Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Ash Wed Image - Christine Valters PaintnerPhotograph by Christine Valters Paintner, copyright

Today’s blessed blog for Ash Wednesday is by Christine Valters Paintner, with whom I will one day travel in Ireland on pilgrimage. She is my Abbess of the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks and she sings to my heart with her reflections, photography, expressions of the holiness of life and the paths of staying true to the inherent holiness within each and all.

IAO who is coming to IrelandI AM the One coming to Ireland, SoulCollage® by Susan Heffron Hajec

Having said that, here is Christine and her blog message of the day.

“Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,

Today we enter the long desert of the Lenten season. If you participate in a liturgical service, most likely you will be marked with the sign of ashes and the words “from dust you came and to dust you shall return” will echo through the sanctuary space again and again.

St. Benedict writes in his Rule to “keep death daily before your eyes” and Amma Sarah, one of the desert mothers said, “I put my foot out to ascend the ladder, and I place death before my eyes before going up it.”

The word for desert in Greek is eremos and literally means “abandonment” and is the term from which we derive the word “hermit.”  The desert was a place of coming face to face with loneliness and death.  Nothing grows in the desert. Your very existence is, therefore, threatened. In the desert, you can only face up to yourself and to your temptations in life which distract you from a wide-hearted focus on the presence of the sacred in the world.

Death of any kind is rarely a welcome experience.  Even when we witness the mysteries of nature year after year reveal the glories of springtime which emerge from winter’s fallow landscape.  We resist death, we try to numb ourselves from life’s inevitable stripping away of our “secure” frameworks.  We spend so much energy and money on staying young. But when we turn to face death wide-eyed and fully present, when we feel the fullness of the grief it brings, we also slowly begin to discover the new life awaiting us.

In the desert tradition, death is a friend and companion along the journey.  St Francis of Assisi referred to death as “sister” in his famous poem Canticle of Creation.  Rather than a presence only at the end of our lives, death can become a companion along each step, heightening our awareness of life’s beauty and calling us toward living more fully. Living with Sister Death calls us to greater freedom and responsibility.

Alan Jones describes the desert relationship to death in this way:  “Facing death gives our loving force, clarity, and focus. . . even our despair is to be given up and seen as the ego-grasping device that it really is.  Despair about ourselves and our world is, perhaps, the ego’s last and, therefore, greatest attachment.”

I have been sitting with Jones’ words and the invitation to fast during Lent, one of the central practices we are called to take on. The first reading today from the prophet Joel summons us to “return to God with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.”

But the kind of fast drawing me this season isn’t leaving behind of treats like chocolate or other pleasures. This season I am being invited to fast from things like “ego-grasping” and noticing when I so desperately want to be in control, and then yielding myself to a greater wisdom than my own.

I am called to fast from being strong and always trying to hold it all together, and instead embrace the profound grace that comes through my vulnerability and tenderness, to allow a great softening this season.

I am called to fast from anxiety and the endless torrent of thoughts which rise up in my mind to paralyze me with fear of the future, and enter into the radical trust in the abundance at the heart of things, rather than scarcity.

I am called to fast from speed and rushing through my life, causing me to miss the grace shimmering right here in this holy pause.

I am called to fast from multitasking and the destructive energy of inattentiveness to any one thing, so that I get many things done, but none of them well, and none of them nourishing to me. Instead my practice will become a beholding of each thing, each person, each moment.

I am called to fast from endless list-making and too many deadlines, and enter into the quiet and listen for what is ripening and unfolding, what is ready to be born.

I am called to fast from certainty and trust in the great mystery of things.

And then perhaps, I will arrive at Easter and realize those things from which I have fasted I no longer need to take back on again. I will experience a different kind of rising.

My word for 2014 is “essence” and the question in my heart these days is “what is most essential?” I think this is the question death asks of us as well. The desert summons us to her fierce edges to strip away everything that gets in the way of deeply nourishing our hearts. The more we acknowledge our own bodily mortality, the more we might be inspired to release all those agendas, plans, anxieties, and commitments which drain us of the life we are here to embrace.

