life is a garden,
not a road
we enter and exit
through the same gate
where we go matters less
than what we notice
I love this passage by the fictitious character in Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Cat's Cradle. I think it is a wonderful way to look at life. It is especially profound to think of ourselves entering and exiting from the same gate...like the labyrinth. But unlike the labyrinth, in life we wander by no particular path...in no particular direction. The only thing that matters is what we notice. In many ways, we are define by our noticing.
The quality of my noticing is what I work on every time I walk out with my camera. Every visual listening exercise I do, every moment I'm in the landscape I ask myself a simple question...What are you really paying attention to? And perhaps more soul revealing, Why?
Here is a little visual listening exercise to try:
- Find a comfortable place to sit. You'll need your journal for this exercise.
- Spend a few moments quieting your mind. I always close my eyes for this. A few deep breaths and then focus yourself on your senses, other than your eyes.
- What do you smell? What do you hear? Is there a breeze? Can you feel the sun on your skin?
- After a few minutes of this quieting exercise, open your eyes and let them wander around the landscape. As Bokonon suggests, it isn't important where your eyes wander, only what you notice.
- At some point, your mind will say "Stop! Look at this!" It is important not to question or pronounce judgement on what you have noticed.
- Write in your journal, in one word, the thing that drew your attention. Tree, rock or cloud...just one word.
- Under this word write three words that describe this "thing". Single, descriptive words.
- Next to each of these words, write a few words that would finish the sentence and further enhance your understanding of the object. Here is an example:
Orange as a fire's glow
Vibrant, are you trying to be seen?
Alone in grey, bare branch
- Try this with a few other "things" that draw your attention. Now look at your collection of observations. What can you tell about the quality of your noticing? What draws your attention?
- Now you can pick up your camera and see where this exercise may lead you. What do you want to remember through your photographs? Why?