On Paying Attention to What You See

August 8, 2011
How carefully do you notice what is happening around you?

A few years ago I started something I called Visual Viewpoints. This was a way to suggest that you could tell something about a person by the pictures they share, based on where they choose to stand to take the picture and the subject they select.

Don’t know what, exactly, my pictures say about me, but they offer you a glimpse into the kinds of things I am interested in capturing on film (well, on tiny digital memory cards anyway)

Interesting patterns of white on mountain is ItalyIn the case of the picture on the right, I was flying over the alps from Italy to Munich a few years ago. What puzzled me were the patches of white against the dark ground. It looks as though this is snow on a hiking trail, or perhaps on a ski run, but it is only the beginning of November.

Yet if it is snow, why would there be only white in these lines but not in the deep valleys Why are there breaks in the white, as though there is a deep hole filled with snow? But there wasn’t much snow on the mountains as a whole, so why did the “snow” create a pattern like this? There are other areas that are in the shadow more than these appear to be and I assume they would continue to have snow, so what makes these areas special?

I am puzzled by this and offer it here in the hope that someone who reads this page will explain it. My interest in it is a little like that of members of the Google Earth Community who examine Google Earth pictures to find anomalies that are interesting to them.

There are many who would look at this and only think of it as a beautiful mountain scene. If they noticed the white at all, they would ignore it or file it as an-unknown-thing-not-worth-pursuing. Yet doesn’t it puzzle you? Don’t you wonder what it means?

I share this to encourage you look with a bit more questioning eyes at the world around you, including pictures in print and TV. And then, when you see something that is a puzzle, that you try to find out what it is. There are a zillion things that I don’t know the why of, but whenever I take the time to see what they might be, when I ask questions about “why” they are the way they appear—even if I don’t find the answer—the mere fact that I’ve tried enriches my life.

If you know someone who might have an explanation for this picture, please let me know how I can get in touch with him or her.

What about you? How do you view the world? What is your viewpoint?

When you look around you, besides needing to watch where you are going as you navigate the world without running into something, are you interested in what you’re seeing?

When there is something you haven’t seen before, do you try to understand what it is, or do you let it become just one more thing that is a puzzle not pursued?

Finally, are you willing to pay attention this week to at least one thing that you haven’t known how it is made, why it looks the way the does, or its possible purpose—and then actually pursue the answer?

Feluccas on a Quiet Nile

October 22, 2008
Wouldn’t it be lovely to sail the Nile in a felucca just as the ancients did?

Impressions of Egypt Number 5

In keeping with the blog’s theme of “Enrich Your Life, Enrich Your Relationships,” this is one of several posts about a trip we took in December 2007, to Egypt. It definitely enriched my life and expanded my understanding of that country, and of the many challenges they face as they evolve into a different kind of country than the one I visited. — Note added in 2011 after the spring revolution

This entry could also be filed as one of my “visual viewpoints” you may have seen in earlier posts.

Sailing feluccas on the Nile

Looking over the wide Nile river from our rooms shown in What is Luxury?, I took a zoom lens picture of these feluccas, seen all during our trip down the Nile. Many of the boats are used for transporting goods, but on this particular day it seemed that everyone was there for pleasure. A few days earlier we, ourselves, had taken a ride on this ancient form of transportation, which was manned by Nubians, a desert group of dark-skinned people who are beginning to hold more responsible positions in society than they had for centuries.

The felucca rarely has an engine and relies on the breeze to carry tourists who want to enjoy the currents of the river. I understand that few are now made of wood, but the basic layout has barely changed. They don’t have a keel as such, but a heavy center plate can be raised in the shallows. The sails are made of native cotton (of which Egyptians are justifiably proud) and other fibers.

In Need of a Wide-Angle Lens

October 8, 2008
Taking a picture in the great out-of-doors often requires stitching pictures together.

