Updated: Feb 3, 2021
What is more real - the whole, or a part of the whole? On one hand, when we see the entirety of something, we identify it with its name and what we know about it. "Here's a tropical (or desert) plant!" we think to ourselves. Yet, enclosed by the edge of a photo, flattened to two dimensions, and back-lit by the computer screen, it's no longer a plant, especially if we just glance at it. Then, it's an abstract collage of edges, shadows, colors, tonalities, as well as more subtle qualities such as energy, movement, stillness. Then the survival, quality-control, and art areas of the brain set to work. What is this? we ask. Is it useful? Relevant for my life? Is it enjoyable or attractive to me? Do I want to see it again?
What do you see and experience when you sit quietly with this image? Where does your eye settle? If your eye keeps moving, what are you seeing, or looking for? What does your body feel as you look at it? How much of the overall photo do you see, and how much the tiny "flaws" on the plant? Or do you just enjoy the reality and mystery of this image without imposing a bit of an agenda on your eye and mind to figure it out?
In this coming week, you might consider remembering your encounter with this image and its combination of light and shadow, edges and plains, movement and stillness. You might also remember this photograph as you walk around places in your daily life, conscious now as light, color, shadow, and edges appear more in your awareness. You might also reach for your cell phone and explore making photos of something close up when it's lit with interesting light and shadow. What do you experience within your being as you do this?
This is a succulent plant I encountered in Stepneyville, Nelson, New Zealand, a couple of years ago. I keep looking at it whenever I scroll through my images and come across this one. I feel both calm and energized by it, and lifted into a simple sense of being both connected to the earth and sun, as well as to a simple mystery beyond words.