Mother’s Day

Happy mothers day mom! I know that you are always curious about what I am doing, and concerned about me so here is an update for you. Thank you for being such a loving mom.

This is taken from the bottom of the terraces, with me standing in the middle of Ben Gurion (the road) on a small strip between lanes with my tripod. Too many people felt the obnoxious need to honk at me. It was well worth it, I think this is one of my favourites. 5.0 sec, f/14, iso 200, 105 mm

I forgot to mention the relief seeing the terraces in the distance upon finally arriving in Haifa. I’m not sure if it was Abdu’l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi, but one of them wrote in the description of how the Shrine of the Bab should be constructed that it should be clearly visible from a distance to all those arriving by ship to Haifa. It definitely is visible from a distance. Next time I come I want to come by water, I’d like to sail here to have that experience, and sail to Akka as well. Each time I come I have a goal for the next time it seems, last time was to write about the experience, and this time it’s to sail here. Getting bigger.

I love shallow depths of field, and these stones! They carpet the pathways to the Shines. I’m told that they were all hand picked from the Sea of Galilee. 1/400 sec, f/5.6, iso 100, 55 mm

First day of pilgrimage

It hasn’t really sunk in that I am here yet, and it is certainly taking some time. The last little while I’ve been feeling a little out of it, spiritually, in another world. It’s an interesting experience while caught up with travelling, and I find it takes more effort to maintain any sort of spirituality when the physical senses are constantly distracted and occupied with new sights and surroundings, and lack of privacy.

After checking in at the pilgrim centre this morning, we (the pilgrims) have been spending the late morning and early afternoon waiting for the welcome at 2:30. With some time to spare I went for a walk in the gardens on the upper terraces, above the Shrine of the Bab. We weren’t allowed to visit the Shrine until we went as a group for the first time. It’s hard not to be inspired by the surrounding of such beauty, especially on such a magnificent and grand scale. It’s a little overwhelming, and suddenly 9 days doesn’t seem like anywhere near enough time.

Right now I’m feeling a little melancholic, and spiritually absent from myself. I can’t wait to move beyond this, for some time to pray and meditate surrounded by peace and tranquillity, beauty and nature. I’m at the centre of the universe! I feel such a need for my being to collapse itself at these holy Thresholds in absolute humility and prayer, a need to empty myself of this world before I can move forward. I want so badly to be here and spiritually present. It takes time, it seems, for me to adjust.

I love this fountain, it’s so beautiful. I love the texture, light, and composition of this. 1/20 sec, f/5.6, iso 100, 55 mm.

I’m not quite ready to step into the Shrine of Abdu’l-Baha and the Bab (after being welcomed in the International Teaching Centre (ITC) auditorium). As a pilgrim group we just circumambulated the shrine; I think there are around 350 pilgrims. Now I’m sitting on the second step from the top of the lower terraces, just below the shrine. Last time I was here it was covered up as it was undergoing a restoration. What a blessing for the renovations to be finished this time. It is such a fantastic, majestic (majestic feels too weak a word) structure. It takes some time and effort to wrap ones head around the significance of this all. My gates are starting to give, but still holding fast. I’m almost afraid to let them open for fear of drowning.

As we were walking on the Arc to the shrine of the Bab, I began to think about significance. The last week I have spent visiting significant religious and historical sites. They are all ancient and their day has long passed and they have lost their virility. When in these places I often imagine what they would have been like in their prime, in their day, and try to bring life to the ruins. It is so different here in Haifa, I can’t help but think as I stand on the Arc. I am awestruck staring up at the supremacy of Universal House of Justice, just in its architecture. My mind has to function in overdrive in order to fathom the enormity and significance of this building. Its visual stunning exterior is a mere symbol the spiritual rock that it is in a crumbling world. This Faith is in its prime, this is its day. I am walking in history, the history of a faith that is still in its infancy. For just under the next thousand years this will be the spiritual center of the world. Then, its day will pass and it will return to the dust like those other sights that I have visited. I can’t help but hope that when this cycle comes to a close, the Baha’is will not be stuck clinging to the past but will recognize the future.

