THE BARDO OF DHARMATA, Five Days Following the Vernal Equinox, 2011


The Bardo of Dharmata is a storybook image, something that might fall out of a book years after the shutter was released. It was my wish to capture the timelessness and serendipity of love which took place just past the Equinox in 2011.  The formations in nature and rock speak of a wisdom that we all possess but frequently forget.  The print mirrors yin and yang, earth and water, masculine and feminine, light and shadow, flowing inward and outward, taking a path beyond the physical.

As I looked further into the image, I recognized the relationship we all have to the world beyond what we see on earth. If our eyes are truly open, the camera can capture unseen light: the realms forgotten, an energy that illuminates our path. Although this image was shot with a Canon 50D EOS camera, I have always preferred the luminosity captured by infrared film. I did not want to simply replicate this effect with digital filters and as I worked in layers with variations of light and contrast, texture and opacity, I was able to create the glow even without the heat sensitive film. The mirror image of the tree, the moon and shoreline in the sea pool are unaltered and appear as they presented to me on that early spring evening in 2011.

In my book, “This is the Moon’s Work: New & Selected Poems”, I named the closing section “Bardo: The Light Beyond”. The poems focus on themes of healing and transformation, both physical and spiritual. Working with this photograph led me again to the pages of “The Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche.

Some of the titles I drafted in my notebook for this image first included Hamsa Swan; My Pharos, My Mirror [Pharos being the Greek word for lighthouse]; “And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, they danced in the light of the Moon” [Edward Lear]; “How perilous it is to choose not to love the life we’re shown”[Seamus Heaney); Walking the Iridescent Greens of Early Spring; And Now, She is the Chosen One; and finally, the Bardo of Dharmata.

While I read more on the concepts of this specific Bardo, I found the following description which helped me to recognize the deeper meaning and how it may apply to personal transformations in this lifetime. Here I quote a few short passages from LingGesar:

“The manifestations of the Luminous Bardo of Dharmata, or Cho nyi, are described as “spontaneously present”, which means they are inherent and unconditional and exist in us all… Since they are by nature limitless, they have the freedom then to manifest in any form. The four phases involved, each offering another opportunity for liberation, include Luminosity –The landscape of Light; Union – The Dieties; Wisdom; and, Spontaneous Presence. The key to understanding this Bardo is that all the experiences that take place in it are the natural radiance of the nature of our mind… They are its spontaneous expression.”

What I discovered that evening in my mind’s eye – the luminosity of love and its manifestations in humanity and nature – were mirrored in the lens and mirrored again by the pool’s reflection: the blossoming tree, the path lit beyond, the oar waiting by the tree trunk and the moon captured by the sea.

This image is for Peter.

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