The Smallest Piece Begins with Pilgrimage

Deliberate wandering feels like a waltz. Movement with resonance. No agenda but the senses are deeply attuned. While life dances into death and death swirls back into life, I observe. Inhale. I make a move. Exhale. This is what the living do. 

desert pilgrimage

The desert's dance is slow; quiet. Things quiver here. Subtle. Things settle––like shoulder blades softening down the back when a body exhales. Movement is unseen in the big picture. Erosion is a micro whirlwind of change––you have to get down on your knees to watch it unfold. Sand moves down toward the river basin, and the river rubs up against the base of stone canyon walls. Opening. Widening.  

Grand Staircase-Escalante, Ann Whittaker, January 2017

Grand Staircase-Escalante, Ann Whittaker, January 2017

Sand. Mud. Wind. Weather. Sun. Birdsong and predators. 

The desert will pretend that there's not much going on. She is mysterious and solitary. Move along, she says. Nothing to see here. Because there's so much to see of life and death and wildlife communities basking in the shade while reptilians bask in the open sun adorned in camouflage skin. You won't see much of this life unless you are still and quiet and profoundly patient. 

Last evening I saw my first canyon wren.

Grand Staircase-Escalante, Ann Whittaker, April 2017

Grand Staircase-Escalante, Ann Whittaker, April 2017

Sacred because I am often caught in awe––words are absorbed into the deep silence and thoughts are only now. The river curves. The wren amuses itself with its own voice. Dead winter leaves quiver on a branch that has fallen to the mud on the riverbank. 

Pilgrimage sounds like hyperbole. I am simply standing, walking on paths available to all. Witness, too, is hyperbole. And yet. And yet it dances me to something essential. Essence. The smallest piece. 

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Beauty is an Ever-Evolving + Diverse Ecology

ecology:

  1. the relationship of living things to their environment and to each other, or the scientific study of this.

  2. the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.

Little Cottonwood Canyon, November 2017

Little Cottonwood Canyon, November 2017

Little Cottonwood Canyon, November 2017

Little Cottonwood Canyon, November 2017

Organisms of Beauty, of the Human Experience

Beauty is not joy alone; it is not pleasing in isolation of all of life’s emotional organisms.

Many of us have witnessed beauty while in our darkest, most painful moments–perhaps even more so than when things are going well. The organisms of beauty are polarities that live together in a profound and meaningful paradox–you cannot know one without the other:

• joy + melancholy
• wholeness + brokenness
• life + death
• summer + winter
• youth + age
• light + dark

These polarities, these organisms of the human experience, are the beginning of a very long list of relationships that create real beauty in our lives. They are in constant flow within each of us–one moment we are overcome with joy because we acknowledge that death could come at any moment, and somehow that brings us joy? This is not sadistic. This is acceptance and a willingness to embrace the whole of life–which means embracing the end of it so that another life can take shape.

These are the organisms of beauty, and they when we have a healthy relationship with the entire spectrum of human relationship, without grasping to expectations of a predictable and secure life, we will be surprised by beauty and how she shows up for us.

Beauty: in heaven & earth

Beauty is here. We already have it, live in it, see it, know it. We do not have to wait for it tomorrow in some promised heaven or Eden. It is what we all want–and, lucky for us, we just have to slow down, take a breath, and here it is.

The Romantic British poet, John Keats, humanized heaven in his words of poesy. The scholar Ronald Sharp explains,

Keats’s humanization of heaven–bringing it down to earth and suggesting that it is the source of melancholy as well as joy–is consistent with the poem’s argument that the world is imperfect, that melancholy can never be banished from human experience. But it is also consistent with the other side of that argument–that melancholy itself can be seen as beautiful, and that as such it has a new religious significance: it binds us to the earth.

Beauty binds us to the earth because both melancholy and joy dwell in the heavens as well–an eternal flow of give and take, happiness and sadness, pleasure and pain. This is what the 20th century poet Wallace Stevens embraced as he wrote:

Divinity must live within herself…
All pleasures and all pains…
These are the measures destined for her soul.

Heaven is earth. Earth is heaven. Joy is melancholy. Melancholy is joy. You cannot separate them–they live in a human ecology together that requires the existence and health of all emotions, all understandings, all experiences.

