Here in the Pacific Northwest, a long and beautiful summer drifted into a sun-drenched fall. I promised myself when the rains come, I will write. I told myself that the dismal months would be my writing oasis. Here I will find the freedom and solitude in which to pen magnificent prose.
So while on sunny days, I busy myself painting with light, on this drizzly day my fingers struggle to form words that paint verbal pictures.
Outside my window clouds hunker down over the city like gray gulls on a wind-swept beach. In this gray gull moment, I, too, hunker down with my thoughts. My solitude is broken only by the repetitive plop of water dripping from the drainpipe at the corner of the house.
In the weeks since I last posted on distractions and what to do about them, I have been traipsing down country lanes amidst the fading glory of maple leaves cut loose to return to their eternal mother. With camera swinging from the strap around my neck, my focus has been the elimination of distractions. Simplicity is my new favorite word. Granted it is not easy to eliminate underbrush here in Western Washington where every scene is thick with nettles and overgrown blackberry. I am reading from a stack of David DuChemin photography books suggesting that I eliminate elements in a photo until the last one removed eliminates the story. Only then is it time to put it back.
On Monday I set out to capture the sunrise. I walked along a surface road above I-5. Coming upon a vacant lot with an open view, I scanned across the freeway wishing for a few clouds to catch the rays. Instead, beneath layers of fog, the Snohomish River flowed north while in the distance sharply jutted peaks of the Cascade Mountains stood like armed sentries with virtually no clouds to guard. As I walked, stood, and waited for that exquisite moment when the light is what photographers call perfect, Matt Redman’s hit, 10,000 Reasons burst from my lips.
I made a number of frames, but none satisfied my soul. I continued panning the scene mindful to simplify what I allowed in my viewfinder. The sky remained bland. Below sunlight impregnated the damp fog and, like a dancer, began to swirl in apricot-infused eddies frisking above the shrouded Snohomish River. Underskirts of periwinkle roiled from beneath. I watched and I sang, “Bless the Lord oh my soul…” Then disappointed, I put down the camera. No way could I capture this glory without including eighteen wheelers racing by on the interstate.
The sun burst forth blasting my solitude; my song vaporized. I found an alternate route back to my car. During this round about walk, my eye caught the unexpected—the shimmering leaf illuminated by the glistening sun.
Amidst a blanket of fir needles on a moss-covered driveway, a formerly obscure maple leaf tilted its eager face upwards transformed in the glorious light. I gingerly lowered my grandmotherly knees onto the rough sidewalk. Cars roared past. Mostly, I ignored them. My focus was intent. I would capture the glory of this moment. I would make this leaf famous, because, to eliminate the leaf would be to eliminate the story. I left home while it was still dark to find a grandiose sunrise, but the brilliance I sought was not mirrored in an expansive sky, but by a two-inch leaf in a littered driveway.
It’s Thursday now and the sky is solid, dull, and gray. I am leaning into the writing. I am laboring to simplify. Even with the camera set aside, the lessons learned reverberate.
As I write, I eliminate, eliminate, eliminate until only the essence of story remains. And then somehow in the process, I discover the story isn’t really what I thought it was.
Marlee Huber ~ for Your Flourishing Life!