Thursday, August 03, 2006

Symbols and self-definition

A few days ago I went on a trip with a friend to the Cibolo Nature Center. This is a beautiful place with a nice walking trail and lots of trees. My friend, who is a nature photographer by trade, brought along two very good cameras and let me have one to play with. It was a Canon. It had a lens on it which could go near macro, telephoto and wide angle. I was impressed. I wasn't so impressed with the results of my artistic efforts. Even with less than great photographic results I had a lot of fun.

Near the end of the trail we came across some sotol cactus which is native to the southwest. The stem of the blossoms makes a long thick staff which, when cut and dried, is incredibly light and very strong. Experienced hikers value it highly as a walking stick. I've wanted one for a long time. My naturalist friend gave me an old one he had. I grabbed hold of it and promptly got a hand full of splinters. Ouch! Restoration efforts on my part didn't improve it much.

Going online I found a place that made walking sticks from sotol and customized them with wood burnings and other decorations. What was promised was a walking stick that was a work of art which would be personally meaningful to the recipient. After discussing possible repair of the stick we decided that it was too far gone to be worth the effort. So I started the process of purchasing one.

This artist really gets into making the stick meaningful for you. Tell him your favorite symbols and he will put them on the stick. Picking out personal symbols was a great experience. In doing so I learned about myself and what I value.

We started with my name in Celtic letters. Those were beautiful and I have a little Scottish and English in my ancestral history. Another reason for the Celtic is, my church seems focused on those symbols of faith, renewal, and spirituality. Often they represent the connection between God and nature. Untamed, natural places have always drawn me.

Keeping with the God in nature theme I wanted something that embodied that in a very strong way. We settled on a greenman image. You can find that on lots of pagan pages but the Christian church uses it as an ancient symbol of renewal. To me it looks wild and powerful. My father and I used to sit on our porch and watch storms blow in. This was a special time for me. Feeling the electricity in the air and seeing the wind whip the trees I'd get excited. I still like to do storm watches. When it starts to rain I open the windows of my home to let in the cool, damp air that's being created as God washes the world. It makes everything around me feel new and good.

The artist had some Native American symbols on his page. From his "soul-catcher" sticks I chose a strand of beads. These will be seven in number and mostly green which symbolizes healing. I am asking for a few lavendar ones for spirituality.

Now I am waiting for my stick. Creation will take 6 days. He promises to send photographs along the way to show the progress. I am excited. If this turns out well I will post a link to his web page here and elsewhere.

So what did I get from that? Well, the reminder that nature inspires me and makes me feel alive was good. It is an area where I can enrich my life by trying to spend more time in it. Defining my values with symbols was part self-reflection part creation. When you define something you give it form and direction. Having done so for my stick I feel I have also done that for my life. Knowing what you value and think of as good gives you an image of yourself to love. Knowing that God loves me is good but; if I don't love myself, if I can't hold onto what he sees in me, I can't hold onto the belief in God's love for very long. The first hard knock would cause me to slide away from that knowledge. So I think that defining myself in good images will help me hold onto a loving image of myself. One I think fits in with what God sees in me. And if I can love myself as God does, unreservedly, then I will be able to stop focusing on myself and start focusing on others.


Susan Palwick said...

It sounds like the stick will be beautiful; I can't wait to see it! Do you think the six-day creation is a conscious reference to Genesis?

If you develop or discover new symbols later on, will you be able to add them to the stick?

Looking forward to the pictures!

Lee said...

Thank you, Susan.

Yes, I did realize the Genesis connection. I didn't express it though because I have already used so much "God talk" that I felt that it would be going overboard. People who are in the know will catch you did. (g)

Yes, I think I can. It is finished with oil and wax instead of things like varnish or poly stuff. So He probably would just sand off the wax and burn any additions on.