I wish you a most blessed Lent dear monks, no matter how you choose to enter into this season. May your fasting help you gain clarity around what is no longer necessary. May your practice become a portal to what is most essential.

If you would like to join in an intentional and soulful journey, please consider our online Lenten retreat on The Soul’s Journey, where we draw on the archetype and metaphor of pilgrimage for reflecting on the journey our deepest heart’s longings are calling us toward. There is a delightful caravan of fellow monks and pilgrims already gathering and there is still room for your beautiful presence with us.

We also have a Community Lectio Divina practice this week on the theme of “Return to me with your whole heart.” Stop by to pray with the text and share what shimmers for you.

With great and growing love,


Photo by Christine received in London’s Regent Park, copyright.

Christine Valters Paintner  —    abbeyofthearts.com  —

Abbey of the Arts, Transformative Living through the Contemplative and Expressive Arts

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I Hope You DanceYohji Yamamoto

It was over twenty-five years ago when I saw this picture, which put me in my mid-forties. I walked by this large poster in a camera store in New York City on my way back to the afternoon session of the International Women Writers Guild Conference.

But I could not walk past this woman!

I backed up and stared at the poster for awhile from the sidewalk. I began to hear her tapping feet and the harmonies from the violin. I felt the happiness and the spirit which flowed from this image.

Immediately, I had words for this poster: “I hope you dance.”  I had always liked that song and when it played I let the words seep over my own spirit and felt it reach out as my number one genuine wish for my grandchildren.

May you always choose to dance in your life, regardless of circumstances, whether you are up or you are down, just……dance, dance, dance.

I was pretty sure I was going to make myself late for the beginning afternoon class, but I went inside the store and asked the clerk if they had a duplicate poster and explained to him that I just had to have it.

He said no, that was the only one and it was being used to promote a camera brand sale.  Some of my own intensity of desire must have reached him because he said the sale was going off soon and they would not need the photo anymore. He would give it to me and it was then assured a good home.

He went to the window, removed the poster and handed it to me, who was one happy camper. I probably wrote about her in my afternoon sessions.

Yohji Yamamoto’s name and line signature was below the photo, so I believe that is the name of the photographer and I credit it here.

When I look at this photograph, I remember my young child joy during  the old time family hoe-downs on my grandpa’s Wisconsin farm. I hear my uncle’s fiddle bouncing notes off the wall that filled the room and there was nothing that could keep a body still.  I recall my grandpa taking the center of the kerosene heated room, standing there a moment in his denim blue coveralls and high top brown scuffed up work shoes loosely laced to the top, then breaking into a stomping, loose-kneed rhymetic dance, lost totally in the pleasure of it all.

And it is the light in this woman’s eyes that called me back to that window. It is the same light that is in mine. I know that when I looked at her, my deepest wish was that when I reached her age, the light in my eyes would still shine like that and my feet would still tap out a splendid beat.

She has graced the top of my bookcases since then which means she endured many movings and resetting our homestead up, but she was never displaced nor replaced.

I am now well along the path of becoming this woman’s age. I may even have reached it. Given inspiration, which finds me easily, my eyes still carry the light and my feet invite the dance.  This is good.

Napkinwriter notenotes on a napkin

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Venus Rising Tonight

The change of seasons has painted a palet of more than pleasing sky and landscapes during September and October. The dangers of texting have been more than pointed out — they have been ticketed as an illegal activity to do while driving. Lately, I’ve been thinking the distractions of the autumnal changes are at least as dangerous to this driver as she tries to keep her eyes and attention on the road. There are just so many other visuals calling my name. I need to be the rider, not the driver.


While I may not be out on an official photography “shoot”, I bump into many regrets often when I have left my camera behind.

