Monday, October 17, 2011


The Vacation

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.

He went flying down the river in his boat

with his video camera to his eye, making

a moving picture of the moving river

upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly

toward the end of his vacation. He showed

his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,

preserving it forever: the river, the trees,

the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat

behind which he stood with his camera

preserving his vacation even as he was living it

so that after he had had it he would still

have it. It would be there. With a flick

of a switch, there it would be. But he

would not be in it. He would never be in it.

~Wendell Berry

I do understand what Berry is saying here.

My first set of kids were small when video cameras became widely available, and some parents really did film almost every moment of their poor kids' lives. Even then, way before I understood the Buddhist maxim of "being" here, now, I knew that it was important to put the camera down and just be present.

But I also think that taking photographs can encourage "seeing," by forcing us to look at the world around us, study the juxtaposition of things and people, and choose the colors, shapes, and moments we wish to preserve. It forces us to appreciate the grandeur of nature and impermanence of the beauty and drama we live with.

This week, I have been breathing, looking around me, noticing, and appreciating.

I have been immersed in gratitude for this space and time to do the things I normally can not, to stop and chat with a merchant, to drive slowly, observing the hues and inhaling the scent of fall leaves, to watch people, who are endlessly fascinating.

I wanted to buy a French butter keeper for my friend in New Jersey, since it's her birthday and I will see her this week. But I needed to look up the name of the potter from whom I got mine two years ago. Finally I found her, and drove to her home, and knocked at the door. She pulled out all of the butter keepers and we talked while I chose one. I drove on to Harrodsburg and studied the mailbox quotations on the farms of the Mennonites. I saw four Amish girls in a discount store looking surreptitiously at a Teen magazine. By the time I got a cart and returned they had disappeared. I picked up the magazine and saw that it was all about Selena Gomez, a popular Latina star. Neither of these things are a big deal, but I treasure them because they took time, which I often do not have.

I drove home a different way. I found a corn maze and saw beautiful rolling hills. More leaves.

Sometimes I feel sad that I almost never have time to just be present to life and to all the visual treasures there are to take in. So my meditation for this week is just to see, to be.