broadsideblog

What do you see?

In beauty, behavior, culture, design, life, photography on November 4, 2012 at 1:03 am

Here is a lovely blog post from a young British man who keeps a limp yellow balloon as a reminder of a lost young man who needed his help — and who gave it to him. When he looks at the balloon, on the surface nothing more than a piece of yellow rubber, he sees connection, kindness, a reminder of the things he’s grateful for in his own life.

I love his clarity of vision — both rare and precious.

And here’s a great post by a feminist blogger deconstructing one of the most iconic photos of a man and woman kissing. Turns out it’s not at all what we thought — or hoped.

And here’s a recent post by labor activist Sara Ziff, whose organization represents the rights of models, arguing that the use of teen girls on the runway is a poor choice.

Not to mention, two huge and shocking scandals that have recently rocked the United States — the conviction and sentencing of Jerry Sandusky, a football coach who abused children in his care and the late Jimmy Savile, a beloved BBC entertainer, now accused by 300 adults of abusing them when he was also a popular figure, like Sandusky — whose public facade was a deep devotion to the care and welfare of children.

We see what we want to see.

The other day, my husband came upstairs from the laundry room and burst into tears. A proud and private Hispanic man, he very rarely cries. Typically, he began apologizing for his emotional reaction to what he had just seen — one of our neighbors, a retired single woman fighting multiple cancers. Normally gruff and private, she was staggering along the hallway with a friend, clearly weak, in pain and scared.

Jose saw it all.

It’s one of the reasons I love him. He is a career photographer and photo editor, so his talent, and profession, is observation and analysis. But it’s much more than that. He sees the person inside the clothes, the fear inside the bravado, the doubt beneath the smile.

I live in a suburb of New York, in a small town that, to my eye, is bursting with beauty: a red brick concert hall built in 1885; wrought iron fences, cupolas, wisteria, a view straight up the Hudson River, one often shrouded by fog or mist or snow or rain. Every day that I live here, and that’s now more than 20 years, I am deeply grateful to live in a place with so much to delight my eye and lift my heart.

As I write this, a bouquet of crimson-tinged calla lilies, in a hand-made pot, sits on my desk. It’s curved, sensuous, lovely — and a reminder of my wedding day, because my bouquet contained those colors and those flowers. So in them I also see, and savor, a sweet moment from my past.

I’ve lived in Paris, London, Toronto, Montreal, Cuernavaca and a small town in New Hampshire. Each place had ugly bits and moments of deep, desperate unhappiness in my life.

But each also offered its own specific beauty, from the austere, gray elegance of Paris to Toronto’s enormous parks and ravines and the islands in its harbor to Lebanon’s white houses with dark green shutters. I have a photo I took on Green Street, there, of late afternoon sunlight gilding the telephone wires.

I was in the Times Square subway station recently and, for once, looked up at the stretch of round glass embedded in the ceiling that allows light in from the street above. It was a sunny day, and the shadows of those above created a moving, kinetic artwork, their bodies and their motion making a dancing, ever-changing light show — of glass and concrete. It was mesmerizing.

Beauty is everywhere.

So is need — for love, tenderness, warmth, compassion, connection.

We are, all of us, surrounded daily by loveliness, grace, wisdom, intelligence.

We are, all of us, surrounded daily by pain, fear, anger, depression, frustration.

We are, all of us, surrounded by tremendous material wealth — and grinding, terrifying poverty.

We are, all of us, living in a world tinged with mystery, magic, madness.

We are, all of us, surrounded by exquisite creation — the squirrel nibbling an acorn, the hawk circling overhead, the blue jay flashing through the pines, the mushroom clinging to a rotted log.

We are, all of us, sheltered nightly beneath a sky freckled by galaxies, mere pindots on the shoulder of the universe.

As you move through your world(s), what do you see?

  1. Such an honest and truthful blog! We see what is convenient and easier to see – only when we mine deeper can we reach understanding and sincerity! Denial may be a very effective coping mechanism, and ignorance may be bliss, and these both may be very human, but that does not make them right.

    • Thanks! Life gets much more demanding if we really see all the challenges — then what do we do about them? How do we (can we) reach any sort of consensus? Where’s the money going to come from? Inaction is so much simpler.

  2. I see some darkness, but I also see a bunch of hope, beauty, and life.

  3. Caitlin, your last few posts have been particularly interesting and thoughtful.
    Thank you.

  4. Great Post! What do I see in my worlds. Tonight, while working my part-time job I saw a young man bleeding to death on his front porch because he upset some gang members who severely beat him. A neighbor called it in as a young man passed on his porch, the first units on the scene immediately summoned an ambulance. They think he’s going to make it. The rest of the night the radio crackles with calls of shop lifters, people breaking into abandon homes and the like.With the weather getting colder and people desperate it’ll be interesting to see what tomorrow brings. Monday I’ll be back at my regular job in the north loop a trendy area that is quickly under going renovation with rents to match and the few remaining remnants of the old neighborhood milling around jobless as they watch the seemly endless flow of fancy cars coming and going from the area, a Lexus here, a Bmw there, a Rolls Royce in the lot across the street, uh uh one of the big bosses is in! Unimpressed and undaunted I’ll go about my business as I crisscross the city from ritzy neighborhoods to slums. I’ll see the day to day lives of people from all economic backgrounds. I’ll also see those that society almost forgot except they’re moving around in plain view pushing their shopping carts trying to find another safe spot for the night and maybe a bite to eat. I’ll see in the fancy calls pretending not to see them, knowing they did. If I’m lucky I’ll find a quiet place to have lunch and absorb the events of the morning and prepare for the afternoon. Later when my day is done I’ll get home after an hour and a half commute on the cities public transportation. Then I’ll have a bite to eat play with my dog, write my blog finally collapsing into a deep sleep…

  5. [...] light of this, and a recent, and astonishingly insightful post “What do you see?“, I got to thinking about how we see ourselves and others. Are we always leaning towards the [...]

  6. Thank you so much for linking to my blog :)

    I see the blinding winter sun from my window, pure love in the eyes of my close ones, possibility in every material that can be made into art, and hope when I look into my own eyes in the mirror. I am grateful for the beauty of the world, which you describe so lovingly.

    ~Mia

  7. Such a lovely post with great wisdom! It totally hit home for me as I’m in the middle of working on an article about travel and finding moments of beauty in the mundane. Thanks for sharing this slice of your life with us!

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