Posts Tagged ‘Europe

27
Oct
10

Thoughts on a birthday…finding direction

I’m spending a lot of time on planes now.  For the most part I don’t mind it, and sometimes I rather enjoy it. Last night I flew from the East Coast to Seattle. Six hours of time without a (good) book to read allowed me to write in my journal.  I’ve just completed a journey through parts of Holland, Germany and the Czech Republic. My mind has been occupied with sorting all the experiences I had…trying to create some cohesion in the face of such wide disparity.  No success so far.

I thumbed through the older pages in my journal to see if there was a clue about my journey hidden away and I came across something I had written several months ago:  “We walk in the light cast by our searching soul.”

This is a time of change for me (time zones, homes, artistic direction). Birthdays are good markers for reflecting on what has come before…and to clarify our goals and desires for the coming year.  My trip to Europe amplified so many questions for me. What direction will I take? Will I find answers to questions that have haunted me for years…questions of the nature of humanity and our propensity for destruction that exists as the twin to our capacity for love? Can I create even more solitude in my life and how do I balance that with working to create a more public face for my photography?

Though I have learned that change is the best way to move forward it can still be difficult. Often we can find direction in observing where we’ve been and how it’s led us to where we are. The path might surprise you. The unexpected turn can seem perfectly aligned when viewed from a distance. Embrace change, it’s our only constant.

Re-reading that one sentence gave me hope and a bit of added strength.  When darkness envelops, even the tiniest spark of light offers warm, courage, and a direction, even if for only a few steps.  We all have that spark within.  So my birthday wish is that we all nurture our sparks so that they become flames and the flames create beacons.  Those beacons will light our way and could ease the path for many others.

Shine your light.

And perhaps more eloquently:
“Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”  ~ Golda Meir

Light streaming through the windows of St. Vitus' Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

 

10
Oct
10

contemplating light and shadow

I write to understand as much as to be understood.
~Elie Wiesel

I’ve been traveling in Eastern Europe for four days.  I chose the quote by Elie Wiesel to begin this post because I, too, write to understand. I photograph with the same desire in my heart. So as a student of World War II history, I came to photograph and to contemplate, while in this very landscape, the conflagration that was World War II.

Oerbke, Becklingen, Bergen-Belsen.  While the last place-name is probably familiar, the first two are far less likely to be recognized.  They all represent unspeakable violence and waste ~  sadness so profound that many have found it inescapable.

Oerbke is a cemetery for the Soviet prisoners of war who died of starvation and disease. Becklingen is a cemetery for British, Polish, Soviet, and other soldiers of the Allied powers. Bergen-Belsen is yet another hell created by man to destroy fellow human beings for reasons of ethnicity, sexual preference, political ideology, and other equally inane characterizations.

Let me say this:  I have no understanding of it. I don’t have the slightest idea of how to gain one bit of perspective on any of it. I have tried through reading, through serious meditation, and now by traveling to these places to walk the same earth. I have failed.

I was as moved at Oerbke as I was at Bergen-Belsen. Thinking of loved ones far from home, family members left wondering for months and years about the fate of their families, whether Soviet or Jew or Communist, I could only think about the grief that must still live in the hearts of so many.  A grief this large, a pain this immense can only be resolved in acts of loving kindness. Are there enough of us to do this? To heal this earth, our hearts?

While at Becklingen, reading the grave markers of young men from age 18 to 30, I could only think “what an immoral, insupportable waste”. These graves were so few among the millions…..but each one dear, each one precious and mourned by their families.

Walking in Bergen-Belsen I was struck by the beauty of the landscape that visitors see now. Fall color, with blue skies and gentle winds nudging birch leaves into flight seemed an unholy slight-of-hand.  Why wasn’t I seeing everything in black and white?  Where were the clouds? Where was the rain? Where was the mud?  I had only to close my eyes for it to come rushing up to me.  And when I did close my eyes I was overwhelmed.

I put my camera back in my hand, (added a barrier) and went back to work. Tomorrow I travel further East, into the Czech Republic. I’ll be thinking of what’s ahead, Auschwitz perhaps, Theriesenstadt…..I have ideas for images now that I’ve walked in places of such suffering.

Back to the opening quote and to my reason for being here: I’ve not gained any understanding, but I am not giving up. I do know that this type of violence continues and is insidious. Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Croatia and Serbia begin a shameful litany that stretches through Cambodia, China, the Sudan. When will it end? Perhaps when we have come to know ourselves. We created these horrors and we will continue until we understand that what we do to others we do to ourselves.




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