I spent an hour this morning watching deer. I wish I could say that I sat still and watched them meander, simply eating grass, but no, I got the camera out. There’s something about looking at the world through that lens, finding an image, finding something new, maybe even finding myself.
I think you need a deep love of the camera to understand what I mean about finding something new through the lens, or even finding yourself through it. There’s a tendency to think that once you look through the viewfinder you have truncated the image of your world, which is true in the physical sense, but once I bring the camera up to my face and look through that tiny little rectangle window, the world changes.
As the camera slowly comes up to my eye, my breath catches for just a moment – I wonder what will emerge as I look through it. The anticipation of the unknown awakens the senses. I see colors, shapes and dimensions that weren’t there before. I see the interconnectedness of all the elements. I not only see through what is there, I see beyond it.
Isn’t that what life is? Seeing beyond what’s there? I spent an hour this morning watching the deer eat, roam and play. It was very funny watching them, these teenage boys wrestling about. I imagine if they could have, they would have been rolling around in the grass. I was sitting by myself laughing out loud and Murray, my cat, was looking at me wondering what was so funny. I bet he wished he had a camera too.
The word “busy” seems to pop up a lot these days. I think I’d rather be hearing the word “play” come out of my mouth. With that realization a wave of sadness washed over my heart, simply because it was clear that I needed to play, to celebrate, to have a smile spread so big across my face that I would see the tops of my cheeks.
I followed the thread of sadness to see where it would lead and found myself seeing through the deer playing. There was nothing exciting or miraculous about it, they do this many mornings outside my window. But I slowly began to see beyond the antics of running around, bleating, and head butting and nipping at each other. Today, as I looked through the lens of my camera, I saw “playing” in the deepest sense. Playing is a spiritual practice for humans to disengage the brain, to abandon what we know and just roll around in the grass.
Seeing beyond what is there is like reading the Sunday comics and finding the essence of yourself. This was a practice in my home growing up, my mother would ask us on Sunday afternoons where we found ourselves in the comics that day. Was it in Beetle Bailey, the Peanuts, Family Circle, or maybe the Wizard of Id? The ordinary is depicted as the extraordinary, the banal becomes comical, and the secular becomes sacred.
St. Francis, Zen masters, Taoist sages, Hasidic storytellers, Hopi clowns and performance artists are all prophets who have encouraged me to play because honestly what I know isn’t worth knowing, and what’s worth knowing can’t be known through the usual ways, or through the usual lens. Play is the joyful expression of my being. It is at the heart of my creativity, my sexuality, and finally my most carefree and compassionate moments of devotion. It helps me live with absurdity, paradox, sadness, awe and mystery. It feeds my joy and wonder. It keeps my search for meaning down to earth, rolling around in the grass.