Broad Brook Photographs 9-10 & 9-11 2016

Broad Brook Photographs   
9-10 & 9-11  2016

The photographs presented here were made on the weekend of my birthday, September 10 and 11, 2016.  My wife Gloria arranged a very special weekend for us in Vermont with loving friends-relatives, the confirmed promise of the best pancakes in the whole wide world, and yet another opportunity to photograph Broad Brook.

Gloria's sisters, Phyllis and Florence, and Phyllis' husband Jim live near Brattleboro next to a beautiful mountain stream named Broad Brook which is full of rounded living stones and moving waters.  I have been photographing the brook, this sacred place, for the past several years, however the last time I was in Vermont--in late October, 2015--I was preoccupied with the concept of "visual fields" and spent most of my time photographing the colorful Vermont leaves, consequently I paid little attention to the brook during the visit.  After I got back home I transformed the colored leaf photographs into symmetrical photographs for the project entitled Field of Vision.  

Last year, the brook was intensely active because of the tremendous amount of rain that had fallen. The waters were deep and they moved with such frightening, aggressive force that some of the larger stones would bang up against each other creating a primordial thundering sound.  Just before we were about to leave Vermont for home, the sounds of the brook lured me back for a brief but more attentive view.  I quickly made some photographs of the few stones that remained visible--for most of them were hidden under water--and later I transformed some of those photographs of stones into symmetrical images and used them in the Epilogue of the Field of Vision project.

This year, the brook was extremely quiet due to a summer-long state-wide drought.  Nearly all of the stones that were submerged under water last year were now in full view!  Astonishing multitudes of stones had become visible as they sat silently in the shallow, slowly moving waters.  I had never seen the brook like this before.  Many of the stones were very white; indeed they seemed to glow with their own interior light.  At times the brook appeared to me like a newly created, as yet unknown universe full of planets and stars suspended eternally in space.


Following the 38 photographs I will continue my Introduction and share some brief, general commentaries on the images.  The project concludes with an Afterword which includes two textual excerpts on the themes of "seeing" and "vision."   ~  As you look at the photographs I encourage you to click on each image once, twice, to enlarge it.  This will provide you with the sharpest, most detailed, luminous and fully toned rendering of the image.  ~  As a prelude to the photographs, I am presenting excerpts from several poems by the 13th century Sufi poet-saint Rumi.  (translations by Coleman Barks)

The Photographs

When I See Your Face
You dance inside my heart
where no one sees You,
but sometimes I do,
and that sight 
becomes this art.  

When I see Your Face, 
the stones start spinning!

You breathe; new shapes appear,
and the music of Desire . . . begins to move . . . 

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel 
and kiss the ground.

~ Rumi ~

Image #1      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #2      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #3      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #4      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #5      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #6      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #7      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #8      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #9      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #10      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #11     Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #12      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #13      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #14      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #15      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #16      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #17      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #18      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #19      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #20      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #21      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #22      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #23      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #24      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #25      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #26      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #27      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #28      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #29      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #30      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #31      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #32      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #33      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #34      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #35      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #36      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #37      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016

Image #38      Broad Brook Photographs      9-10 & 9-11  2016


Introduction continued  --The Vermont Pancake Birthday Present
Gloria had planned the weekend celebration to crescendo at the Popolo restaurant in Bellows Falls, Vermont (a thirty minute drive north of Brattleboro) where I would have--at last--their notorious corn&oat pancakes.  I had been longing for those pancakes for nearly a year.  Last October, when we visited Jim and Phyllis and I made the photographs for the Field of View project, we drove up to Popolo's for the famous pancakes.  Jim had been telling me about how great they were for several months before our visit.  When we got to the restaurant I was deeply disappointed to find that the restaurant was closed.  It would be open for Sunday brunch, but Gloria and I needed to leave Vermont early the next morning.

This year Phyllis made sure that Popolo would be open and serving their corn&oat pancakes for my birthday weekend visit (they would be open for Sunday Brunch, the only time of the week that they serve the corn&oat pancakes.)  Well . . . I have to say, it was indeed worth the wait; those pancakes were without doubt the finest and most special pancakes I have ever imbibed.  They were crispy on the outside and wonderful beyond belief and description within.  The waitress could tell us only that they had been baked in an oven in addition to being fried in a skillet.  The rest was to remain a prized secret.

