Thursday, May 21, 2009

Letting go

I'm not sure when I first attempted to photograph a skunk cabbage, but I do remember discovering a secret forest of them when we lived on Shaw Island, and spending lots of time there trying to capture their beauty.

There's a patch on Bainbridge, too, not far from my house, and I've been known to stop my car and leap out with my camera in an attempt to get that elusive skunk cabbage shot.

But the best skunk cabbage I've ever seen anywhere lives in the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge: there's a fabulous patch of them there, with a bridge passing through so you can shoot easily without sinking into the muck they like to call home. I spent hours at the reserve yesterday with my photographer buddy, Barbara, and part of our meanderings took us right through the cabbage patch, so when I began looking through the results of our labors this morning I found this beauty.

What's great about photography -- and we talked about this quite a bit yesterday -- is that so often it's not about what you see, but about what the camera sees. I didn't realize when I took this that there was anything behind the cabbage; I was just framing the leaves and the stalk. And yet it is those surprising pinks and yellows in the background which turn the photo from tame to delicious.

On Tuesday, in the class we share, my friend Martha was talking about her fear of flying -- which she seems to have conquered -- and when I asked how that happened, she said it was because someone explained to her that, at heart, the fear was really a control issue. She was frightened because she had no means of controlling the plane, and once she understood that (and did some EMDR work) the fear no longer had its paralyzing effect.

So I'm thinking about what Kim said in her comment a couple of days ago:"The artist in me wants to see where I can be lead, what I can learn and experience rather than trying to tame the winds (or the paintbrush or the fabric or the lens) and force the winds to blow where I have determined they need to blow (and how hard and how long)." I think what she's talking about is control, and about the fact that what's so freeing and enchanting about pursuing our creative impulses is that this is one of those places in life where we choose NOT to control, and allow the winds of spirit to blow us -- which is how we can come up with images like this one.

Barbara -- who met me at work over 17 years ago, when I was still in my driven phase, observed several times yesterday how lovely it was to see me so contented and joyful; that walking away from the corporate environment has obviously led me to a healthier place. I think the reason she was able to stay in that environment and I had to leave is that for me it was a place where my need for control kept getting triggered, while she was much more able to go with the flow. John O'Donohue talks about that in Anam Cara this morning, saying that control is connected to fear, which is connected to death.

Many people are terrified of letting go and use control as a mechanism to order and structure their lives. They like to be in control of what is happening around them and to them. But too much control is destructive. You become trapped in the protective program that you weave around your life, which can put you outside many of the blessings destined for you.

Control, he says, must always remain partial and temporary...Mystics have always recognized that to come deeper into the divine presence within, you need to practice detachment. When you begin to let go, it is amazing how enriched your life becomes. False things, which you have desperately held on to, move away very quickly from you. Then what is real, what you love deeply, and what really belongs to you comes deeper into you. Now no one can ever take them away from you.

I can see now that a lot of the problems in that last job were really connected to my own need to control my environment. So even though it was hard at the time, walking away was probably the best thing I could have done -- it led me to this lovely mental/emotional/psychological/physical place I now so joyfully inhabit. And it seems clear to me that the photographs I love best are often the ones I had the least control over; the ones where I shot on impulse, led purely by the divine muse. And what I thought I wanted -- the rich greens of the skunk cabbage, for example, may not really be the thing that works for me; it may be something else altogether, something that sits quietly in the background and makes everything come alive without my even noticing.

So then I ask you: where are the parts in your life where you keep finding yourself struggling with control issues? And how could you free yourself -- like my friend Martha -- to fly?

As always, the John O'Donohue quotation is from Anam Cara (© John O’Donohue. All rights reserved). To learn more about John O'Donohue, be sure to visit his website:


Anonymous said...

O how I love those times when I open up your latest blog post to see a picture that so delights me that I actually clap my hands together and bounce in my chair saying "Oooo! I really like THAT one!"

Currently my big struggle with control issues is with my youngest son, Shane. And yes, my fears are expressing themselves through the need to control. The fears are valid, but I don't think my way of dealing with the fears is at all valid - and my trying to control him obviously isn't working. So...what then?

Holy cow, light bulb fears are about ME, not him, they are MY issues. When I remove how his actions reflect upon me and my talent, commitment to or success as a mother, it takes all the heat and anxiety out of the situation and it just becomes a problem that needs to be solved.

He isn't hurting anyone, he isn't on drugs or destructive - he is just behaving in an apathetically immature way that is keeping him from living - what I think - a more fulfilling life. A smart, good kid taking the long way around life and isn't interested, it seems, in MY shortcuts to happiness and the easy way around. Huh. THIS will keep me thinking today...

Diane Walker said...

Spot on, girl -- that's my deal, too: my worst controlling moments are when I worry about how something will reflect back on me. Great observation!

Unknown said...

I must say, he knows what he's writing about. My experience tells me that what he says is true. Thank you for posting this. Love the skunk cabbage photo, too!