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Looking for the Bigger Picture

Forgive me yet another retrospective this morning, more thinking out load. I just wanted to consider this enterprise of blogging, of writing, of bringing readers, then new friends into my life. I want to spend a moment considering the differences between now and then, and some few of you have been along for the three, almost four year journey. Can it be that long?

It began in June of 2002, about a month after I quite surprised myself by not rushing back into wage slavery. On a May day I gave my notice and left a profession, not knowing what came next. How and why this decision and its timing meshed with my discovery of the challenge and joy of writing seems providential, looking back. Had I not had the outlet, the way of reaching beyond my isolation that the weblog provided, I think I would have not allowed myself to take the risk of that terrible-wonderful time at home. The sabbatical ultimately lead to so many fruitful personal 'field trips' here, to the images 'in words and pixels' from that first year of writing, to so many friendships and kindnesses shared, and perhaps, to a book.

I own that first year in a way I never would have without the writing; the days are preserved in a kind of amber by having put them down in words. I can see in that archeology the struggle to stay hopeful, to find encouragement, find beauty and purpose every day--even the bad ones. I see my need to be heard and to listen, and to understand both who and where I was, having stepped off the comfortable and familiar and deadening path I had been on. Too many of us can never step away from it. Here in this crisis I had the opportunity of a lifetime that was also at times like a life sentence of house arrest. What would come of it?

At the end of the first year, I stood too close to see where I had been. Backing away, patterns emerge; form comes from apparent chaos in the mosaic of moments, of days and seasons. Now I look back at the daily vignettes from that first year of writing and see three loose and unintentional but personally necessary themes. Each of them yielded landmarks from which I took a bearing towards what came next. In its simplest form, I suppose you could say that to find direction in that period of aloneness through four seasons, I was looking in, looking out and looking back. The first section of the book is organized with these themes that hold each part loosely together.

Looking in: visions in the present; in not taking for granted the wind, the firewood, the water underground, the rainfall, the garden, the creeks, the sounds of summer, the house, the power of imagination, the familiar unnamed smells of the seasons. Exploring these commonplace objects and places seeks to dig below the surface of things too familiar in a hurried life to see them whole.

Looking out: connections with nature--forest, ridge, garden and creek--the realization that my closest neighbors were in feather, leaf and fur. I had an 'aha' moment that first fall which I remember very well: I could take field trips on my own land, and bring others with me through the digital photos and the daily fragments. Connecting with new 'students' and visitors reunited me with my naturalist past. It could happen because I was living--truly and fully living--at home, both remote and instantly connected.

Looking back: our children, the places we've lived, our family pets--the markers of life no less alive because they are past--these make up the foundation on which the present is laid. We go back to places we know when we have lost our way; back to familiar places for solace and courage to go forward.

How unique those times were. But then, all of our days are once-in-a-lifetime. I am thankful to have saved moments from a special year--extraordinary days, indeed.

I know this from my photographer’s experience: any image I take is one of a kind. Each composition in light or in words is unique. The light will never be that color from that angle on that exact configuration of barn, tree or wildflower ever again. And this: that we too often take for granted the extraordinary senses of vision and hearing, touch and smell that are our gifts—opportunities given us by which we could know the familiar beauties too often missed or dismissed in our hurried lives. We have so little time in the present and there is so very much to take in and share. There are wonders all around. From our everyday lives, these familiar things may seem unremarkable to us. But in these precious instants in time, if we keep our eyes open and our hearts ready to know it, there is nothing ordinary.


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Some people have the ingrained ability to see the beautiful in the ordinary, Fred, and you are one of them.

yes. yes. yes.
oh, and thank you. it was a rough day, such a one as i would never wish on any living thing, and as you so often in the past removed my mind from personal pain through the sharing of your world, i thank you again, and again. it is such a big thing you are doing --you may think there are a zillion blogs out there, a zillion fragments of peoples' minds floating around in the mist --but so many others suffer from the myopia of their own being. yours never has. you are genuinely inquisitive, thoughtful, your introspection is genuinely interesting, never overly personal or melodramatic.
but best of all, you seem like a genuinely happy person, so that one cannot help but smile every time one pauses here. so also for all of those smiles you have given, again i thank you.

Fred, the way you have with words!! Thanks for sharing your life, what you see and think, and do, with us here in blogland. Glad it's going into a book.

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