Photographing the Brook 
The brook--its rounded stones, its moving, falling and still waters, its over-arching trees--is a world in itself, a sacred place alive with spiritual presence.  To photograph Broad Brook requires that I enter into its space, its streaming consciousness; I could never photograph such a powerful presence from the outside.  To photograph the brook over two consecutive auspicious days--by birthday and the national Day of Remembrance, made the experience this time all the more meaningful for me.  Following is a brief description of some of my experiences as I photographed in the brook.

The sky was mostly overcast on my birthday weekend with only brief intervals of cloud clearings; the blue of the sky can be seen reflected in the brook's water in only a few of my photographs.  In general the brook was covered with a soft darkness from the large trees that border the brook; their heavy green leaves shaded the brook even during the brightest times of the day.  I think the quietness of the brook this year--due to the summer-long drought--contributed to a sense of inwardness that I felt pervading the brook; and I'm fairly certain that Patriot's Day: National Day of Remembrance cast a kind of spell on me--perhaps a psychological shadow--intermittently while I was photographing.

Nonetheless, the vast number of stones visible in the brook this year, with their astonishing interior radiance, illuminated the brook with a magical kind of light.  The stones, it seemed to me, had been longing for this emergence from under the water and had absorbed all the light they could while the brook's water level remained unusually low.  Despite the clouds, the shade, and the fear that pervaded the entire nation, I experienced the sacred light of the brook more palpably during this visit than ever before.


Saturday, 9-10, my birthday
I had come to Vermont with no specific plans for photographing.  I brought my camera, but there were no particular ideas I wanted to explore photographically like the year before.  However, on Saturday, my birthday, as I stood at the top of the driveway next to Phyllis and Jim's garage, I noticed a white stone in the Brook.  It stood out tonally from all the other stones, and it was standing erect, very still--like an animal that had just noticed my presence.  I felt it starring at me, as if watching to see what my next move would be.

I immediately went inside and got my camera and then went down to the brook; but when I got to the white stone, the photograph I had imagined taking had disappeared.

I decided to walk along the side of the brook up to the falls area, and I took some pictures along the way.  When I got to the falls the intensity of my photographing had gradually increased to the point where I lost all sense of time.  Around two hours later, because of my sustained concentrated picture-making mode of seeing, and the many shaky balancing acts I had performed on the stones as I moved carefully upstream with camera in hand, my eyes and my entire body had become so completely exhausted I had to walk back to the house and rest.

That night, when I reviewed the images I had taken, I was surprised at how many photographs I had made, and the number of images that seemed promising enough to be publishable.  I began thinking that if I photographed again the next day there might be a large enough collection of really good brook photographs to warrant a project of their own.


Sunday, 9-11  National Day of Remembrance
After my pancake birthday party, I photographed in the brook for another couple of hours.  It was Sunday, 9-11, Patriot's Day--the National Day of Remembrance, and as I photographed I would, from time-to-time, flash on images I had seen of the smoking, collapsing towers, and of people falling out of windows.

As if to compensate for these dark remembrances, later, when I started contemplating the new brook photographs I made that weekend, I would concentrate my attention on the light radiating from the stones which seemed suspended in the dark brook waters.  Many of the photographs have come to function for me as metaphors for the eternal, sacred nature of being itself.  The most powerful images in this project unveil for me some essential soul or life consciousness that pervades not just the brook, its stones, the water . . . but all of life.

Somehow, in the act of seeing photographically the grace of the creative process dissolves the subtle veils of appearance; the pictures--through their form and through their embodiment of grace, reveal and make palpably present the mystery of the Imaginal World, an Interworld, or barzakh which transcends this Earthly realm of time-limited existence.

Sunday's photography session began, like the day before, with an overcast sky.  And once again, the white, animal-like stone in the brook showed its face to me.  This time, it seemed to be waiting, looking for me, wanting me to see it.  As I walked slowly down the driveway to the brook, the stone not only sustained its visible presence for me, it allowed me to make the photograph above.

This time I worked my way slowly downstream, and, again, time seemed to dissolve.  Just as I was beginning to run out of energy and thinking of going back to the house, a shaft of intense sunlight broke through the clouds and trees and skimmed low across the brook.  The light seemed other-worldly; it's sudden presence startled me--like a bolt of unexpected lightening.  It's brilliance touched the sides and tops of selected stones . . . as if to point out for me what I should be photographing.

