A New Year to Let the Awe In. (There’s No War in World)

My favourite capture of the year.

My favourite capture of the year.

 

We’re 15 years into the millennium!

Wondrous. Wonder. Awe. Reminders of LIFE.

I rarely leave the house without my camera, even if I’m in a cranky mood, or just walking to the supermarket or taking stuff out for recycling (a fairly complicated process in Japan that requires a fair bit of walking – well worth it!)

You never know how the sky is going to turn, or whom will be suddenly be doing what, or how the sun might lighting a flower to look like a fairytale, or what visual feast might appear before you.

Life is full of momentous occasions, the kind you expect and prepare for, and also the kind you can’t possibly anticipate — and we’re doing ourselves a great service when we can make a point of being present for every last second of it.

This doesn’t mean having a camera strapped to us at all times, of course. Image-making just happens to be one form of expression that gives me a great deal of joy. I’m always infinitely happier, it should be said, when I manage to carve some time to sit and observe my breath, when the only universe I have access to exists behind closed eyes. There’s nothing “only” about this, in my modest experience!

But most of life is lived with open eyes, and this is no small opportunity to have them open with full attention to the moment at hand, so we can see that behind/underneath our desires for how the world should look/be/appear/treat us, there is a humming, thriving, perfect world just as it is.

And just as we are.

It exists whether we have the thickest cloud or happiest rainbow filtering our view on any given day, and it’s our privilege to be able to find it.

I took the photo above on a crisp, sunny winter day. I walked by, at first absorbed in one interior drama or another, and something about the scene caught my eye. I turned and saw this man sitting on a bench at the park closest to where I live. From my view, he was caught in the “frame” of this ancient, strange play structure, and instinctively, before I reached for my camera, I took a few steps backward to frame the man in the center ring.

I couldn’t help but think: how happy we would remain if we seized every opportunity to make any of the infinite, small adjustments that are fully in our power to make, to manifest moments of always-beautiful and always-changing perfection.  It could be as simple as remembering to take a long, deep breath; or opening our eyes just a little wider with a heart that is just a little more expansive; or expressing gratitude for the air that gives us life, and the people who give us the great honour of practicing love.

Happy New Year, dear everyone, and may 2015 bring you a world full of joy and passion, peace and magic.

Tammy x

 

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The Girl with the Ukelele (There’s No War in World)

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

When you sit down to learn stone carving from some of the world’s most practiced craftsmen, in Mamallupuram, Tamil Nadu, India, people are going to be curious.

A few days ago, we decided it would be fun to try this art form. All across town there are men chiseling away, with gorgeous finished products displayed outside the shops. Ganesh and Buddha predominate.

I initially thought this trip, our third to India in as many years, was going to be about opening my heart by way of spending time in ashrams, doing seva (work with no expectation of compensation) and meeting with spiritual gurus. I felt I needed this, the Hugging Mother’s hugs we’d experienced the year before, to awaken to my own heart through meditation and slow, deliberate contemplation.

Maybe this is still the case, and maybe it will come. But so far we’ve become fascinated by how much of a living-art India is in almost all its aspects. The aliveness of the place, the colours.

I have a piece of cloth I’ve been embroidering for over a year that I couldn’t bring myself to work on during our trip to India last year, and I’ve been at it daily here.

This is the finished product, for better or worse.

This is the finished product, for better or worse.

 

And now stone carving. We sat outside the shop with the two foreigner wranglers and stone polishers, and a few masters of the trade. We chiseled, hammered, watched in awe as the masters designed our pieces and images – of a Buddha and a hand – started coming to life.

Working on a Buddha bust.

Working on a Buddha bust.

Many people passed by since we were on the main road of the tourist area, which Lonely Planet refers to as Backpackistan. Most looked at what we were doing, some with keen interest. Maybe 10 per cent came by to watch, and about half of those people smiled, exclaimed, or sat down to talk and watch.

Just sitting there, we were attracting kindness, the attention of new people, and conversation. The sun was beaming on us.

One of the people to stop and sit down was a young Japanese woman who just arrived in India the day before, for a four month trip culminating in Sri Lanka. She was quiet, curious and had a very strong presence about her. She left about an hour later, and returned in the evening. We were still chiseling away, a few chais and a lot of laughter later.

She probably had it in her mind to have dinner with us, but this was our last day with the carving masters, and we both started new, smaller pieces to practice, and couldn’t stop. Hesitating, she sat, worked on a tiny elephant one of the guys surprised her with, and took out a ukelele.

Exclaiming, I asked her to play, and started working again. It’s not often someone appears with such a beautiful and unusual instrument, nor was there anything usual about sitting on the concrete in a town we’d never heard of until about two weeks earlier, carving outstretched hands and Buddhas.

Soon I could hear the softest, most melodic voice singing Aloha; she was turning the Hawaiian tune into a magical folk song. The waves lapped audibly nearby.

