Things Seen and Unseen

I know I’ve talked here before about how easy it is to stop seeing what’s right in front of me because, well, it’s always right there in front of me. The ubiquitous becoming invisible, and all of that. But lately I’ve been thinking, too, about how often what I haven’t seen before gets automatically dismissed by my brain as non-essential because I relied on the part of thinking that makes instantaneous generalizations and assumptions and chooses to categorize things, as soon as it decides the new thing doesn’t pose a threat.
Digital illustration: Friendly Little Insect

While this rarely makes, in real life, the stuff of horror stories, as much as I like a rollicking scary tale at times, I am more concerned when I begin to wonder just how many things this autopilot state of mine makes me miss. Have I bypassed grand opportunities through lack of attention? Undoubtedly. Has my life been different than it could have been had I been more deliberate and thoughtful and thorough? Certainly. Are there people I’ve met whom I never got to know as well as I should have done, never appreciated as deeply as they deserved, never enjoyed the benefits of learning from them or being made better by a real relationship with them? That is unquestionably the hard truth.

Will I be smarter, moving forward, because I paused to ask myself these questions? That, my friends, definitely remains to be seen. I like to think that I’m teachable, but I know I’m also drawn to the easy path in life and often distracted by non-essentials when I should at least be watching where I step, so I’ll make no promises. If I do, however, happen upon any new and delightful things or, especially, people and recognize greater value than a passing glance would have registered, then I won’t consider myself beyond rescue in this regard. Plus, I might find in them the material for some fantastic fiction later on, if I’m lucky.

The Curvature of the Earth

You know, and I know, that if one can see far enough to and across the horizon, one can see the curvature of the earth. It’s also common knowledge that this is a perspective hard for the ordinary earthling to achieve.

photoWhat is perhaps a little less often considered is how difficult it can be to find and maintain the smaller perspective of the magical and beautiful in our world and our lives. I think I am fortunate both to realize how incredibly beyond-microscopic I am relative to the broad arc of my home planet and, oddly, how this same unfathomably huge place can hold me in the crook of its metaphorical arm, embracing me with such delicate kindness and comfort and generosity.photoWhen I think on this, I begin to see echoes of the vast rim of the third planet from the sun in smaller and smaller graces curving up right in the heart of the everyday.

I Think I Must’ve Dropped It Here Somewhere

Peace of mind and clarity can be mighty hard to come by these days. Half of the time I have a tendency to suspect they’re things I once had access to or even owned in small quantities but somehow misplaced. Don’t mind me, I’ll be crawling around here on hands and knees with my compatriots. If we look like we’re hunting for lost contact lenses while not actually awake, you might well be right.

graphite drawingRespite

Among the herds and hordes that clamor for attention undeserved,

Some few remain that will not yammer but sit back, demure, reserved—

Odd, in the cacophony of wild, attention-grabbing rush,

That what finally wins from me my focused notice is mere hush—

The effect of surfeit, excess, ultimately in the riot

Of the maelstrom, is what checks us in our racing: simple quiet—

So I seek the silent moment, empty spaces, basic form

Of absent noise and crush and foment, then go back to face the storm.

The Hook

What grabs me by the imagination and won’t let go? Practically anything, depending upon the time and my mood and a few other factors. Frequently, it’s simple visual attraction. Ooh, shiny! (Rusty! Unfamiliar! Pretty!) I am nothing if not shallow and superficial.photoOften, though, I will give myself credit for going beyond the surface in my examination of the objects of my attention-if-not-attraction because I become genuinely interested to know the who what when where how and why of them. In this, too, I may be simplistic and not wish to make a research project out of every thing that catches my eye or piques my interest. It’s safe to assume that not only will much of that information ultimately prove to be above my pay grade and beyond my ken, but other than generalizations and suitably dumbed down explanations I will have little use for the storehouse of data hidden behind every shiny object, the masses of wisdom contained in each moment’s distracting find.photoStill, like the musical phrase that wiggles its way into my subconscious as I pass by a practice room, leaving me wondering hours later why a passage from Lieutenant Kijé‘s signature theme popped into my head as I passed a group of three oranges at the grocery store, the associative and evocative qualities that serve as the hook to snag my mind will never cease to amaze, amuse and ensnare me with their alluring and mysterious delights.

Car Crash Bad

I almost crashed the car. While I make no claims of being an outstandingly skillful driver, I do credit myself with being a pretty sensible, legal and even careful one. But I’m not infallible, either. I’m just very glad I happen to be lucky, too.

So my close call was just that, a close call. It would have been my own fault as well, because although I did wait and look all directions and not see any cars coming my way since the one that was was behind something bigger the whole time I scanned that direction, it jolly well was there and it was moving rather quickly. Possibly even faster than was strictly appropriate in that stretch, but I was still the driver that started to turn left at the light directly in front of that oncoming car. Our respective guardian angels were evidently working overtime, because both the other driver and I were able to brake and steer out of the situation fairly swiftly.

A split second’s difference, and our cars could have been demolished, our selves injured or even killed. That accident being technically my fault would have been utterly irrelevant outside of legal terms and in practical terms: both of our lives stood a hair’s-breadth from being forever altered, not to mention the effects on all of the life-dominoes that would inevitably be downed or redirected by that incident. All because of a single mote’s difference.digital collageAnd we two, and all of those around us at the intersection, in the following second or two regrouped and continued just as though nothing had happened at all, if perhaps with a dash of adrenaline pumping.

Isn’t that the way that we live every day, every moment, though? Whether through wickedness or stupidity we go astray, or merely by happenstance or sheer momentary bad luck, we are at risk every instant we’re alive. As a person who copes with exaggerated anxiety (thankfully, mine is treatable), I could easily find excuse in that for any amount of paranoia and become anything from a perpetual pessimist to an emotionally crippled hermit. But besides being impractical, that’s a hideously unappealing plan for existence.