Something in me was awakened by this brief encounter with the new light; it certainly changed the way I had been seeing the brook.  In the brief period of time that this transforming light was available to me, I was graced with some of my most favorite photographs in the series.  (see images #31 through 38)   But the light soon faded; and curiously, it faded at the same time my camera began signaling that its battery was nearly depleted.  I put my camera away and climbed up to the road that ran along the brook and walked back to Phyllis and Jim's house.  I felt completely full and content from my experiences of photographing the brook.  Something very special had happened that weekend.

Seeing Poems : A brief overview of the Broad Brook photographs 
I would characterize this new collection of Broad Brook photographs as "seeing poems" in the sense that Rilke used the term in relation to the poems he wrote beginning around 1905.  He had come to feel that he needed to change something in his writing--in his creative process.  It was suggested to him to go out and see something for a change; his poetry had become so internalized that he was losing touch with the visible world.  His new object poems, or seeing poems were the solution to his dilemma.  (The poet and translator Robert Bly writes about Rilke's "object poems" in his book News of the Universe and in his Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke).    

Seeing Things as they are
It's no simple matter to describe what "poetic seeing" means in relation to my creative process in photography; it can manifest in so many ways.  Certainly, for me, these new brook photographs function generally in two ways: they are about seeing the divine nature of the brook in its apparent forms (the stones, water, leaves, the reflections in the water, etc.).  But they are also about "seeing beyond" surface appearances, unveiling the divine presence hidden within the stones, water, etc.  In this second case I am speaking of the power of the photograph to function as a symbol.  (I have written more about the function of the symbolic photograph below, plus see my previous project Studies : Sufism.) 

The Sufis say the phenomenal world is a veil which conceals the Divine.  The veil must be removed.  However, writes Laleh Bakhtiar in her book Sufi : Expressions of the Mystic Quest, "We begin the Quest by removing the veil, only to become aware that the veil and the Divine are one and the same thing.  The veil is the theophany itself: the manifestation of the Divine through its Names and Qualities.  When we are seeing the veil we are seeing nothing but the Divine."

The yogic perspective is very similar.  The photographs represent seeing things "as they are," as living forms of consciousness, as visible manifestations, visible forms of God.  The great yogi, Swami Muktananda taught:  "Who says God cannot be seen?  Don't try to see Him as different from the way He has manifested Himself.  Try to see God as He is."  (This brief passage is from a larger, documented teaching by Swami Muktananda, On Seeing, which is presented in its entirety below in the Afterword.)

Beauty of the Heart
The great saints of all traditions teach that we contain within our hearts the entire universe, all that is . . . and all that is not.  I could sense this eternal, divine presence when I was photographing in the brook, and I can sense it in many of the photographs as well.  There were moments when I was photographing, I believe, that I was seeing so completely intuitively that I had entered into a perceptual mode of being which the yogic sages call "seeing with the eye of the heart."  In this regard many of the brook images are about beauty and praising--praising both the beauty of the world, and the beauty within the Heart:

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel 
and kiss the ground.


Intimate Portraits,  Place, Constellations
Some of the new Broad Brook photographs function for me as intimate portraits; and some achieve-- to some degree--distilling the visual essence of the book as Place (place, in the most sacred sense of the word).  Some are about abstract formal relationships--the space between stones, and the constellations of forms in space--the way stones fall into natural, purely spontaneous arrangements among themselves in the water.

Music, Dance, Improvisation
There is a musical aspect to these constellation photographs.  Some reveal a cryptic kind of musical notation, patterns of "glowing sound forms" that linger in velvety space, deep silence, for a time . . . and then finally dissolve, merge, depart back-into silence.  There were moments when the act of photographing in the brook became--for me--a kind of dancing, as if I were responding to the (subtle) sounds of the moving waters.  The sequence of images which unfold vertically through the entire body of work functions in a way that, for me, is not unlike an extended form of musical improvisation.

Several of the photographs quite literally embody the vast space of the sky, sometimes manifesting as a shape of white space which dominates an image, with the stones bordering the edges of the space; sometimes manifesting as the color blue of the sky reflected in the both the larger shapes of still water, and the smaller changing shapes of rapidly moving waters.  Some of my favorite images are nearly abstract renderings of the swirling movements of water circling around the stones, and the flashes of light dancing upon the water's surface.

