Space to Be Danced In

Paintbrush and sun, Lasal Mountains, UtahWhen you do the unexpected, everyone else starts wondering what else can happen. You start reassessing all the givens of the moment … All this is nothing but space to be danced in.” –Jeff Bridges from The Dude and the Zen Master.

I think that we all get trapped into the expected at times. We do what others expect of us, what we expect of ourselves. This also affects how we see nature. It certainly affects nature photography and can limit my full view of what God has put before me. What does a paintbrush (above) look like down at a ground level view? Expectations can also affect how we see God, creating a vision of God in our image (our expectations) rather than accepting the mystery that God is.

Unexpected2It is easy to get stuck in a rut of seeing. Photography can be like that. You see the same things, the same compositions, the same photos. Like starfish in the same old starfish patterns rather than an arch reflected in the water. We all do that. It is easy to do what we are used to doing, what we are comfortable with, avoiding the unexpected. The unexpected can be scary, uncomfortable. After all, the unexpected can’t be controlled.

Yet look at how much joy there is to an unexpected explosion of color at sunset, a field of flowers where there were none the last time you were there, the unexpected glimpse of a bobcat along the trail. If we allow ourselves to do the unexpected, as Jeff Bridges suggests, then we get people wondering what else can happen, including ourselves.  We do indeed start reassessing all the givens of the moment.  So if we are out in nature, we stop expecting to see the same old fall maple tree against the blue sky and discover the beauty of small maple trees on the forest floor, also in color, but doing their own dance of the seasons. We stop expecting a flock of geese to line up perfectly in our “viewfinder” (whether actual of a camera or just the way our mind views the world) and start reassessing them for their unique qualities as they are right now. We stop expecting nature to be our version of “perfect” and begin to dance with it however it appears in front of us.

NE FloridaAccepting and dancing with nature as it is honors God’s Creation because then we are one with God’s will rather than trying to make nature (and therefore God) fit our expectations.  Nature can be a space to be danced in, whatever dance is yours, to celebrate the life around us and to celebrate God’s amazing Creation. This might include a little crab spider you don’t even see at first because it blends in with the flower … until you get close.  Or a fall maple leaf glowing in the sunlight, seen as a sculpture in the garden.

Sugar maple leaf, New York City, Central ParkBy the way, The Dude and the Zen Master is a delightful book that is basically a conversation between Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman about life and how we see ourselves (it is not about Zen Buddhism as a religion – Glassman is a Jew and Bridges is a Christian).