Sunday, October 16, 2011


We don't do quiet in our house. We do rambunctious, crashing, shrieking (both joy and anger) and laughing. We do multi-leveled simultaneous conversations. A friend once mentioned our house reminded her of that fable in which a wise man councils a complaining man to bring in a cow, a rooster, another something loud and another, and then to get rid of all of them so the house will be silent in comparison. Only we can't escort the loud makers out the house until they're eighteen.

Quiet can be better found outside our walls. Especially in winter when all sound freezes. But fall is quiet, too. Leaves make little sound when they crumble to the dirt road. Spring is loud with the world gone melty, and summer's sound is a buzzy one, but fall – you can clear your head with fall.

We don't take advantage. We usually fail to engage in long walks. We neglect to spend hours on the porch. Afternoons that could be spent hidden in the leaf pile are instead filled with mental and physical detritus – errands, meals, cleaning, chores. Slowing down is hard. Listening to the quiet and asking nothing of it is harder. Soon it will be winter and outside quiet won't be an option - freezing is a danger. Certain days I look forward to that excuse.  Other days I notice golden passing by and shudder for not snaring it in some kind of web.

I say to myself “Do not go quietly into that good night.” And so when I need to be I am loud. When it’s called for I am boisterous. I stand up for what I think is right. Yet this is the way of everything these days, the bombardment is constant. As if to be louder and more outrageous is always better. It certainly gets you attention. Or at least that’s how it used to be.

Now I find myself wanting to unplug, disconnect, tunnel under and be still. These past few weeks have been cacophonous, jarring and discordant. The stress has become a constant pounding that would not be silenced. Our world has fallen apart and we are putting the pieces together again in a new configuration. Through it all my camera has become a lifeline. Each shutter click a step towards calmness. Looking through that lens the rest of the world falls away. To overstate the obvious, the camera gives me the ability to truly focus on the image that’s right in front of me. Not the one that was there or will be, just the image that is present.

This is the time of year we normally we visit our ocean. Due to circumstances beyond our control we’ve had to reschedule. Instead of making the trek southward, I spent some of the time with friends and made an attempt to distance myself from my weekly routines. My dear friend S took me on a walk this week. Not just any ramble, but a special meandering that you can only do with companions and their cameras. We took the time to enjoy our surroundings and really look at the details, instead of quickly passing them by on the way to somewhere else. Each time I pick up my camera without any real intention I am always amazed at the results. Once I get into the motion of looking and clicking I remind myself that the only real way to do anything is to actually do it—be it writing, painting, dancing, or playing an instrument. Wishing doesn’t make it so. There is an effort and involvement required. Without it there is nothing.

Patti Smith is on the cover of the latest New York Times magazine, which features several of her gorgeous silver gelatin prints. About her photography she says. “My dream is simply that they would have a place of honor over someone’s desk. When someone is reading or writing a letter or contemplating, they can look up and they would find a moment of serenity or a moment of centering from one of these little pictures.” I feel the same. If someone looks at these photos from the past two years and for a short time is transported out of their busy life, then the chance to spend a quiet moment is a gift I have received when I took the picture and one that I am then giving to those viewing the image I captured. Think of a photograph that captures your attention like a trip into Narnia through that beloved wardrobe. Be quiet, be still; look and listen.

Nest Week’s Word: Green

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