There are images of angels and images of their luminous wings.  And some of the stones have faces which mirror back to me some aspect of my personal changing self.  (see my 2015 project entitled The Angels)

Silence, Death
Some of the images invoke in me a deep sense of stillness, or silence.  Indeed, it seems to me the project as a whole could be considered a meditation on mortality and death.  Certainly death is a presence in each moment of our lives, and I feel its presence--in varying ways--in many of the photographs presented here.

Symbols, Unitary Reality
On the other hand, several images transcend any kind of description or interpretation, any preoccupation with dualistic matters of time and space--dark and light--life and death . . . for their meanings are beyond saying, beyond understanding, beyond intellect and personhood.  Such images--the most mysterious and ineffable ones--manifest as visual equivalents for a Unitary Reality.  In other words, they function for me as Symbols.

Imaginal Universe
Overall, it seems to me this collection of brook photographs give visual form to an entire, luminous, grace-filled eternal-imaginal universe.


We Swim In Eternities 
My birthday weekend in Vermont was absolutely wonderful.  There was a deep closeness, a palpable presence of love that we all shared as we ate together, conversed together, and simply experienced being together.  I felt a similar closeness to the brook this year as I photographed it.  I had often felt intimidated by the brook's intense, even aggressive energy.  But during this visit the brook and I connected with each other in a sustained, open-hearted silent conversation, and I feel this experience palpably present in most of the photographs presented here.

Shortly after Gloria and I returned home to Canandaigua, NY we received an email from Phyllis containing the following words by Omid Safi which put the entire experience of the weekend into its properly illuminated perspective:

We do not live in time.

Time is not linear:

No beginning,

No end.

We swim in eternities.

"Every now and then, we connect with moments, place, and people who remind us of these eternities. For one instant lightning lights up the whole dark night.  We stand in pure awe, not in time, but somehow in a place where there is pure eternity.

We see our own selves as what we are: a fish swimming in the ocean, searching for water.  In those instants, we move beyond time as linear, as something between a past and a future.  Instead, we merge into the very eternity where/when we have always been."

Omid Safi



Two Teachings
Swami Muktananda

On Seeing
Someone asked Swami Muktananda:  "If God is everywhere and in everything, why can't we see Him?" Baba responded:

God is everywhere, there's no doubt about that, but you have to have the right eye to see Him.  Look at the air.  It blows everywhere, but you can't see it.  You can only feel it when it touches you.  Your question implies that God can be seen.  Sit quietly for a while and meditate on the Self.  You'll be able to see Him. 

In what form would you like to see Him?  He has taken the form of bread in this piece of bread--don't try to see Him as stone in bread.  In fruit you should see God as fruit, in a tree you should see God as a tree, and in yourself, you should see Him as yourself.  Who says God cannot be seen?  Don't try to see Him as different from the way He has manifested Himself.  Try to see God as He is.  

Whatever you look at, regard it as an object of meditation.  Understand that everything is just meditation.  All that you have to do is meditate on your own inner Self.  So whatever you see outside, consider it as your own inner Self.  . . . Meditate in this way: whatever you see, whatever appears, consider it to be Consciousness. . .  

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna:

O Arjuna, what can I say about this universe, 
that this is this or that is that, 
because everything is Me.  
I have become this whole universe.  
This whole universe is part of Me.

In reality, out of its own happiness and out of love for its own blissful play, the one Truth has taken the form of the world.  It creates the world, it is the world, yet it is different from the world.  Even though it becomes everything and does everything, it still remains separate from everything.  It embodies supreme wisdom.  Why seek it?  It is everything. . .   It flows as water.  It sings as it blows in the wind.  Becoming the earth, it supports everything.  Becoming fire, it gives heat to everyone.  It digests the food we eat.  It is the either, which fills the whole creation with space.  Becoming the sun it gives life to all plants.  It is the stars.  It is also men and women, boys and girls, and it is Bhairava, Shri Gurudev.  By becoming all these things it adorns the entire creation.  At one place it takes birth, and at another place it dies.

The seer is reflected in the seen.  Remember this. 

