Bi-focal Vision

Posted on: July 23, 2020 12:00 pm

by Sister Mary Evelynn Reinke, SND

I’ve always enjoyed the beauty around me, especially the wonders of nature. Flowers, trees, birds and butterflies, sunrises and sunsets, bodies of water—all fascinate me, so it’s no surprise that I like to photograph them.

Once during a week of retreat--a special time of prayer and reflection, I spent much of my unstructured time roaming our park-like property, camera in hand.  Across those days I came to realize more clearly that beauty can lie in a few inches of space--a bumble bee on a single blossom, one green leaf in a pile of autumn colors, a blue jay feather in the grass.

Sometimes while roaming, I’d suddenly come upon a little unexpected loveliness.  I wondered if I alone found it pleasing, later to discover that what caught my eye often appealed to others as well.

After I began making photo cards, even in my early pre-Plymouth days, I began consciously looking for possible subjects, not content to simply stumble upon them.  Of course, the pop-up items remained a delight—but now I was on the lookout.  Not too intensely, though: a relaxed stance is more open to discovery.  That approach allowed me to find remarkable delights in unlikely places.

As time passed, though, I found myself more likely to approach lovely or interesting things almost solely for picture possibilities. Sometimes I felt disappointed:

“The light’s not good.” 

“I don’t want to shoot through a speckled window pane.” 

“That water tower ruins the skyline.”

I became distracted, no longer simply enjoying what I saw for its own sake.  The photographer was taking over the person.

Little by little I realized that picking up the camera was a mixed blessing. I saw that the photographer’s mentality could ruin my perspective. I don’t need a camera to enjoy what I see.  The beautiful, the interesting, the unusual is enough in itself to warrant my attention.  A thing doesn’t have to be useful.  It doesn’t have to be photo-worthy.  Is-ness is enough. 

Revisiting the site of earlier photo-taking is a fine way to experience the different kinds of looking: first aiming for a good photo; later freeing the eye-without-camera to simply explore.  In the latter kind of viewing, elements that might mar a photo needn’t spoil my joy.

Gradually I grew into to dual ways of looking.  A striking sunset may offer a great photo op, but a plain old ordinary sunset could still be a delight.  Taking a walk without a camera could leave marvelous images in my memory.  Of course, the captured scene may be savored long after the sighting, but the immediacy of now is irreplaceable.

Today I thoroughly enjoy having bi-focal vision.  It’s fun being a two-view me.

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