How We Be. {Poem}

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

How We Be

We be here with the sun and moon and the galaxies between

We be here like a song making love to the rain

We be until the heart splits open and the pieces spill out like a mother jewel

Celebrate it dance with it

Caress its softest parts

Wait and hear it, the delectable sounds of life humming and offering itself in grace

Tap your feet in anticipation

Strum your fingers on a lap ecstatic

Imagine how it will feel on palms wide open receiving

Delight in the awe of how this is it

This is what made us and what we have created

In how stardust becomes the seed of all pleasures

We take it, close our eyes, say thank you to all the people and all the gods

Get on our knees to feel the earth source below

Raise our heads in love with the sun source above

We have it, it is here, it is ours, it came with our birth

And so we have, and we need nothing, it comes to this

We are passing through, we want what fills a life, nothing more

We are patient

Watch it come, watch it go

Keeping joy tight and close and warm

We be like this, full on love

Loving full

 

*First published in elephant journal!

 

I Want to See the Moon as the Moon.

Hello! This piece was recently published in Rebelle Society, a beautiful site with so much great writing on it! As I read it again, a new title formed before my eyes, which I use here. It’s about the kind of rabbit hole I fall into sometimes, thinking about why I take pictures. Thanks for reading, and to check out the original piece, (and the gorgeous image hey chose to go with it), here you go!

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

I Want to See the Moon as the Moon

I’m feeling sliced through, spread bare and screamingly, achingly alive.

Moons do that, on this balmy, nostalgic night. The fragments come before me, memory slides, assaulting visions of future things.

More and more these visions, as photos and images, become an in-between space, a meeting ground where the outside comes barreling in and my insides go to play. This is what my photography practice feels like sometimes.

I think about all the photos I’ve taken. There have been so many, and suddenly I’m confused about what they are.

Are the images already in my head in a state of always-have-been or do they only surface once the photo is taken?

This idea strikes me and I’m haunted by it. I don’t want to overthink, but somehow there is a sensation of all these pictures living alongside me, all these years, waiting for me to find them. Waiting for me like a new lover who will be gone by morning.

How many things do we wait for? And how hard the wait, with so many things lying underneath our impatience.

I feel like a glutton when it comes to images.

My head is so full of them all the time, giving birth and waiting for them, that it’s hard to tell whether this state is guiding me to take photos that have already known time and space, because that’s how necessary it is that they come into being.

Or whether I’m, in fact, discovering something new as I wander around with my camera.

Sometimes I hate images and I never want to have, see, or take another picture. In times like this, I want to go lie in a field, close my eyes, sigh, and enter a dreamless space.

Sometimes they taunt me, full of allure and promises that sour long before coming to fruition. But right now, I ask these questions without judgment or resignation. I’m just curious.

Where are the images that float between the world and my head, and what are they for?

This is almost like asking, Where does my heart have its strongest voice? Deep within, or in connection with the people and beautiful things of the world?

Where science meets the cosmos… where love takes its chances… the images are so glorious (I am still working to say this about my heart), fleeting and momentous.

It all falls behind; forgotten. Images fade and fall away. I don’t want to forget. I’m so scared of forgetting.

I rarely take photos at night. At night, I prefer to see without filters. Like now, seeing the moon. It’s a hazy yellowy slice I move to position right above the nightline of lush trees caving in to the walkway below. This is a view I don’t often have.

I move so the moon is dead center above the place where the trees meet. I’ve framed the view like I’m about to take a picture, before I can feel what I’m seeing.

So I stop, and look at the moon and sky and dark trees. I fall to the ground, and lie on my back, making angels with my arms and stretching until my heart hurts. Tears flow. Then I continue looking, and thoughts creep in.

I wonder about what the moon is, astronomically, in relation to the earth and the universe, and I try to grasp the cosmos from a technical perspective, and can’t. All I see is a pretty picture that could be found in a fairy tale or a children’s book.

My tears bring me back. The moon is palpably one-dimensional and plumply of this Earth, like it’s an echo of my very deepest longings and not a creation or a fact.

I feel like a million different people, but something about this night takes me to my teens again, when I was sure there was a unified me somewhere in there behind all the lives I knew I’d live, a me that was good and pure and waiting to find magic and light.

Which is to say, love. There’s never anything else.

Happy is Knowing When Enough is Enough. {Quote}

DSCF1761

Authors Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph (Joe) Heller are at a party, in a mansion, surrounded by billions in net worth. They’re hanging out, possibly feeling out of place, or maybe just taking it all in with a laugh.

I would have liked to be a fly on that wall!

I came across this anecdote by Kurt Vonnegut via a friend,  and couldn’t resist sharing.

As Kurt Vonnegut relates, Heller makes an extremely incisive point about different kinds of wealth: there is the kind we can accumulate and touch and see, and the other, which comes from a much deeper, more gratifying place.

Sometimes enough is just … enough. This is the goal, isn’t it?

And because he’s Kurt Vonnegut, he tells his tale with precisely the kind of humour and verve we’d expect.

Happy Birthday (November 11), Kurt Vonnegut!

 

“True story, Word of Honor:

Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer, now dead, and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island.

I said, ‘Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel Catch-22 has earned in its entire history?’

And Joe said, ‘I’ve got something he can never have.’

And I said, ‘What on earth could that be, Joe?’

And Joe said, ‘The knowledge that I’ve got enough.’

Not bad! Rest in peace!”

 

**I found this amazing quote at Brainpickings, here. For this article and some great Vonnegut YouTube videos, see here!