Tag Archives | Julie Terrill

Thin Places by Julie Terrill

I heard about a Celtic belief that this realm and the next are separated by a veil that is substantially thinner in sacred sites. I was immediately intrigued and began researching how to experience these ‘thin places’ for myself.  It didn’t take long to discover that it is almost easier to find information on what a thin place isn’t than what one is. Thin Places are often holy sites but not all holy sites are thin.  Thin Places are generally quiet; not flashy or showy. If there is a gift shop it is likely not a  thin place. They are often not easily accessible. Okay… but what are they?

As a photographer I was unsure how I would capture this intangible element that I didn’t entirely understand but trusted that I would do so in a way that was representative of my experience.  I had a list of suggested sites gleaned from many hours of research. The town of Mountshannon and nearby  Inis Cealtra, or Holy Island, had somehow managed to elude the books and websites I had referenced.  I learned of it from our host while checking into our cottage the day we arrived in Ireland.  She gave me contact information for Gerard, the boat captain, who has a tiny kiosk at the Mountshannon Harbor.  There he schedules boat rides and sells photos and books on the history of the 50 acre island, most of which he authored.

The island’s artifacts, spanning in age over 6,000 years, illustrate its long existence as sacred ground. Dating back to 4,000 BC, Pagan bullaun stones with carved depressions to collect water are found across the island. There are five churches in various states of ruin and excavation as well as grave stones dated from 898 AD through present day. The island is peaceful, enchanting and bucolic, with cows grazing while they, too, walk the historic pilgrimage path around the island.

In Killaloe, Linda my travel companion, and I both felt deeply connected to a stone chapel built in the 6th century along the banks of the River Shannon. Saint Flannan’s Cathedral was built 700 years later at the south end of the chapel,  an ornately carved screen separated the two spaces. We entered the chapel in reverent silence. Occupying the otherwise empty space was a scattering of ancient stone artifacts, including a high cross and a large stone inscribed in Viking script on one side and Ogham on the other. The massive wooden doors slammed shut behind us and a reverberating din filled the stone walls. The acoustics were amazing. I began to sing very softly, quite surprised that my voice carried through the building. Just as quietly, Linda joined me and our song echoed through the chapel.

Stone circles dot the Irish countryside and predate Christianity, originating in the Bronze Age dating 2,000 – 4,000 BC.  Just standing amid these stones is bucket-list material. But placing my hands on the altar stone in the center of the circle, I was overwhelmed with an indescribable connectivity to the countless hands that had been laid on the same spot for six millennia.

Some sources I researched cited the Cliffs of Moher as a thin place. This seemed counterintuitive to me. Between the cliffs and a huge bus-filled parking lot, is a large visitors center with several cafes and a numerous of gift shops. Instead, Linda and I parked in a dirt patch several miles from the visitor’s center and its throngs of tourists. We walked alongside livestock pastures, traversed a number of stone walls and hiked in relative solitude as a small rise gave way to an Amuse Bouche for the eyes, there to delight and entice us with the promise of what lay ahead.  We arrived at a mossy bluff where the earth, sea and sky intertwine forming the beautiful tapestry of The Wild Atlantic Way.  This was an incredible vantage point to photograph the legendary cliffs.  I sat on the thick carpet of moss that cushioned and cradled me. I felt strangely compelled to put away my camera to be fully present.  This was a new phenomenon. I usually felt more present and more me with my camera in hand. Eyes closed and feeling completely at peace, I felt as if I was sitting in the lap of God; a little girl enveloped in the protective, loving arms of my Father.  It was not until the wind stung my wet cheeks that I realized I had been crying. Linda and I remained for hours on our bluff in silence, journaling and knowing we found the undefinable experience we had been seeking.

I do not believe it is necessary to travel to the British Isles for this experience. I think a thin place can be deeply personal. A space where the veil is whisper thin for me may not evoke those feelings for anyone else. I have such a place in the woods of Maine. A fern filled clearing under a canopy of leaves is my place to connect with the earth, myself and my faith; usually barefoot, always with gratitude.  My thin place is not marked on any map or on a list of sacred grounds. I can return there, or to the mossy cliffs, by simply closing my eyes and opening my mind.

About the Author: Julie Terrill

julieterrill_bio

Julie Terrill is a photographer and writer with a passion for travel. For ten years, she’s told stories of empowerment through the lens of her camera in an array of unique landscapes, environments, and projects – from a shelter for children rescued from trafficking in Thailand to Faces of Courage, complimentary portrait sessions she offers to cancer patients in her community. She is a photographer and facilitator at Beautiful You and Soul Restoration retreats.

Connect with her at: JMTerrillImages.com

Chattanooga Redemption by Julie Terrill

06

I will try anything twice. An initial bad experience may have been a fluke or a food item may not have been well prepared. I am game for just about anything… except Chattanooga. I considered my initial encounter with Chattanooga to count twice – my first and last.

To be fair to Chattanoogans, this was not about your city.

This was about it being the unfortunate setting for living out my worst fear; getting lost and never being found. 03 Obviously the latter was not the case but I was quite certain that it would be.  I had taken my children to Tennessee for a grand adventure and now we would be lost and gone forever.

