Journal

Exploring Old Roots and Growing New Shoots

Exploring Old Roots and Growing New Shoots

What a difference one week makes! After the balance of sunlight tipped in favor of the Northern Hemisphere last week, I wasn’t ready for winter to end – which might be a first. Winter is the season of going inward, reflecting, and preparing for a new season of growth, and I wasn’t ready for the daffodils to shoot up so soon because my winter work wasn’t done. Although I was as thrilled as ever to hear a chorus of spring peepers for the first time when I drove by the creek one evening, at the same time, it felt premature. I needed more time! I was not ready to emerge from underground and shoot up with the daffodils and grass because I remained unclear about where I wanted to focus my energy and how I wanted to grow!

Mercifully, a week later, the energy has shifted. Now my energy is concentrated on a single purpose, and the seeds sown within me are ready to grow in the world. Apparently, I was right to trust the process and to believe clarity would arise in time – just as the plant world awakens every spring following a season of necessary dormancy. It was bound to happen.

As plants began invisibly sending out their roots, I found myself returning to both my spiritual and my photography roots. The waterfalls of Ithaca, NY provided my original inspiration for picking up a camera (an old Canon point-and-shoot) nearly 30 years ago, and in recent weeks, my passion for waterfall photography was reignited in full force. This month, I visited two waterfalls I’d never been to before. One was on a road I lived on when my children were young. I must have driven by it on nearly a daily basis but never noticed it! It’s an example of the countless opportunities and blessings that are overlooked when we’re caught up in our daily routines and don’t think to turn our heads a little more to either side and notice what exists in the periphery.

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As I processed my photos of that waterfall, I was drawn to the large rock in the middle of it (that resembles a turtle).

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It reminded me of a quote from Sufi master, Hazrat Inayat Khan:

“Stand through life as firm as a rock in the sea, undisturbed and unmoved by its ever-rising waves.”

It’s not the sea, but it speaks to me of believing in yourself, standing your ground, and being centered, even when there are many different streams of activity flowing around you and so much stuff going on that it can become distracting and feel overwhelming.

On Easter, I visited another waterfall and spent more than two hours in complete solitude working and worshipping in what felt like a private sanctuary. I sang, cried, prayed, gave thanks, and took plenty of photographs as the negative ions worked their waterfall magic on me.

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In addition to returning to my photography roots, I recently had the great pleasure of returning to my spiritual roots and photographing the interior of the church I attended as a child. I hadn’t been inside the church (which has been converted into a performance and event venue) since I was nine years old but had vivid memories and dreams of the entire interior. I’ve been wanting to photograph it for years. Once, a few summers ago, I tried to enter, but the doors were locked, nobody answered the doorbell, and I never tried again. My son recently organized a film festival for young, local filmmakers that serendipitously took place inside my old church, so I seized the opportunity to explore and photograph it while he was in a meeting.

I was so excited to finally go inside after 40 years and was in my glory photographing my memories, including the brass banister on the stairs when you walk through the interior set of doors, the old choir room, the stained glass windows – all as I remembered them – and locating the various rooms, including the unassuming door in a corner that led to the Sunday School rooms down in the basement.

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The space that was most radically different was the nave and sanctuary upstairs because all the pews had been removed, along with the entire chancel, including the resplendent pipes of the pipe organ. But it still smelled exactly the same. It was blissful to be alone in the former worship space as the late afternoon sun streamed in through the stained glass windows.

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I’d never attended an event at the church after it was converted to a performance venue, but I tried to go inside once, and because the door was locked, I assumed it was generally inaccessible.

However, when I left the church at the end of my son’s meeting and the following day at the conclusion of the film festival, the door remained unlocked. People were coming in for dance classes and other events. It was an active venue with doors that were not always locked.

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The reality is that I tried to open the door once, and it was locked. And then I didn’t try again. Is that a great metaphor or what?

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In recent months, I’ve been unearthing and releasing some deeply held beliefs and conditioning regarding money and entrepreneurship because it is time to make some changes rather than continue to repeat the same patterns that have not served me in the past. In the grand scheme of things, money is just another form of energy that shouldn’t be so weighty and intimidating. However, financial prosperity is something I have been passive about until now. It was a door I knocked on, but when nobody answered, I just moved on, believing it was locked and inaccessible, and I did not have permission to enter.

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But now I have become curious. What if I were to find out at the end of my life that the door was unlocked the whole time, and I only assumed it was locked and lived my entire life as if that were the case – and never turned the doorknob? Or perhaps I tried just once and found it locked and assumed that was always the case, so why bother trying again? Well, there is a voice inside me now urging me to turn the doorknob and find out what’s inside the rooms I had considered off-limits. In other words, what is on the other side of fear?

That is the metaphor I take away from the church experience. Our circumstances aren’t what block us. Our assumptions about our circumstances and ourselves in relationship to them are what block us. What might we accomplish if we adjust our mindset and beliefs, become more adventurous, and empower ourselves to do something different this time – and actually turn the doorknob of the room we hadn’t felt worthy of entering in the past, instead of retreating to the familiar spaces?

It’s like failing to notice the waterfall on the street I once lived on because I never turned my head just a little more to one side. I can’t help but wonder: What are we missing out on by not doing something different? What kind of new shoots can we push up this year by challenging our assumptions and being a little more curious and adventurous? With nature as my mirror and guide, I believe it’s time to find out!

