Monday, March 2, 2009

Snowflakes, fire and love for a winter's day

Did you know that the first photograph of a snowflake was taken by Wilson Bentley? His first successful photographic plate of a snow crystal was taken 1885. Bentley (1865-1931) used a bellows camera to shoot through a microscope at snowflakes collected on black velvet. During his lifetime, he took more than 5,000 photographs of individual snowflakes. 

Though his was a scientific inquiry, Bentley had a poet's touch. He called his tiny subjects "ice flowers" and "tiny miracles." The photograph on this posting is from a series of plates Bentley completed in 1902. 

Today it is snowy in this part of the country and the street in front of our house has disappeared. Life slows down in the snow. I leave you with a poem from Rumi (b. 1207), from my collection of offerings from our friend Karen in Tennessee:

An Armor of Roses
Take January’s advice. Stack wood.
Weather inevitably turns cold, and you

make fires to stay healthy. Study
the grand metaphor of this yearly work.

Wood is a symbol for absence. Fire,
for your love of God. We burn form

to warm the soul. Soul loves winter
for that, and accepts reluctantly the

comfort of spring with its elegant,
proliferating gifts. All part of the

plan: fire becoming ash becoming
garden soil becoming mint, willow, and

tulip. Love looks like fire. Feed
yourself into it.


Christie Savage said...


I like the poem very much; thank you for sharing it.

Yesterday you encouraged us to slow down and to give up fear, stress and guilt during this Lenten Season. For myself I can add worry to this list. After services, etc. I longed to ask you for some tips for doing so but ran out of time. (I was stressed!) I have very good intentions of laying these habits aside, but all too often I pick them up again and hold tightly to them. So now I ask, do you have any tips to pass along to those of us who want to shed ourselves of these things? Many thanks in advance.

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Dear Christie,
Thanks for leaving a comment and for your question. I am a world-class worrier from a family of world-class worriers, so I come by honestly. I am far from reaching the bliss of putting an end to worry.

How to stop?

I rooted around the internet tonight and looked for some expert advice. Some of it seemed practical, some not. My favorite was to say to one's self "Stop," and change the subject. Not so easy. Here is some of my own advice, maybe it will work, maybe not.

Maybe it is easier to change the activity. Do something else. If laying in bed at night worrying, get up.

I also find it helpful to break the worries into compartments. Put them into small pieces. Then park the worry bags on a shelf and promise them you'll pick them up later. Sound goofy, but it works.

So here is the religious part. Bring it prayer. Honest prayer, say the way you feel it. It also really helps to have a daily practice of prayer and meditation, a time of slowing the internal dialogue and listening for the silence. Find a quiet place, breath deeply, even count your breaths, before you begin.

Carve out time for yourself. Really give yourself a treat to do that which pleases you. Give yourself permission to be good to yourself. Have fun.

Talk to others. Share your worries, your fears. Be a little vulnerable, share it. I find friends and loved ones can give me perspective I lack. Not solve my problems, but just listen, and reflect back to me what they hear.

And it takes practice, practice, practice. Don't give up when feeling frustrated. Just keep going.