Author Archives: susieb5

Waiting, Watching & Witnessing

Such a time these days have become for me. Less than a week before a major election and I find myself in a state of suspension.

I look up on my walk and immediately raise my camera to capture the goblins/ghosts pictured above almost taunting me – reminding me of this uncertain time that can be laced with fright. And yes, fear can get the best of me so I deal with that head-on – no shrinking back.

I feel ever so present in the midst of climate change in action, as fires raged across the West. Turmoil, chaos, and most likely more of the same with added new tensions.

I get a notice to help friends in the Napa wine country whose winery burned to the ground recently. It is better for the vines if the fruit is removed so that it does not rot on the vine and leave behind spores that could affect next year’s crop. They reached out to their community to come help “drop the harvest.” Community in action. Heart leaps. Support comes in so many directions.

Then there’s also Mercury in retrograde throwing me off guard — reminding me of the patience required to just wait.  

Witnessing myself in dreams

My dream-tending group reinforces me to wait, watch, and witness. I work the symbols. I honor the dreams in ways I can apply the metaphors cropping up in my life.

I watch – all sorts of diversions.  Electronics provides the escape mechanisms to steer my being in any direction. Music provides added strength to healing.

I steal away for rest moments and close my eyes to a calmness – put hands on chest and chant OM.  Reminding myself it is a chant of soothing one’s anxiety.

It vibrates throughout my body.

Cat comes and quietly stretches her body alongside mine.  We touch.  I am reminded of the healing power of animal beings.

I’ll take all those moments I can muster to feel safe, protected, blessed. Daily chants reinforce.

So much gratitude for familiar places that I can frequent, be it sitting in the woods, or gazing at the ocean. I just know I am being held by so much more.  I surrender to that belief. Ghosts be gone!

Waiting paves the way to watching and watching elevates into witnessing.  I am so conscious to what is before me – the unpredictability, the rages, the suffering, and the beautiful sparks that provide the balance with light.

I hold the space for myself, my community, the greatest of all humankind.  

Always with possibilities, always with hope and always with love.  

Posted in Awakening, Breathe, Feeling Down, Be in the Silence, Movement of the Sea, Ocean, Fine Art, Beauty, Art,

Finding the Spunk to Keep Moving Forward

I’ve been weeping all week. Quietly. And then Friday I watched her funeral and I saw the female lawmakers lining the steps of the Capitol building as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s casket departed after lying in state.

That’s when I teared up – seeing all those women standing tall. I went for a walk and cried my eyes out. I was one of those women – marching, protesting and singing in unison with my soul sisters way back then to demand equal rights for women.

Or, as formalized by Ruth: “I don’t say women’s rights—I say the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.”

And her fortuitousness ….

Her passing was like a sword cutting through me – she was our hero who spoke up and fought in the highest courtroom we have to those who listened. She was my aviator. Despite all her bouts of illness, her resiliency brought her back so I never really worried she would go away.

And then she did.

So much of what I honor about Ruth I honor with myself. I have shown up as so many others fighting for our own rights – to make our own choices. This determination has kept me going throughout many dark phases.

And, here we sit in a frustrating spot of a divided country. I keep reaching out to anchor my place, to find common ground. I get caught up at times in my emotional stumble. Then I remember her saying : “Don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, resentment. These just zap energy and waste time.”

How real change happens...

And, even more impactful….“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

That’s what my beating heart keeps zapping at me today – stand and be counted. Show up. So I continue and take a step and I sign petitions and I make calls and donations and stay in the conversation because that’s what Ruth would do.

And then I rest. It’s the weekend. I take a breath and just hold my heart to honor the memory of RBG. Smiling inside, I remember identifying with two of her key passions – doing plank and cherishing opera.

Always, I will remember her legacy –so fundamental — and so simple – equal protection for all.

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Can 2020 get more surreal?

Ironic, or is it – that today is 9/11 – a day which rocked the world into a huge state of emergency. Here in California – we are sheltered inside – pretty much sequestered to our homes. The reason – from off -the-charts basically bad air quality due to wildfires across the state of California. Governor Gavin Newsom put it bluntly….this is climate change. He went on to say, “Mother Nature is about three simple things: biology, physics and chemistry.”

