Through the Shadows, the Light Shines


“…we all go through our own experiences. If we do not push ourselves enough, we do not grow, but if we push ourselves too much, we regress. What is enough will change, depending on where we are and what we are doing. In that sense, the present moment is always some kind of beginning.” ~ Sakuong Mipham

There are times when I feel a bit (or more) broken. I know better. But still, the feeling pops up occasionally. These are old feelings, old habits from long ago when it was the identity I knew and understood best.

I had not yet learned the freeing concept of “I am enough.”

Years ago I became interested in photography. At the time, it was an effort to instill a daily routine in my life, a ritual, to focus on at least one thing each day and look at the world, to deeply look at the mystery in the world in my world.

For the last few months I have been caught in a lingering depression, an illness that dims the beauty of life until everything feels murky and dark. Anxiety turns that murkiness into a roiling monster, a scary space indeed. For me, photography is usually my potent weapon against depression and anxiety, but this time even my camera could not pique my interest.

In the last few weeks the sun has brightened the sky as spring arrives, and hopefully the increasing sunlight will have a positive effect on my mood. And it is also my hope that photography will again provide me with a tangible way to engage in life and add meaning to each day.

“Life is not a maze where you have your eyes on the gaps, life is a beautiful journey, stop looking for the gaps.” ~ Malti Bhojwani

I think of photography as a gift.  When I become engrossed in my photography, it lights my soul and my spirit. I think it not coincidental that the word photography consists of two Greek words. “Photo,”derived from “phos” means “light.” “Graphy,” derived from “graphi” means to write or draw.

Photography – to write or draw ( to create) using light.

When I create, I shine light into my darkness. Murkiness gradually takes on brighter colors. The emotional monster quiets, and I again breathe deeply. I look anew at my surroundings and see beauty everywhere — in the colors of the emerging spring flowers, in the majesty of a century old oak tree weathered and pock-marked,  in the grain of polished wood, even in the angularity of shadow alternating with light.

Sometimes it is the little things that make life so lovely. It is acceptance of oneself that makes life shimmer. It is knowing that one is not broken, that one does not need to be fixed. That one is “enough.” A worthy lesson.

May it be so.


Boarded Window – from “The Barrier Series” on Art and Healing

Warehouse in Winter

Boarded Window © 2011 Bo Mackison

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ~ Viktor E Frankl, in Man’s Search for Himself



This barrier, solid.
No light, no sunshine, no blue skies,
nothing natural except the brittle vines.

Impenetrable barrier.
Frozen exterior, my world.
The bushes are skeletal in their winter bareness.

Dead vines cling to the bricks,
hang from the window’s edge,
collect in piles on the ledge.

The decorative bricks offer some respite,
though the window is boarded. Invisibility.

And yet, it’s been patched neatly, blue paint.
Sealed from view but with care,
What inside is worth protection?

And the vines?
Dead and withered, but the hidden roots,
alive, are under the snowy depths,
warm enough in the earth.
Roots which will sprout tenderly alive green shoots
in the spring.

This phase, the deep winter of my spirit-break –
a period of dormancy.

Winter’s wait for the thaw, for the return of spring.

— based on journal entries, 1990


The second photograph in the barrier series correlates to the time when I became unable to keep up with life’s day-to-day expectations and demands. I constructed a barrier, much like this, deep in my psyche, to provide myself with space and time, waiting for the passage of winter.

It was a time of silent waiting.


Over the next two weeks, I’m re-posting an 11-part series I first ran in January, 2013 on art and healing. Feeling vulnerable doing this once again, but this message is too important to keep buried in the bowels of my blog. It is my hope that my journey will also inspire others. We are all on a journey of one kind or another. We are all pilgrims following our path.

