I sat in one place this morning to watch the changing sky. I am overflowing with gratitude today, for nothing in particular, it seems. I am not so naïve as to imagine that the magnificent scenery does not affect my soul. Why did the Christian world construct cathedrals - so many awe-inspiring works of architecture in which to ponder the glories of the world? The mosques of Islam are the same, the Egyptian pyramids, monuments of all kinds from all stages human history... We are inspired by transcendent beauty, and the human spirit seeks inspiration.
But who needs human architecture when you have the astounding privilege of waking up to the sun rising over the sea?
I cherish my family’s history on that Adirondack lake where I spent two weeks this month. I love its beauty and tranquility and the way I feel when I am there.
But – this island has become my heart home. The drama of the ocean’s presence, the ruggedness of the rocky shoreline, the power of the shifting tides, and the assertive fortitude of a small island in the midst of it all have inserted themselves into my soul. I rise above and plunge within and soar with the gulls in the sky. It is a profound sense of peace, somehow, to have evolved to this conclusion.
During softball season last spring I spent a lot of time at N’s college games. Since I have had a camera in hand every day this year, I tried my hand at sports photography. One of N’s best friends is a pitcher, and I took many photos of her on the pitching mound. It is a beautiful thing to watch her in motion – the wind up, the whirling arm, the stretch back to full extension, the whip of the ball as her hand passes her hip.
However, it is extremely difficult to capture the beauty of the motion with a still camera. Time after time the stills would freeze her in awkward poses. I got so frustrated.
All this comes to mind when I try photographing birds in flight. Gulls and cormorants are a continuous decoration in the great wide sky off the shore of this island. They have distinctive flight styles, and both are strong and graceful and lovely in their steady flight – though I must admit I have a particular love for a gull’s artful serenity in the air. But – a still photo freezes them into unnatural looking positions that do no justice to their grace and beauty. Some things are meant to be fluid, always in motion even in memory.
That’s part of what I love about the sea in general. There is no freeze frame to capture the ocean either, though it is more possible to capture it in beautiful poses. It is a constant rhythm, like a beating heart, like breath in and out. Its beauty is in its ebb and flow, its movement. Some things are just meant to be watched and felt and remembered, not as a frozen moment but as a passage in time.
Sitting on the rocks at dawn today brought me back to a visit to my grandparents in Florida when I was 8 years old. I sat on a window ledge in their condo, with a view from a high floor of their building looking out towards the sea. The seaside is far more gentle than this one in Maine. Sandy shores blend silently into the sea, without all the tumult and crashing of waves that we get on the rocky, gravelly, cliff strewn coast of Maine. Still, there is a similarity in feel, especially when I watch the gulls gliding around on pockets of air.
I was in third grade, on February vacation, and I had a homework assignment to write some poetry. I think that was the day that I first felt myself to be a poet. I was lost in thought and word play, young as I was, highly moved by the scenery outside that window.
Still – I didn’t just write about the sea and gulls in flight. I also wrote about Halloween and scary things and other aspects of the world. I learned that there are inspirational settings that summon up one’s creativity. It may not bring out creativity about the immediate surroundings, but draws out the spirit of the poet, the artist, the writer, the innovator. It is good to search for one’s creative places.