I had the shadow box for some time before I discovered what I wanted to do with it. It was a multi-step process: 1) Pick a stone, 2) Find or take a photo with something to say about it, 3) Arrange them together in the box, and 4) Take a photo of that. I did not know what would happen. The ones I struggled with the most could come together in perfect balance in the end. I kept thinking of new possibilities until it was time to stop. But this could be endless. Stones just have resonance.
Morrisonite jasper slab with closeup taken from the top right.
Lobster claw Scholar’s Rock with a lobster roll.
Bubble lace agate with closeup.
Hut Stone Scholar’s Rock with Japanese garden photo.
Jasper pebble & the Whidbey Island beach where I found it.
“The unending sea of blessings,” a phrase used on scrolls hung in Zen temples and during tea ceremonies tells us what we can sense when we remove the obstacles we put in our own way. Wilson discusses it in The One Taste of Truth, Zen and the Art of Drinking Tea on page 135.
The ability to experience pain is necessary for biological beings. We need to recognize and avoid what is dangerous in order to survive. But humans can easily get stuck cycling in stressful worry and doubt. We can forget that compassion also comes naturally to us.
Compassion is. It matters as much to us as sensing pain. That understanding is common to spiritual traditions the world over. We are born with an instinct for compassion. Even babies too young to speak will pick up something that is dropped and hand it back to you.
Bringing in self-compassion when it is needed makes it easier to see the caring generosity from others and nature all around us. It shows us the unending sea of blessings. Research provides evidence that when we offer support to others, we benefit our own wellbeing, health and resilience.
We can open to the preciousness, the beauty of the transient tides we swim in. We dance the unending sea of blessings as much as it dances us. We have the capacity to do small acts of kindness as simple and important as a smile. We can recognize the light in each other that shines through our uniqueness.
We belong to the source of all waves
Colors never seen before
Floating and becoming and blinking out of existence
Only to well up again with
All the moldy, composted, and fertile mysteries
That make up our days
And the recognition when we see
Our own water light colors in others’ eyes
Facing waterfalls and the ocean, we recognize
The call in our sea salt blood ever coursing
We answer our cries for compassion
From no-thought belonging
As children, my brother and sister and I loved to catch fire flies and release them down by a falling-apart stone structure behind our camp site in New Hampshire. Dolly Copp, an early settler to this location in the White Mountains had constructed a well-like structure to capture the water of a stream and then pipe it to her homestead downhill. Over the years as we returned to the camp site, we watched as the structure became less recognizable as it tumbled apart.
I tried to capture that structure at one stage of its existence in my own garden. I stopped moving the stones about when they seemed to “disappear” – When they had blended into the universe comfortably with no need to speak individually for themselves.
Before I travelled to Japan to see its remarkable gardens, I had read about the famous Japanese garden Ryoanji with its stone groups set in raked sand that you can see in this video. I doubted that this garden would live up to all the hype, perhaps to save myself from disappointment.
We avoided the crowds by arriving at opening time, but there was no way to avoid a blaring broadcast in English. I tuned this out as best I could, until it ended with, “each person must find his or her own meaning.”
Although it was overcast, I noticed shadows on the sand cast by the surrounding wall and trees. One of my first impressions was the importance of the wall. I then became impressed by the large amount of open space; clearly, the point of this garden was not just the individual stones, although each was beautiful:
Gradually, I became aware of a low singing current passing from group to group and stone to stone. This grew in strength, zinging about. The key to this phenomenon seemed to be the specific arrangement. The intensity grew to unbelievable levels, and the stones ‘disappeared.’ It seemed like the configuration before me was a model of a vast, singing version out in space. It was full of immense power and it was beyond beautiful.
Although precious to me, my garden stone arrangement does not evoke the vast energy I experienced at Ryoanji. I sometimes think about Ryoanji’s designer and what price was paid to be able to get that particular arrangement just right.
While it is known for its shades of green, jade can be found in many remarkable colors, some softer and some more brilliant. It is also carved in a wide variety of styles and forms. The pendants and bangles in the photos below show just some of its possibilities. They were carved in the United States, New Zealand, China, and Guatemala, some a while ago and some only recently. Each has a story to tell, and since jade is such a tough stone, it is a refuge that will last.
When the abalone shell arrived, it had a crack in it. I decided to take a photo anyway. What I saw in the image was much more than I expected. We are like this, I thought. We forget the extraordinary beauty that comes right up to our cracks.
I could not stop taking close-ups as abalone arrived at my door from all over the world. The slightest shift brought dramatic changes. In this conversation with light and mystery I sensed a deeper connection. There were so many lessons here, a spiraling out to a universe of being. Joy and grief blended with so much at risk for the abalone and for us.
The abalone are dwindling
In their rocky abodes
Along our coasts
It matters not that the
Maori and others
Understood their sacredness
With only dim sight
They sense their limitless world
Of kelp and water
Once they thrived
Breathing and mating through
Holes in their shells
Clamped down and
Holding tight was enough
As the tides found them
Now I grieve for the
They created never seeing it
In the twilight waters
The algae they eat influencing
Their evolving shell colors
Spiraling down from
This fall sunset sky of geese
A lone tail feather
Dreaming here in my garden,
I sit watching a feather spin.
Warm light bathes the soft sweet moss
in welcome to this winsome sprite.
Bounding fast lest it escape her,
the clumsy cat misses it!
Held in her mouth like
A dagger, or a rose,
The goose feather trophy
Must smell strongly
Of potential prey
To my hungry cat –
She wants her dinner.
No need for any plucking
With feathers flying about,
Her poultry comes in cans
Extracted by turning
A gear and applying
A blade to cut the
Lid round ‘till it snaps.
I’ve been told, geese are the
Perfect prey for humans, when
That dire time comes with all
The secret factories abandoned
And we must revert to honesty
About the brutal sacrifice
Of those we prefer as food.