My solution is to keep working on my vigilance as far as paying attention to the details in day-to-day life, hoping that others are doing the same and we’re all generally watching out for each other, too, and assuming that my good luck, guardian angels and/or serendipitous circumstances will always tip in my favor. Beyond that, knowing that I can’t control any such things, I know it’s best to just turn off the switch, to let go. I even like to think I can be on the lookout for more excuses to be delighted with life and let the accidents be ones of tripping over unexpected joys. There’s far too much fine and happy stuff in the mix that should not be missed or wasted.

Life, that’s Good.photo

A Mockingbird Appears

photoWhen ideas and inspiration have ceased, at least for the time being, to well up from the inside, it’s a mercy that the wide world contains so many and will hand them to me if I keep my senses ready enough. I often find myself too distracted by the busyness and pedestrian chores of the workaday world to see the magical other dimensions right within my reach, and need some helpful pricking from a sight or sound or scent as I pass through to remind me to open up the eye and ear and heart and take advantage of the universe’s generosity when it’s poured out so liberally right within my grasp.photoI walk in a haze of dully daily thought, lost to the world of rich and rare delights I’m walking in, when suddenly a mockingbird appears and turns its bright eye on me and seems to contemplate how absent I must be to almost pass it by when it’s quite nearly underfoot. In that shining eye a world reflects in which the other me is wrapped around with blooms, with drifting clouds sailing across a broad blue sky; with jasmine-scented breeze, with mist as the sprinklers spring to life, with happy shouts from a handful of little playing school kids passing me, looking for miracles of their own everywhere because they are yet too young to have forgotten them so foolishly as I have done. When the bird takes to its stripe-blazed wings and dives back into the air, my thoughts begin to follow and fly with it again: I am awake once more to flight and tune in to the rippling, rolling variations of its song as it rises to the trees, and soars above, and makes me remember that I am in a world full of wonder, if I will only let it fill me again.graphite drawing

Gleaming Afternoon

While I would soar, would gladly fly

Wide, in an arc across the sky

Whose dome of hotly burnished brass

Encompasses at every pass

The great wild height of atmosphere

That would engage to hold me here,

I can, eyes shut and spirit wide,

Pierce heaven to the great Outside.

To Find Balance: Open the Book to a New Page and Begin Again

digitally edited photoI’m never quite satisfied that I’m getting as much done as I want to do, doing it as well as I wish, improving at the rate I think I ought to manage. I’m hardly a perfectionist, nor am I particularly obsessive (at least about things that I think truly matter)–I’d guess I’m just a fairly typical person who thinks I’m always running just a bit behind the pace and always crossing things too slowly off the To Do lists. But I don’t think that’s grounds for quitting or even for not trying at all.

It just requires that I take a step back and regroup–reassess my priorities–once in a while. Hence my recurrent list-making and all of those times spent sitting and, to all outward appearances, staring off into space, when what I’m really doing is having a long hard look at what’s in front of me that I’d forgotten how to see, or what’s inside that’s not quite getting its message heard clearly enough anymore.

photoFor one thing, my time-management method, if any, is often the old familiar one of doing what appears right in front of me, often leading to that state I’ve mentioned many a time wherein I set out to do one task, get diverted from it partway through by something else that catches my attention, veer off from that toward another thing that drew my eye, and so on ad infinitum but rarely ad finitum. That’s hardly the end of the world, because of course the short and simple tasks that pop up midway do get taken to completion and crossed off the list, and eventually the original plan will recapture my attention. It’s just wonderfully inefficient and sometimes I prefer to reevaluate whether those bigger tasks aren’t better broken down into groups of manageable smaller ones, ones that might perhaps get finished if stumbled upon tangentially in this habitual way.

All of this is a rather sidelong way itself of saying that I haven’t reestablished my drawing habit as firmly and regularly as I’d like, so I’m revisiting my intention to create a specific schedule or plan that encourages me to focus better on drawing, even a little bit, more often again. I know that I will do this; I can do it and have done so before. But I must choose to do it, and how, and that’s the agenda of the day. Other things (like, oh, blogging, f’rinstance) have stolen my attention and intentions away from drawing, and I would like to rebalance my doings a bit.

Needless to say, this has led to a fairly large overhaul of my household Fix-it lists, because I always prefer that there be at least the possibility of my getting those things done that will keep a solid roof over our heads and a comfortable living environment in which to do things like drawing and blogging surrounding us. That list is as big as always, full of everything from essential repairs to the rearrangement of rooms to better reflect and accommodate how we actually use them, to long-range and perhaps highly fantastical proposals for things I might attempt to build, create or accomplish sometime down my long and wayward path of homemaking.

photo of graphite drawing in progressBut there is also this quick-fix remembrance that what I always advocated to my students had better be usable advice for me: To begin drawing again, make a mark. Waiting around for the Inspiration Fairy to appear and bonk me with a magic wand of fully fledged ideas and a baptism of heartwarming motivation makes for delightful internal pictorials, but not an iota of drawing to show for it. The best cure for a staring, empty piece of paper is A Mark. Directionless and indecipherable as any random thing, it may well be, but it’s amazing how very brief the time usually is between seeing a dark scratch on an otherwise pristine piece of paper and my hyperactive editorial mind kicking into gear and critiquing that mark as something that ought to have purpose and attempting to decipher what that purpose is, steering my hand to further scribbling or erasure, and either way, toward something specific and concrete, even if entirely abstract and nonobjective. That’s what’s going to happen, for starters. Where it goes from there, I’ll have to report back to you when it begins.graphite drawing