My day began somewhat dark and proceeded to get darker – the photo above was taken right around noon in San Francisco. I worked through the afternoon and then we ordered takeout and then my physical being said STOP.

I felt like I had an electrical charge pulsating throughout my body. It made me pause and stand in the essence of the discomfort. Soon I employed various techniques to regroup from yoga poses to flushing my system with H20. Finally I went to bed chanting the powerful mantra OM. It took almost two days for me to regroup and still today on this momentous day of 9/11 I am heart stricken over that memory and now, over my beloved San Francisco’s tinted sky.

Climate change is real. Isn’t it about time we all get on the same page? Admit we have to make changes and start living in this new reality in a productive way to meet its challenge?

Zero Foodprint, located here in San Francisco, said it best:

Continue reading »
Posted in Climate Change, San Francisco, Year 2020, Photo of the Day

Down Days Steer Us to Becoming…

I recently read this sentence from a newsletter I receive, called DailyOm.

Bad days contribute to the person we become.

How we choose to step into that day is what becomes the challenge.  Do we sink further down?  Do we let those demons of down spiral us further into the abyss?

When I’m off one day I find I have to pull myself out of the quicksand and get moving.  So I take a walk, go to do an errand.  I look for symbols that reflect this uncomfortable place I am trying with all my heart to embrace and not make it worse. I realize I just need to go with it. So I turn down a street I haven’t been on — take a new trail. I stretch my walk a little further. Feels good. And yet, still contending with the nudges from the dark place. Soon, I give up the ghost and head to my destination.

I get home and I sigh.  Exhausted.

I rest

and I rest.  I stretch. I lay in the silence. I suppose, that’s where the becoming steps in….

Miraculously, I start to feel nourished.  I listen to a U2 song that popped up on my stream.  I close my eyes and go with the beat.

I am reminded I am always in a state of becoming. If I didn’t have the dark, there would be no light.

I just need to remember to not dodge the dark.  Rather, instead, I work at becoming a witness to it, to me.  I swirl in the deepness of its message even if it’s trying to pull me further off my course.

When all else fails, I breathe.  
and I breathe.  

and I breathe.

Slowly it pulls me back to my core.  My center.

I am new all over again.

Posted in Awakening, Breathe, Feeling Down, Be in the Silence, Movement of the Sea, Ocean, Fine Art, Beauty, Art,, Blog, Healing Art. Tagged , , |

Awakening to the Pilgrim Inside of Me

Corcomroe Abbey, County Claire, Ireland

I am becoming more present to a new voyage of life.  

During this shelter-in-place time, I realize I am a novice kind-of-traveler.  My pilgrimage spirals me further down my internal landscape – that sacred container inside –holding all my possibilities.   I am more awake to this path of curiosity as I become skilled at accepting the future uncertainty with gloves of expanding experience.  

Oh I make plenty of blunders along the way;  however, I take those missteps as signs –  knowing I am learning and making twisty trails of memories.  

How do I meet this pilgrim inside of me?   I practice staying in awe.  I go beyond asking how are you.  I witness an opening of a new story of the kind clerk serving me coffee.  I take a step back – or is it forward? as I become in service to the story she shares with me.  I recognize an opening.

It’s a portal – a doorway – to a new uncharted territory of being in community with a stranger and greeting that unknown part of me at the same time.

I experienced the above portal of Corcomroe Abbey on my travels to Ireland a few years back with David Whyte teaching a Poetry, Myth and Music workshop. I witnessed this portal – as the light drew me in — and later took in the reflection of my self to consider its meaning.

It was a moment of invitation.  

I get that all of life is an invitation to become.  My camera, my companion, helps guide me through the lens of my eye to travel to those unknown parts of new territory inside and outside of myself. On surface, it may be an image of an event, or a person, or simple a tree. It all serves me and pushes me further into a new experience.

Today, this remarkable new reality for our collective, is chaos. It is also understanding, opportunity, a new learning time and basically being uncomfortable with the unknown. If I can be in those moments feeling fears of uncertainty, sheer joy and utter discomfort, I can hold the balance and see how it all serves. And then I see that the Pilgrim inside of me steps forth to witness it all.

