often speak of lithium being in the air in that area. I don’t know why the energy there felt so good, but I kept returning.

One day, I showed up and saw several people on the tufa. A park docent was standing by, and I asked if there was a special event going on because I’d never seen people on the tufa. He said it wasn’t an event, and it was okay to go on it. That was the first time I photographed the spouter up close, and the lighting was incredible. 

I went back a number of times, until eventually there was a sign saying the tufa was off-limits, to protect our natural resources. So instead of going on the tufa, I explored the sides of it from the creek: the different colors and textures. I examined and photographed practically every accessible inch of that tufa.

I was intrigued by how the mineral water transforms whatever it comes in contact with – whether rock, leaves, or people. In this spirit, I explored the other mineral springs in the park. I was introduced to the Tallulah Spring during a photography session with Hannah, a kindred spirit around my daughter’s age. I’d never noticed Tallulah before because she’s a little more tucked in. While wandering through the woods trying to find Hannah and Tallulah, I heard the sound of bagpipes in the distance, which felt otherworldly. Tallulah has since become my favorite spring.

I had been unsure about the direction I wanted to take with my “people” photography, and after photographing Hannah around the mineral springs that day, I became passionate about photographing women in harmony and spiritual connection with nature. That’s how my Women of Light photography began, with Hannah at Tallulah after hearing the sound of bagpipes in the woods.

The Saratoga Spa State Park became one of my primary refuges of 2020. I ended up taking hundreds of photographs of the mineral springs and the Vale of Springs trail. I decided to make the mineral springs the subject of my upcoming photography exhibit at the Saratoga Springs Train Station in June and July and named the exhibit A Path Back Home.

2020 put me on a path back home both literally and metaphorically…to the natural treasures of my hometown and to my truest, most awake self.

The 53 Project

Through the practice of staying and simplifying, 2020 was a year that changed the trajectory of my life. It was a year of being nurtured by nature and having the breathing room to discover a true sense of life purpose – and shift into LIVING it. Out of presence and stillness, I discovered what was most important and was drawn to the situations and people that resonated most.

I was nurtured by: walking the labyrinth in the park down the road, kayaking on the river in front of my house, exploring local parks and nature trails with my granddaughter, taking walks with my husband, photographing women in harmony with nature, and connecting with networks of kindred spirits.

I also fell more deeply in love with flowers, ferns, water lilies, herons, the way trees on the riverside appeared to be circulating light, sparkles of sunlight on the river, willows and birches, misty sunrises, the freezing river, and the swan on the river.

I wanted needed to honor all this artistically.

At the end of 2020, I intended to create a video of my favorite images from the year. At one point, I selected the images for it. However, my plate was very full, and before I knew it, February was nearly over. Perhaps that ship had sailed.

However, a few days before my March 1st birthday, an idea seized me: Why not create a visual meditation of the images that awakened my heart the year I was 53, from March 2020 through February 2021? So that’s what I did. I created two versions: one with images and background music and another that includes me reading poetry I wrote during that time period

Staying and allowing has been an amazing practice. The two greatest resources that helped me through the turbulence of 2020 were my meditation practice and spending time in nature close to home: two different ways of staying. Both were invitations to return again to what is right here and become more intimate with it. To discover and deepen the pathway back home to what is most abiding and nourishing. To stay instead of run away into distractions, for everything that arises within us and around us is a portal for awakening.

I invite you to watch the video here:

Note: The words in this version express my truth while navigating all the unfamiliar situations and challenges of 2020. If the words do not resonate with you, you might prefer the wordless version.


© 2021 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

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