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I took these photos on the weekend while walking in one of my favorite woods. Some of the photos are taken with Camera+, one with qbro, some with Instagram, and some with Hipstamatic.

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woodland cathedral

Autumn leaves at Westminster Ponds Conservation Area

This morning I decided to go for a walk in the woods. I’ve been doing this a lot lately, because walking in the woods is good for me. Plus it’s a great place to take photographs. And I feel most alive when I’m taking photographs.

So I went for a walk in the woods. And it was awesome. And by awesome, I mean… [no words].

When I was much younger, I wondered why church services were the way they were. I mean, why they started with music, then prayer, then some more music, then some readings, then a sermon/homily/ersatz lecture… I really wanted to know. Was there a reason? Or was it arbitrary?

Then I read a lot of the work of an amazing psychoanalyst named Marion Woodman. And something in one of her books (sorry, can’t remember which one) caught my brain. It was about ritual. About how ritual is for taking humans on a journey to a meeting with the divine… and then returning to regular life. Hopefully transformed.

At a time when church has lost its meaning for many people, ritual runs the risk of becoming unconscious and unmediated. As I walked through the woods on a Sunday morning, I suddenly realized I was participating in a ritual. I dressed for my walk in special clothes before I left home. I travelled to a special place. I left my car in a parking lot. I entered a sanctuary. I began looking with my “photography” eyes. Laser focus. Shifted consciousness. I shot. I waited. I looked. I shot. I waited…

I didn’t walk far. There was no place I needed to be. I nearly fell over several times, though – standing too quickly after kneeling and praying shooting into the sun…

I turned around and started to walk back out. I didn’t want to leave, but I had soaked up as much of the path as I could, with my dazzled mind and my iPhone.

Then I looked up a hill. There was a sign asking not to climb it. I stopped seeing the sign. I climbed.

At the top, I knew exactly why I had come. I lay down on the forest floor on a bed of dry leaves, and stared at the sky. After a while, I posted this. Then I just lay there, looking. Seeing. Breathing. Feeling.

I heard the crows before I saw them. They flew above the trees, heading south. Flying and flying and flying over, too many crows to count. Hundreds of crows – a dozen or so at a time. At one point my mind kind of bent, and I wondered if it was the same dozen crows, just looping over and over again. Because I couldn’t believe there could be that many crows. I love crows.

When I was full – of sunshine and redyellow leaves and black wings on blue sky – I walked out a second time. Church was over for another week.

©2011, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow. All rights reserved.