Choosing a lens


When I teach kids to write, I teach them to focus in, to choose a point of view, to pull back for a “wider view”


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or to use the “macro” lens for a narrower view.

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I have to do the same thing when I take photos, of course. What is it that I want to hold in my view? Do I want to see the entire beautiful Atlantic ocean beach, or do I want to keep my eyes on the little shells that have washed up overnight?

This week I have been finding it hard to find my perfect lens. The big wide world has become a bit too scary for me. Terrorism, war, drought, famine, sickness.  I want to pull my lens in a bit: I can’t lie awake at night and worry about Salafi Jihadists.  Maybe I should, but I can’t do it.

And as I pull in closer, to the world of my job, sometimes the pressures and stresses there are too much for me, too. The realization that my district hired a motivational speaker who came in to tell us that the way we are teaching writing is completely wrong, and that what we have been forced to give up in the past five years is exactly what we should have held onto.  I sat in the lecture hall with tears streaming down my cheeks.  I tried! I wanted to shout to him.  I tried to let the kids write about their passions! I tried to let them choose their own topics!

But I wasn’t allowed to do it.  And now I feel like a failure.

I needed to pull my lens in closer.  But my family has been struggling this week, too. The events and emotions of the past ten days are too intense and too overwhelming for me.  I’m pulling in even more.

And so this evening I was out in my hot tub (of course I was!).  I was looking at the trees and thinking of how sad it is that they are so completely bare and barren. They look dead.

But there is one big maple tree behind my house.  It’s branches reach way beyond my roof.  When the sun is setting, and I am in my lovely tub, I can look up into its branches and see how the golden light strikes the very tips of its tiniest twigs.

And so as I looked at the brown and empty branches of the ash and birch and beech and oak, I saw that the maple branches held the tiniest little promises of buds on the very ends of each branch.  I don’t think I’d be able to see them in the full light of day, but with the warm buttery light of sunset hitting them from below, I could just make out the tiny swellings of life that they hold.

What a positive promise!  What a sweet and easy reminder that spring will most definitely come.  The days will get longer, the sun will shine brighter, the ice will melt.

And the pressures and fears of today will melt away as life takes a happier turn.

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9 thoughts on “Choosing a lens

  1. My Dad always reminded us that we may well worry about work etc, but that if we ever got sick we would be replaced within weeks.
    When he got sick, and had to retire, I often remembered his words. He was replaced very quickly.
    Worry is such an awful waste of our time but something it is very hard not to do.
    Hope Spring comes early for you.

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  2. My son, who has embraced a rural lifestyle and a keen connection to the natural world, pointed to a tree on the way to the airport and declared it dead. Within a short amount of time he had identified many trees as dead and wondered what had caused this little disaster. Since it is the middle of the winter, I was baffled how he could identify so many trees as dead as we whizzed by on the highway. I had not noticed anything wrong although I was driving. My radar fixes on those trees with missing bark and a white skeleton to deliver a verdict. He noticed that the small twigs that will signal spring in a couple of months were missing. So as long as we can keep finding those “small twigs” in our lives, there is still hope for new life.

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  3. You have such a wonderful lens that comes from within simply because you ‘can’ see those buds and what they represent. I am sorry you have had such a trying week, and often it takes quite a few attempts to finally find a focus that gives us clarity, even if it is just enough to centre us. Always remember as you look for your signs of spring, that often other’s see you as theirs.

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  4. Or new pressures and fears will come! Sorry.
    You’re not a failure because you taught writing the way you were required to as a condition of your employment. If there was a Tolstoy among your students in the past five years, he or she will figure it out. Be glad the Powers That Be saw the light.

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  5. Perhaps you need a super zoom, a big telephoto lens that will let you move from wide angle and close up, to pick up small things very far away. Flexibility seems to be the most valuable asset we can have in this strange world we live it.

    It will change. It will be different and hopefully better. Whether or not I — or you — are here to see it is a big question mark. Change is guaranteed, maybe the only thing we know for sure.

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  6. It really is an up and down thing, LIFE, isn’t it. Just when you think you can’t take any more, you find beauty. And just when everything seems perfect, the rug underneath disappears.

    Somehow it all evens out, or we find our balance or our focus. You will too. Because even with your highs and lows, you are an incredibly well balanced woman.

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