Fire He Sang
Gallery Obscura November 13 ~ 25, 2013
Then as he sang...
he spoke, and as no tree listens I listened, and language
came into my roots...
and there was no word he sang but I knew its meaning.
Fire he sang,
that trees fear, and I, a tree, rejoiced in its flames…
~ From “A Tree Telling of Orpheus” by Denise Levertov
These are photographs of trees. Some people tell me that they don’t all look like trees, but I think they might be metaphors of some hidden reality of trees. They were taken by small point and shoot cameras in a largely unplanned, intuitive process, with little post-processing (they aren’t Photoshopped except for a few corrections in tone and color).
Compiled over the last four years, I feel like many of these photos came to me, or were gifts from the universe, so have always wondered what they mean or have to teach me if anything. I still don’t have an answer, but I think these photographs, each of which surprised me, helped me open to an understanding that there are many dimensions of reality, and that trees, as everything, have their own life, movement, and music. The images were the first visible manifestation to me of an internal change that later swept up my entire life, and expanded my awareness of the interconnection, even interchangeability, and underlying sacredness of all things. To me the trees seem like they are dancing or singing, or better said, that they are music or dance, or energy, movement, spirit.
Recently I was reading that a leading theory in quantum physics is string theory, which posits that everything in the universe is made up of vibrating strings: maybe it’s not just trees that are music ~ maybe we are all notes in a giant cosmic symphony. Some models of string theory believe that there are eleven different dimensions of existence, though human perception can only ordinarily grasp three. I thought this was fascinating, because the idea that we are not seeing the true nature of reality has been present in different philosophical and spiritual views from Plato's shadows in caves, to the world as illusion in Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Buddhism and some teachings of Christianity.
How can we know what is real if we can't trust the human eye? And what is the meaning of photography then? I pondered this question with some anxiety over the last years. But as I grow, I am coming to agree with views that art is one of the key openings through which we can have moments of extra-ordinary insight and heightened consciousness and connection. I like Denise Levertov’s poem because it tells the story of a tree that is transformed and made more alive by the music of Orpheus, the greatest of musicians in Greek mythology. I have seen powerful demonstrations of the capacity of art to transform, to awaken and to heal, both in myself and others. And by transcending boundaries of self and perception, art can diminish the veils between dimensions, and connect us to each other and all creatures and things, and to the flow of universal energy, spirit, music, love ~ the fire that Orpheus sang. These photographs started to dismantle my sense of security in the world as I saw it, but helped bring me to wonder and appreciation for an even more beautiful universe pervaded with intangible mystery and meaning.
> Images from the series
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