After Thoreau. Today my birdbath full of rainwater was my Walden Pond.
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I gave myself a physical and creative break out in the back yard yesterday afternoon. You never know what beauty you’ll find anywhere you go.
I had just wanted to walk around and think about a project I was working on and not be distracted by any other activity, which is what I usually end up doing—take a break from one thing, start another—but it had rained, then stopped, and my Mimi kitty and I would enjoy the air. Typically I take my “good” camera, but determined not to be distracted I took only my smartphone so that I could keep track of time.
Perhaps it was that I had walked out there in a creative state of mind but the place was full of inspiration. It’s just a small back yard, lots of green, not too many flowers after the heat, but I couldn’t decide where to go first. I found one single pink phlox flower that had fallen into a shallow birdbath, and from each angle as I walked around it the view changed, different reflections of the flower, of the tree overhead, of the sky between the leaves, of the mossy concrete below the surface of the water, and magical tiny ripples where the flower rested on the surface of the water, pressing down on the surface tension as if reclining on a transparent mattress.
I prowled around it with my smartphone’s camera as Mimi prowled for the little voles that run right under the leaf litter, each of us aware of each other but focused on our tasks.
Wishing I had all the lenses and quality images I would get from my DSLR—going back into the house would have broken the spell—I pushed that insufficient little phone camera to its limit, and with patience it did not disappoint. I took quite a few photos, several photos that inspired me to crop and edit and add text, which I rarely do, and I shared them on Instagram first, and now here, more to work with later.
So what does this flower have to do with simplifying anyway? It may look like a simple photo, but it’s deceptively complicated, and yet by having only my smartphone to work with I simplified a process which I usually complicate immensely when I run outdoors with all my camera equipment, that’s what it meant for me, and brought to mind Thoreau. Posting a photo that demands one “simplify” isn’t going to convince anyone on the spot, but it may make people stop and consider the idea.
So I got my break, I got creative inspiration to carry back in, and Mimi got her vole. It was very simple.
See two other photos from this magical time, Make a Ripple and Tiny Perfections.
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We’re posting with
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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.
Be In Your Own Moment
Jelly Bean is certainly enjoying a moment of his own making here atop the wardrobe. It began all on its own as he gave himself a bath then began rolling around and talking to himself, unaware, unconcerned, that anyone was watching or listening.
I enjoyed watching him, then picked up my camera with the telephoto lens and had a moment of my own in photographing him in his moment, using the light, the curtain, the lenses, focusing here and there and changing the f-stop and exposure as I pleased, the actions over the years I’ve come to call “painting with my camera”. I had no post-processing on this photo, it is what it is, and I’m pretty happy with it, as I think Jelly Bean was also very happy with his moment.
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This image and post began with quite a different plan from what is here. The journey itself was a lesson, and led me to “Be in your own moment” by being in my own moment.
I began with a quote I’d seen in a meme on Facebook:
If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.
~Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching
I liked this quote, it spoke to me on many levels, and I find it, basically, to be true, especially the part about living in the present. I enjoy reading several translations of the Tao te Ching, and always find something that speaks to me at that moment. I decided that I would use these words to make my own meme someday, and even had the idea to use a photo of Mewsette in a position similar to JB, picturing the black and white photo with its focus on Mewsette’s eye and the softened reflection of the lace curtain in the mirror, and relished the thought of choosing the font and putting the image together. I don’t enjoy graphic design as much as I used to, but I try to put aside time for fun things a few times a week to give myself a reward for designing the things that aren’t as much fun as they used to be. Before Facebook these memes were just called “quotes” and were often available as posters, and I designed plenty and also hand lettered quite a few in my years as a graphic designer, to give myself experience and something fun to do with this medium.
I pulled up Mewsette’s photo and the quote and drafted a bit of text comparing my being in the moment and how I enjoy my felines being in the moment, figuring this would be quick and fun and I’d have been done this morning. Before I’ll use a quote I will trace it back to its source. The source for this quote was not Lao Tzu, nor the Tao te Ching. It wasn’t even an alternate translation of anything in the Tao te Ching. In fact, I found it in an article about misappropriated quotes from the Tao te Ching that’s pretty funny, and looked through various translations to find something that might correspond so I could get to the original. No luck. Well, someone had taken quite a few liberties with words. That was okay, I still liked what the quote had to say, and knew of another similar one from Henry David Thoreau I’d seen in another meme that would work for the concept of being in the moment and looking within yourself.
What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.
