“It’s a long way to the top, if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll.” AC/DC
It was a beautiful morning as I headed to the Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant in Smoketown to visit the sunflower baby from my post Great Expectations. I was excited to see her progress over the last week and a half and expected a beautiful flower smiling at the sun.
I knew exactly where she was because last time I parked right in front of a sign that said Thou Shalt Not Park Here. And as I got out with camera and tripod to wait for the light I saw total devastation, someone had cut all of them down and left nothing but stems.
My first thought, logically, was that The KKK took my baby away; they took her away, away from me. The KKK took my baby away, they took my girl, they took my baby away. Maybe because the Ramones were just on the radio as I pulled in, but it made sense.
As I stood there dumbfounded, a waitress walked up and explained that they cut them down to put on the tables as decorations, oh. So I asked her how I could see the miracle of a single flower clearly if they keep cutting them down.
She said it was probably a good idea to appreciate them while they’re here and pointed to a small patch of new ones in between the wheat. I realized she was right, took a few photos and tried my best to see the miracle.
I suddenly caught a fleeting glimpse as the sun lit her up, and just as my whole life was beginning to change I slipped in the wet grass and fell on my butt. The flowers and the waitress thought this was hysterical, and at that moment I had an epiphany. Change is as hard and as messy as a muddy, rock filled field.
So today the only thing that changed was my pants, but tomorrow is another day and I’ll try again. Robin Sharma said that change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. I wish the waitress said that, it would have made my whole day.
“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.” Agatha Christie
Here in Pennsylvania the tulips are in various stages of maturity. The beautiful yellow ones in front of my house dried up and blew away, while the others are somewhere near the end of their life cycle.
I found these in a local park and they seem to be in their prime, but in a few weeks they will be gone forever-dust to dust. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older or maybe I just notice it more, but things seem to move a lot faster now.
Watching the flowers come and go is also watching the days speed by, and I know I’m running out of time. Of course this is how life works; we’re here for a while and then we’re gone. And whether we acknowledge it or not, suffering comes from wanting things to be different than they are.
W. Somerset Maugham, author of The Razor’s Edge has a great perspective on impermanence: “Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”
Along the way, take time to smell the flowers, in as many ways as you can for as long as you can.
“There are those who fear the sunset, worried they will never see light again. There are those who ignore the sunrise, squandering dawn, believing they will never run out of daylight.
And then there are those who have learned to live in the sun’s warmth, gauging time by its positions, thankful at night that the day happened. Be aware of time. Use it wisely. Be thankful for the light allotted.” Richelle E. Goodrich
I left the house at 5:30 to photograph the United States Hot Air Balloon Team in Bird-in-Hand. It was a beautiful, calm morning and I had an extra battery, a tripod and high hopes.
The balloon went from trailer to air in twenty five minutes and floated off into the sunrise. I took 50 photos that I knew I wouldn’t keep because I’ve seen it so many times before. Here in Lancaster, watching a hot air balloon is an ordinary thing, and even at dawn it seemed like nothing special.
I went home and as I walked towards my front door I noticed some tulips in the garden, took a few quick shots, then downloaded and deleted everything because they weren’t perfect. But I went back to look at the flowers, and this time I really looked (and photographed).
The photo isn’t perfect but the tulip definitely is. It opened within the last hour, will close at night, and by the end of the month it will be gone. I was looking for something amazing and walked right by it.
In her book Nothing Special, Charlotte Joko Beck talks about awareness. “We don’t have to try to develop awareness; we simply need to notice how we block awareness, with our thoughts, our fantasies, our opinions, and our judgments.”
I was looking for something special, something awe inspiring, and these flowers are as close to a miracle as I was going to find. You don’t have to go far to be inspired, you just have to be aware of the things that are right in front of you all the time.
In this classic parable, Chuang Tzu writes about the empty boat: “You’re on the mountain lake, almost dozing, when suddenly a boat crashes into your hull; you’re angry, you shout, But then you see, the boat is empty.”
So my first question is, am I in a $20 an hour rental boat like the ones at Muddy Run, or am I in a fully restored 1956 Chris Craft worth 1000 times that? But wait, there’s more…
In Start Where You Are, Pema Chodron writes about the same boat: “This is the classic story of our whole life situation. There are a lot of empty boats out there that we’re always screaming at and shaking our fists at.”
Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho writes: “Such is the perfect man – his boat is empty; there is nobody inside. If you meet a Chuang Tzu, or a Lao Tzu, or me, the boat is there, but it is empty; nobody is in it.”
So here are three perspectives on the empty boat metaphor, take from it what you can. And don’t be too quick to delete your photos just because they aren’t perfect, sometimes there’s a story there, even if it’s just and empty boat. And apparently, it’s always an empty boat.
In his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki writes; “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
What he calls beginner’s mind refers to doing something without thinking about achieving anything, which could be recognition, likes on a Facebook page, or a tweet by the President and a free room for life in one of his hotels.
Last night I spent two frustrating hours taking photos of colored pencils for a piece I wanted to write called selective focus. It was to be about the way we get caught up in our own bullshit by the way we think, and what we think about. So of course the photo had to be tack sharp, it had to be perfect.
Finally I decided the whole thing was pointless and gave up, putting the pencils in an old cigar box along with some crayons I had for another project on color. I looked over and saw something that was random and perfect and nothing special (also the title of a fantastic book by Charlotte Joko Beck).
I took six photos for the simple reason that I thought it was cool. Yes, I shot RAW and JPEG in manual on a tripod, but people don’t change overnight. And it was absolutely perfect in its own way! It’s a simple photo of crayons in an old cigar box given to me by my father 20 years ago.
So at 2 am last night I had an epiphany and it was free, there is true joy in doing something just because its fun. I can’t wait to tell this to my therapist next week when I pay my bill. She might tell me that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but I have a feeling she’ll read more into this than there really is.
Wabi-sabi represents Japanese aesthetics and a Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence, suffering and emptiness or absence of self-nature.
In this case, it’s a broken piano that was left outside the old Weavertown one room schoolhouse for over a year. I felt it was beautiful, imperfect and incomplete. As for it being impermanent, the schoolhouse is now an antique store and the piano is no longer there. Time marches on.