Thursday, August 31, 2006

Blending in the background

Screen silhouette, Humayun's Tomb, Delhi, India, August 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/90 sec @ f3.2, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

This is another picture from Humayun's tomb. This "screen" is carved out of a 2" slab of marble. Each of the many windows had a different screen pattern. Interestingly, I did make it to the Taj Mahal (which I'll show later) and it was fantastic, but the screens there were not as nice as right here in Delhi.

I remember when I asked my coworker to take this picture. He said "you'll never show up, it's too bright." I said "I know, that's the point."

To blend into the background, to become part of the background, to dance between the light and dark. After all, that is what you are, part of the everpresent background. So stop trying to stand out. Stop trying to call attention to yourself. And notice the background presence instead. Be that presence.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Reflection in the grass

Reflection in the grass, Humayun's Tomb, Delhi, India, August 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/360 sec @ f3.2, ISO 100, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

I'm traveling to India on business at the moment. After more than 24 hours flying, we arrived at our hotel in Delhi at 2:00 AM. Therefore, yesterday was considered a "rest day". But why rest, when you can get out and see a few sights.

The reflection shown here is of Humayun's Tomb to honor the eldest son of Babur, who succeeded his father and became the second emperor of the Mughal Empire. The tomb was built from 1562-1572. It is the first significant example of Islamic Mughal architecture with high arches and double dome. It is also considered the first example of the garden-tomb, which culminated in the world famous Taj Mahal (which I hope to see later in the trip).

I found this photo interesting, as they were working on the garden ponds, and therefore had to pump out the water onto the surrounding lawns. So from this waste, comes this art. To me it looks like a painting, and I can almost see the brush strokes and texture of the oil paint on the canvas. Take a look below, and see what you think.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Is it raining?

Rain on the sun, Garden pond, Amherst, NH, August 2008, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/180 sec @ f3.6, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Our dog Frito is usually our alarm clock. He wakes us up at oh-dark-thirty in the morning for a quick stop outdoors on his way to breakfast. Most members of my household would rather sleep. But I like to get up then. It is usually beautiful outside.

But sometimes it's raining, like on this morning. So I grab the umbrella and my camera (always my camera), slip on some sandals, and open my eyes. Still looks pretty spectacular to me. I can't find the sun in the sky, but it's right there, colorfully reflecting back the raindrops that fall all around, and pitter-patter above my head while I take this photo.

Yes, even when it's raining outside, I can't think of a better time of day, or a better place to be. With eyes wide open.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sunrise after the storm

Best time of the day, New Brunswick, Canada, August 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/140 sec @ f2.8, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

It had been a very stormy night. Blinding lightning followed by crashing thunder, the kind that rattles you out of bed, and freaks out the dog. It knocked out power, and made gulleys in the dirt. But we finally fell back to sleep, and when Frito decided it was time to brave life out from under the covers, this is what greeted us.

Isn't that just the way things are? Inevitable rocky, turbulent periods, followed by quiet, peaceful times that can help us recognize the beauty and the awe of it all. And then again.

Hey, while I haven't been posting too much over here lately, I have been busy elsewhere. You can check out some of my other rambling thoughts over at my Just Un-Do It blog.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

No worse for wear

No worse for wear, Garden pond, Amherst, NH, August 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/385 sec @ f5.0, ISO 100, with flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Look closely at his wings. Tattered gossamer. Can you see the small tears in the ends? I wonder how that happens. Did he narrowly escape being eaten by a bird, or is this just from doing dogfights too close to the cedar tree. I'm glad he made it. He's probably getting up there in dragonfly-days. They don't get to live too long. And even with their short life, their body begins to give way.

But to me he looks happy. Certainly no fear in letting me close to take this picture. He may be battle-scarred, but he is also glorious. Hey Mr. Dragonfly -- now you are immortalized.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What's the buzz?

Bee on Physostegia, Pickity Place, Mason, NH, August 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/430 sec @ f4.5, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

I heard some buzzing, and then spotted this bee visiting a beautiful Physostegia plant. He would climb right inside each little bell-shaped flower, with no hesitation. So far in you couldn't even see him. Climb right in and get coated with pollen, and then crawl out and fly to the next one, and then another plant, and then he was gone, off to another garden I suspect.

I find it fascinating that our evolutionary process has developed such interdependent relationships. Wouldn't it just be a lot easier if each organism could "do its own thing", and propogate by itself? Why add in this 'messiness': the complexities, the dependancies, the possibly unfilled expectations?

Perhaps because diversity is essential, and is its own reward. To just keep doing your own thing can get a bit boring. Making little carbon copies of yourself wouldn't be very interesting, now would it. In fact, it would be the antithesis of evolution -- it would mean stagnation.

Doesn't that help illustrate the interconnectedness of life? You need the bees, to pollinate the flowers. (Yes, I know that is not true in all cases, just illustrating even more the complexity and diversity of the evolutionary process itself.) You can have an incredibly healthy, well pruned, properly fertilized apple orchard, but without the bees, you'll get no fruit (trust me on this one). And without fruit, they will not evolve. The next time some mite comes along to attack the apple trees, that will be the end of the apples.

