The Heart of the Sun
For a decade after I retired, I immersed myself in making wildly experimental digital photographs, as a way of doing something completely unlike anything I had ever done.
This resulted in a 75-page ebook. But because few people find that book, I am publishing excerpts here because I love these pictures, the experience of creating them, and the writing that comes with them — and I hope others will, too.
The writings sometimes relate to the pictures directly, sometimes they relate in a general way. And sometimes, they are just things that had been on my mind, sometimes for decades.
Tumbling mountain rivers look clear and steady from a distance, but up close, they are made of continuous turbulence, abrupt changes, splitting and joining channels, interweaving twirls of current, water turning into foam and foam into water, with spray in every direction — an energy always on the verge of exploding, but still flowing as a single form.
We all know what that feels like.
A Little Breathing Space
Don’t try to change very much (the image seems to say). In between yourself and your feelings, between yourself and your thoughts — just cultivate a little breathing space.
That little space makes the difference between being walled in and being surrounded by doors and windows that open.
That tiny breathing space is the beginning of freedom.
“Lenore № 3” is named after the darkest moment of despair in prison, under a sentence of death, in Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, when the trumpet sounds offstage, announcing liberation for Floristan and Lenore. It was one of my trumpet-playing brother David’s favorite moments in classical music.
Beethoven is an ongoing experience of the way freedom, emotional vibrancy, and creativity come as you stop seeking an illusory liberation that is separate from everything and work to shape the structures that shape you.
I did not often use this photo technique in daylight, but I managed to capture a few images that suggest the energy and constant change in nature.
To the eye, objects are separated by empty space.
But in music, and in bodily feeling, everything is connected — by energy, vibration, sensation, presence, mystery, emotion, touch, and a root-level physiological joy that comes from discovering the world only after the experience of it has arrived inside your body and changed you.
Heart of the Sun series
Each work in the Heart of the Sun series combines a portrait of the sun (courtesy of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory) with my intricate, reflective double-image, “We are not two, and we are not one.”
The series celebrates how much we share with the astronomical cosmos, yet how different we are from it — how intertwined we are with the world and with one another, yet how distinctly individual each person is.
As for the sun, the earth, one another, as for the air we breathe, our history, genes, relationships, society, the interplay of neurochemical reactions:
We are not two. And we are not one.
Gerald Grow is a retired journalism professor. More at longleaf.net. Images at gerald-grow.pixels.com, on Apple Books and Kindle. Look for additional excerpts.
I learned that great meditation on interrelationship,“We are not two, and we are not one,” from Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.