Berries (not pearls) of Wisdom

25 10 2012
“…autumn berries hung like clusters of coral beads, as in those fabled orchards where the fruits were jewels . . .” – Charles Dickens
 

On a photo excursion with Mike this past weekend, I discovered that nature has more lessons to teach me than I realized. This particular day, the lessons were about how we view the world, the filters and perspectives through which we look at our lives or the events that comprise our days. And my teachers? The bright autumn berries that abound in the woods through which our path rambled.

Shortly after hitting the trail at Prairie Park Fishery, both Mike and I noticed luscious red berries. They were lit by the sun and glowing red amid yellow and green flora. I wanted desperately to photograph them, but they were on the wrong side of a chain link fence. So, I attempted to photograph them through the fence. The result? The fence got in the way, giving the berries second billing.

Berry Lesson #1:  In order to see things clearly it is important to clear your field of vision.

Remove or get past extraneous stuff that clutters up your thinking. This is so much easier to say than do, even when taking a simple photo on a Saturday afternoon. But when you are contemplating decisions about big things – your relationships, your livelihood – it is easy to pile nonessential pieces into the picture. Suddenly you’re focusing on something tangential, and you’ve distracted yourself from the central issue. Clear out the psychological and emotional clutter, and your vision will clear as well. Trust me, the end result is worth it.

A bit further along on our walk, I noticed a tree with vines curling around its trunk. I loved the look and the texture of the bark, the  symbiosis between tree and vine. So I took a photo…

…and continued on my way. Eventually, Mike and I turned around and began to retrace our steps at a leisurely pace. Mike moved ahead when I stopped to get a closer look at something on the ground. When I caught up with him, I noticed Mike was avidly shooting pictures. As I moved up next to him, I saw that he had in his viewfinder a profusion of bright yellow berries which contrasted beautifully against the brilliant blue sky. As I admired his find, I suddenly recognized what I was looking at – the tree I had already photographed. I had been so focused on the textures and the winding vine, I had completely missed the presence of the berries!

Berry Lesson #2:  There IS such a thing as being too focused.

While focus and single-mindedness can be great, we’ve all heard cautionary tales of people who were so focused on achieving a particular goal that they missed out on some beautiful opportunities in their lives. When I was originally photographing the tree, I would have sworn there were no berries in the  vicinity – yet, take another look at the tree photo and you’ll see yellow berries. They are clearly visible to all (except to me as I honed in on the trunk and winding vine).

On our photo excursions, Mike is forever reminding me “Don’t forget to look up!”. It’s a great reminder to change my perspective, to switch up the view from which I am looking at things. Too much focus keeps our eyes locked straight ahead, causing us to miss important things in the periphery.  When I finally did look up, thanks to Mike’s example and exhortation, I saw this:

After a while, I began to think I had already snapped photos of every possible view or item on the Fishery trail. Then the low battery light started flashing on my camera, and suddenly I was in a frenzy to grab a last few pictures before the camera shut itself off. This led to some hurried and/or random shots, such as this one:

What’s it a picture of? Its just nothing – no interest, no composition, no focal point. When we are in too big a hurry, momentum takes over. Sometimes, momentum carries us forward, sometimes it just keeps us moving. I often think that our culture, obsessed as it is with multitasking and speed and noise, mistakes all this activity for meaningfulness. As I was racing along, hurriedly snapping, I didn’t take one worthwhile shot.

Berry Lesson #3:  In daily life, and photo excursions, you’ve got to slow down and breathe deeply in order for the best things to happen – and to recognize them when they do.

After I snapped the shot above, I looked up to see Mike standing still. His camera, however, was clicking rapidly as he tried to capture a moving target. He said that several blue birds were chasing each other around a particular thicket. I joined him, but I was no match for those little birds – I couldn’t find them with my lens no matter what I did. I trotted back and forth across the trail for a minute, in an unproductive attempt to outrun the winged critters.

Then I stopped, laughing at myself. I let my shoulders relax into the warmth of the sun shining down on them. I smelled the crisp and slightly decaying scent of the leaves piled on the ground. I thought, briefly, “I am happy”. I could see some movement in one tree, so I lifted my camera until I could just barely glimpse something that didn’t look like a leaf. I didn’t care about the end product; I cared about the fact that I was – that second – where and with whom I wanted to be, engaging with my surroundings in a fully conscious manner. And in that moment – CLICK!  – one of the best things happened:

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9 responses

25 10 2012
MRB

And I held my breath the entire time I read this post, assuming without a doubt that it would end with a photo of me lying on my back in the middle of the trail. While I could not think of a single association that pose had with your berry theme, I knew, for sure, all of Jenion would see the results of your “experiment” with constructing a scene. Fortunately, that event went unpublished! Thank you for that. And thanks again for putting a great perspective on a fun journey! Don’t forget your camera this weekend. Trust me, there won’t be any berries with what we have planned! Just ghosts and gobblins!!!

25 10 2012
jenion

MRB: While I might have enjoyed posting that photo, I made a promise! Nice to know you trusted me to keep it…(I’m joking here) Besides, the blogosphere doesn’t need to see more of my failed experiments!

I wouldn’t dream of a trip to Minneapolis without my camera!

25 10 2012
MRB

I’ll stock up on batteries!

25 10 2012
Tammy

Jen,

Awesome post, as usual! Thanks for a beautiful start to my Thursday!

Tammy

25 10 2012
jenion

Thanks, Tammy! Hope your Thursday includes lots of beauty!

25 10 2012
crgardenjoe

I have not been down to the fishery for a while–not I want to see it before all of the leaves are gone, although I bet the berries will last into winter. Nice post.

25 10 2012
jenion

I can’t believe I didn’t know the place existed until Sarah and I stumbled on it while biking Otis Road this summer! I love it there, hope you get out before all the color and leaves are gone. I got some wonderful photos of reflections in the water and lots of both flora and fauna!

25 10 2012
Naomi Corridon

Jen – thanks so much for this post. I feel as though I have been running through the last several weeks of my life as Dianne and I wrap up our big move, amidst it all I am trying to remind myself of all the amazing things that are happening in the chaos of the move and that she and I are taking the steps together towards a goal we have been dreaming of for quite a while! It’s amazing when we can stop and enjoy the process and revel in the joy around us! Thanks so much for the reminder.

25 10 2012
jenion

Naomi – I’m glad that this post could serve as a reminder! I’ve been watching the progress of your move on FB, and I’d love to know more about the goals/dreams you two are moving toward. Once you’re settled in your house, I may need to make a road trip to Wisconsin…if I’m invited! Blessings on you both in this time of transition!

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