By Gina Malone
Tim Jones believes that art is lifesaving. “It’s that powerful,” he says. He embraces the spiritual element in his creative work, and offers to others the light of discovery he finds in nature and captures with his camera. “It was a moment of epiphany for me to discover that what was healing to me can also be healing to someone else,” he says. “It’s all ministry. It’s all soul work to me.”
An ordained Christian minister, he has served since 2010 as part of the clergy team at St. James Episcopal Church in Hendersonville. Since 2001, he has also served as the operations director for the Hendersonville Rescue Mission where he oversees the daily activities of homeless shelters for men, women and children as well as a public feeding program, transitional houses for women and children, and a day center with a community medical clinic. Both jobs can take a toll and lead to burnout, but Jones has learned how not to succumb to the “unbelievably heartbreaking” things he encounters.
“In order to renew my own spirit and be of use to others, I go out into these mountain coves and forests with my camera and bear witness to things and moments that speak to my own soul,” he says. “I also write poems, reflections and sermons about it and then when I share it with others it also somehow turns into ministry.”
As a child, Jones says, it was in nature that he felt at home, in the acres of forest that surrounded the house where he grew up. “Most days, after school, I would come home and spend my evenings exploring those thick woods,” he says. “Sometimes in autumn I would bury myself under a crunchy blanket of leaves on the forest floor and just think.” The feel of the leaves and the aroma remain with him almost 40 years later although the woods have been replaced with suburban neighborhoods. “There’s an environmental philosopher named Glenn Albrecht who coined the term ‘solastalgia’,” Jones says. “It means a yearning—a strong longing for a place or home that no longer exists. For me, that place of solastalgia is the acres of forest that surrounded my childhood home. The absence of those woods never fails to make me restless inside. Sometimes when I go out hiking and photographing in the wild, I see little flickers of those woods and, for a moment, it’s like being reunited with an old friend from long ago.”
A hayfield he would cross between his home and the woods gave him his first true appreciation of light. One night as he crossed the field, he remembers, something made him pause before crossing into the forest. “I turned around and looked at the tall grass in the field,” he says. “A full moon’s brilliance highlighted every blade. There was a breeze moving back and forth across the field so that the grass swayed like ocean waves. I couldn’t move from that spot. It was the first time I can remember being just paralyzed by beauty. Decades later, I can say that was probably the night I first really fell in love with nature and light. It was like being ambushed by something transcendent. A great many of my wanderings in the forests have felt sort of like my own spiritual quest to catch a glimpse of that light again.”
Consequently, Jones says, he finds grace in the sight of ordinary flowers growing in a ditch. “My faith teaches me that simple, everyday objects like bread, wine and water can be a means of grace and insight into the divine presence in the world. I have no reason to doubt the sacramental power of early wildflowers either.”
Jones was raised in a single-parent home by a father confined to a wheelchair much of the time. Even though money was not abundant, he says, his father found the means to send him to art classes where he learned the fundamentals of perspective, form, color theory, light and shadow. He drew, painted and wrote as well. “I loved words and color equally,” he says. “I still do. I can feel their weight. They both have tremendous power to heal.”
He began his college studies with art, but found himself involved in a prison ministry. “I ended up splitting my time studying theology and also fine art, but without any real sense of how I would ever one day integrate those two things in my own life. The answer came when I realized that both words and images hold the power to bless people.”
Jones is passionate about sharing his images with others in ways that bring about a sense of wholeness and well- being. “Art is saving my life and I hope, by the mystery of some good pleasure, that it is saving the lives of others as well,” he says. “These are difficult times. We do not get to choose our times. We only get to choose how to be faithful in the times we find ourselves in so I choose to create art with hope that what my life is speaking through words and images will somehow bless the world.”
Find Tim Jones’s work at The Gallery at Flat Rock. To learn more, visit GalleryFlatRock.com. Join Tim Jones on Saturday, April 13, at 10 a.m. for a Spring Wildflower Saunter. On Thursday, April 25, at 5:30 p.m., The Gallery at Flat Rock presents Bloodroot Coves and Trillium Tales: A Poetic Journey with Tim Jones. Contact the gallery at 828.698.7000 for details of both events.