By and large, we’ve given up naming the chickens. Too many mishaps, and we want some eggs, not more pets. The sun popped out briefly this afternoon, and I rushed around with the camera. I need light, makes things stand out for me. I’m getting a bead on what to photograph at the new farm. It’s neat to have to recalibrate in that way, gets the juices flowing.
“Fill your bowl to the brim, and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife, and it will blunt. Chase after money and security,
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.”
– “Tao Te Ching,” written by Lao-tzu
In her wonderful essay on children and the environment, published in the book “The Ecology of Imagination In Childhood,” by Edith Cobb, the environmental psychologist Louise Chalwa wrote of the ecstatic memories of childhood places, memories that touch our imaginations and shape our creative histories and our lives.
“We do not need to consciously preserve these memories; we know that we can never lose them,” Chalwa writes. “They are like radioactive jewels buried within us, emitting energy across the years of our life. On each occasion when we dig them up, repolishing them as we reclaim them, they reendow us.”
An eloquent writer, she writes, composing an autobiography or memoir, may important these memories with such force that they radiate across a reader’s lifetime as well.
Ecstatic experience is a powerful part of my writing, and of the experience of memory that any writer shares with his or her readers. When we stand outside of ourselves, we stand in the place that surrounds and envelops us. In come ecstatic memory, the space is taken up by another person. But in many ecstatic memory, the place occurs in nature, in the natural or the animal world. Children are touched, sparked by a park, a walk on the ocean, a tree in the forest, flowers in a garden. Ecstacy can involve fear as well as delight. These are the jewels, the elements of one’s life, our sparkling memory, the images that shape our consciousness. They are important. If you close your eyes and wait for an image to appear, you might come nose to nose with ecstatic experience, sitting at your computer.
The most common form of memory, she found, was simple affection for a place where one had felt comfortable, secure and well loved. I remember my ecstatic places, they were a reason I was drawn to Bedlam Farm, an elemental force in my writing and photography. I remember a cemetery on North Main Street in Providence where I hid after school, and my grandmother’s warm and inviting apartment, where I always went when I ran away from home. Or the carousel at Crescent Park. These memories, these images, these feelings where what I felt when I stood at the top of the hill at Bedlam Farm, when I walked on the path with my dogs, when I photographed the sun coming over the mountains
Ecstatic experience is spiritual. These radioactive jewels remain in my heart and soul to this day, I evoke them when I take a photo I love, and I embed them and the feelings they evoke in my writing. Every day, I seek ecstatic experience. In the beauty I see, the light I find, the love in my heart, the decisions I make.
They life me up and call me to life. If you close your eyes, they may call you to yours.
In the afternoon, as the sun begins to set, I walk to the gates to let the donkeys into the main pasture. They know what time it is and come towards the gates. It is a sweet time, just before the end of the day.