In Search of Adventure and Ongoing Discovery

Windows of Time © 2014 Bo Mackison

Windows of Time © 2014 Bo Mackison

The best way to promote growth and healing is to take a trip, to go in search of  adventure. Travel through space, whether by land, sea, air, or mind, is the universal metaphor for change. The hero(ine)’s journey creates new futures. New patterns and possibilities emerge.

Many cherished beliefs come into question. New strengths, insights and talents unfold.

When the journey is over and you return to where you began, you are faced with new beginnings. You are at a turning point, a place where new paths make themselves known.

If the journey is successful, you return a changed person, a hero(ine) in your own eyes.

~ Jeffrey Kottler

How The Light Gets In

Cactus Scars

Cactus Scars © 2013 Bo Mackison

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ~ Rumi

As I walked back to my car after walking the labyrinth,  I followed a path through the desert scape, winding around rocky protuberances, around saguaros. Walking the labyrinth was more of an experience than I’d anticipated. I left somewhat shaken, off-balance. Literally finding my footing on the rough, rock-strewn path required my focus. I stumbled once, but jabbed my hiking stick off path to keep myself from falling.

As I righted myself, I glanced to the side of the path. The sunlight streaked through the landscape, highlighting a fist sized wound in a saguaro. It was enough to make me pause.

The saguaro was three times my height, and had four or five arms; it was possibly two hundred years old. Numerous scars, cracked surfaces and more than a few wounds covered its surface. Yet the sun rays cast a luminescence around the cactus, casting shadows from its thorns, and leading my eye to the largest opening at my eyes’ height.

I thought of the quote by Rumi, the wound allowing the light to enter.

And I thought of the lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s, song, Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
~ from Anthem, Leonard Cohen

It made so much sense. The wounds, the cracks, the imperfections – they allow the light to enter, that’s how the light gets in.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is exploring photography, poetry, and emotion in a new series featuring desert lines.

Gazing Upwards – Barrier # 10

Looking Upwards

Gazing Upwards © 2011 Bo Mackison

This post is the tenth in a series of my story, an intimate exploration of art and healing. See the introduction and complete series at My Healing Journey.

“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” ~ Pamela Vaull Starr

I love this barrier in the photograph. In the physical world, it’s all bricks and boarded windows. A street address scrawled on a mural. Hinges and the door’s outline give little hint at what might be inside. Yet, the windows and door are covered with a huge print of a woman’s face, her eyes directed upwards and outwards.

Solid barriers. Yet the distance from behind all kinds of barriers to the beyond is never further than a gaze upwards and outwards. The barrier may be limiting thoughts. If I gaze beyond those thoughts, I can see the dreams that unfold into the plans that attain the goals. Step by step, baby steps. Many tiny steps forward and suddenly I’ve walked a mile. I’ve reached what I once believed to be the impossible goal.

“Ideals are like stars: you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you reach your destiny.” ~ Carl Schurz

The sky is always visible. The Universe, expanding beyond us in distances of time and space our human minds can barely grasp, is beyond our naked-eye visual capabilities, but it is there. We know the Universe exists, even if it is beyond our grasp, beyond our seeing.

When I get bogged down in present day happenings and the focus on myself, this photograph reminds me to move beyond, beyond what my mind can easily grasp, beyond what I can see clearly with my eyes. Listen to the messages from my heart and spirit. Choose my guides. Move beyond my comfort zone, beyond my preconceived notions of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

“The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is ‘look under foot.’ You are always nearer the divine and the true sources of your power than you think. The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world.” ~ John Burroughs

Once I have gazed at the stars, the moon, the sunlit sky, even the cloudy gray skies, once I have connected with the divine, then I return to my space and my time. I ground myself in this moment, the place where I stand. The place that grounds me in the here and now. I find the strength and the courage to set my goals for the day or the month or for a life time. And I move forward.

Possibility exists. The sky is visible to all. And as the Burroughs’ quote reminds us, we each have a place under the stars. We each have a place in the world. Opportunity is under our feet, even as we look to the sky and grasp for the stars.

Next: Through the Tunnel