I’m not sure why, but this photograph speaks to me. It’s a picture of a dead and rotting tree with new life springing up all around it, vibrant and alive. What prompted me to take it? Was it that there is such literal and figurative contrast between the rotting wood and the live forest? Did it preach to me sermons about the circle of life or Creator’s plan for rebirth? Was there something about the greens and browns and whites and grays mixed together that seemed pretty to me? Or was I just randomly taking pictures as I do sometimes? I don’t remember.
The young trees in the foreground appear to wiggle like toddlers who are excited to be alive. There is a depth in the greens of the background, variations of kellys and limes and hunters and sages, with a clearing in the middle around the old, dead tree and the youthful, live aspen that is shaped loosely like a heart. Maybe the fallen tree’s heart was pierced by the aspen or the aspen’s was pierced by the fallen tree. Perhaps they stood and admired each other at one time, or perhaps the fallen tree never knew the aspen, but was an ancestor from whose bones the living forest was sprung. I can conjecture, but I will never know.
The photo is so crisp and clear, it’s as if I can see every wrinkle and line on the dead tree and the smoothness of the young trees in contrast. The clarity reminds me of the first time I wore prescription lenses. I didn’t realize I was having trouble seeing until I put glasses on. Suddenly, my sight became clearer. I could see the individual leaves on the trees, the cracks in the sidewalk, the wrinkles on the faces. Oh my Lord, the wrinkles on MY face! I thought I would appear eternally youthful until that moment. My great grandmother once said that she didn’t realize she was old until she looked into the mirror. Her words came back to me the first time I wore glasses and gazed into that mirror for myself. I was getting older, I wouldn’t live forever, at least not in this body, anyway. It was enough to make me panic. Needless to say, it was completely understandable that when my mother accidentally sat on my glasses just days afterwards, I never replaced them. Occasionally, ignorance really is bliss. Some would celebrate the wrinkles and say that they earned every one, and to those people I would say, Good for you! You celebrate, and I will celebrate YOUR wrinkles with you! But let’s not look at mine… Maybe I need to work on my ego a little bit, maybe I’m not deep enough, but I think that occasionally I need to remain ignorant of my plight so I can focus on more important things. Don’t misunderstand, it is good to recognize our flaws sometimes, but I shouldn’t sit and stare in the mirror too much or I will spend all of my time lamenting the life that is fading instead of living the life that is here. I do enough of that already without the help of glasses! They could barely be considered a prescription anyway. Of course, when I’m unable to function without them, I’ll have to give in and wear them, but until then I will go on happily believing that 40 (ish) is the new 20.
So, back to the picture. I guess that maybe I like it because it reminds me to look outward, to see and appreciate the beauty that can be found outside myself, out in the world, and not to spend too much time in self reflection. Too much focus on myself leads to a self centered, agoraphobic me. The world looks fuzzy at times, and I don’t see all the wrinkles and scars and that can be helpful, because the things I can’t do anything about are made more tolerable that way. Then again, there are moments, as when I look at this picture, when it seems that I can trace every leaf or crack or wrinkle and know that they are truly beautiful and I can find the sense of wonder in them and they can speak to my soul.
Funny, the thought just occurred to me that maybe the real reason that I like this picture is that it is actually blurry and it fits my prescription. I guess I’ll never know, and that’s okay too.