Why do you do that?

plenty of fish

 

For the last couple of years, I’ve written here on Oldbones and posted photos on a couple of other sites. These all began as a bit of a dare, a challenge to myself to show more and to protect less. And while the response from those who’ve generously taken the time to read, view and comment has been encouraging, maybe the most frequent question I get is “why don’t you promote yourself more, get your stuff out there…”

Why indeed. Why not inflate the social media balloon, get the “like” machine going, chase a “following?” Well, maybe it’s because my stuff isn’t as good as the work from others with 10,000 followers. Not really mine to say.

But more to the point, maybe that’s not why I make images and write.

The other day I had a conversation about this with a friend of mine, Buddhist teacher and author Ken McLeod (unfetteredmind.org) Ken has written a lot on his unfettered mind blog and elsewhere about the pervasiveness of the exchange mentality of our culture.  This is the mindset where you don’t do anything without an expectation of somehow getting paid. In running a business or working by the hour, this makes all the sense in the world.  Time, after all, is money (isn’t it?) The problem arises, however, when we extend that need for payback outside the marketplace.

This comes up often around meditation and practice, where the most common question I get is “what do you get out of it?” There was a time when I might have had a pretty crisp answer to that – “I’m so much calmer/saner/centered…” But the longer I practice, the less I have to say about it.  I know that my practice gave me my heart back, a heart that I’d somehow misplaced in that same marketplace I refer to above. Not really a payment, but pretty rich nonetheless. How that happened exactly and where it goes from here, well I’m less clear about that. Nor, frankly, do I care anymore.

I shared with Ken that when I even think about “promoting” my images, my chest gets tight. While I love it when someone really connects with one of my images, I couldn’t care less about selling them (and I say this with all respect for  the professional photographers who look to feed their families by it, that’s a different situation.) But over and over again, this is the encouragement I get.

Ken cut to the heart of the matter- “that’s not why you take pictures – you do it to find a deeper connection.” And as I’ve considered it, I see that he’s right — connection to this heart, to this world, and through sharing the images, to others, in the hope that they can touch the same or a similar experience. To touch beauty. A cliche to be sure, but then when did connecting with beauty become trivial?

My friend Sally referred the other day to my “vision.” Yikes- do I even have one? Yeah, on reflection I think I do, both with respect to my photographs and my poetry. It is, as Ken says, about exploring a deeper connection. It’s not about selling or followers or likes.

In the next couple of days, I plan to relaunch my photo site. My aspiration is that you might find a measure of beauty there. The invitation will be to linger a bit and see, sort of an anti-instagram.

Oh, and nothing there is for sale…..

 

wet dogs

foot

 

maybe mornings like this

are the price we pay

for all those years of compromise

of being barely close enough

to each other. We’ve survived,

at least we share that, such a thin

blanket to cover the cold spots

on cold mornings such as this.

Yet I do like grey winter days

when the wind rattles the leafless trees

and the world turns without shadows.

heading out, my dog looks daggers

up at the clouds — he doesn’t understand

the rain, why he should have to endure

these cold tears falling from a sheet metal sky.

Neither of us has ever been very good

with cause and effect, or the subtle attributes

of time. What choice is there but to carry on,

as we always have, sniffing at the rotten snow

heads down, shaking ourselves dry, nose

to tail as we go – just cold, wet dogs

searching for a place

that’s safe and warm and dry.

 

© 2016 jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com

 

 

Blood in the Valley of Hope and Fear

blood-moon-clipse-2015

blood moon eclipse, september 27, 2015. Guardsman’s Pass Utah, 9:02 PM

 

Last Sunday evening, I drove straight from staffing a weekend meditation retreat in Salt Lake City (Shambhala Training Level 2 – Birth of a Warrior) up to the top of Guardsman’s Pass above Park City. With camera and tripod in the back seat, my plan was to grab some pictures of the famous “blood moon” eclipse that was to happen that night. Rich with visions of the solitude of the mountain ridge beneath a disappearing moon, I was more than a bit surprised by the mob scene that greeted me at the top. Cars and people were EVERYWHERE, hundreds of folks brought out by the relentless press coverage of this “once in a lifetime” celestial event. Oh well, the sky was still the sky, so I beached my car (which later yielded a modest parking ticket…) and headed up the hill in the dark.

Below us, the entire Salt Lake valley was shrouded in clouds, but up here, all was clear, except for one thin band of clouds that seemed designed to obscure the rapidly eclipsing moon. Bright as this overly large moon was, it was completely hidden. Looking at the rest of the sky, one could tell that the cloud would eventually move on and that the rising moon would eventually emerge, but the crowd around me wasn’t in a waiting mood.

 The local press had publicized the exact time of the total eclipse, and dang it, this moon was late! Cars began to pull out and families to leave. As the clouds began to part, there was still more disappointment – “I thought it would be bigger” I heard. “It’s not very red, is it?” said a teenage girl standing with her friends. Slowly, the hill began to empty, the air growing colder as it neared 9 pm.

In the Shambhala teachings, we talk a lot about hope and fear. In the Sacred Path teachings on the qualities of an enlightened being, it is said that the Garuda, symbol of outrageousness, of freedom and authentic response to the world, can only be captured by driving it into the valley of hope and fear. These narrow valley walls, each the inverse of the other, are how we struggle to constrain the future into the specific outcomes that we desire.

Through hope and fear, we’re basically saying I’ll be fine if THIS happens, but not if ANYTHING ELSE happens (hope, as used here, doesn’t mean optimism, but rather a kind of greed for a specific outcome.) Over time, I’ve become acutely aware of how this mechanism of hope and fear, of expectations, is clanking along almost constantly in my subconscious mind and coloring my experience of the world.

