Sunday, June 26, 2011

Deep Into Love

“Go deep into love, and forget everything else”. This is the sentence that came to my mind when I could not sleep the other night. I got up and wrote it down, and since then, have come back to it often. I like the power in this simple string of words.
The love I speak of is profound affection; something akin to what Paulo Coelho (born August 24, 1947) describes as, "the love that consumes." Here are examples: The soldier on a battlefield goes deeply into love; for home, country and his comrades . . . and then faces imminent peril and death. Many examples have been seen when a soldier sacrifices his comfort and safety to ensure that his comrades survive. Recently, in Libya where a civil war is raging, the ruler Muammar Gaddafi, ordered some of his air force pilots to bomb their fellow citizens. But Gaddafi miscalculated the love of his soldiers, for the three pilots felt, “deep love” for the Libyan people, and they chose to forget their insane commander and ditched their planes in mid flight, ejecting to parachute safely to land. Deep love is greater, more compelling than the superficial, and can produce more significant results. Artists also find that they are in the deep stream of love while they are in the creative flow. Imagine Michelangelo, high above the floor of the Sistine Chapel, working painfully on his back on scaffolding for what must have seemed endless hours, day after day, accomplishing his masterpiece. He suffered from heat and cold, thirst and hunger, as well as body cramps and soreness that would make a normal person cry. At night he arrived home, bone tired, eyes blurry, and slept with his shoes and clothes on, only to get up the next morning to arrive back at work. His being in the flow of deep love consumed everything else, and after he finished his masterpiece it became one of the most revered artworks on earth—a place of pilgrimage by millions over the centuries.

If we do not live in deep love, we will feel something lacking and try and fill the hole. It might be drugs or alcohol, sex, money, or the pursuit of security in another form. In the end, only deep love will satisfy the core craving in a human soul. It is best to let the fire of love consume and purify everything else.

"In the garden of thy heart, plant naught but the rose of love."  Baha'u'llah  (12 November 1817 – 29 May 1892)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Grand Play

When I was a young man, I had an aversion to wearing a tie. My father would have to stand behind me and while facing a mirror, help me put one on, and tie the loop. I did not like the feeling of a knot around my throat. I could not even wear a turtleneck sweater—it felt tight around my neck. Perhaps this discomfort had to do with a terrible dream I had when I was a child. In the dream, I was in a bed, resting peacefully at the top of a house, under a pitched roof in an attic. An open window with lace curtains was by my bed, and as I lay on my back, I could feel a soft breeze. Then, a woman appeared beside me and gently leaned over to stroke my head. She was soft, and her dress fluttered slightly from the breeze coming through the window. As I rested, peaceful and still, observing the woman, she leaned closer and with utter calmness, began choking me with her hands. I awoke terrified, and my body was paralyzed so that I could not move a finger. My throat would not utter a cry. After what seemed an eternity, I screamed and ran to my parent’s bedroom, where my mother calmed me from my nightmare.

Now, decades later, I can wear a tie, and sometimes I wear a scarf. I have come to see that all of life is a dream. I do not react negatively to this dreaming, but rather, embrace it. I am an actor in THE DREAM. The script is written, and as my lion-hearted daughter Naomi said before she died, I must, “show up and be lovingly present, no matter what it looks like out there or inside yourself.”

We all play a part in THE DREAM, acting our part in a grand play, written by the genius Creator. He has given us ability to make the script into an improvisation, and in some ways, choose our own endings. We are all adding our lines and performing our unique roles to create the grandest drama.
When a person enters the stage, I do not judge, but rather concentrate on my part, which is to be loving and full of life, to add vigor and grace to the scene. Everybody’s part is important. If the stage held only one or two grand actors, it would be boring indeed.

Villains are a part of any great drama . . . and if mankind advances sufficiently that there are no longer human villains, then there will be other darkness to face. It will always be this way. This is how the show goes on.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Worth A Thousand Words

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. This picture contains far more than a thousand. In this capture of a moment in time, we are left to marvel at the ragamuffin group of children, standing in a row, holding hands and gazing at us with wonderment. They are mostly dressed in tattered, dirty, used clothes that sometimes do not fit. They are unaware of how they look to a foreigner, and seem happy. In the background, a group of fathers are turned away, looking off in the distance. Some dilapidated homes are behind the children at the foot of tall mountains. The light is clean and fresh, untainted by pollution. The setting is rugged and pristine.

I was living on a houseboat on Dal Lake, near Srinagar in Kashmir, and this day I was with a guide and we drove two hours into the mountains so that I could ride on horseback into magnificent scenery amid snow-capped peaks and verdant valleys of the Himalaya Mountains—where the peaks are the highest in the world. In Sanskrit, the name means, “abode of snow”. The world’s second tallest peak is K2, and is administered by Kashmir. I brought along my paints and canvas, for I am an artist by profession, and on the way, I studied the landscape, looking for a place to make a painting. A small village nestled below the winding road caught my attention and the guide said we could stop there on the way back. After the trek, we arrived, and as we made our way down the dirt track from the highway, I fell in love with the place, especially as I met the people. They were curious of me and did not mind that I set up my easel in the middle of their community to begin painting.

