From Grief to Gratitude: An East African Hot Spring Photo Lights the Way

It’s been a rough month. Downright depressing, actually.  I lost a dear friend to lung cancer.  I also lost my Aunt to uterine cancer.  The former left two daughters (the youngest just eight years old), the latter was like my cool, older sister. Both women had one-in-a-million (or more) personalities, and both were the epitome of a True Heart, embodied. For Earth to be without their sparkling souls is something that, for me, has painted many of the past few days a heavy, dreary grey.

And then, quite unexpectedly, I saw the following picture, of a hot spring in East Africa, and felt my own spirit swell.

Photograph by George Steinmetz, National Geographic. " Sulfur and algae turn hot springs into pools of living color. The water is condensation from hot gases rising from magma chambers. As the water evaporates, salts and minerals form a vivid crust."

I’ve seen many breathtaking photos in my day, but for some reason, this one, on this day, pushed all the right buttons, and did something magic: it blew back that gauzy grey curtain and made me smile.  I mean really smile.  From that Chakra right at my center, all the way out through my eyeballs and fingertips.  After giving it some thought, I realized why.

First, a confession: Though generally, I’m a glass-half-full, almost campy optimist, I have been feeling jilted. Ripped off.  By sickness (cancer, in particular) and by what seems like the unfair and unnatural “mean-ness” of a world that is rife with harsh realities and all too frequent ugliness. The potency of my sadness was so great that I was unable to see much else.

Then, I saw the photo.  Its vastness and beauty awed me.  It made me feel small. In a good way.  I wasn’t just a part of my microcosm, temporarily steeped in unfortunate circumstances and thieving, undeserved disease.  What I was – What I am – is so, so lucky. So fortunate. So very blessed. To be a part of a larger world where there is unparalleled, huge beauty. For every sadness and unpleasant event, there is a larger, more miraculous occurrence. This is constant, and true, no matter what is going on in my life. Like it or lump it, I am a small part of a larger, exquisite whole, and that whole, is filled with wonder and gorgeousness and goodness.

Just as amazing is that these breaths of splendour can be conscious and human, or without any discernible thought, natural and spontaneous. From the huge wave of palpable love for dear ones departed to the unbelievable, unlikely coming together of the elements to form this particular African hot spring.  What grandeur Mama Earth can produce on the fly! What a marvel that a human heart can love so deeply, be so broken…and rise to love even more profoundly afterward.

How extraordinary that a photographer – a stranger – George Steinmetz, could capture a moment in time, thousands of miles away, and that this frame would find me at just the right moment, tickle me awed… and lighten my grief enough to write this post.  How marvelous to be filled with such gratitude. How necessary to see. Lucky, lucky, blessed me.

Photo courtesy of National Geographic

19 comments on “From Grief to Gratitude: An East African Hot Spring Photo Lights the Way

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  5. Hello. My deepest sympathy for your losses. And I do relate to your feelings about the world can be so ugly. Yet, there is so much beauty in it, too. The stunning African springs photo, as well as your garden, caught my eye because those are the things I try to surround myself with – to offset the ugliness. Continue to be strong and take care.

    • Thank you so much, Lily…sometimes after a really rough spell, it takes something really grand (like the size and spectacle of that gorgeous hotspring) to jolt me back into realizing how much beauty is all around me, all the time. Thanks for taking the time to comment. You take care, also, dear!

  6. So sorry for your losses. The picture is breathtaking. Thanks for sharing it. The beauty in God’s creation does have a way of warming the heart and soothing the soul. Thanks for the love you left for me on my blog this morning after our loss too.

  7. Just one post and you’ve got me hooked. I am very sorry for your losses and am sending light, love, and peace your way. The hot springs picture actually made me feel emotionally warm. How beautiful nature is and how healing it can be.

    • Thanks, Alex, for the kind words and the love, light and peace :) I felt the same way about the picture…I think there’s actually a series brewing for Z & G as a result of this post…stay tuned!

  8. You have communicated in heart language the very human incomprehensible experience of grappling with loss and suffering and death and the often frustrating struggle to find meaning in it. Thank you for sharing such beautiful perspective and insight.

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