Saturday, June 12, 2010

Out of the corner of my eye . . .

A few days ago, I took my morning constitutional (known in Colorado as a hike) with my faithful friend, Rusty. This dog loves to hit the trail almost as much as he loves to eat, and I never have to arrange a time and a meet location or hear a long list of reasons why on this particular day or that, he is just too busy. He is never too busy. I just lift my hiking pants off their hanger in my closet, and he appears, tail wagging, deep brown eyes sending forth their message of hope and willingness. The call of the wild is always in him, as it is in me.

Wildflowers are emerging along the front range. Not big ones like those that form the lush colors of spring in the San Juans near Silverton and Ouray. Those are the stars of the wildflower theater. They strut across the pages of calendars and books, they glow brilliantly on computer screens, and they adorn the walls of plush offices. In contrast, the wildflowers in the mountains around Colorado Springs, where I live, are more modest. They wear understated garments, and live closer to the ground. There is more space between them. Their more robust siblings in southwestern Colorado yell the arrival of spring. My wildflowers whisper.

Rusty and I left the car and walked into the foothills of Mount Blodgett. In a small open space I know (that is as precise as I care to be on location), the subdued colors of spring appear reliably each year. A bit of attention is required to find this color. One must stare into the distance and then get close to the ground and listen with the eyes. I bring my camera to make a record and sometimes to capture an essence. I may venture for hours. I am enthralled by simple things.

When I returned home on this day, I began the usual work of post processing my images. I came close to deleting the one you see here. I got caught up in the technicalities. I had caused the depth of field (how much of the image is in focus) to be quite narrow. This was deliberate. In this case, however, I thought I had gone too far. Only the lower front of the blossom is in focus. The rest of the blossom is out of focus and much of the rest of the image is what artists call negative space. Too much negative space, I said to myself, and even the petals are fuzzy.

But I did not delete. I moved on to other images, the more technically pure ones, and finished them. Then I came back to this imperfect one. But I could not delete. I tinkered a bit, cut off the right side of the blossom, stretched the empty space, and saw something out of the corner of my eye.

I saw as I always see the best things, out of the corner of my eye. It was partial, the product of a glance. Perhaps you will see in the photograph how transitory and partial is our experience. And yet how beautiful in its incompleteness.  There is no time to bring all things into perfect focus. To do so is to stagnate; we must move on from even the precious things.

This image breaks all the rules but one: It is true. There is a tiny area where things are clear; the rest is a passing blur. We move on. We must always move on.

I think that we are blessed when we find beauty in what is incomplete, partial, visible only as we pass by.

I saw this flower out of the corner of my eye.

Perhaps you will too.

Chuck Sale
June 12, 2010