Flower Mandala — Symmetrical Cosmos

Cosmos © 2015 Bo Mackison

Cosmos © 2015 Bo Mackison

“The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together.”  ~ Carl Sagan

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.


Calling Forth Courage while Contemplating Lessons from Nature

Bridge over Starkweather Creek

Bridge over Starkweather Creek © 2014 Bo Mackison

“If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused…

If I did surrender to the earth’s intelligence?
Surrender to the earth itself, like a seed dispersed in autumns’ winds.

And drop upon the earth – dark, dank, ripe. Drop upon the earth
and settle in, as layers of leaves and autumn litter cover me, intact, protected.


Crossing the Footbridge © 2014 Bo Mackison

So like children, we begin again…

to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

This seed of me, it embraces the darkness
and in the waning light, holding my stories of decay and decline,
enters a period where the only light source is that of inner reflection.

Embraces shadow as darkness makes ready the parts hungering for new life.
Waiting, waiting
in anticipation of unlimited possibilities.

Amidst the Water Lilies, the Sky, the Clouds…Replenishment

Water Lilies and Reflection

Water Lilies and Reflection © 2014 Bo Mackison

“What call thou solitude? Is not the earth with various living creatures, and the air replenished, and all these at thy command to come and play before thee?” ~ John Milton

Becoming aware of limits. Of the need for time to rest and replenish.

How much can I schedule in one day or one week or even in one month or one season? And when I have completed my work, how do I replenish, refill my well?

By slowing down. Leaving space in my day and my evening time. Planning, in necessary, twenty minutes of nothing time. Just observation and awareness time. No phone, Facebook, email checking, messaging. No television, music, sports in the background. No reading, writing, or ‘rithmetic!

“I cannot have enough of the hours of silence when nothing happens. When the clouds go by. When the trees say nothing. When the birds sing. I am completely addicted to the realization that just being there is enough.” ~ Thomas Merton

Day dream. Watch the outdoors through a window. Notice how the wind swirls through the leaves of nearby trees. Or how the clouds drift across the sky.

Better yet, connect with nature by heading outside.  Stand barefoot in the grass and connect with Mother Earth. Close your eyes and hear the sounds in the environment. Silence, when listened to closely, turns into chattering and trills, a bird symphony. Breezes rustle the dancing leaves in the trees and shrubs, and whispers through the taller grasses.

I have put slowness into my photography practice. A time when I purposely keep my camera is in its bag and I sit and just watch. Watching the water garden, I noticed dragonflies and damselflies flit across the reflection pond. Bees sipped nectar from the water lilies and a turtle glided underwater, occasionally breaking the surface of the water. Clouds slid across the pool, reflecting sky in water.

Replenishing my well.

Autumn Monarch

Autumn Monarch

Autumn Monarch © 2013 Bo Mackison

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly.” ~ Richard Bach

Endings are beginnings. Maybe disguised, frequently unwanted, a few are eagerly awaited, but every moment is a moment of change.

I watch the days shortening, cloudy skies are becoming routine. A flash of the sun, even a ten minute as it slips from gray cloud cover, is eagerly greeted, and appreciated. Perhaps I appreciate these glimpses, I am more grateful for the sunlight, when it is miserly doled out a minute here, a minute there.

I wonder? Do I take Arizona’s blue bowl skies, the brightly lit desert environment as the precious gift it is when I am in Arizona? I do wake every morning before sunrise, grab a coffee, and go outside to wait for the emerging sun as it emerges above the Santa Rita Mountains.

Perhaps it’s time to make travel plans to visit my casita in Arizona… Missing the desert so much!