Breaking Patterns

My very smart wife, Car­men, notic­ing my rest­less­ness, gave me an assign­ment: “Go pho­to­graph a still life using light from a window.”

While she worked in her office, I rum­maged around the kitchen look­ing for items, chastis­ing myself. “I should be work­ing,” I thought. “I should be writ­ing. I should be mak­ing calls and send­ing emails.” Not helpful.

And then, to make mat­ters worse, my mind’s eye filled with images of sump­tu­ous dis­plays of fruits and flow­ers and old paint­ings of books, pipes, skulls and musi­cal instru­ments. This is anoth­er pat­tern of anx­i­ety for me, erupt­ing as it does for many peo­ple, the com­par­i­son game going off as I get start­ed on some­thing new — not at all use­ful, but typ­i­cal. “Who am I to pho­to­graph a still life using light from a window?”

Pret­ty soon, how­ev­er, just pulling things togeth­er, arrang­ing and rear­rang­ing them, I began to find what I want­ed and snapped away in the flow. 

I was play­ing in a way rem­i­nis­cent of child­hood, that state of absorp­tion and pure engage­ment, pure metaphor. I was­n’t watch­ing myself at all.

Because pho­tographs of pat­terns can be bor­ing to the eye I con­scious­ly twist­ed the objects and added one that clear­ly broke the pattern. 

Whether or not this is a “good” pho­to­graph isn’t the point. The project, my love­ly wife’s “assign­ment,” broke the restlessness.

It put the mir­ror back where it belonged.

Exam­in­ing the print, I found I had pho­tographed exact­ly the way I had been feel­ing: a lime among toma­toes. What could I do but laugh?

And when I showed it to Car­men, she said, “I think I’m going to give you more assignments.”

Bring them on, my dar­ling. Bring them on.


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  • This is a great sen­tence cap­tur­ing a moment of cre­ative flow and immer­sion, Dan: “I was play­ing in a way rem­i­nis­cent of child­hood, that state of absorp­tion and pure engage­ment, pure metaphor. I wasn’t watch­ing myself at all.” You were feel­ing won­der, appre­ci­at­ing the moment, and cre­at­ing some­thing new … a good way to recharge.

  • Dear Maria~

    Isn’t it great that such moments of play act to do that for us? I think the ten­den­cy, at least for me, is too often to try to grind through the rest­less peri­od, to work hard­er, than to open to a more con­vivial flow…

    Thanks for stop­ping by, Maria!

    All the best

  • What a love­ly vul­ner­a­ble sto­ry Dan! I love the pho­to­graph is well. Kudos to your wife for inspir­ing the assignment! : ) 

    As for feel­ing like a lime among toma­toes at times…ahhhh, you too!? 

    : )

  • Many thanks, Saman­tha. Maybe every­one at one time or anoth­er. Feel­ings of dif­fer­ence, how­ev­er, have been a spe­cial plague for me and also a gift.

    All the best

  • Vincenza wrote:

    A lime among toma­toes” — that’s a clas­sic Dan. I know I’ll be using that one — since that’s how I feel most of the time! Many thanks — Vincenza

  • Many best wish­es to you, Vin­cen­za. It’s great to know this post res­onat­ed with you!


  • byron murray wrote:

    Wow! This assign­ment has so many dimen­sions to it. From our inter­nal lan­guage to our past learned “mis­be­hav­iors” to even our under­ly­ing moti­va­tors. Thanks Dan. I know I am pro­ject­ing about myself. I will now sit down with Sandy and ask for an assign­ment. Byron

  • Dear Byron~

    Know­ing Sandy, it will be a good one! Thanks for com­ment­ing, my friend.


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