Beyond the Wall, The World – from “The Barrier Series” on Art and Healing

Defaced Wall II

Beyond, The World © 2012 Bo Mackison

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”
~ Hermann Hesse

When I started my photography business, my life became more meaningful.

Initially, photography gave me a reason to get up in the morning, leave my house, look at my world, and finally create something that I loved and was proud of. It was a deep healing process, my love of creative photography.

Several years later I learned how to work with my photographs on a deeper level.

When I photographed this wall, I was documenting an old mission and grounds. When I discovered this wall, I was taken aback by its defaced surface. I framed a shot so I could focus on the wall and the grove of trees in the distance. Months later, as I was going through photo catalogs on my computer, I noticed this particular photo again and it took on a new meaning.

For me, certain photographs are like other people’s dreams.

They provide symbols, metaphors, and hints of meaning. They are open for interpretation, not on a literal base, but intuitively.

In this photo, I visualized the wall as a barrier in my life.

The wall prevented me from entering the green grove of trees, a place I longed to enter for sustenance and revival. Beyond the wall, the world was a sacred space of color and life, a place where nature could heal and provide strength for body, mind and spirit. I wanted to be in that grove of trees.

I visualized different scenarios in response to my quest. How could I reach that sacred space? How could I get over the wall?

  • I could scrounge for scrub wood and strong grasses, build a make-shift ladder, and climb up and over the wall.
  • I could walk along the wall until I came upon a gate or doorway, a portal into the world of greens and blues.
  • Or…I could I look at the height and thickness of the wall, and walk away, accepting defeat before I even began.

The process of visualizing my options provided much food for thought.

I then created a set of cards, each with a photograph and a word. Now I use the cards during my morning practice, focusing on the photograph and using it as inspiration for meditation and reflection. I also use the photo and the cards as prompts for journal writing, or a springboard for art projects.

I discovered in the process a vehicle that provided not only a way for me to use my art for healing, but a system that also promoted problem solving and goal setting. These cards still provide me with a framework in which to consider choices, make plans, and instigate changes in my life — the self discovery and healing process of in-depth creative photography.


This is a re-post from the 11-part series I ran in January 2013 on PTSD, art and healing.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.

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