Misty Morning - Christine (Disney)

This photo was not taken by me , Christine DeCaesare was overpowered by the early Michigan morning view, having returned “home” after living many years in California. She shared this photo on Facebook and we are fortunate she took this majestic image. Do we not love the Earth we live on!

Morning glory
Linda Wilson, in Austin Texas also often shares her walk in her flower gardens with me. They are a melodious symphony all on their own.


Lake Michigan is surely part of Pure Michigan. Tom and I celebrated our 48th anniversary with a lunch in South Haven and a leisurely walk on the pier, watching one of the famed Tall Ships (this one from England) depart from the channel.



This just spells A D V E N T U R E, pirates or not.


Brenda Horton shares phenomenal photography at her blog,  bree1972.wordpress.com/‎ and stories galore of her and husband Ted’s daily life on Mackinac Island, the island where they have owned a condo for many years.  Her gorgeous golden, Bear and his companion Maddie have quite the life too, splitting time between Georgia and the vacationland northern Michigan island.


I took lots of photos on my 12 day tour through the European Alps and the countries of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Liechenstein. I think about 1,500 in all. Again, no lack of inspiration and gazing from along paths we traveled or inside the bus as we traversed great distances. Oh, how I loved capturing so many moments through my lens. Pictures are worth a thousand words.



IMG_0800Childrens Festival in Innsbruck

IMG_0755Coming down from high, high places – Zugspitze

But I also take my camera out into my own back yard for simple walks, and there is beauty everywhere just waiting to be seen.

10-10--13 Labyrinth leaf trailDeck Petunias 2013

Turtle closeup

Welcome visitors and views of neighboring borders and sunsets.

Turtle from deck


aug 30


10-10-13 Fallen Leaf's shining glory

Now, I will just step out my front door and show you what awaits my camera there.


A hot air balloon floats overhead and lands nearby.



A rainbow graces the early evening sky.

IMG_2276 Floral arrangements mark the changing seasons.

Sept 2013

And the perfect pumpkin arrives to greet our fall visitors.

Perfect Pumpkin

My camera and I are one — I find many ways to mix words and photos to inspire myself and others. Behind the camera I am “somewhat out of time” yet definitely in the moment, united with the image I am focusing upon. I was blessed to have been a feature photographer for many of my professional writing years. But I have been a photographer at heart since the seventh grade, when I received one of the two greatest gifts ever — a box Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera with one of those stinky flash bulbs. I started recording right then my life, family and friends in black and white from elementary school age, into the age of color, through the Poloroid era, into the professional cameras and then into  digital.

Not an expert, but enough of a fan to have an awful lot of fun and a ton of moments wrapped up in image making and story telling. Somewhere deep within me is the DNA of photojournalism and I love it.

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Today, I share a short blog. It is an image and reflection I posted on the Abbey of the Arts new photography invite through the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Photo Party. Christine Vaulters Paintner practices Lectio Divina, a speaking with the scriptures, in which I also participate. I am “commissioned” as one of her Monks in the World, as it fits my contemplative desires so perfectly.

She says,

“We began this month with a Community Lectio Divina practice (stop by to read the beautiful responses).  As I prayed with the Isaiah text, this phrase kept shimmering for me: 

‘See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.’

I  (still Christine speaking) love this image of God seeing the newness of things to come before we do, God’s imagination so much wider than we can see, and the possibilities just on the verge of being birthed that are hidden to us in this moment.

September can have the feel of a new year beginning, especially for those of us connected to school calendars. The ushering in of autumn, the return to classes, programs gearing up again after the slower pace of summer.”

Above are the words of Christine Vaulters Paintner

I, Sue, need to be aware of the possibilities just on the verge of being birthed that are hidden in me in this moment. This refers to my work in placing workshops in many places sharing my soul’s passion for SoulCollage, in which I am deeply trained. At the present time, there is only a rosebud hint of that coming to fruition for me.

