Beyond, The World – Barrier # 9

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

(This post is the ninth in a series of my story of art and healing. See the introduction and complete series at My Healing Journey.)

When I embarked on what is now my photography business, I discovered a way to make my life meaningful. Initially, photography gave me a reason for getting up in the morning, getting out of the house, looking at my world, and finally creating something that I loved and was proud of. The healing process of creative photography. It was several years later when I discovered how to work with my photographs on a deeper level.

When I photographed this wall, I was shooting an old mission and its grounds. I came upon this wall, discovered its defaced surface, then 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 saw this particular photo 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 a lovely grove of trees, a place I longed to visit for sustenance and revival. Beyond the wall, the world opened into 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 now have created a set of Desert Wisdom Cards, 24 cards in all, each with a photograph and a word. I use the cards during my morning practice, focusing on the photograph and using it for inspiration and speaking to my muse. I also use the photo and the cards as prompts for journal writing, or a springboard for an art or nature project.

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 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.

Next: Gazing Upwards

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.


  1. Looking at the photo, I can understand your narrative.

  2. I’m really quite speechless here as I read thru your healing process and journey. I love how you’ve used this wall as a something on which to ask those right questions..and to reach and stretch beyond. Yes you can!!!

  3. I’m overwhelmed by everything I’ve read of your personal journey, Bo, from beginning to today. In this particular missive I’m gobsmacked by the idea of vision cards. What a remarkable idea, Bo. I’m so going to do that.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Isn’t it a great idea — pairing photos with questions? Bet you have great photos for this kind of exercise. And thanks for the kind words about my journey – the series not only documented healing, but gave me another dose of healing. So grateful.

  4. I saw this photo, and before even reading the post, I saw a metaphor right before me, all my own. Perhaps I’ve got a bit of creativity and insight in me too? Thank you for this.

  5. Your creativity is inspiring and impressive, Bo. I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to get to know something of you through your images and words.

  6. laurajean31 says:

    Thanks for this post. As soon as I saw the wall and trees behind I knew how meaningful this could be for many women. Some years ago I faced a seemingly insurmountable wall defaced with ugly graffiti. With Divine help and the support of family and friends, I am now in the tree-filled garden, the ugly wall broken down and gone, replaced with a white picket fence, wide open gate, a flower lined pathway with a welcome sign on the door of my cottage. I write the pictures I see in my spirit, the sounds I hear in the wind, the fragrance in the flowers,and the texture of the earth. I love the strength of the rocks, the energy of ocean waves, the whispers of the wind and the call of the rising sun. The God of creation is my friend.

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