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.