One of the truly marvelous but occasionally disturbing side effects of being a contemplative photographer -- well, any kind of photographer, really -- is that, after spending a lot of time with a camera in your hand, it becomes difficult not to notice, not to be drawn to potential subjects.
Take this image, for instance: my friend Nan and I were just sitting outside the local bakery, sharing a cup of coffee, and I found myself completely distracted by the patterns created by her legs below the table. I always love blue and orange together anyway, but combined with those two sweeping arcs of black -- it was just irresistible. I began to realize I wasn't concentrating on what she was saying, and finally had to interrupt for a moment to ask if I could photograph what I was seeing.
Once it was in the camera, the image lost most of its pull and I was able to return to the subject at hand. But until I had captured it it kept pulling at me, and I wasn't much good for anything else.
I sent a link to yesterday's post to a friend here on the island (it had to do with her name), and this morning she sent back a quote that seems quite pertinent here. It's from Peter Kingsley's book, Reality; a passage she was reading just yesterday:
"Our minds are like a dog's bladder. Dogs pee on things that catch their interest so they can leave their mark on them, so they can put a claim on what they imagine is somehow theirs. When anything catches our interest, we think about it and overwhelm it with the smell of our thoughts.
Just by thinking matters over we bring them onto our own level, make them part of our world--without even realizing what we are doing.
The art of knowing how not to impose ourselves on the things we see or hear or read is a hard one to discover. We are not aware that there are secret ways of allowing them to penetrate and change us, rather than us always changing them. For this one essential art, no schools or colleges exist to teach us. Learning it takes either a long and lonely training---or just a few intense moments of searing honesty and sheer disgust with oneself."
Things catch my photographer's eye, and for some reason I cannot be content until I mark them, and claim them as my own. Which immediately makes me think of a line from the service of Holy Baptism in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer: "you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever." And learning what that means, how that awareness penetrates and changes us, is the work of a lifetime.
The baptismal service. of course, is written by humans, whether or not it is divinely inspired. So the part of me that wonders if this marking and claiming things is a reflection of our having been made in God's image is at odds with the part of me that says those words are the human way of attempting to describe that ineffable connection to the Divine.
And just by thinking about all of this, I am "bringing it onto my own level, making it part of my world." Isn't that amazingly curious -- how a moment in a coffee shop can take us to this other place, where we are exploring the nature of our connection to the Divine?
Speaking of which, I should probably sign off now and take my dog for a walk...