When I became more deeply interested in photography several years ago, I found myself becoming fascinated by paths.
First, I found myself searching for paths in the woods in the spring. It did not take long for me to discover that, even in the woods, there were many types of paths. Some paths were paved, some well-worn by foot travel. Some were level and smooth, others steep and treacherous. Some seemed to lead into the dark, others into the light.
Naturally, my quest for paths extended into the other seasons. The summer paths in the woods seemed a darker green, while the autumn paths were a-splash with warm, earthy colors. When I could persuade myself to explore the frozen winter woods, I found its paths hard and virtually monochromatic.
While, as a lover of beauty, I was intuitively drawn to photograph nature, I discovered that there was a different sort of beauty to be found in urban paths, be they old red brick roads, ordinary sidewalks or stepping stones set in gardens.
In time, I came to see paths established by our fellow creatures: tracks hopped into fresh-fallen snow, wakes left by lines of paddling ducks, even formations of geese migrating through later-summer skies.
Earlier this evening, as I was contemplating what to post, I felt more visual than verbal and so began a collage. I searched through my many files of photos dating back to 2010 and chose some of my favorite images of paths received through these past few years.
With the magic of computer software, I allowed the computer to cull the collection down to a mere 36 images that, with a bit of editing, became my "path of joy" collage that I will share with you here tonight.
Why a theme of paths during this Week of Joy?
From the onset of my search for paths, I was quite aware of these words urging me onward:
You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy... (Psalm 16:11)
In some sense, I am always searching for the "path of life", whether in the woods with my camera or in the noisy silence of my spiritual journey.
As my images illustrate, there are many, many paths of life, each experienced with its own unique dangers and beauties, challenges and joys. Can there be only one that leads into the fullness of joy which is His presence?
The answer, of course, is both yes and no. (Could you expect anything else from someone who describes their spiritual journey as consisting of "noisy silence"?)
There are as many paths as there are human beings. As created beings, each of us approaches the journey with our own individual biology and personal history, with our own loves and longings, our own wounds and weaknesses.
Even identical twins are not identical in the spiritual paths they take. Each of us walks a different path.
Yet, there can be only one path. Truth (also known as God) can only be One - not in the sense of the number "one", but in the sense of unity. A divided truth cannot be Truth.
And any old path cannot be the Path. There may be many paths that can lead us to happiness (that fleeting experience that we often mistake for joy) but there can be only one Path to Joy in its fullness. And that Path, we are told, will be shown to us - if we long for it with all of our hearts.
As I reach the end of this reflection, I am struck by the blessed synchronicity of the collage I created (one image while many images) with the words just written (One path while many paths).
All praise and glory be to Him who is both the Path and the Presence we seek.
(Click on the collage image to see it as a larger image.)