~Henry David Thoreau
Sigh. This was actually said by someone else as I found on a page of Thoreau mis-quotations. It’s still a nice quote, but…no.
Facebook memes aren’t the culprit—this sort of misuse of another’s words happened with posters and greeting cards and calendars before the internet even existed. So here was the lesson, and it’s one I should have known: I was trying to use someone else’s inspiration, words, moment, to express something I felt deeply myself. I had been inspired by the meme and the quote, but was warned twice about not looking deeply enough into myself to express my own self, a lesson I learned with both art and writing. Be inspired by others, but find your own means of expression. It’s the sincerity that counts and I was not being sincere. I thought of all the art and writing I’ve been creating and knew the kernel of its success—getting to that space where I am completely within my own inspiration and working toward that end. I was in my own moment. I remembered the photo above and how much enjoyment Bean was getting all by himself. He may have seen me photographing him—cats don’t miss much and later in the session he turned and looked at me—but I was just another element on the periphery of his moment, he wasn’t looking at the world upside down because of me. As, when I was photographing him, was he, even though he was the subject and the reason I began photographing, but he led me to the pursuit of an image, my own unique visual voice describing what I felt was the depth of that moment for me.
The pursuit of the first quote led me to this conclusion, and the pursuit of the second quote led me back to myself, and my own words, and Jelly Bean finished it all off.
And here is part of the other reason for this post today as well.
It’s easy to be in the moment when you’re a feline living in a loving home since the humans take care of many things for you. But isn’t that part of the lesson? Find the place where you belong, surround yourself with supportive people and circumstances so that you can live in your moment?
When I make my art and when I write I am in the moment with what I’m doing, often not particularly aware of my surroundings, in part because I’ve set myself up for that moment so that I can let go. I do this at other times as well, usually around my creative life, and also around mundanities, like washing dishes. It’s a break from the constant push and pull of what is and what needs to be. And it’s very welcome when I’m feeling trapped in a situation, stuck in traffic or embroiled a long-term issue, to let it go and be in the moment without holding the past and future one in each hand. Watching my cats reminds me of that.
And the other lesson in all of this is perhaps a bit of pride, that I thought I’d be a half hour at this yet it took a few hours off and on during the day to look up the quote and then determine that I was really intended to do my own thing. And in that pursuit I was in yet another creative moment, my own moment, letting go of past and future and focusing on “now”. It’s all just cycling in on itself and it’s exciting when things come together like that.
I don’t always live in the moment, in fact a good bit of what I do is plan for the future. Worry, or being anxious as the first quote had mentioned, is another thing entirely. Worry is unproductive and does not solve problems, only holds onto them. But the other big thing that took my time today was taking care of an issue with a tree in my yard and by extension several of them.
One of my trees was hit by lightning in storms we had last night, while I was out. I didn’t see it when I came home after dark, but I certainly noticed this morning when I came downstairs and looked out the side window and saw way more sky than I should have. The entire top of my wild black cherry tree is laying in my neighbor’s yard, neatly falling right in their small yard and mercifully missing their porch, main roof and shed; they were the ones who told me lightning had struck it. A large branch is also in my yard, but more than that I was concerned that more violent storms were forecast and the tree might be unsound, and could split and fall on their house or mine. I called a customer of mine who owns a tree service company (I painted his trucks and construction signs 28 years ago when he went into business), and asked him to take a look at it, and also a few of my other trees that have been dropping branches and creaking in the wind. It looks like I’ll be losing a few of my trees here, the big old ones that are getting sparse already anyway.
I love my trees, they are my friends and protectors, the wall that gives me privacy in this tightly constructed neighborhood. My habitat will be changing, and it will be an expense. But not to worry, time to plan and planning is exciting, change can be a positive thing as well. My maples have had good long lives, and I will have the opportunity to change the front of my home to something new.
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A Good Traveler
“A good traveler has no fixed plans,
and is not intent on arriving.”
~Lao-Tzu in Chapter 27 of the Tao te Ching, tr. Stephen Mitchell
It doesn’t mean you make no plans, just that you allow them to change.
These geese look like a bunch of tourists ambling along, and yet on that day, July 10, 2013, we had had heavy rains and our creek, their home, had nearly topped its banks. They had fled the water and the banks and were up in the parking lot and on the streets for safety, yet they were being calm and collected, for a bunch of geese, while the humans were racing around predicting a flood that was not likely to arrive, though it looked imminent.
But aside from that lesson, I’ve always liked the photo of the geese.
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All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.