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Thursday, January 15, 2009

On the Art of Seeing

I just reread the chapter in Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek entitled "Seeing."  And "Seeing" has got me "thinking."

I know the way I see, and therefore experience life, is unique to me alone.  The sights that stop me in my tracks might mean nothing to someone else, and knowing that, I am ever grateful for the sense of seeing that I possess.  The ferns I have watched unfurl, an entire being uncoiling from a single spore smaller than the iris of my eye, the complete ecosystems that reside within a two inch square at the heart of a decaying redwood, these thing give me fodder to chew over for hours, no, days to come.  In the vast filing system of my mind there is a single tree clinging to a massive rock at sea, a vibrant purple sunset with perfectly vertical sheets of thunderstorms closing in, one young doe watching me in the Sierra Azul foothills, a deceased seal awaiting the carrion birds with the most stunning striated white markings.  

And the moss.  But you already know about me and the moss.

On a typical rainy day in the Chinatown district of San Francisco, in the midst of chattering throngs, whole smoked ducks, cheap slippers piled three feet high and the stench of the public, I found a bright orange bead stamped with symbols of good fortune in the muddy gutter.  I opened my eyes a little wider and found six more.  Good fortune, laying in the street, free for anyone who took the time to see.  

I am lucky.

"To look at any thing
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long:

To look at this green and say
"I have seen Spring in these Woods"
Will not do.

You must be the thing you see;
You must be the dark snakes
  of stems and ferny plumes
  of leaves.

You must enter in
To the small silences between
  the leaves,

You must take your time
And touch the very place
  they issue from."

- J. Moffit


BC said...

It really is crazy the things that catch your eye. Just walking down the street next to you and have you point things out that would have slipped my vision is fun and amazing. You help me appreciate that which is around me.

thewindhover said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thewindhover said...

The way you see things is precious, it is a kind of faraway magic - that I get glimpses of in your artworks, words and photographs. But it will always be uniquely yours. Often I feel like people don't understand the way I see, or get frustated easily - but you know, its what makes us who we are - and it brings joy to all around!

UmberDove said...

Oh Wind Hover, I feel that way about you too - I love that our ways of seeing are so parallel, but so fiercely unique.

It does make this life good, no?

Aspen Wear said...

Somewhere along the way I seem to have lost the way I see the world. Your words are a beautiful reminder. I miss the days of losing myself in the woods, identifying wildflowers and birds and ferns and insects...

I really enjoyed the poem. And I see that reading "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" should be higher up on my reading list.

The Noisy Plume: said...

Oh yes it should be the very top of your list.

I just have to say...Pilgrim is my number one all time favorite. I'm so glad to see that you and Mme have been spending time with it.

As for seeing know that the similarities between us are too immense to go unnoticed.

LOVED hearing your voice today.
Take care of my skull.

UmberDove said...

Aspen Wear - You can re-find it, I know. And yes, "Pilgrim" just may be the inspirational kick start that will have you pulling off your shoes to stand with feet in the grass.

Plumey - Your skull is nestled carefully between a jar of dried coconut hull (from a Florida adventure) and thick root from my woods. I can see it while I paint.

AvenueFog said...

Everything thing about you is uniquely, fabulously Kelly. You not only see the things around you, you see the things inside people. I count myself among the lucky to benefit from your eyes.


p.s. come see some stuff here!