Little Cottonwood Canyon, November 2017

Little Cottonwood Canyon, November 2017

Deep Ecology: Act Beautifully

The founder of the deep ecology movement was a Norwegian scholar, Arne Naess, encouraged ecological responsibility founded on these principles:

Everything hands together.
• Act beautifully.
• Anything can happen.
• Reality is all possibilities.
• Live and let live.
• The front of the deep ecology movement is very long and deep.
• From the mountains we learn modesty; their size makes us feel small and humble, and so we participate in their greatness.
• Seek truth but do not claim it.
• We all act as if we have a total view.
• Seek a total view, but always be open to new views and perspectives.
• Seek the center of a conflict, and treat opponents with the utmost respect.
• Be nonviolent in language, judgment, and action.
• Seek whole and complete communication.
• Be open to making yourselves more precise and clear.
• Emphasize positive, active feelings.
• Negative, passive emotions decrease us and make us smaller.
• Question yourself deeply.
• None of us mean what we say with great precision.
• Realize yourself, and help others to realize themselves.
• The more diversity the better.
• High quality of life does not depend on high material consumption.
• Find joy in simple things.
• Complexity, not complication.
• Simple in means, rich in ends.
• There is no value-free inquiry.
• Inquire into your values, feelings, and judgments.
• All things are open to inquiry.
• Not positivist reduction, but whole, unified experience.
• Our spontaneous experience is far richer than any abstraction about it.
• Every event has many descriptions and aspects.
• The quality of our experience depends on our choice of norms.
• Trust, don’t doubt; trust and inquire.
• Open inquiry is not a specialization; it is open to anyone and cuts across all disciplines.
• We seriously underestimate ourselves.
• Philosophy begins and ends in wonder.
-The Ecology of Wisdom, pp. 17-18

Beauty is all of it. Complex, simple, open, diverse, and wondrous. These are some of the organisms of beauty, and a more concentrated study of their relationships will ensue.

Little Cottonwood Canyon, November 2017

Little Cottonwood Canyon, November 2017

Exploration: a manifesto

"Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question."
-e.e. cummings

San Miguel de Allende, October 2017

San Miguel de Allende, October 2017

What Can I Give?

Quiet, ordinary beauty.

Quiet, ordinary beauty and the rhythms of the seasons–this is my path, my pilgrimage to rediscover the world.

"Beauty isn’t all about just nice loveliness. Beauty is about more rounded, substantial becoming. So I think beauty, in that sense, is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life."
-John O'Donohue, The Inner Landscape of Beauty

At Home, With Ourselves

I begin with my own heart, my own soul, and the geography of this life I've inherited. I begin to see that I am not separate from anyone or anything–that I brush up against and through everyone and everything. Inside me is the sun, my neighbor, my mother, yesterday's snowfall, the words you shared at the dinner table, and birdsongs that pierce an autumn forest. 

When I discover myself and map these relationships of interbeing, I will rediscover the world over and over again. 

Redwood National Forest, February 2017

Redwood National Forest, February 2017

There will be no conquering, no defining, no border creation, no owning, no exploitation. There will only be witnessing: seeing people and landscapes at their essence. I will see; I will listen; I will witness. I cannot harm you or the land because, as I discover my own essence, I will no longer be able to harm myself; I cannot own you or the land or your story because the boundaries I thought made up a you and an I are undefined and never will be defined.

Light (yang) :: Know (yin)

I spark a remembrance and a new way to see (light, yang) and to know (within the depths, yin). I hold wisdom of quiet, ordinary beauty and am a compassionate friend to joy, grief, loss, contentment, life, death, laughter, friendship, love, disappointment, health, sickness, tears, and peace. 

This Journal Will Explore:

BEAUTY
ORDINARY LIVING
MAPPING
THE GEOGRAPHY OF A LIFE
SEEING AS A WITNESS
WISDOM
POETRY
SOUNDSCAPES + RESONANCE
ECOLOGY + THE DEEP ECOLOGY MOVEMENT
BOTANICAL LIFE
COSMOS
LOVINGKINDNESS
LANDSCAPES: INNER + OUTER
PILGRIMAGE + THE PATHS WE MAKE

Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.

And so, it begins. 

Laguna Beach, April 2017

Laguna Beach, April 2017

Northern Utah, June 2017

Northern Utah, June 2017