But I deeply believe in the rosebud hint and see the rose bush of many workshops fully flowering the world within the next year….a day at a time.

So I look to my front yard rosebush as witness to my faith. I photograph the new life seen in the small and almost overshadowed new bud coming forth amidst the larger blossoms. This is the life that is light. The light that overcomes the darkness of both doubts and reality. The light that the darkness cannot put out.

That light is within me and my work in SoulCollage. I am grateful and step out into the new life that awaits me.

And with my photograph, I post on Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks:

“Call to Newness; today on my newly planted Everlasting Love Rose Bush, I receive the holy image of newness in the late bloom of a new rosebud; protected by the greeness of health as it streches forth seeking the supporting light of the sun, leaves surrounding it with hints of red and the life that is to come. I walk today with that hint of life within me, seeking always the light — the light that darkness could not put out.”

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Catherine Anderson

SoulCollage® Evolving – Going Global 

through Catherine Anderson

Napkinwriter shares this message from Catherine Anderson, artist, photographer, author and evolutionary leader with you of her work in South Africa. When I took her SoulCollage course in Charlotte, NC a few months ago, she shared with me all the blockages, doubts, and just plain physical travel circumstances she had to overcome to stay true to her commitment to give of herself on this level.

This is worthy for you to know.

“How each of us nurtures, heals, and explores Soul will have impact on the vast cultural changes beginning to manifest.”   Seena Frost

Dreaming into Being: Bringing SoulCollage® to South Africa

by Catherine Anderson


Everything we do begins with a dream. In 2005 I offered the first SoulCollage® workshop in South Africa and I sensed that the process would be a wonderful tool to be used in healing and reconciliation work in the country. I knew that people working directly with the communities were needed for SoulCollage® to be most effective. And this year my dream became a reality when I held the first SoulCollage® Facilitator Training on the continent of Africa in Durban, located in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. I think there is some magic that takes place when we, through our thoughts, put a dream out into the universe. It is almost as if we dream our vision into being.

                                Enjoy Catherine’s video of the new South African Facilitators.

 New Facilitator Alan Hofland, who works with the non-profit community care and support center, Woza Moya Project, held his first workshop with their staff members two weeks after his Training. This workshop is a pilot to work out any cultural nuances that might arise before he shares SoulCollage® further in the rural community. Alan will be sharing with people whose first language is Zulu, who have had limited educational opportunities, and who live in a rural area where there is no running water or electricity.
Annabel Morgan, a “humanitarian clown” working with Clowns Without Borders South Africa, also trained as a Facilitator and will be taking SoulCollage® into the rural areas of South Africa and Swaziland. Annabel has already shared SoulCollage® with a group of her fellow clowns who do not have English as their first language and who live in rural areas. She reported that one of the clowns even used his images to generate ideas for a new clown routine! Annabel felt that the SoulCollage® session also contributed a new depth and honesty to the interactions of the group during their week of training together.


I’ve also learned about the concept of “ubuntu” from these African communities. Ubuntu is a way of living that acknowledges that we are all interconnected, that I am who I am because of everyone else who touches my life. Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes it like this: “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”


Many times it is those with the least that can teach us the most. I know that the time I have spent with the people of Woza Moya has taught me gratitude and a deep appreciation for the people who make a difference in the lives of others. I also believe that our own self-discovery through the process of SoulCollage® can bring us closer to living with a sense of “ubuntu.”

Catherine Anderson is a SoulCollage® Facilitator and Trainer in Charlotte, NC. She is the author of “The Creative Photographer” and in addition to SoulCollage® offers photography, visual art journaling and creativity workshops. Email Catherine.

Woza Moya Welcome
Woza Moya Welcome


Visit www.soulcollage.com to learn more about SoulCollage® and experience a personal card reading.

   Train as a SoulCollage® Facilitator with Seena Frost in Santa Cruz, CA (a few spaces still available) on September 7-9.

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