Reflecting on Monsters….

Warnings abound as Hurricane Sandy approaches landfall, expected to bring heavy rains and gusting winds from Boston to Washington, DC. In the rolling hills of Virginia, we may even see our first snow. Some are calling this the ‘Frankenstorm’, perhaps because the worst weather may arrive on Halloween. So I was drawn to this amazing art by my friend Jeanne. There are so many layers of meaning in this one image that I hardly know where to start. Both the nautilus and the hurricane are spirals, yet she chose to place the big, scary image in the background. The storm is fades like a ghost while the nautilus takes center stage. Bernoulli called the shape of its shell the spira mirabilis, Latin for ‘miraculous spiral’. The nautilus is born with seven chambers, and grows a new chamber every lunar month. The creature rises by filling the chambers with gas and sinks by filling its chambers with water. Although the shell may appear fragile, a nautilus can withstand water pressures to depths of up to 650 meters, or about seven football fields, below the surface. By comparison, scuba divers can safely dive to only about 40 meters. We see this miraculous spiral again and again in nature, in the nerves of the human cornea, the patterns of sunflower seeds, the shape of a hurricane, the arms of a galaxy. Perhaps it is easier to embrace the tiny miracle, the shell we can grasp in our hands. It’s a whole different story when the same miracle reaches across states, or worst yet, across the void of space. We are tempted to turtle in, to succumb to fear, rather than allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and trust in the Author of Creation. We limit ourselves to what we can see and hear alone, rather than considering the greater truth is often found when we work together. Take time today to ponder the miracle of creation. Look for the patterns that repeat again and again, in the most unexpected places. Share what you see with others, allowing them ot see the world through your eyes. Ask for their opinions before offering your own. Make space to sink and rise, to float above the mania that seems to pervade our days. And always remember, even the scariest monster, looming in our closet last night, may simply vanish like a shadow in the light of day. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Art entitled ‘Fossilized Nautilus Shell Spawning Hurricane (Chaos Theory)’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2012, to see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

Reflecting on Gold….

Autumn can be a tough time for me. Most of our family members have passed on in this season, as if the waning summer corresponded to their waning life energies. I’m tempted to wallow in old grief, to feel a bit sorry for myself, to jump when the phone rings late at night. Then I’ll catch a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye, or hear an odd phrase that reminds me of a loved one. The happy memories come flooding back and I smile in spite of myself. So I was drawn to this amazing image by my friend Gemma, entitled ‘Living with Gold in the Heart’. She started with a photograph, then worked with the image, adding texture and adjusting the colors and contrast. Some would argue the result is not art. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really care what it’s called, except to say it’s beautiful. Perhaps grief is a lot like this artwork. We start with a stark reality, a deep wound, a searing loss. Perhaps the end of life was far from pretty or noble, even full of pain and suffering. Perhaps death was a relief, both for the person who passed away and their loved ones. We simply need to sleep, to heal, to process what we have endured, and what it means to begin again. We need time to find out who we are now, without someone who was so integral to our identities. Time goes by and we believe we are past the sorrow, until a birthday or anniversary arrives. Worse yet, we creep up on the year after the death, or the year after that. Yet in the midst of all this, there are moments of pure joy, reminders of the happy times. For me, it was a television commercial about Publisher’s Clearinghouse. My father must have returned every sweepstakes entry he ever received in the mail. He meticulously sifted through the envelope, making sure all the stickers were applied just so. Then he would watch out the window to be sure the envelope made it into the mailbox, certain the flag was up to notify the postman his important mail was inside. So as the anniversary of his death approaches, I am given a gentle reminder of who he was, and how he affected our lives. Take time today to give thanks for those who love you, not for what you have or how much you make, but because of who you are, warts and all. Cling to the true treasure of this life, opening your heart to others, accepting them for who they are, here and now. Cultivate joy in your life, even in the midst of grief and sorrow. Spend time with the happy memories, until you see those last, fleeting moments of a long life as simply an afterthought. And always remember, there only one treasure we can take with us, the gold that lives in our hearts. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Beautiful art by Gemma Costa, entitled ‘Live with Gold in the Heart’ ©2012, used with her permission.

Reflecting on Swirl….

The autumn skies have stopped me short the past few days. Dramatic clouds cover the bright blue sky and provide the perfect backdrop for the changing leaves and browning fields. It’s cool enough to enjoy a walk, yet not so cold that you can’t stay out as long as you like. So I was drawn to this spectacular photo by my friend Robert, of Ekala Falls in West Virginia. I love the contrast between the swirling water in the foreground and the water rushing over the rocks in the background. The swirl can draw you in, as though nothing exists outside of that little corner of the world. It’s easy to hang onto a hurt, or allow a setback to lead you to despair. A minor flaw or misstep can distort our view of progress, or cause us to think less of ourselves or others. We turtle in, rather than taking another risk, rather than allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Yet like this swirling water, our isolation only serves to collect fallen leaves and broken branches. When we turn in on ourselves, we fail to notice the vibrant life that rushes past us, the abundant life we are promised by the Architect of the Universe. We become separated from one another and separate from our Creator. I don’t know about you, but I need another to help me find my way back. I must first trust the visible before I can take the leap of faith and reach for the invisible. I must be coaxed back into the fold, encouraged to take a chance, to allow myself to be vulnerable, to give myself permission to try, and perhaps fail, once again. And every time I find myself back in that rushing water, I am sure I will never fall prey to the swirl again. Take time today to be vulnerable, to make room for the Almighty to work. Pause to give thanks for those God has placed in your life, trusting a friend or family member to nudge you out of your comfort zone. Take one baby step, and then another, until you can manage that leap of faith. And always remember, God welcomes us back with open arms again and again, no matter how many times we lose our way. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Robert H Clark ©2012, used with his permission. To see more of his work, check out his blog at http://roberthclarkphotographyblog.com/

Reflecting on Blur….

Life is rushing by these days, filled with more activities than are worth mentioning. Like the leaves falling from the trees, my to-do list is never ending. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life. So I was drawn to this amazing photo of a dragonfly by my friend David, taken in Connecticut last year. I can almost feel the motion as the dragonfly glides above a tranquil pond. Yet that glide is powered by rapidly beating wings, so rapid that the wings blur in this photo. Dragonflies have always amazed me. During the most frantic periods of my life, a dragonfly appears. I’m talking about times when I always need to be somewhere else, and invariably get caught in traffic. Times when I burn dinner while on the phone longer than expected. Times spent on the computer while vacationing, jotting notes before a dance performance, trying to solve a problem long distance to avoid a trip. Perhaps I have wandered around the corner of a building, looking for a bit of privacy, only to find a dragonfly briefly balanced on the top of a sign. If I remained calm, that dragonfly will linger long enough for me to marvel at the colors and intricacy of God’s creation. If I listen more than I talk, respond rather than react, stop instead of rushing ahead, I am able to embrace the vastness of God’s power, without beginning or end. If we allow the frantic pace of life to overtake us, everything becomes one big blur. We turn into human doings, instead of human beings. All of life loses its luster, becomes drained of color and zest. Take time today to pause and soak in the world around you, to make room for Almighty to work in your life. Give the Holy of Holies your time, your worries, your past, your future. Let go of what weighs you down, what burdens your heart and consumes your joy. Soak in this instant, and accept the gift of life one breath at a time. And always remember when life gets frantic, trust in our Creator, who glides us over our obstacles and smooths our path ahead. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by David Buckwalter ©2011, used with his permission. To see more of David’s work, go to http://www.buckwalterphotography.com/

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