Friday, 21 February 2014

It Is Enough

Early last year, Caroline, the younger daughter of Friend Who Knows Too Much, and I had a long discussion based upon a statement by American novelist, professor, Pulitzer and Nobel prize winner Toni Morrison contained on Caroline's blog.  The quote was from her 1981 book Tar Baby.

“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it.  It is enough.”

This arose partly because of my incessant desire to record on camera everything that I see that I feel I would like either to show other people or look at again myself in the future.  That in turn arises partly from the fact that I don't have an ability to hold images in my memory.  If I see something I have to commit it to words and hope that I'll remember them and that they might trigger some recollection.  It always astounds me when people describe scenes in great detail from memory.

I'd not really been able to accept the statement until fairly recently when various things have happened which have been such that I've just stood in awe and accepted the moment for what it was.  Ironically I can remember the feeling of utter joy but I can't recall the triggers.

However the premise was tested again a few days ago when I was standing at the kitchen window and realised that not more than metre and a half away a mouse was climbing up the long stalks of grass, grabbing a head of seeds and falling off and starting up the next stalk.  I grabbed the camera but a combination of the closeness, poor light, the fact that I was shooting through a window and that the stalks of grass were all competing with one another for the automatic focus (which takes too long to turn off and use manually) proved too much for me before he gave up and moved on.  




28 comments:

  1. Toni's words are profound, we do document a lot, especially in these days of taking photos with cell phones. And writers document with words. Clever catch of the grey mouse!

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    1. Yes, Terra, there is a lot more to them than one at first thinks.

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  2. You have a good story and a photo of your mouse. her we have the meadow jumping mouse. One species has an aquatic habitat. The mouse climbs up the stock of grass and then falls plop into the water.

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    1. I suppose that at least gives it a soft landing Red.

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  3. I try to avoid living my life through a lens - its like taking pictures of fireworks - these days I just enjoy the spectacle.
    But some things need to be recorded.
    I have a folder of beautiful pictures - I add to it regularly - and have them everywhere as screenshots for computer backgrounds and screensavers. Sometimes I just stop what I am doing and gaze at one in wonder - transported and awed, moved to sadness or amused at a memory. It reminds me of the world out there, of the little things we take for granted, the magnificence of nature. Then I am grateful that someone took the photo and I get to appreciate it.
    Some of yours live in my collection.... :)

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    1. How beautifully put Fiona. I'm honoured to be a tiny part of that world.

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  4. What Toni Morrison's words maybe are not taking into consideration is the fact that this beauty can never ALL be taken in by one person alone; our world is just too big, too beautiful (and often too terrible) to be seen and understood in one short human lifespan and within the limits of one human mind. That beauty is constantly changing; no two moments are the same, nothing out there will ever be repeated in exactly the same manner.

    I do know the feeling of not wanting to get the camera out but instead simply wanting to enjoy the moment and store its memory in my heart. If I were to document each and every thing I enjoy looking at, or would like to show on my blog, there would be several posts each day, and I would have to quit my job and be busy blogging all day, every day.

    During a particularly difficult time in my life, I found that taking a particular kind of self-portraits (I insist they were NOT "selfies") was important to me, a creative outlet, a self-therapeutical manner of dealing with the problems I was facing back then. When those obstacles were behind me, I found I did not feel the need or even the want for it. None of these self-portraits will ever make it to my blog. The ones you see there are merely for vanity, to show off a new outfit or similar.

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    1. Thank you Meike. You have added a lot to my thinking about the statement and the meaning behind it. For a particular reason (I was looking for a photo) I looked through a lot of photos before breakfast this morning (I was up very early) and lots of different memories came back to me. There are so many reasons for recording the things around us. When I see beauty I want to shout it from the roof-tops and share it. To do that it is necessary to capture it either in a picture or in words. Your use of self-portraiture is very interesting indeed.

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  5. I see better through the camera than without it.
    At least I can see there was a mouse there.

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    1. Adrian taking photos concentrates my mind on what is in front of me. Blogging has made me far more aware of what I'm seeing and photographing.

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  6. I have moments of it - laying the camera aside, either because I want to be more "present", or because I know that I can't capture whatever it is with my camera anyway. So far I haven't come to a point where I've felt that I'll be laying it aside permanently, though!

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    1. I rarely lay my camera aside Monica but I'm learning sometimes just to accept the moment for its beauty and not to try and capture the impossible.

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  7. I've almost stopped taking photos, unless they're of grandchildren. I think many people spend so much time taking pictures of what they are seeing, they don't really have time to live in that moment. The Japanese are extreme examples of this. But if I were a proper photographer like you, I'm sure I'd take more trouble. Oh, and Adrian, of course. Mustn't forget Adrian.

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    1. For me Frances capturing moments as photos can be very important because I don't have the ability to hold images in my head. I think, though, that Toni was referring specifically to beauty and I'm getting better trying to live in the moment and not trying to live it again some time in the future.

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  8. I take far fewer photographs than I used to. In the last few years I've had some great moments that I captured on camera and many other wonderful moments that I did or could not. When I was in the Maldives I lamented not having an underwater camera or housing, but looking back I have such fond memories of the coral reefs that I don't regret not taking any photos.

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    1. Presumably Helen you can still recall what it was like to be under the surface of the sea with the corals. That would cause me difficulties. I would just remember that I had experienced great beauty and that would be it.

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  9. There were several years when I deliberately didn't take any photographs. I had it in mind that I should enjoy where I was and what I saw without attempting to capture those sights with a camera. It was as if the hunt for good pictures would impair experience instead of enhancing it. But that was all before digital photography came along. It is so wondersome. Bad luck on failing to properly capture that wee tim'rous beastie in your garden. You could set a trap for him and then you'd be able to take as much time as you wanted setting up the camera.

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    1. I've not been through that phase YP.

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  10. No offense to Toni, but I have never been as fond of her writing as some. If the beauty of the world is enough for her, why keep writing? It reminds me too much of the anti-technology screeds my students have been known to compose on their computers. I have felt the impulse to give up on creating, so in awe I was of what the world has to offer, but I try to tamp it down as quickly as it arises; it is a detriment to art. Of course, now that I have a small child, I do have the feeling that my fiancee and I should record every precious moment with a camera... yet if we spend her entire childhood behind a lens, where we really "there'?

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    1. I've never read any of her books Nathaniel. Do do do record every important moment of your child's growing up. When our first child died I was upset that we had almost no photos of him after he'd left home but we had so many of his youth and childhood. Memories that make us happy.

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    2. We are doing our best to take frequent pictures and videos for that very reason; she will be old before we know it, and I know that every little photo and video, no matter how tossed-off they may seem now, will take on monumental meaning in time. Thank you for the words of encouragement; I am doing my best to treasure every moment that I can, and when I hear stories like yours, I wish I had words... but of course, there are none. I do want you to know that I am taking your advice to heart, though, for what that is worth.

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    3. I hope that it gives you great pleasure in later years Nathaniel and if it does it will be worth a great deal. Thank you.

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  11. There is so much beauty around us, and I always want to capture it in some form or fashion.
    In my eyes, it is never enough.

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    1. Generally speaking Virginia I am with you on this one.

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  12. Ah! that image of the little leg walking out of the frame was wonderful, blurred or not!

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    1. Well Jenny at least I'll always be reminded of the incident by looking at that photo.

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