This was back in the day of “dumb phones” –  no Siri, no GPS, no Google Maps at my fingertips. It was dusk and I could see the lights of the highway but could not find an on ramp.  Nightfall only made matters worse.  One of my oh-so-witty teenaged children began to sing “Hotel California”.

Following a humiliating freak-out in front of my children, and with much assistance, I eventually became found and everyone lived.

For over a decade I twitched at the mere mention of Chattanooga.

My new friend, Linda, and I discovered that we are both involved in anti-trafficking efforts. She introduced me to Blazing Hope Ranch, a nonprofit organization in Tennessee that works with individuals who had been trafficked and was in the planning stages of its first summer camp experience for at-risk kids.  I was excited about the prospect of working with an organization that utilizes equine therapy. I submitted an application, provided references and underwent a background check.

Meanwhile, Linda and I began making travel plans and I assured her that I was an easy traveler. “I will try anything twice,” I said, “except Chattanooga. “

No words were necessary; the look on Linda’s face and awkward silence said it all.

Really??  You’ve got to be kidding me! During the months leading up to camp I worked hard not to ruminate about 04“Dreaded Chattanooga”.

Upon arrival I discovered that downtown Chattanooga and the Riverfront District have undergone an extensive redevelopment since my last visit.

The area is home to trendy restaurants, bistros, breweries and an arts district.  There is a bicycle share program with several hundred bikes available for rent at over 30 docking stations throughout the city.

The aquarium, art museum complex, children’s museum, a minor league baseball stadium, a renovated pedestrian bridge and the Tennessee River Walk, a thirteen mile long urban trail adjacent to the river, contribute to the welcoming atmosphere.01a

As a history nerd, this area is like one stop shopping!

The region contains numerous Civil War battlefields and memorials, historic mining sites, the setting of The Scopes Monkey Trial in nearby Dayton, and many Native American mounds, archeological areas and The Trail of Tears.

One serendipitous evening, we were offered the opportunity to see a reenactment of the Scopes Trial that was held in the very courtroom where, in 1925, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow captured the attention of the nation while arguing this historic case. Be still, my nerdy little heart!

07While the city initially captured my attention, it was the wilderness areas; the waterways, caverns, waterfalls, mountains and temperate rainforests that captured my heart.  We walked, hiked, stacked rocks, watched wildlife and spent a glorious afternoon cooling off in a swimming hole. It was probably best that we didn’t meet up with the ranger until we were leaving. The knowledge that water moccasins also enjoy the swimming hole may have lessened my bliss.

So, am I glad that I went? Absolutely! Would I go back? In a heartbeat!

Like I always say… I will do anything twice.

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About the Author: Julie Terrill

julieterrill_bio

Julie Terrill is a photographer and writer with a passion for travel. For ten years, she’s told stories of empowerment through the lens of her camera in an array of unique landscapes, environments, and projects – from a shelter for children rescued from trafficking in Thailand to Faces of Courage, complimentary portrait sessions she offers to cancer patients in her community. She is a photographer and facilitator at Beautiful You and Soul Restoration retreats.

Connect with her at: JMTerrillImages.com

Poster Children of the New Apocalypse by Julie Terrill

Through the Lens

I placed some bills into an open guitar case and sat down on the pavement of Knoxville’s Gay Street to listen to a group of street musicians.

Beautiful chaos

I enjoyed the conversation amongst fellow creatives as we shared a quart of luscious lemon gelato that I had purchased a few doors down.  I asked the name of their group, they shrugged and quickly decided upon Poster Children of the New Apocalypse.

Teresa, on the fiddle, and Rocky, playing the washboard, were the most talkative in the group and most open to my presence and my camera. While we talked I occasionally took photos and paused to show them the images.

Teresa

Soon Nomad, the guitar player, asked for a portrait. He was pleased to have a photo for his family to see and know that he is well, happy and playing his music.

Nomad

I spoke at length with Rocky, who possesses a great deal of what I refer to as “uncommon” sense. She spoke of her faith that tomorrow will be safe; she will eat and will find a place not just to lay her head but to actually sleep. Two years ago she made a conscious decision to trade a traditional lifestyle for one of creativity and exploration.

“There are a lot of us,” stated Rocky, “that don’t think normal society is what is best for us. I have played with amazingly talented musicians and seen every corner of the country. This never would have happened if I stayed where I was.”

Rocky

At home while editing the day’s images, I noted the reflections of onlookers.  Many of them kept a distance, averted their gaze, or stood watching with closed-off body language. Somehow I had not noticed them in the moment. I can only hope that those casual observers recognized the creative joy and beauty that was in their presence.

About the Author: Julie Terrill

julieterrill_bio

Julie Terrill is a photographer and writer with a passion for travel. For ten years, she’s told stories of empowerment through the lens of her camera in an array of unique landscapes, environments, and projects – from a shelter for children rescued from trafficking in Thailand to Faces of Courage, complimentary portrait sessions she offers to cancer patients in her community. She is a photographer and facilitator at Beautiful You and Soul Restoration retreats.

Connect with her at: JMTerrillImages.com

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