Wednesday, February 18, 2015

WALKING EPIPHANY in Mueller, ATX: neighborhood notes from Stephen Henderson

Welcome to a special Epiphany series of guest posts.  I've asked a few friends who live (literally) around the world to take a walk through their neighborhoods and share some of what they see through photos, videos and words.  Each one has selected from a variety of thoughtful prompts to consider the ways the Light has moved into their neighborhoods.  Will you join us?

Stephen Henderson
Mueller Neighborhood, Austin

Prompt: Local ground

The likeliest path to the ultimate ground leads through my local ground. I mean the land itself, with its creeks and rivers, its weather, seasons, stone outcroppings, and all the plants and animals that share it. I cannot have a spiritual center without having a geographical one; I cannot live a grounded life without being grounded in a place.
Scott Russell Sanders

Around the block in my specific east Austin neighborhood of Mueller, built on the old airport.

Around the "block" of my wider neighborhood of Austin, TX

North Lamar, Cesar Chavez, 24th Street

Out my back window you would see this.

"All this is one thing. All this is Weather. It may seem unlike, but it is the same. It is the big laughter of silent torrential blizzards, deep green fields with gray skies, with blue skies, and the shooting stars of summer. They are all the fruit of one mood, and the arranged contrivances of a sphere traveling around a sphere, balanced at a constant angle, always pointing to Polaris, making fruit grow and die, water freeze and melt, billions of hand-crafted crystals bury my world. These are the many moods, the many mood, of God."  -N.D Wilson

Prompt: Dim light and shadow

How much more mysterious and inviting is the street of an old town with its alternating realms of darkness and light than are the brightly and evenly lit streets of today! The imagination and daydreaming are stimulated by dim light and shadow. In order to think clearly, the sharpness of vision has to be suppressed, for thoughts travel with an absent-minded and unfocused gaze. Homogenous bright light paralyses the imagination in the same way that homogenisation of space weakens the experience of being, and wipes away the sense of place. The human eye is most perfectly tuned for twilight rather than bright daylight. Mist and twilight awaken the imagination by making visual images unclear and ambiguous.
Juhani Pallasmaa

As a photographer & cinematographer I've come to love light in all its many forms. 

It is the visible glory of the Trinity that bathes the universe, spilling all around and overflowing like grace, reflecting and refracting and bouncing everywhere, like the shining glory of the Triune God who is Love! It can be blinding if you look right at it, so for now, like Moses shielding his eyes, as Emily Dickinson said:
 "The Truth must dazzle gradually/ Or every man be blind-"

Here's a quote from a favorite writer Peter Leithart:

"Light keeps time. The rhythm of light and darkness marks out days. The movements of sun, moon, and stars mark months, seasons, years. 
Light is the future. The pattern of creation is darkness to light, first darkness broods over the deed, then the fiat lux. Days begin with evening, and history begins in the dusk of the old creation. Light comes last, and if God is light, He is the God of future, the light that glows ahead and shines back to illumine all that comes before."

"Light is glorious; it dazzles. It is glory. It also glorifies because it enables other things to emerge in the fullness of their own glory. Since God is light, God is the glory and the glorifier of all things. The Father is the Light that makes the Son radiant in the Spirit. The Triune communion is an eternal, mutual, exchange of light." -Peter Leithart

Prompt: Imaginative act

What I see behind my eyes changes what I see in front of them; my imagination shapes my perception so that I must look not once but twice at the world to see it whole. Walking down the street, I see a wild-looking character sitting on the steps of the library. His gray hair is matted. His dense beard covers the slogan on his grimy T-shirt. His small darting eyes are as volatile as a hawk's. I look once and think "drifter." I look twice and think "John the Baptist," and in that imaginative act my relationship to the man is changed.

Barbara Brown Taylor

"I looked up and saw sparrows landing on a sign. Suddenly, the whole scene became completely abstract, as though I were seeing it through nascent eyes. I realized I could remove all preconceptions about these birds. That ability was very exciting." -Richard Vander Wende

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods or goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to might one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you might be strongly tempted to worship...There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Next to the blessed sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses." C.S. Lewis
 I've found that drawing & photography, by forcing me to see what is, has helped me see my neighbors as the glorious images of God that they are, and my city and neighborhood as part of God's good world where his kingdom is already breaking out.
"I am not ashamed to own that I believe that the whole universe, heaven and earth, air and seas, be full of images of divine things, as full as language is of words." -Jonathan Edwards
Stephen Henderson is the husband of the beautiful, wise Whitney Elizabeth; the son of a mother and father who lovingly taught him to read, to sail, and to love life and God wholeheartedly; brother to five amazing sisters and one intrepid (and long-awaited) brother. Originally from Rockport (Texas), he now lives in Austin with his wife, where he makes a living as a freelance imagemaker and storyteller under the moniker The Habit of Seeing, creating videos for schools, start-ups, entrepreneurs, writers and makers. (Also, Stephen's the talented photographer who captured those gorgeous senior photos of our daughter Kendra!)

What about your neighborhood?

  • If we walked around the block in your neighborhood, what would we see?
  • What does the light look like at different times of day in your neighborhood?
  • Look at your neighborhood as an "imaginative act" the way Barbara Brown Taylor describes her encounter with the wild-looking character sitting on the steps of the library in the quotation above. How does this change your view of the people and places in your neighborhood?

**Each of guest post in the WALKING EPIPHANY series selected a few prompts from an overflowing folder of quotations I've saved from the Daily Asterisk.  Thank you *culture is not optional for all of your good work. **

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