Thin Places, Holy Ground

In a slightly surreal development, my wood-block photography and some of my poetry is up on the walls at a local gallery.

It’s hanging alongside photos by local artists Dayle Askey and Donna Hertzfeldt-Kamprathand an interactive version of The Florilegia Project!

If you’re local to or visiting the Portland, Oregon area–or cruising through on I-205; it’s just a couple of miles off exit 8–you’re welcome to come and see it! Details here.

The exhibit is “Thin Places.” Each artist was asked to contribute some written thoughts on the theme. Here are mine:

I remark sometimes that “the veil feels thin today.” I’m using the adapted modern language of a vaguely Celtic spirituality, thinking about “the veil between worlds”–this world and the Otherworld, where- and what-ever that might be. So what I mean is something like “I feel haunted today.”

Not in a bad way, although that word, haunted, carries that negative, that ghostly connotation. But when I feel haunted it’s often by a sort of echo: a closeness between my own moment and some concurrent Other experience, which I can’t identify. God, maybe–though I’ve learned not to push too hard. If the echo has something to point me toward, it will do that–if I look, and listen.

Once when I said this, a friend replied, “the veil always feels thin to me.” And that response got me thinking: aren’t there moments in the everyday–the non-haunted days–when you feel like a light’s shining through, or a well has been tapped, or a connection’s been made that’s so profound it takes your breath for a second, even if you don’t know how to name the feeling? Aren’t there places you visit, or people, that look into you profoundly and shift something inside? I knew I’d met plenty of these “thin moments.” And then I realized that they are what I photograph.

On a basic level, I photograph mostly landscape, “nature.” But what I’m looking for is liminality: that porous borderland between light and dark, life and death, being and becoming. Or between the built and the natural, the symbolic and the only-itself. Between, sometimes, longing and belonging. Between the Divine, and our apprehension of Divinity.

My poetry too, comes from thin places I encounter. And, I would venture, from a thin place inside. Maybe that place is what we call the soul. I’ve come to understand that what I’m doing, by attending to this particular perception, is a type of praying.

I chose the poems for this exhibition with the idea that they might offer another access to some of the ways thin places might look or feel. The poems don’t “go” with the photos in any linear sense. They are only attempts to illuminate the same kinds of encounters.

Art is itself a thin place. I invite you to linger among these pieces–look, and listen. Try reading the poems out loud; it will change the way you feel them.

And if something resonates, wait with it. You have shaped, with that resonance, a thin place. Which I believe may be simply a way to say this: holy ground.

The Veil — On the wall at Creative Spirits Gallery RIGHT NOW. *

*Update December 2019: It’s not up RIGHT NOW anymore. New artists’ work shows in the gallery every two months; come and see! If you missed mine and you’d like some for you own walls, there might be some left here.

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