writer traveler photographer

The wonder of small

COVID looms so large in our lives, and its scope and depth is so pervasive that I find myself looking into the wonder of small for relief and diversion. I didn’t intend it to be this way. That is, I didn’t set out looking for it. Rather, the wonder of small found me.

I suspect it’s tied into a discovery I made about five years ago … when I was inexplicably drawn to a small branch on the ground in the forest. It was loaded with interesting, intricate designs made by the Six-spined Ips beetle. If memory serves, I posted something about this many moons ago. Initially, I had no idea what created these designs, but Doug Strongman, bug specialist and proffessor at St. Mary’s University, quickly identified the artist-beetles after I sent him the photo.

That experience was also tied into my quest for what Mary Oliver refers to as finding the “heavenly invisibles” in the “heavenly visibles.” I won’t go into it here, but it’s been hugely rewarding as a daily practice to be open to the heavenly invisibles that are evident all around us—in nature, people, and in life situations—in spite of circumstances.

Fast forward to now. In my last post I shared how the lockdown measures created in me a sense of being out of focus. At the time, I couldn’t define it any better than that. Trying to tease out this feeling, it seemed to morph more precisely into feeling of being in limbo—“An uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.” (Oxford Languages).

When the lockdown happened, I felt that my world had shrunk. For the first time in my life, I was confined. Freedoms that I always took for granted such as go-do-see whomever and whatever I want whenever I want—were instantly curtailed. Sure, already there were some restrictions, and travel between provinces was no longer an option, but never did I imagine being personally confined to my home save for a couple of exceptions like getting food.  

So here we are with everything on hold. Wait-and-see is the new norm. And the big picture of the pandemic across the planet is something I can’t bear to dwell on. I can’t compare my privileged space with mothers in India. Or with people in refugee camps. Or, closer to home, people in jail or hospitals. So my limited understanding of the meaning of “confinement” is, admittedly, a far cry from what millions of people are experiencing around the world. But I also know that feeling guilty about my priviledged existence is not the answer.

Instead, I’ve been using my camera as a form of mental medicine for a COVID cure. Lately I’ve been doing more and more macro photography. In and of itself, it’s really just candy for the mind. But in a larger context, this quote from Dorothea Lange hits home: The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. When I’m focused on the moment and focused on the minutia of a leaf, flower, or bug art, I can’t be fussing about whether or not I’ll be going to Joggins next month or fretting over Saltscapes Magazine cutting one of my stories for lack of revenue.

Then, when I step back and try to “see” more clearly without my camera, my perspective is altered. Serenity slips in, sidles up to me and and says, “See? All is well.” And it is.


  1. Sharon Fraser Sharon Fraser
    May 10, 2021    

    Brilliant Sandra!

    • May 10, 2021    

      Thanks for popping into view Sharon. Once we are freer to roam, would LOVE for you to come out for a cuppa here in Canaan!

  2. May 10, 2021    

    I love macro photography. Just focussing on small things forces us to slow down, think more slowly, act more slowly, and look for a segment of something that gives meaning to the whole.

  3. Helen Opie Helen Opie
    May 10, 2021    

    Thanks for liberating me: I was laying a burden on myself, that somehow I ought to make art out of the small wonders that I, too, have been observing. You let me know that it was OK just to marvel, to to share with friends who also like to marvel, but not DO anything beyond this easy enjoy,ent.

    • May 10, 2021    

      We sure can be hard on ourselves Helen! I think COVD is giving us a chance, in a way, to ease up. Breathing helps!

  4. May 10, 2021    

    If nothing else, the virus has taught us that the impact of something very small can be huge. I receive your micro photos as an antidote to the emotional effects of Covid. Thank you.

    • May 10, 2021    

      And thank YOU for chiming up Jennie. Always lovely to “see” you, here or on my FB page. T’will be better in person and we need to make that happen!

  5. Charlotte Charlotte
    May 10, 2021    

    Soothing perspective under this angle. Your clear focus on this unusual phase in our lives helps. Thank you.

    • May 10, 2021    

      It’s nice to be able to “see” more clearly. Being out of focus was actually nauseating until I figure out what was going on. Still teasing that out but sure feel so much better! Hope you are keeping healthy and sane!

  6. May 10, 2021    

    So love and appreciate the thoughts and insights you’ve shared today, Sandra! The desire to appreciate the small components that make up the big picture is a gift in itself and speaks to me of both hope and a wonderful resilience. Thanks for sharing this helpful perspective!

    • May 11, 2021    

      Thanks Ginny! I’ve started my own set of prompts … to write a response to a photo I”ve taken during the week. Have no idea where this is going to lead but it will be interesting, I’m sure!

  7. Phyllis Sutherland Phyllis Sutherland
    May 10, 2021    

    Do not mourn the past. Do not fear the future. Savour the present.
    Art : the means of escape through loved activities or expressing emotions through creativity.
    Hi Sandy. For a month I have been collecting garbage as it emerges from the natural debris in the bush around campsites on our property. I walk the same walk every day and every day, something new emerges as last year’s vegetation shrinks into the soil. I take pride in noting a sparkle that turns into a beer bottle buried in the humus waiting to be rescued. I am addicted to it. And i think not of all the worries and business issues caused by Covid. And i am so thankful that it has occurred at this time in our lives when the business was becoming the icing and we do not need it to eat.
    Love your writing

  8. Marilyn Saulnier Marilyn Saulnier
    May 10, 2021    

    Well Sandra, you’e hit the nail on the head. Out of focus is exactly the way I have been feeling. Guess I will try your remedy for the “lockdown blues” and be more aware of all things “great and small”. Thanks

    • May 11, 2021    

      Let me know how things evolve Marilyn! Might make for a good essay for your book about your dad. I’m sure he took the time at work at Parker Eatons or in the woods hunting to see the wonder of small!

  9. Sheila M Nichols Sheila M Nichols
    May 11, 2021    

    Thank you for sharing, Sandra.
    In the beauty of the small, our world actually becomes enormous!

    • May 11, 2021    

      Yes, Sheila, it does. Thanks for commenting and your insight!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome! This is where I occasionally post a story that's not filed under My Work ... or give a behind-the-scenes commentary (when fit to publish.) You'll also find notices about upcoming workshops, such as memoir or travel writing. Enjoy your visit and come back often. Better yet, subscribe!

EDITORS, please click on My Work and Photo Gallery in the menu bar to get the big picture of what I do.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.