Be Still! Be Still! – A Lesson from the Trees

Tree Line

Tree Line @ 2015 Bo Mackison

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from [the eternal] mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

~ Hermann Hesse in Betrachtungen und Gedichte

Annual Alphabet Tribute to 2014 – Q is for Quests, Questions, and More

Quest - Desert Wisdom Card

Quest in the Desert © 2014 Bo Mackison

Q is for QUEST

There are some alluring words that begin with the letter Q.

QUEST is one of my favorites. A QUEST is a long, sometimes arduous search for something, often requiring overcoming great challenges.

I’ve been on my own QUEST these last months, trying to recover from a month of challenges that occurred last May. Since the triggers were an unfortunate string of travel delays, I downplayed the stress and assumed that as soon as I reached the familiarity of home all would be well.  But all did not go well.

Instead I struggled, day after day, and QUESTIONED why I was having such a difficult summer.  No matter how hard I worked using the tools — meditation, art, writing, nature — that had provided me with much relief over the last seven years, I couldn’t QUIET the constant panic, the periods of difficulty leaving my house, even the need to return to my home when I was in a familiar and pleasurable place. Then there were the times I wanted to just QUIT, so frustrated was I with the situation.

In the last weeks, I’ve been able to put the pieces of the puzzle together with the help of a dedicated medical team. But the effort has cost me time and energy. And so I am calling it QUITS on the alphabet posts so that I can conserve energy and move on to new projects that are currently percolating.

The lesson learned? Never be afraid to ask for help when necessary. Never, ever!


The alphabet series will (quite probably) return for its 9th annual appearance towards the end of 2015.

Thirty-One Thresholds – Memories of Ginger Cookies and Grandmothers


Making Cookies © 2014 Bo Mackison

I started a new photo/travel project a few weeks ago, a project, called Thirty One Thresholds.

Quite basic in its undertaking, the project encourages me to get out of the house. (A coping method when life gets a bit overwhelming, I morph into a hermit!)

Once out of the house, I go somewhere, almost anywhere, camera in tow, and consider the many thresholds I cross – literal or metaphorical…  Not a lot of rules. Keeping this low pressure and easy…

As I wrote in the first post when exploring the start of this project, I’m not sure what nuggets of wisdom I’ll discover or exactly what  I’m looking for… but I’m willing to believe I’ll find what I need to find — or it will find me!

Since I began on December 1st, I have visited a Mustard Museum (for fun and amusement), a tropical paradise in Madison’s Olbrich Gardens (for the illusion of summer and warmth), a walk in the neighborhood (which is as far as I could make it that day!) and a state capitol building (in search of spaciousness and the grand gilded art of an earlier time in architectural decor.)

Fun. Warmth. Tiny steps. Space. Art. A good start!


Gingerbread Cookies © 2014 Bo Mackison

Last weekend I went to Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor history park that offers a glimpse of Wisconsin life — historic farms, artisan handcrafts, heirloom gardens, daily routines in rural Wisconsin in the mid to late 1800s.

A docent was baking gingerbread cookies at an old wooden table, the surface scattered with flour, a treasured rolling pin, cookie cutters hand fashioned from scraps of tin, and dark gingery dough! Though the time period was off by a few decades, the ginger cookie baking scene was reminiscent of the countless days I spent baking with my grandmother and great-grandmother.


Keeping Warm © 2014 Bo Mackison

What a perfect threshold to walk across.

Hands warmed by an open fire. Hearts warmed by memories of the best of childhood times. And, as a bonus,  just-baked ginger cookies to enhance the memories.

Thirty-One Thresholds – A Break in the Clouds, Today That is Enough

A Break in the Clouds

A Break in the Clouds © 2014 Bo Mackison

I should have expected this kind of day to happen, even planned for it.

When I created the Thirty-One Thresholds Project to encourage me to get out of the house and provide inspiration for getting involved in a daily activity, it sounded doable.

There are many places to visit in the Madison area. It is reasonable to expect that I could find a place to go every day. (Though I might have thought a bit more about the effects of weather and choosing outside vs. inside spaces…that is another technical glitch for me to explore another day)

I visited the National Mustard Museum the first day (with the admission that it made the top of the list because of its proximity to my home). One Threshold checked off the list.

Yesterday I managed a cross town trip to Olbrich Botanical Gardens, tempted by the thought of sitting in the tropical conservatory and luxuriating in the green and the warmth. The tropical appeal was enough of a carrot stick. Two Thresholds checked off the list.

Today. Today, though it wasn’t my initial plan, the threshold I crossed was the door of my house as I took Gracie for a pre-sunrise winter walk through the neighborhood. And then the return home after admiring a break in the clouds and momentary glimpse of sunlight.

I did run an errand, so I could have taken a photograph of the double doors of a neighborhood convenience store, but I previously decided that the thresholds of stores, while important, were not going to be a part of the Thirty-One Thresholds. There was also the threshold of the door to the laundry room. Doing laundry is important, too, especially since I needed traveling clothes for the weekend. But again, not a part of the Threshold Project.

So, it was a slower than hoped for day. And since I am boarding an airplane tomorrow morning for a very important weekend visit, I gave myself permission to indulge in self-care. And that is a threshold in itself — knowing when the practice of self-care takes priority.

Thirty-One Thresholds – A Tropical Pause in the Bolz Conservatory


Bolz Conservatory © 2014 Bo Mackison

There is a place on the other side of town that always offers a magical experience when I cross its threshold.

No matter the weather outside, when I step through the heavy double doors into the Bolz Conservatory at Madison’s Olbrich Botanical Gardens, I enter a tropical paradise — exotic plants, orchids, koi ponds, meandering paths through thick greenery, rushing waterfalls, birds in flight.


Walking Tree © 2014 Bo Mackison

A recipe for rejuvenation.

I find a bench. Take in my surroundings. Take in lots and lots of deep breaths. And relax.


Koi Pond © 2014 Bo Mackison

The Conservatory has over 650 plants from the tropics and sub-tropics found throughout the world.

Once I am inside the 50 foot high glass pyramid, I get a reprieve from December’s cold and snow. Inside it is a balmy 80˚F today and the humidity is high, high enough to repeatedly fog my camera glass.

No worries.

I take a few photos, but mostly I sit and take in the warmth.


Greenery © 2014 Bo Mackison

I spend most of my time simply absorbing the experience.

Truly, what pleasure there’s to be found in watching drops of moisture fall from wide green umbrella plants, in studying the camouflaged quail as they scuttle from one plant to the next, in noticing how brilliantly the orange koi glide through the rushing waters.

I re-discover the calming effects of studying just a few leaves, letting my eyes trace the pronounced veins on this deep green plant, noticing the puckered textures, droplets of water beading on the waxy surfaces.


Orchid © 2014 Bo Mackison

What a great threshold to cross, what a great space to pause and rest.

It is mid-day and mid-week, and I am alone in the tropics for much of my visit. The gardens are typically a busy place teeming with visitors of all ages, all looking for a warm place, a break from wintry weather.

I consider myself especially fortunate as I sit amidst the plants and absorb the energy from the tropical space in solitude.

Threshold Two of my Thirty-One Thresholds Project is hugely rewarding.