I am building a website. My task is to select and arrange the images, colors, fonts, words, flow and spacing that will somehow communicate this whole body of work that is so dear to my heart to yours. It is a ritual in itself: A technical feat of coaxing my craft from the metaphysical mists of passion, intention, and possibility into solid molecules of letter, color, syntax, and code.
I need an image to head my homepage. I am stumped.
Stumped as in stopped in my tracks. Big ol’ tree stump in my path.
Stumped as in taken down to the most basic of questions.
Stumped as in take a seat, this one’s a thinker.
The puzzle is how to depict in one static image the essence of InBodyRitual. Embodiment is dynamic and felt, articulated in sinews and swells and cells. How can it be captured? And ritual is a sacred act, too often cubed into cheesy parcels wrapped in disposable paper, reduced to store-bought greeting cards, or ogled as something occult that “other” cultures do. Spirituality in dominant American culture has chronically been commodified and commercialized, exorcised and exoticised, to the point where it is often unrecognizable. InBodyRitual is about making authentic contact with self and spirit through nature and the body.
I turn to nature.
I look at my hands - symbol of human, of our creative capacity, of how we make and give and receive. I feel an idea stirring. I will make an earth mandala — something I actually offer as a workshop. And then it strikes me: of course! The photography for InBodyRitual should be an InBodyRitual process! Embodied, Earth-based, and a Ritual in itself.
So I go:
Bundle many little bags of beautiful beans, meals, and seeds.
Tuck a bundle of sage in my pocket, with some matches.
Go on a meandering walk in one of my favorite local oases of nature.
Let my eyes and feet wander, guided by each other, and perhaps by another compass unseen.
Collect rich red foliage from a crimson carpet ground. Follow the rainbow of red to orange to ochre and yellow.
Stalk the spot to make my mandala: I peer and pat down many a tree foot, in search of a good nook to hold the creation asking to come through. My sense is that a tree trunk will offer the sturdiness I desire. I intimately run my fingers along the feet of diverse trees who draw my attention: Magnolia, Japanese Maple, Redwood, Pine. As I approach a particular Magnolia whom I have known and admired for years, it occurs to me that there is a Magnolia living in my own back yard. Right as the thought flits across my mind, a blue bird flits across my eyesight and lands on one of the magnificent limbs. I smile. My mother is quite fond of the saying, “the bluebird is in your own back yard.” In this case the Magnolia is in my own backyard, but the bluebird reminds me, and y’know she’s right:
What better place to make ritual art to bless this new offering than my own home?
Back home, back yard, I light the sage and ask permission to contribute to creation here. I feel the tough skin of my bare feet in comfortable curves press into the packed, dry, dirt. Fine weathered patches of dry grass soften the ground and hold bits of fallen leaves scattered under Magnolia. I breathe in the afternoon sunlight. The leaves, light, and air all whisper “Fall.” And fall they do: smooth pinches of glossy beans, tiny finger-fulls of seeds, streaming trickles of cornmeal, each grain falls from my fingers into rays and swirls on the ground. Each grain a prayer and a thank you for all I hope to contribute.