Last April, while on retreat at Daylesford Abbey for the Triduum, I found myself walking the beautiful grounds with my camera in hand. Everything that early spring spoke of resurrection, the buds pushing through the ground, the geese returning from the winter, the moist ground watered by the spring rains. I have always believed that I can more deeply meditate upon and appreciate God's creation through the lens of my camera. There are things that go unnoticed by the human eye that with the aid of the lens become visible.
As I was crouching down in the grass attempting to get a shot of the daffodils growing at the base of a tree running along a crick I heard a voice say, "I'm a contemplative photographer." As I turned to see who was talking I saw an elderly man standing there with a camera hanging around his neck. I introduced myself and shared that I too considered myself a contemplative photographer. He was astounded that there was someone else out there who used photography as prayer. We began to discuss how God speaks to us through our lens.
We walked together in silence snapping our shutters for hours. I think of my dear contemplative friend whenever I take my camera to prayer. There is something very profound about being together and being in silence.
This weekend I sought out contemplative time in a local park, and while I walked alone I knew that the spirit of past and present contemplatives walked with me. This reflection comes out of two photographs I took while praying in Canby park. The Tracks and The Bridge.
The Tracks. As I disappeared into the woods, hoping I wouldn't get lost on what appeared to be a beaten path, I came upon these railroad tracks. I hear a train whistle at night, I wonder if these are the tracks on which that train travels. I saw a neat photo opportunity and so I began clicking away. I have two thoughts that have come to me since taking this photograph. The first is not in the tracks themselves but in the way that I discovered them. The path I took to arrive here was somewhat overgrown. While there was a clear path it was not easy to manage. I had to wind my way around fallen trees, rocks, hills, and spider webs. Occasionally I was distracted by things like butterflies and squirrels that lured me off the path.
The tracks were a sharp contrast to my journey thus far. The tracks were definitive, clear, coming from one direction and going in another. As I reflected upon these two paths I realized that both speak volumes to our own spiritual journeys. Sometimes the road seems clear, other times the road seems to swallow you up and you get side tracked, and even lost. But what I believe was most interesting about both paths is that no matter how clear or unclear they appeared to be I could only see so far before the path would turn a corner to something I could only experience by continuing to walk.
The Bridge. What strikes me about this bridge is that the space over which the bridge passes is fairly dry. I walked back and forth taking shots without having to manage my way over any flowing water. Why would there be a bridge over nothing? The answer is, there wouldn't be. There must be a reason why this bridge exists in this low level grass. I am sure that the dip in the field is there for some sort of water overflow, perhaps when the rains come it fills and the bridge is there so that people can still get from one side to the other.
This bridge reflection reminds me again of community. We too have people in our lives that are there for the "just in case" moments. The bridge is still beautiful even without troubling waters beneath it, just as community is still worth while and good in non-troubling times. BUT, when there is a need to fall back on someone, they are there. Just as the bridge supplies a way for walkers after the rains, community provides an environment of support whether it's immediately needed or not.
I hope that I too can offer this support and love in my own local community and the larger community of sisters.