Like a mental map of acceptable possible futures, my mind is always scanning this imagined future and comparing it to whatever is actually arising. Like so much dharma, I think this is probably an evolutionary adaptation that serves us well sometimes, but often gets in our way in a modern world. Specifically, it gets in our way by triggering a sense of poverty, or disappointment, when the real world fails to comply with our often-unstated preconditions of hope and fear.

Just becoming aware of this machine can be huge- the other day I had a real sense of disappointment about something that happened, but I couldn’t put my finger on why that was. Only when I stopped and asked myself what it was that I thought I expected could I see how I’d created a narrow valley of hope and fear and then tried to push the rich world of experience into it. Didn’t fit.

Back on the hill, the night was growing cold and the moon, doing what it would, was now in full eclipse. The hillside was nearly empty with only a few of us still there to witness the moon’s eclipse and its gradual emergence from the shadows. My earlier thoughts of solitude on a mountain ridge beneath a vanishing moon were coming to pass. Camera shutters clicked. The wind began to blow and the moon to brighten. It was big, and very red, and very much worth the small parking ticket.

Peace,

Jeff

 

© 2015 jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com

Costa Brava

 

costa brava sunrise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Brava

 

here’s to tits. And hot sun,

beaches and sand, oil

and oversized towels.

To skinny tits widely spaced

on broad strong chests,

and to pendulous breasts

swinging like the balls

of great bulls, to pointy tits

and to those distended by time.

here’s to young girls

in string suits and mothers

with nipples swollen by the nurse,

and to the proud round bottoms

of middle age, such succulent fruits

ripened on the vine – here’s

to all the promises, intended

and not, spoken, unspoken

and untried. here’s to the small waves

lapping at her legs, to the sunlight

rising, reflected, shimmering

through the sweet space of never

between her thighs

as she makes her way down

to the water and slips

into the soft blue mouth

of the deep. And here’s to all

the old men staring

from the cafes lining the beach,

each straining his yellowing eyes,

each licking his cracked sandy lips,

each awash in the memory

of the sharp salty tang of the sea.

 

 

 

©jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com

heaps

For Ken McLeod, teacher and friend- with thanks for his amazing book, An Arrow to the Heart, A Commentary on the Heart Sutra

buddha.spring

heaps

of loose change

in the drawer

mason jars full

of dusty lincolns

the shine

of the odd dime

the rare, precious promise

of a silver dollar

savers-  we are all Ananda

collectors, listeners –

maybe we need the Buddha

to die

nothing more

to hear

© old bones, new snow/ J.A. Fink

butter and bacon

Image

 

 

 there’s always hope with enough

butter and bacon, all gluten free!

who knew, until the sellers told us,

of this ubiquitous poison in our bread?

and not just for an unlucky few, those

with identifiable disease, but for all

of us—go gluten free and you’ll feel

better—go free of anything fool

and you’ll feel better, if you’re so held

that the word “free” fairly applies. I

never knew my grandfather, dead

from a coronary before I was born. They say

he’d circle the table eating the scraps of fat

from all the plates. Today he’d be a paleo

hero- except for the being dead part, which is,

of course, where we are all headed.

How our conception of sin has diminished

in this age without boundaries- come love

let us pull down the shades and turn out

the lights. You can rub my back with butter

and I will lick the bacon from your lips.

We’ll make of ourselves a sandwich

and dream the dream of forbidden tastes

while we await the banquet of dawn.

 

 

© Old Bones, New Snow/J.A. Fink 2014

maybe it began

Image

 

maybe it began

 

maybe it began as a small room

in a small house, a blue spread

on a bed, a wooden dresser

a window, a rug on a wooden floor.

home, the place of origin, a place

to be from — going out and coming

back and going out again. did

such a place really exist, or did I

need to invent it?  a friend

once told me one sure measure

of happiness is how much of this world

we can willingly accept. I so

want to know the truth, any

truth, to be certain of something

inside this living question of a life.

but it seems there’s no arriving

only leaving, and leaving again

no rising beyond the chaos –

only, if blessed, a rising into. only

an acceptance of this perpetual rain

of phenomenon – falling, then freezing

melting and rising again, and then again

rain, merging into the gathering stream

as it runs headlong down to the sea, rushing

back to the source, rushing

as it always must, toward home.

 

 

 

 

© old bones, new snow/ J.A. Fink 2014

Centennial Valley

I should probably be posting winter-themed material now, but I want to revisit some time I was able to spend in Centennial Valley Montana. This valley sits just above the toe of Idaho and was once the western entrance to Yellowstone. At its peak, hundreds of homesteaders came to the valley pursing the American dream of independence and prosperity.  Today, it’s home to cattle ranches, moose and trumpeter swans; this winter the only permanent residents will be the caretakers at Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge.

In the days ahead, I’ll share a series of posts from the valley. Images and words from today and the day before yesterday.

Image

 

for jane buck,

(who we never knew)

 

it’s always morning, always

spring when they come to the valley

lugging their  trunks full of hope

and industry, fueled by the stew

of anxiety and ambition, stink and sweat­­

 

they’d heard this was good ground for grass

and for cows, but birthing anything

is hard business and this is hard land

a land of bad roads and sharp winters

shallow roots and bitter winds

 

how were they to know

they’d planted their hopes

in such a place of leaving?

 

empty homesteads dot the valley

like the prints of a great beast, leaving only bones

and skulls, the blackened eyes of glassless windows

roof-beams buckled by relentless snow

and loneliness. this morning

 

there’s ice on the long grass, and winter

stalks the high country. the snows

are coming. old foundations will be buried

unvoiced memories will blow on the wind

collecting into drifts in the dark corners

winter will return

to repossess time

 

©  Old Bones, New Snow/ J. A. Fink 2013