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The revealing message of my out-of-focus landscape


I discovered this word several years ago and it keeps circling back to me.  It helps me put a name to the fluctuations of my mood and my being. I bend far in one direction, catch myself, reassess, and then shift to another reality.

Liminal.  It comes from the Latin root, limen, which means “threshold.”

For me, it’s the process of being in free float – open and airy, free to be however I wish. There is no negative to my positive.  It just is.  

I treasure the photographs I take “in the liminal.” I admit it’s the work in my computer darkroom that trails me into that abstract arena. My brain takes a side step and my eyes – my vision — are front and center. I’m guided by what my photograph could be as I allow expansion in this ethereal technological space where color goes into all sorts of visionary explosions. Here, in this open field, is where new images surface.

How timely during this pandemic, to be open to new awarenesses, even if they surface in abstract form. I wake up and do a daily body check.  I stretch my physical being to see where pains might surface as I scan my emotional being for heart tugs. As I do this it helps me recalibrate so I can support my mental state through mindful meditation and writing. Then, my brain is fresh for the day.

I am privileged to have my camera as my accomplice during this tumultuous time. When I gaze on this landscape of ocean and trees, I envision all sorts of possibilities. And later in the darkroom, a new form begins to emerge as I react to color and shape, giving birth to a new visual.

My devoted comrades — my tools– my camera and my techno darkroom, work in unison with my inner guidance nudging me to move towards this threshold of an unknown trail.

Truly, I feel transformation in the liminal.

Posted in Blog, Creative Process Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

I understand I do not understand.

I still support you. #BlackLivesMatter

As I make my way through the maze of this disruptive and extraordinary time I am feeling all over the place — pulled in so many directions – reading, listening to select news reports – hearing from all different factions — their take, their assumptions, mostly their heartaches — as in Dave Chappele’s 8:46 minutes of reality checks, terse words, calling it like it is.  

I watched 13th the other night and had my own reality check.  My black friends comment on my FaceBook posts and again I am enlightened and embarrassed.  I had failed to see all the sides.   Maybe in truth I wasn’t looking. My whiteness got in the way.   I stay in the dialogue.  I feel the uncomfortableness of all the disparities.  I don’t understand how we have gotten to this point and yet, without the consciousness and braveness of those messengers we wouldn’t be at this crossroads where enough is enough and the protests are cries of so much pain and heartbreak and injustice.  

I meditate for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.  I hold the space.  I sit with the unease of this time and I pray for actions that lead to solutions and understanding on all sides.  I walk a little more gently.  I smile through my mask and whisper namaste to whoever I pass.  

I awaken to ways I can enter the conversations and be open to more roads to support, to do my part – how little it may be — an action toward possibility. #BlackLivesMatter

Posted in #BlackLIvesMatter, #Read, #, Blog, Creative Process Tagged , , |

Onward into the Spring of 2020

Spring during the time of coronavirus.  I find myself with all sorts of mixed thoughts.   I’ve been immersed with work stuff, reorganizing closets, the kitchen, buying a new mop to tackle the floors, Zoom gatherings, webinars, etc.  Here in the 23rd day of “shelter in place” what seems to comfort me the most is sinking into meditation, dancing ever so gently to soothing tunes, walks in the Presidio, and communication with loved ones.

And yes, I take deep breaths as Stephanie Ruhle, anchor on national television, reminds us all to do and to remember that we are all in this together.

I look for small victories.  Walking is such a healing act for me.  Yesterday I laid on green grass off a walking trail.   I let the earth hold me as the sun was drenching me with healing energy.  On another walk in our hood, I photographed David, above, walking into what looked like an abyss.  It was dusk and the sky was a companion of sorts with its lingering colors.  It renewed my hope;  just like the rain showers do by nourishing our lands.

