Look Closely

Look closely: my dogs have taught me that. When we walk, when they stop to bend their heads and scent something, sorting out the amazing with whuffle snuff sounds rising up to my ears through early morning quiet, I look.

I look around.

I learned how much looking can mean to a person when I was a kid and my parents spent hours waiting for just the right light to get a photo they saw before it transpired. Sunday mornings when I was small, the family went walking in interesting places, and then they waited for these moments. Sunday mornings I learned stillness outside.

At home I spent hours looking through photography magazines my father had, not reading the how-to information, but seeing what other people had viewed as precious. Some photos puzzled me and others took me somewhere new even as I sat cross legged on the floor in the hall.

Years ago I happened upon an interview with Laurie Anderson in which the interviewer asked her where she goes to recharge. I might not get the quote exactly right, but this is close: “I spend a lot of time in this room. I try to get what I need right here.” That has stuck with me.

I like it because of the idea that recharging isn’t running away but finding what’s in front of and around you, and absorbing that energy in a different way. I’ve also always liked it because it reflects the reality that most people in the world don’t have the option of going somewhere else. They must stay where they are to work, support their families, and survive. I don’t know if that’s what she intended, but it’s always had that meaning for me too.

I’ve discovered how much I love photography by being still. When I’m out with Miller and he is sniffing the news, I’m looking at what could seem like the same things, but they’re not. Things change every day, over the hours. What something looks like in the morning will be different in the afternoon. I’ve learned to look closely. There’s so much wonder there.



Photo: From last summer, on a walk with Miller.

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