focus

There is something about these warm still days of no rain that unfailingly lead me to water. Whether it is to my beloved brook here on the property, or to the pond through the neighbor’s woods, or simply to the mailbox perched on the edge of a vibrant river road, it is a clear trajectory that lands in a clear reflection of some kind.

The water is low everywhere. The sound of trickle has replaced the spring rush and this only accentuates stillness of the air and brightness of the light. What is accomplished in the intersection of these conditions is a surreal kind of reflection. It’s as if the slowed down water has become denser somehow and is capable of holding a richer depth of light and color and image.

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Capturing this in a photo doesn’t feel like enough though. It is a beautiful moment yes, an accomplishment of one lens and one focus. But I read something recently that has me questioning how I share such moments. Author Jeff Brown says, “We need accomplishment to become a relational construct.”

What does this mean?

Walking toward the pond this morning in a quickly mounting morning heat, I had to wipe perspiration from my glasses. I have been really near-sighted most of my life and my instinct has always been to stop in moments like this, wipe, and return glasses to my face before continuing. But this morning I just kept walking while I wiped. And then kept on walking with glasses in my hand the rest of the way to the pond. I clearly didn’t need the focus they provided to see where I was going or to keep safe. But I immediately felt the discomfort of not being able discern the kind of detail I am used to focusing on with my artist’s eye. What was I ‘accomplishing’ if I wasn’t seeing the way I think I should?

Ironically, I put my glasses back on as I sat down to reflect at the water’s edge. The pond was as still as could be, the clarity of reflections diminished only in intensity by the layer of spring pollen fuzz littering the surface.

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Yet even with clear eyesight restored, unease in a lack of focus for what I was experiencing remained.

Thinking of what Nora had been reflecting back to me the past few days came to mind. She had an encounter with a porcupine recently. We were on a walk with a friend who had negotiated this experience with her own dog and was able to help us all relax into the situation.  The size and quantity of quills that needed to come out were small, and after feeding Nora some beer (smile) with her food, the one in her tongue came out on its own.  Later, in an inspired moment of her jumping up for some attention, we were able to grab and pull out the other big one.  Now days later, most of the rest of them have worked their way out. But there are two small quills left on her upper lip that are driving ‘me’ crazy. They can’t really be seen unless you focus intently on that spot. It would be so easy to pull them out if she would just let me. But she won’t. She has literally been avoiding me for days. I know she can actually feel the energy of my intent just by the way I look at her. The motivation to get these quills out because I think I am supposed to is really strong. I am trying to trust that she is not in pain. Obsessed, I tried to get a photo of her up close with the offending quill sticking out of her lip the other day. Even then, the second I focused the camera on her, she would shift or turn the other way or put her head on the ground, reflecting back to me permission to stay right were I was in this motivation and revel in her beauty instead.

Or to take off my glasses and just let her be….

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Would it be an accomplishment if I could get those quills out without her collaboration?

It wasn’t until after walking a bit more and deciding to literally turn around and walk the same path back that I could feel the focus that was eluding me. All these months in the woods I have had this very clear sense that I am not there alone. Yes, Nora is out there with me and her presence weaves in and out of my path. But this is a different kind of feeling, as if there’s someone right around the corner literally behind that tree. I’ve never felt afraid. Mostly just a kind of suspended awe at feeling so good with so much presence. And then every so often, the good feeling is punctuated by a wave of pure love so strong it takes my breath away. Hard to imagine sustaining the force of that wave for too long. I see the impulse to attach this love to something, and more often than not to the image I am seeing through my lens.  Realizing now that the amazing reflections of the past few days have given me a place to experience ‘me’ in both good feeling and uncomfortable feeling moments, I have an opportunity to consider the difference between motivation and inspiration.

Inspiration is a focused moment.  Like the water, I absorb and become one with the light and the color and the love of the elements that form this moment, and INSPIRED, simply reflect it back…

Feels important to hold onto this feeling as long as I can today…and wait for a moment of inspiration that might allow me to help Nora when she is ready…

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