I realize how it’s okay to be in a state of unknowing and to relax my self-judgment.  Whatever I do is okay and as I maintain my own courage during this time I am able to extend my service to others.  I do wellness calls to those in need for The Friendship Line.  The service offers “a friend” to mostly seniors – and anyone mentally or physically handicapped.  I learn so much from my callers. By providing active listening skills to their needs,  I am reminded of my own vulnerabilities.

I remember the wise words from a healer years ago – be brave.  Better yet, be braver.

I’ve held on to that.  Keep moving, pushing, relaxing, just being.  And stretch – not only my body– my mind and heart.  Always there is a new trail that keeps opening me to new vistas, new learnings.  Elizabeth Gilbert said recently –to feel with your heart and cultivate with your brain.

I am new every day.  My camera treks where I do.  Companions all around me.

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Zigzagging into the Roaring 2020s

I photographed this image of myself last June.  It was the day before I suffered a pulmonary embolism. (a blockage in the lungs)  One out of three people dies from embolisms.  Mine peaked in a swollen leg.  I had walked five miles on that day and was feeling fine.  The next day my leg began to swell. 

I wound up in the hospital with a clot in my thigh and, because I had fainted at home, a CT scan revealed a piece of the clot had traveled into an artery in my lungs. 

The docs were miffed.  I was an active person. 

They monitored me and eventually took me off estrogen (hormones) – the power drug for women that helps with skin, joints and brain health.  I was on the medication for 22 years.  One risk was clotting.  The docs halted that medication and six weeks later, while my heart was healthy, my knee became stiff from an old injury and basically collapsed. Rehab began and remains a very slow process.

On that fateful walk, as I approached the word heal on the sidewalk before me, I placed myself into the image and photographed it.   Somewhat of a foreshadowing – being blood red and reflecting my shadow back to me.  I was feeling the impact of the image on my being.  I didn’t question.  I just kept moving.  My body took over from that point. 

I was soon forced to realize the impact of that message.  I made changes.  

I retired my 35-year-PR career and stepped fully into my true calling – my art/my photography.  

I am recalibrating.  I’m anchoring myself into a safe place where I go inward and feel the unsteady essence of who I am and what’s to come.  

Luminous Emptiness.  To quote the Buddhist view…” nothing is permanent or fixed.  The entire world of our experience is constantly appearing and disappearing at every moment.”

My dream, my life, is my work.  I move with mindful physical ease as I greet this new year with camera in hand, and begin to step further into a deeper work full of purpose and service.  I was given this gift of seeing beyond through a lens at age 13.  It’s been patiently waiting for me to fully embrace it.  Respectfully I do now, with gratitude and confidence and uncertainty and unknowing.   I am alone and I am in the community of a family of friends.  I walk ever so gracefully.   

Posted in Blog, Creative Process, Story of a Photograph Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Textures of Life

I was gifted tickets to the Symphony yesterday and reminded of another huge presence in my life.  Music.  As an artist, I have loved so many genres of music and feel so grateful for digital access to almost any artist or tune I seek.  This concert was to be San Francisco’s Symphony Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas’ last concert prior to undergoing surgery before returning for his final season next year leading up to his retirement after 25 years.

He conducted Mahler’s 9th.  No intermission.  And I understand why as I was being transformed through each of the four movements.  The last one, Adagio, was weighted…“Grief gives way to peace, music and silence become one.”

I’ve always believed life is textured;  and as I learned early on about texture in photography, I became more aware of how this word so brilliantly illustrates movement in all areas of my life.

I am teaching a Mindful Photography class at a hospital where patients, (clients) can heal through various methods of occupational therapy.  We spent one entire class on texture and how it layers our world.  I suggested to the students to open their eyes further to feel and soon see how texture reveals itself through various forms.  As I walked home afterward I passed this amazing tree trunk just whistling through to me of its multi-layered texture.  I think of what this magnificent being has endured.  And how in its evolving age is still shining brightly through its passages of life.

It beckoned me to approach and raise my camera to photograph.  My heart was and is still full.  Yesterday at the concert I was reminded of the parallels of music and photography.  Both frame my life and cause me to stretch deeper into the creative process.    And, as a teacher, to pay it forward, purely and simply.  Such abundance abounds.

Posted in Blog, Creative Process, Live, Story of a Photograph Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |