There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, ‘Natura naturans’. There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fountain of action and of joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being … (Thomas Merton, ‘Hagia Sophia’)
Thomas Merton (1915—1968), Trappist monk and author, was also a contemplative photographer, an observer of the inward nature of life as seen with the eyes of the heart. “Merton’s approach to photography, and one of the reasons his photography is truly personal, lay in his use of his lenses primarily as contemplative instruments” (John Howard Griffin, “A Hidden Wholeness: the Visual World of Thomas Merton”, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 3). His photography sought to capture the “play of light, the ambience, and the inner life of the things he photographed” (Griffin, 4). Merton loved the silence surrounding the art-form of photography. “He struggled toward an expression of silence through the visual image, in photographs that communicated the essence of silence without any implied sounds” (Griffin, 4). In selecting images, Merton cared little for traditional aspects of photography such as photo journalism, composition or capturing a moment of significant time. “He selected only the frames that expressed his contemplative vision….He worked for photographic images which, when viewed without haste or pressure, might accomplish the slow work of communicating ‘a hidden wholeness’” (Griffin, 4).
One of the qualities we’ve sought to offer on Cannon Beach Log week by week is this “hidden wholeness”, inviting viewers and readers of this blog into the inner landscape of the soul to gaze upon the “unseen roots of all created being”. One of Thomas’ gifts as a photographer is to see the illumination within creation, using his camera lens “primarily as a contemplative instrument”. Much as icons and rose windows have been used within ancient church buildings, we offer these posts, including contemplative nature photography, as a way to see into the hidden wholeness of things. To accomplish this does not come naturally to humans, but comes to us as a gift, much like waiting for the light to illuminate a scene before clicking the shutter. We hope you will invite a friend to come visit Cannon Beach Log sometime this year, and also that you will keep coming back to mediate here among these pages.