I think it is the same way with people. You can congregate with those who share your beliefs, look like you, want the same things. But without a diversity of world views, you'll never grow -- never evolve. There will be nothing to upset your comfortable world, and you'll stagnate, and die out. You actually need the diversity.

We shouldn't fear differing views and opinions, even when they challenge our fundamental beliefs. We should recognize that by being open to these new perspectives -- by pollinating each other with our respective ideas -- we have the potential to move beyond our current world views. And this is needed for the good of society, the planet, and the well-being of mankind.

And I further think that the Internet (and yes, even blogging) can facilitate this exchange of divergent views. Never before has so much of mankind been able to have a dialog so easily. Yes, there is a very long way to go. But you can see that the seed has been planted. And now it grows.

But we have to decide how we will respond to these new world views. Will we each pull up our mental draw bridges and keep these different ideas at bay for as long as possible? Firm in our resolve of an 'us' versus 'them' conflict. Or will we welcome them into our minds, and take a moment to consider them, from their perspective, and perhaps see the world just a little bit differently afterwards.

This is not about accepting someone else's world view carte blanche -- it's about using it as a catalyst in our own thinking. A spark to light a fire of reflection. A seed that may germinate if kept warm and watered with contemplation. And a bell that gently rings, on occassion, to remind us to pause and consider the fundamental issues of life.

I think nature has shown us there is only one way that will work in the long run. We must evolve.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Making Sandcastles

Sandcastles to come, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, February 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/375 sec @ f6.4, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Making Sandcastles -- Author Unknown (slightly edited version)

Hot sun. Salty air. Rhythmic waves.

A little girl is on sitting on the beach scooping and packing the sand with plastic shovels into a bright yellow bucket. Then she upends the bucket on the surface and lifts it. And, to the delight of the little architect, a castle tower is created.

All afternoon she will work. Spooning out the moat. Packing the walls. Bottle tops will be sentries. Popsicle sticks will be bridges. A sandcastle will be built.

Big city. Busy streets. Rumbling traffic.

A woman is in her office. At her desk she shuffles papers into stacks and delegates assignments. She cradles the phone on her shoulder and punches the keyboard with her fingers. Numbers are juggled and contracts are signed and much to the delight of the woman, a profit is made.

All her life she will work. Formulating the plans. Forecasting the future. Annuities will be sentries. Capital gains will be bridges. An empire will be built.

Two builders of two castles. They have much in common. They shape granules into grandeurs. They see nothing and make something. They are diligent and determined. And for both the tide will rise and the end will come.

Yet that is where the similarities cease. For the little girl sees the end while the woman ignores it. Watch the girl as the dusk approaches.

As the waves near, the wise child jumps to her feet and begins to clap. There is no sorrow. No fear. No regret. She knew this would happen. She is not surprised. And when the great breaker crashes into her castle and her masterpiece is sucked into the sea, she smiles. She smiles, picks up her tools, takes her mother's hand, and goes home.

The grownup, however, is not so wise. As the wave of years collapses on her castle she is terrified. She hovers over the sandy monument to protect it. She blocks the waves from the walls she has made. Salt-water soaked and shivering she snarls at the incoming tide.

"It's my castle," she defies.

The ocean need not respond. Both know to whom the sand belongs...

I don't know much about sandcastles. But children do. Watch them and learn. Go ahead and build, but build with a child's heart. When the sun sets and the tides take - applaud. Salute the process of life and go home.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Ripples on the Surface of Being

Ripples and Stillness, Ala Moana Park, Honolulu, HI, February 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/240 sec @ f4.7, ISO 102, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

It's been a while since my last post. Sorry about that. Work-stuff got in the way. And increasingly that feels like a competition for time -- at least for quiet time, in the morning or in the evening -- when there is nothing else to think about. Or time to spend outdoors in nature. Time that becomes no time. Timeless time. Only experiencing the present moment.

I am reading the latest edition of the magazine What Is Enlightenment?. It is a recollection of selected articles over their 15 year publishing history. And right in the middle I came to an interview between Eckhart Tolle and Andrew Cohen. You can read that interview, entitled Ripples on the Surface of Being, if you are interested.

There is something about Eckhart Tolle that really reasonates with me. He seems to have a very simple way of relating the material world that we all live in to the unmanifest ground of being from which the world emerges. The metaphor he uses here is that the material world is "real" insofar as it is a small part of the vastness of being, like ripples on the ocean are a part, but only a small part, on the surface of its vastness.

He also clearly articulates that you can get in touch with the unmanifest simply by being present in the moment, and by surrendering your egoic wants and needs through being open to what is unfolding Now. He also makes clear that this work on the self -- enlightenment, transcendance, egoless being, or whatever term you wish to call it -- can happen at any point in time, whenever you are ready. It need not wait another day. You can read about the little epiphany I had based on my could-not-put-it-down read of his most famous book, The Power of Now.

There are many other take-aways, but instead I commend the article to you as a worthwhile read. So many sages and thinkers can be hard to uderstand and fully appreciate. I think Eckhart Tolle just speaks from his experience, and his curent state of awareness, and is very easy to understand. Good reading.