THE DREAM seemed so incredible. Only a week earlier, I had arrived in New Delhi from Africa. Within two days, unexpected events had whisked me away to the far north of India, into Kashmir, and to a houseboat on a lake, where I had a personal servant and complete freedom amid a breathtaking landscape. I could not have planned it any better.

Soon, a group gathered around me to watch. It seemed that I was great entertainment. I decided to paint the houses with their pitched tin roofs and the mountains towering behind them. In the foreground were a wood corral for animals, and an open area where I painted. The children came close, while a few older folk stood respectfully aside, watching as I sketched in the composition and then began laying in color.

My painting gave the villagers a fresh look at their surroundings, and maybe they felt a bit honored that I liked where they lived. At my side I had my camera, and every so often, I turned from my painting and looked into the faces of children gathered around me. I felt blessed to be “a stranger in a strange land”, and yet feel at home in the matrix of existence where every mortal being has its beginning and end.  I made my painting, and also snapped pictures. I could not finish the artwork because the day grew late, but took a photo for reference later.

The children are part of an inter-dependant community. The villagers work with their animals and the countryside, scraping a livelihood. I was there in mid-October and learned that they would soon migrate south to lower elevations for the winter. So the lifestyle is nomadic.

The people speak a Kashmiri dialect, not English. But so much can be said through gestures and a loving attitude. When I motioned that I wanted to take a picture of the kids, they assembled without a word, spontaneously forming a cohesive group to look directly at me. The group of youngsters lined up and held hands instinctively, all of them linked by an unspoken bond of familiarity and love. I did not tell them how to pose. They acted naturally and with perfect ease.

The photo shows some grimy faces, chapped from wind and cold. Obviously, their mothers, using only scissors, do their haircuts. They probably wear the same clothes every day. The village has no electricity, none of the “modern amenities” of the west, and I did not see taps for running water. Instead of material things being important, relationships are key. I imagine that responsibilities are shared, so that even the children feel responsible for one another. They sleep together in small dwellings, rise with the sun, adapt to daunting conditions of nature, are witness to births and deaths, see beloved animals butchered for food and hides, and get little schooling. They are mostly unaware of the world outside their borders.

The earth is close to these people and they show it. I liked the directness that made for some great pictures. The youngsters I call, “Star Children”, because their eyes are unclouded and shine like the bright evening stars.

Kashmir is 97% Muslim, so females cover their heads with a scarf. Many centuries ago, Kashmir was home to the Hindu religion, then Buddhism, but eventually became ruled by adherents of Islam.
Kashmiri cuisine includes boiled potatoes with heavy amounts of spice, cottage cheese, lamb cooked in heavy spices, lamb cooked in curd with mild spices, spinach, minced meat balls in tomato and curd curry, and the traditional feast involves cooking meat or vegetables, usually mutton, in several different ways. It is the first time I had tea with salt, a popular drink.

When we packed my paints and left the village, the air was cooling rapidly and the sun had disappeared behind the mountain walls. We drove the narrow rode toward Srinagar, and I felt happy. I leaned far out the passenger window and took pictures of the landscape flashing by. The blur adds a soft effect that can be romantic . . . losing details and indicating how elements meld together in simple shapes and colors. Later, I downloaded my pictures onto my computer, and now I marvel that THE DREAM had provided me such an unexpected and fulfilling experience in Kashmir.

This article is "one thousand words".

Here are a couple more pictures from the same day:

See more artistic photography from Steven Boone, including photos from around the world and Kashmir at

Sunday, June 05, 2011


I have two daughters; one is ahead of me and the other behind. My oldest daughter Naomi died when she was nineteen, and she is ahead of me, an angel lighting my way in this world and waiting for me in the next. My youngest daughter Sarah is twenty-four, seven years behind Naomi. She is my joy and deep companion, and is behind me. Her development holds great promise and I am privileged to be part of it as her father. Both my children inform and broaden my life and we are bonded throughout time and space.

A few years ago I traveled to Africa, and I met Masai people in Kenya and Tanzania. They attracted me so that I had to approach them when I could. They are calm and have inner presence that is strong and in balance with the earth. When I came near, they were not shy, but rather curious of me. More than once, the men asked me about my wife, and I had to say I did not have a wife. This was incredible to them and they showed great pity toward me. If I had said I have had two wives and lost them both, it would have been even worse.

For a few years now, I have been active with a group called New Mexico Men’s Wellness. Men gather several times a year in special outdoor locations to bond and provide support for each other, often using rituals and group activity to enhance the experiences. When I heard that the group would be holding a father-daughter gathering, I contacted Sarah and asked her to join me there and she replied from Chicago that she would like to come.

This weekend the conference took place at the serene and picturesque Ghost Ranch, near Abique, New Mexico, where the famous artist Georgia O’keefe lived for much of her life. The theme set for the group was The Yellow Brick Road; A Journey Of Discovery. The Wizard Of Oz story deals with how strangers can come together to help each other overcome obstacles and by doing so discover powers within themselves that they did not know they had. During the course of the weekend, the father’s bunked together near their daughter’s and the group engaged regularly from dawn to night. The sharing was poignant, honest and deep, so that crying occurred frequently. When Sarah and I departed to return home, we had many new friends and felt something special occurred. Moreover, we had taken big steps toward one another and made promises to each other to take care of our special relationship.

For more about my experiences with Masai, visit these posts: Cradle of Civilization, The Dark Continent