-my front yard-
I did something yesterday that I would have never before imagined myself doing. I attended my first "photography" class.
If someone would have told me that when I moved to the desert I would be attending theology lectures or academic seminars, I would have believed it- but a "photography" class? No Way!
Ever since moving out to the desert a year ago, I have been pretty much overwhelmed by the stunning beauty of the place where I now live, and I have been trying to capture some instances of that beauty with my iPhone camera (and posting the pictures on this blog).
This Christmas I received a beautiful new digital camera as a gift, and so I decided to "ratchet it up" by taking some classes in photography to see if I might get a few picture-taking "tips."
As it turns out, I got more than a few tips. In just one class, my eyes were opened to a whole new set of possibilities for looking at the world.
In the beginning of yesterday's class, one of my fellow students asked the instructor if he might be able to give some overall advice about how to take good pictures. The instructor didn't miss a beat, instantly responding: "You have to have a curious heart." He didn't say, if you want to take good photographs, you have to have a clear mind, steady hands, or a good eye. He said, "have a curious heart." That one phrase alone made that class worth the price of admission.
Yesterday we went out on a little excursion into a desert setting, and I saw things I possibly never would have noticed before. The instructor pointed out variations of shadows and light, some obvious, some very subtle - I simply would have overlooked most of this before in my daily desert walks.
We stared and pondered the revelations of one single desert plant as the instructor pointed out its wide array of color variations - once again, something I would have previously overlooked. He also pointed us to various textures in desert sand, and then he showed how we might use our cameras to "capture" a moment of that beauty being revealed to us.
He showed us how our cameras could be an extension of a "curious heart."
As I sit in my usual spot in my meditation garden and start another day, I am so very keenly aware of the grandeur and the splendor of this desert place where I live. I eagerly look forward to continuing my photography lessons - not because I hope to get some "tips" for taking better pictures, but because I hope these lessons will continue to help me soften up my stoney heart and pique my curiosity about life, motivating me to always look for the new possibilities constantly being revealed to me.
For many years I taught college courses in "Interpersonal Communication," and I remember telling my students to be careful as they matured, to avoid that dreaded disease of "the hardening of the categories."
As I reflect back, I think it was good advice -it was also a piece of advice I didn't always follow in my own life.
Like many people, as I advanced in my career, in my education, in my life experiences, I often fell into the misguided notion that somehow I had "arrived." I had come to a stale and stagnant place where there were far more answers than there were questions. I had been infected by that dreaded disease of "the hardening of the categories."
I think I may be getting better now. The desert is a place of healing balm for those who suffer from that "hardened categories" disease.
The desert is a place where stunning beauty is so generously revealed every day that only the hardest of hearts are able to ignore the possibilities. The desert is fierce, harsh and wild, and yet intimately welcoming, a place brimming with questions - far more questions than answers. It overflows with mystery and offers a constant invitation to participate in the poetry of life.
My photography instructor yesterday advised us all to "have a curious" heart - pretty good advice, not just for taking pictures, but for embracing every single moment of every single day. And you don't have to live in a desert to
have a curious heart!