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

What Did She Say to the Flowers?

What Did She Say to the Flowers?

For as long as I can remember – even as a young girl – my mother was a gardener. She wasn’t an outdoor person like I am, but she loved her gardens. For years after we moved out of the house where we spent the first 13 years of my life, whenever we’d drive by the old house, she’d wonder how her gardens were doing. Wherever she once had a garden was holy ground.

My mom tended her flower gardens with great care until the final spring of her life, when she was too weak. I’m grateful she kept a garden because it presented me with a wonderful birthday gift yesterday, nearly two years after she passed on. Normally, the garden is buried beneath a blanket of snow on my birthday, but not this year. This year, the bare ground greeted me with tiny, purple flowers.

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What did she say to the flowers to awaken them from their winter slumber just in time for my birthday? And what made me notice the tiny, purple blooms after paying no attention to the garden since the parsley was overcome by frost last fall?

Two years ago, as my mom withered from pancreatic cancer, there was no telling how long she’d stay alive. I hoped she’d at least be able to see the first flowers come up. I looked for any signs of them and began to share the “flower report” with her as soon as I noticed any indications, beginning with the first daffodil shoots outside my classroom windows. When she was too weak to walk around the neighborhood, I told her about the neighbors’ tulips, which meant hers would bloom soon, too. When she was too weak to walk around the yard, I photographed her perennials so she could see how they were coming along. Seeing pictures of flowers made her smile.

We made the most of lilac season that year. I showed her pictures of the first buds on the lilac tree in my yard and hoped they would hurry up and bloom so she could experience them one last time…which she did. I kept her well stocked with lilacs that May – the last month of her life. I put them up to her nose so she could smell their sweet fragrance and kept vases of fresh lilacs close to her to lift her spirits. It was the best I could do.

Now that she is without a human voice, she speaks to me through flowers – and music – because they are what she loved. To see the year’s first flowers in her garden on my birthday was no small thing.

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There’s a plaque in my mom’s garden that reads, “Love grows here.” It’s true. Love continues to grow, even after she has passed beyond this world. All the love she put into her garden carries on.

So plant a garden, however you can, if you are so inclined. Plant a garden that will continue to bloom even after you are gone, and fill your loved ones’ hearts with gladness.

Moms Garden-2

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

When It’s Really, Really Cold

When It’s Really, Really Cold

We just went through a really cold spell with temperatures I don’t recall ever seeing before! When I woke up Sunday morning, it was -20°F without wind chill! Over the weekend, the temperature recorded at Whiteface Mountain (a two-hour drive away) with wind chill was -110 degrees!

When it gets that cold, your attention turns to maximizing your home heating efficiency. You notice where the heat is going and determine the vulnerable spots where the heated air leaks out and the frigid air slips in. You figure out which areas are most important and close off non-essential spaces so you can direct the heat to where it’s most needed. You might find yourself placing a fan strategically at the top of the stairs and putting duct take over electrical outlets that allow cold drafts in. When it’s really, really cold, you take a good, hard look at where your heat goes passively out the window and do whatever you can to concentrate it where it matters most. You become more mindful.

Icy River

This morning, I woke up around 4:00 thinking about my work. I couldn’t get back to sleep for about an hour and a half because my mind was busy wondering: How do I make all this work? In the process of thinking, the metaphor of heating a home during winter came to mind.

When we first moved into our current house, the main door was very old and made of wood. In the winter, it let in so much cold air that it wouldn’t have made much of a difference if we left it cracked open. When the cold, winter air set in, it was the first improvement we insisted on, and it was replaced with a new, much more energy efficient door that reduced draft greatly.

Heating our home is a metaphor that can apply to how we use and focus our energy in many areas of life. For example, when money is tight or you’re sleep-deprived, you need to take a hard, honest look and consider how to use your energy most efficiently and effectively. So I consider what activities and influences in my life are like the old door and how I can replace them with better alternatives. Am I investing my energy and attention in reaching people who don’t value my work? If so, then I need to reclaim that energy and put it into a more fruitful channel(s).

Ultimately, I don’t think it’s a good use of my time and energy to wake up at 4:00 in the morning consumed with how I’m going to make it all work. It would be more beneficial to get rest so I can wake up with the energy to keep doing the creative work I love to do while also learning about the “other” piece. Staying awake at night thinking seems like spending frigid days in an uninsulated room and attempting to heat it with a space heater, whereas sleeping is like installing insulation or moving to a room that holds the heat more efficiently.

Realizing this, I called on the angels to guide me – turned it over to them. Then I fell asleep for a couple hours and woke up feeling rested. As I slept, I had a dream in which a little song came to me. The words were: Do what you love without worrying or wondering. It all will be alright. In the dream, I was tapping it out musically, over and over, and then a friend joined in on a hand drum. I was awakened from the dream by the sound of a text from my sister. It seemed that kind of repetition and turning the words into a rhythmic song was necessary for me to remember them upon waking. And the text alert was perfectly timed because I woke up in the middle of the musical repetition.

It seems the angels always deliver when I call on them for help.

Today the temperature is expected to reach 50°F. Above zero. Go figure. But the brief snap of frigid weather provided a new metaphor. And when I find myself becoming impatient with the pace at which things are moving, I look out the window at the river that appears frozen solid and am reminded that, down below the surface, things are moving along just fine.

Bones of Winter

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

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