Broken Stalks

Ice on Pond and Recent Snowfall
Strickers Pond, First Snow © 2011 Bo Mackison

How does one know if she has forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with him. You tend to have nothing left to say about it all. ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

For many years, I had long periods of time when I felt like a broken stalk, a decaying plant. Blackened, brittle, beyond repair. Beyond care. I couldn’t access my soul, my spirit. I held the broken-ness tightly. It was the only identity I knew.

When I became interested in photography, it was a last-ditch effort to instill a daily routine in my life, a ritual, to focus on a reason to get out of bed each morning and look at the world. Really look at the good in the world, in my world.

Depression sucks life until everything gets covered in a murky, ugly gray. Anxiety turns that gray morass into a roiling fearsome monster. Photography became my potent weapon against depression, anxiety, even despair. Photography provided me with a physical way to add meaning to each day.

It wasn’t that I was not surrounded by a loving husband and family. I was. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the necessities of life and more. I did. But from that place of inner darkness, it was a struggle to appreciate the huge gifts that I had. Family, friends, doctors, therapists — all made monumental efforts to reach that dark place. With their help I made small gains, but I never felt like I had a “real” life.

Forgiveness is the economy of the heart . . . forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits. 

~ Hannah More

One of the major changes in my life began with a small change in my day. I began consistently taking at least one photograph each day and posting it to my blog. My goal was to post a daily photo for a year and I did so from October 2007 to October 2008. Once I reached that goal, I continued to shoot every day. What had begun as a few minute practice became a habit and then a creative art, then a career and a passion.

I do not only think of photography as my art, my career. I think of photography as a cosmic gift.  As I pursued photography, it began to light my soul, lighten my spirit. I think it not coincidental that the word photography consists of two Greek words combined into one. “Photo” is derived from “phos” and means “light” in English. “Graphy” is derived from “graphi” which mean to write or draw.

“Photography – to write or draw with light.”

While I repeatedly created photographs, I also shone light into my inner darkness. Gradually the darkness lightened. The murky gray took on color. The roiling emotional monster began to quiet. I was able to breathe deeply, look anew at my surroundings, and see beauty everywhere — in the colors of the tiniest flower, the majesty of a century oak, the grain in polished wood, even in the symmetry and angularity of broken plant stalks on a snowy pond surface.

Humanity is never so beautiful as when praying for forgiveness, or else forgiving another. 
~ Jean Paul
Anger is a difficult emotion. It serves no purpose years after an injury or an assault to the mind or body. The anger I held so tightly caused added pain to me and the people I most loved. Yet I didn’t want to let go. I knew anger. I knew anger intimately. The burning fires of anger, so I told myself, kept me alert, kept me alive. And living with this anger also isolated me, which, illogically, gave me a heightened sense of safety.

But anger is a hard master and requires immense energy to keep it burning. I was exhausted. And one more thing, a very important discovery, I was lonely.

It was time to stop the constant longing to change the past. Time to stop protecting myself by maintaining an invisible fence. Time to let go.

People can be more forgiving than you can imagine. But you have to forgive yourself. Let go of what’s bitter and move on.
~ Bill Cosby

When I held so tightly to anger, I became strangled by its force. I wanted to be loved, but I was afraid of love. I felt I wasn’t worthy of love, that once someone loved me, they would discover the true me and leave me. I made plenty of mistakes, trying to protect myself while controlling everything and everyone around me.

In letting go of my need to change the past, I can work on today. I can work on forgiving myself. And ask for forgiveness from those whom I have hurt. I am learning. I still have much to learn.

It’s all journey.

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. Great photo, Bo!

    Photography can be a powerful force, more than a tool. It has served me that way too.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I’m glad I discovered my powerful force, Montucky. Interacting with nature and creating art was the perfect mix for me.

  2. Joanna Paterson says:

    Bo, what a thoughtful description of the journey you’ve been on. I admire your honesty.

    Photography does have astonishing, transformative qualities doesn’t it? I took a course nearly two years ago now on seeing with the eyes of the heart, and it changed utterly my relationship with the world, allowing me to see and feel beauty, wonder, treasure, colour, texture, shadow, might, portals, invitations… everywhere. It’s astonishing. I’ll never be done being astonished.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thanks, Joanna. (And thanks for twittering too.) I love your last line, and so agree. “Never be done being astonished.” How lucky is that!

  3. Talk about being vulnerable. I think you definitely understood Brene Brown’s message. Bravo! This is a powerful post. You are enough. You truly are. And your photography is the gorgeous gift you offer. Thank you for this!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      It’s a good lesson, but a hard lesson to master, one I have to practice over and over. I’m so glad you enjoy my photography. It is a gift I love to give. The giving makes me happy!

  4. Joanne Keevers says:

    You are so right Bo…it’s all a journey. If you hadn’t lived with the darkness, loneliness and anger, perhaps you wouldn’t be the brilliant photographer you are today. Sometimes it’s the most negative of emotions that can ultimately bring out the best in a person.

    I’m so glad the dark times have passed for you, dear Bo. I can’t help but wonder if taking up photography helped you to define yourself through new eyes, showing yourself that you were capable of so much more than you were showing to the world at that time.

    Thank you for sharing your inner-most thoughts here Bo. You are a very brave and wonderful lady.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I think you are exactly right, Joanne. Without my life experiences, I would not be who I am today. And while I curse when I have periods of sensitivity that drive others crazy, it is that same sensitivity that helps me see the photograph and then create it.

      Photography has been a life-saver. Truly. Not all days are bright and shining, but we have to have a few clouds in our skies.

      Thanks, Joanne, for your thoughtful comments.

  5. Wonderful photo and insightful post.

  6. Beautiful post, Bo. I’m so glad you’re found your way out through photography as it’s allowed you to share a lot of beauty with us. 🙂

    We have many things in common, you & I.

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