There is only Shiva--only Shiva [the supreme Self]. . .  Shiva is the entire cosmos. . .  All places belong to Shiva.  In your own place, know your own Self as your Self.  The independent "I" which exists within you is Shiva, the perfect I.  By strengthening this awareness, lose yourself in that.  Lose yourself.  To lose yourself is to find yourself.  To seek yourself is to lose yourself.  Understand this once and for all.  There is no Shiva without you; without Shiva there is no you.  This is the teaching of the experienced Siddhas.  This is the abode of the Self.  Here you can rest.  This is where the saints dwell.   Darshan magazine #121

On Equal Vision
Swami Muktananda's Guru, Bhagawan Nityananda, was born a Siddha, an enlightened being or saint, possibly sometime in 1897.  He died on August 8, 1961.   Nityananda passed on the power of the Siddha lineage to Muktananda before he died, and Muktananda passed on the power of the Siddha lineage to Gurumayi Chivilasananda before he died in 1982.  The Siddha Yoga Foundation published a collection of writings by Baba about his Guru, in 1996, entitled Bhagawan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri.  In the following excerpt from the book, Baba writes about his beloved Guru's "Equal Vision."

Bhagawan Nityananda had equal vision.  He treated all people alike, regardless of their color, their importance in the world, their education.  Rich and poor, educated or illiterate--all of them were the same in Gurudev's eyes.  For him, this entire universe was a reflection of the same divine Self.  He used to say that the world is a play of Consciousness.  Just as many kinds of ornaments, bracelets, rings, and earrings are made from the same gold; just as many different sizes and shapes of posts are made from the same clary; and just as various kinds of cloth are made from the same thread; in the same way, this entire universe of myriad forms is made of the same divine Consciousness.  Therefore, Shree Gurudev said, "Have the same feeling of love for everyone as you have four your own Self.

Many kinds of people used to come to Bhagawan Nityananda.  Every day there was a new group of pilgrims.  Whether they were ascetics or mendicants, monks or heads of ashrams; whether they were Christian priests or followers of Madhavacharya or yogis from Himalayan caves, Gurudev saw all of them in the same way.  For him, all religions were equal.  He used to say that each sect or doctrine or creed is a different path leading to the same goal.  Many paths lead to the same destination.  You can reach Bombey via Poona or Nasik; or by sear or air.  Similarly, through all these different philosophies one can attain the same divine state.

The world is made by God, but religions and sects and doctrines are made by man.  Gurudev used to say that for everything, whether animate or inanimate, there is the same earth and air and water, the same sun and moon and sky, the same heaven and hell, the same God and Guru.  The same earth supports every creature.  The same air flows through the prana of all beings.  The same water gives life to people and plants.  Man existed before any religion or ideology, and it was man who established the different doctrines and beliefs and scriptures.  But for all people, regardless of what they call Him, God is one.

In the court of Shree Gurudev, people of different religions--Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians, Jews, and Jains--would throng around him.  He was adored by those who believed in God and by those who did not.  He was dearly loved by all.

For Gurudev, all forms of worship were equivalent.  He had the same respect for all of them.  He saw no difference between God manifested in form and God in the abstract.  He used to say that the same God dwells in different forms, just as the same material is used in different buildings--in the Shiva temples of the Shaivites, the Vishnu temples of the Vaishnava, the Jain temples, the Christian churches, and the Muslim mosques.  In all these places, people perform worship through various rituals or hymns or chants or prayers, and they all receive satisfaction.  The satisfaction, the joy, the ecstasy, the state of liberation they experience is the same.  The attainment is the same.  There are differences in the forms of worship and in the individual, but not in their attainment and not in God.

Where does the difference lie--in man or in God?  God is the same; it is only people in their ignorance who see differences.  In God there are no differences; there is no hatred, no jealousy, no distinction between big and small, high and low, no pride in belief or religion.

In the Bhagavad Gid, Lord Krishna says:

I am equally present in all things;
none are disliked by Me or dear to Me.

It is He whose spirit manifests in all living beings, and in His eyes:

This whole universe is permeated by Me
in my unmanifest aspect.

Similarly, Bhagawan Nityananda, in a state of ecstatic joy, would sometimes say, "I am in everything; everything is in me."


This project was published and announced on my Welcome Page on
October 10, 2016 --one month after the photographs were made.

Be sure to visit the next project which is both a  
continuation and an extension of the  
Broad Brook project. It includes
symmetrical transformations 
of selected Broad Brook 
photographs. Its

Related Online Projects and other links:

Death : A Meditation in Photographs and Texts  2016
Broad Brook Photographs  October 14, 2017
Field of Vision 2015
The Angels  2014
Studies : Sufism  2016
Photography & Yoga 2015
Swami Muktananda

Welcome Page to my Departing Landscape website which includes the complete listing of my online hyperlinked photography projects, my resume, contact information, and more.