I wish I had a shot with someone standing beside one of these pillars to illustrate the scale of them. They look quite small in this photograph, but in reality they are quite immense and impressive. 1/125 sec, f/10, iso 200, 18 mm

Writing helps me think, it allows me to clear my mind and slow down my thoughts to a more methodical and coherent pace. I can feel the gates of my heart beginning to open, and a swell of emotion beginning to build. The scale of the beauty, I can never describe. All I can say, bluntly, is it’s quite impressive. I only wish that my photos could portray the tiniest portion of the grandeur.

The car lights add a lot of dynanmism to the photo, but it is such a hard composition to bring together ascetically. I think it needs a higher angle and a much longer exposure to bring more light into the black surrounding areas, and several minutes of traffic streaks on the street. It’s still a cool picture though. 8.0 sec, f/14, iso 100, 75 mm

I think it’s time to unlock and step inside.

Full auto

What a different experience walking up the terraces is with the renovations on the Shrine completed. This morning began with Chris—an Austrian Baha’i also staying at the Port Inn. We walked together through the busy streets of Haifa working to keep ourselves from being flattened by the rushing traffic. We came to the foot of the terraces, and the foot of Mount Carmel. It was 9:00 am and the sun was already high in the sky. As we began walking up the terraces I could already begin to feel my black cotton pants clinging to my skin as I began to perspire. Looking up from the bottom of the terraces I could see the Shine of the Bab, its golden dome gleaming magnificently in the sunlight, a superb piece of architecture. As I approached the first set of steps my perspective shifted and the Shrine disappeared from view. With each step of ascension, however, more and more of the Shrine was revealed again until I came out onto the first terrace—a sort of oasis. Here I was able once again to gaze upon most of the Shrine. Chris and I climbed on in contended silence gazing up at such majesty, side by side, step by step. With each new set of steps the Shrine would shrink from view, and then expand once again with the ascension to another terrace. Each time it became a little larger.

Metaphorically I think it can symbolize among many things, the process of crisis and victory. Overcoming each test brings us closer to our goal and gives us new perspective, but then we must continue on our path leaving behind the comfort of that perspective to overcome another test and confusion of our perspective before we are able to again attain a greater perspective, an ongoing process. I took a series of photos and some video to illustrate this, but they need some work before I show them and I only have Lightroom on this computer.

This cat figured out that it can live off the generosity of the Baha’is, so now it hangs around the pilgrim center. Every time I see a cat now in Israel I try to get a shot of it, they’re usually too fast for me though. 1/125 sec, f/5.6, iso 100, 55 mm

We met with our pilgrim guide and group this morning. We began by introducing ourselves and sharing our journeys that we underwent to get here. Most of our group are over 50; I’m definitely one of the youngest and without a doubt the youngest on my own. We loaded on the bus and headed off for the Shrine of Baha’u’llah. Our guide has such a pleasant and enjoyable voice that I was quite contented to sit on the bus and listen as we drove and she pointed things out, elaborating with history and stories.

Trudging along the path to the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, I felt like a real pilgrim for the first time. We trudged on in silence as a group, collectively our shoes crunched consistently on the pebbles. The pace was unhurried but steady. Vegetation grows up on each side of the path, making it a long narrow and straight path to the Shrine, the most holy spot on earth. The path seemed in a good way to go on and on, and I was quite contented to trudge on, it seemed quite fitting.

Dusk at Bahji. That is the Shrine of Baha’u’llah directly ahead, and the mansion of Bahji to the left. 5.0 sec, f/5.6, iso 200, 18 mm

This was on Saturday, our day off. Full auto

This is the house of Abbud in Akka. Polarizing filter. 1/160 sec, f/10, iso 100, 20 mm

A comment on my photography. I was speaking with another one of the pilgrims today and he noted that it seemed like a lot of my shots are more artistic. I guess I’m trying, and I’m not really trying to document. I know that I can’t capture the spirit and visual scale through photography, so I’m just trying to capture vignettes of the beauty, sort of like a splash of paint across a canvas. Photography is such an art, and I am such a baby at it, but I’m trying.

I hope you enjoy the photos! I have much more to come, but for now I’m off the the Shrines to pray. Happy mothers day mom! I love you.