Who can capture a photograph of mystery?

The very suggestion feels impossible at best, oxymoronic at worst. For is not mystery something intangible, ineffable, invisible, inconceivable? If I can’t touch it, speak it, see it or think it, how do I begin to image it? Mystery is something beyond my mind to capture, let alone my camera.

Then I began to notice the light in the kitchen, the soft way it diffused through the weave of the curtains or fell into panes on the floorboards. The way it brightened into sharp distinctions and then faded and blurred into something undefined. I stood for some time at that window, my hands in the sink, my gaze drawn to the clouds passing over the sun, their movements connected somehow to the spinning windcatcher that was causing the windchimes to ring as if at a wedding recessional. My gaze landed at last on the plant, basking in this fleeting late-winter brilliance, on the cart by the door.


I could end there, and perhaps I will…..I mean the way that a plant turns sunlight to substance? Whether I seek to understand that literally or metaphorically matters not, it remains pure wonderment to me. Light assumes form, becomes matter, becomes life!. Light makes matter become, grow, move….  Even if I can comprehend on some level the microbiology of photosynthesis, and the cycle of life set in motion, which passes along the light of that sun, my wonder is never squelched by my understanding. Not simply the ‘how’s’ of it all, of course, but ‘why?’

This particular plant was, 10 years ago, potted into a cracked clay pot, one that I’d dropped, intentionally, onto a cold stone floor then tediously and anxiously pieced and glued back together. It was an exercise in deep imagination for me and the others who were with me, as we imagined the audacity of saying ‘yes’ to this thing called life, agreeing to be dropped into this place guaranteed to break us, while being asked to bear the precious cargo of Life itself. That day, as each pot hit the ground with a crack, my heart broke open with love for my fellow travelers, as if I were witnessing birth itself.

That plant overtook that small pot, though I tried to keep it confined for some years, finally passing along the pot to my daughter (at a time when I thought she needed its message), and repotting my rootbound and practically soilless plant into something larger, deeper, wider.

But, of course, that too is the way of life, as it is the way of light. As humans we do pass along our brokenness, no matter how much we try to keep it contained. Much of that transmission occurs before we have engaged in our own work of transforming that pain into light gathering, life bearing, nurture ready treasure.   It baffles me that this is the way  (though so often it is the arrival of those ones drpendent upon our nurture that sets the transformation into motion) But somehow, in this great paschal mystery, brokenness becomes beauty, as the cracks let the light in to where it can take substance and form becoming something we can touch, see, feel, speak — hinting at something Unknown.

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M.C. Reardon


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