During what we know as the darkest days of winter, one of my close friends took me out one early December morning to see the geese. This might seem a bit unusual but the back story is that years ago I fell in love with Canadian geese after reading James Michener’s “Chesapeake’ while living not far from the eastern region of the Chesapeake Bay. I was mesmerized by how Michener’s geese became prominent characters in his epic generation-spanning story.
My friend is a professional photographer with a specialty in avian photography. You should see this man’s work. He knows where all the cool birds hang out; and I doubt there is a bird he hasn’t met. He knows of my affinity for these beautiful creatures and their V-formations and for the last few years has been inviting me out to see them while they make our area their winter home. It finally worked out with our lives and schedules.
I will be honest; I was hoping, expecting really, to see them in the hundreds of thousands. I wanted that immediate, dramatic visual impact. The wow of what that would be like. The images I could capture. As it turned out, the geese had chosen a location other than the spots we picked; we weren’t invited to their morning party. We certainly saw some geese, just not hundreds of thousands
I had my camera with me of course. We talked, I snapped. We walked, I snapped; my shutter punctuating the easy, comfortable conversation between my friend and I. We are like family to each other; he much like another older brother. I asked him a deeply personal question at one point in one of our many meandering conversations and as soon as I asked, I offered him an out, letting him know I understood the depth of what I was asking and that I understood if he didn’t want to respond. His reply to me was to proceed with answering my question.
I kept taking photos, sure that in the early morning, dreary overcast light, and no geese to speak of, that my attempts to capture anything were futile, but far be it from me to lay off the shutter when that camera is in my hand. I had to move on in my day when we got back; I put my camera away, changed and resumed my busy day. The holidays were upon us and combined with life, work, shopping, wrapping, baking and the kiddo, I totally forgot about my images from that morning. I think too, that I somehow, at some level, assumed I would be disappointed when I went back to look at them; kind of the one eye shut with a sideways grimace, thinking to myself: “That’s all I got? Bummer.”
I just went back to my photos from that morning a few days ago, and while smiling at the memory of the time shared; seeing the images after weeks had gone by, I also remembered something important.
We can tend to set ourselves up with our expectations.
We go into a situation or moment with our minds made up of what it is supposed to be, or look like, or turn out like. We often forget to just let ourselves see the moment for what it really is. Just because it looks different than we expected, is it less than? Is it not as good?
Perhaps it’s in some way so much better than we expected. Or maybe even better for us in ways we just simply cannot see yet? I don’t know the answers to these questions, I just know they are important questions we can ask ourselves in these moments. That disappointment can cloud our ability to see what is, when we are more focused on what is not.
I don’t think it is a matter of placing value on the outcome: good, better, or worse. I am thinking that it is more about somehow finding a way of allowing ourselves to see things as they are.
In reviewing my images, I noticed a few things I didn’t expect, didn’t think was there…
…I could see that the dreary, cold, overcast morning lent itself to a beautiful palette – a dramatic monochromatic background.
…I remembered that in the fallow season of winter, when all signs of life feel dormant; there is something to behold in the stark contrasts of the landscape. That something is happening even when we don’t see the obvious signs. Life is preparing for, well, life.
…I could see that the absence of geese in large amounts, reminds me that sometimes there is beauty in flying solo.
I realized, with a new perspective, that if we are open to the possibilities, that sometimes we learn that what we didn’t expect to find – can be just as beautiful as what we had in mind – in just a very different kind of way.
In looking back at this morning, seeing through my images from a day that finally came to fruition, spending time with my good friend, safe in his trusted presence, I understand in a new way how sometimes we need to not only be open to what is right in front of us, but also be willing to step away for a time, and then come back to look at things with new eyes.
It’s more than possible that when we find what we didn’t expect, it can be just as beautiful as what we had in mind. That what is beyond our mind is limitless.
C’mon, take a walk with me…click on the images below to hang out with all the cool birds….
What might this day reveal to each of us?