North Dartmouth Meetinghouse
Have you ever been to Woolman Hill? If not, you should add it to your bucket list. It is a pure delight.
Woolman Hill is a Quaker retreat center located in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. They host educational activities and provide space for overnight group retreats, workshops and sabbaticals. They also have some cabins scattered about their grounds for personal use, personal retreats, relaxing times, or just plain fun. I stayed overnight in the Sunrise cabin. The calendar date showed that “Fall” was just one day old, but the air felt like deep Fall. There was definitely a nip in the air. But with a roof and a wood stove, it was warm, safe, comfortable and relaxing. Life simplified in a good way.
Today, North Dartmouth Friends Meeting is located on Woolman Hill. In the early 1990’s, the last few remaining members of North Dartmouth Friends Meeting offered their Meetinghouse to Woolman Hill. In 1996 the Meetinghouse, which was built in 1849, was disassembled, loaded onto two trucks, and moved. In 2001, the new foundation was poured and reconstruction begun. The very old Meetinghouse now has a new life. It is used for mid-week worship, with an average attendance of 10. And it is available to the many groups and individuals who come to Woolman Hill for retreats, conferences, weddings, and other events. It is part of the complex of buildings Woolman Hill has available for its mission of fostering spiritual connection within, with others, and with the natural world. The Meetinghouse is in beautiful, pristine condition. It is square and plain, with lots of window light, old wood and old benches. When you walk in, it has the delicious smell of fine old wood. The creative thinking used to re-imagine, move, re-create, and develop new uses for an old building is wonderful. It is recycling at its best.
Because there is not an active meeting community at the Meetinghouse, I am going to take this opportunity to talk a little bit more about my own photographic process. If you are not bored by this description, you can find further details of my process in the blog on East Sandwich Preparative Meetinghouse, written in May of 2014.
When I first read the book called The Zen of Creativity by John Daido Loori, I felt as if I was recognizing my own photographic practice there on the printed page. The author talks about four essential elements in the process of making a photograph. First is the muse, which is the sense of inspiration. Second is hara, the still and grounded place within. Third is the chi, which is the energy within both the photographer and within the subject. Lastly, the resonance between subject and the photographer which arises from the chi.
When I walk into a Meetinghouse, I feel a sense of resonance from somewhere deep inside. I feel a deep connection and internal shifting especially after meditating and connecting with the still point inside me. Then the energy begins to flow. When that happens, I work non-stop. The pictures just begin to present themselves, though there are some pictures that I know I must take to relate to the story I am telling. But I also just “see” some things that scream at me to “take this picture.” And so I do.
Though technique definitely comes into play and is always in the back of my mind, this is not an intellectual exercise. Photography is a spiritual practice for me. It is a letting go of self, it is being in the moment, it is staying attuned to the flashes of perception that come, and it is remaining keyed into the resonance that I feel with the subject matter. At some point in the day, I will know that I am done. Suddenly, I feel the energy go, the resonance wane. And then I know I am finished for the day. It is time to pack and go. I feel a sense of completion, and I always say a word of thanks for the light (and the Light), the day, and for the opportunity given to me to photograph in a beautiful building.
The picture is one of those that just called out to me: Take me!
The chi and the resonance - what a great description of connection - I too feel it often when I enter a Meetinghouse - they are "weighty places" - and your photographs express that well. Thank you.
It's all about the bench and the Light....Beautiful
W Thomas Manders(non-registered)
I like this photograph that brings out the warmth of the wood as well as the warmth of the light. Surely a place that meeting members might like on a cold morning.
Your comments on the way you find the photos is inspiring. Somehow letting the photograph find you vs you finding the photograph. maybe that is more of what life should be each day.
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