Visual Viewpoint: Scenery in New Zealand Always Presents a Photo Opportunity

This entry could also be filed as one of my “visual viewpoints” you may have seen in earlier posts.

Countryside in South Island New Zealand

I’m slowly learning how to take a series of pictures and string them together, but this is the best I could do at the time. Obviously I need to learn how to get the horizons lined up. Anyway, you get the idea.

There were several spots along the road where I would insist my husband stop the car and let me take a picture. Despite the reversed travel directions, we did fairly well on the roads with our rental car and particularly liked the traffic circles, which New Zealanders seem to know how to maneuver better than Americans.

When looking at Wikipedia just now in wanting to be correct in using the term traffic circle, I found that “a roundabout is a type of road junction at which traffic enters a one-way stream around a central island. In the United States it is technically called a modern roundabout, to emphasize the distinction from the older, larger type of traffic circle.” But something I found most interesting was that, “Overall, roundabouts are statistically safer than both traffic circles and traditional intersections,with the exception that cyclists have a significantly increased crash
rate at large roundabouts. Roundabouts do not cope as well with the traffic on motorways, highways, or similar fast roads.”

No matter whether or not you like roundabouts, I’ll bet you’d do well driving a car in New Zealand, if for no other reason than that you can take yourself to glorious places like the scene above, stop, get out, and take a picture — without disturbing the travel guide’s schedule that stops only at the places he or she thinks are worth stopping at.

My Masai Mara Moon

September 28, 2008
Imagine watching the moon rise over the Masai Mara plain.

Visual Viewpoint: A Full Moon Over the Masai Mara Plain

This entry could also be filed as one of my “visual viewpoints” you may have seen in earlier posts.

Full moon setting over Masai Mara plains in Kenya

We were sitting on the patio looking over the Masai Mara Plain (which is called the Serengeti Plain in Tanzania to the south). Evening was falling and we were about to eat dinner (another of the fabulous meals served on the safari) when I couldn’t resist taking this picture. And if you have read my posts A Sierra Rorschach Test or It’s My Blue Moon, you’ll know why I am pleased to have claimed this moon as mine during our trip to Kenya in 2007.

Help in Letting Go With Peace

September 2, 2008
I want to share with you how I discovered a way to release my lost expectations and hope when I was in the midst of great pain over the situation with our son. I believe my experience illustrates what can happen when we are open to healing.

Pond near a high Sierra camp

Brisk Morning at Vogelsang High Mountain Camp

In thinking about what I wrote for the last blog entry, I have decided that it would help if I gave you an illustration of how stepping into a picture can work. As illustration I will use what I wrote in Letting Go of Our Adult Children about an experience I had many years ago. It still calms my heart when I think about it.

The picture I used then is copyrighted, so I can’t share it, but this picture, taken three years ago on a mule ride in the High Sierras, is very similar to the one I used the day when I needed peace in my heart.


I want to share with you how I discovered a way to release my lost expectations and hope when I was in the midst of great pain over the situation with our son. I believe my experience illustrates what can happen when we are open to healing.

When Matthew was forced to move out of our house for the last time, we knew that letting him go was the most loving action we could take. Yet it was extremely painful to force a child to leave knowing he was poorly prepared to face the trials ahead of him. That night I was unable to sleep and went into my husband’s study hoping to find some measure of comfort.

To understand what happened, you need to know that during that time of my life, and even sometimes now, I found it helpful to talk out loud when I was trying to sort through a problem. Because I am fairly verbal, hearing the words could give me insights I might not have discovered if I processed my thoughts internally.

On the door of the study was a poster of a gentle stream high in the Sierras far above the timberline. I happened to be looking at the picture as I said out loud, with great sobs, “If there is a God, please grant me the peace I so desperately want. I have done everything I can, and yet my grief seems more than I can bear.”

Almost immediately I felt calmer and in a quiet, soothing voice I said, “You are seated on a stone next to the stream. Lying at your side is an invisible rope which you have just let go of. The rope is of infinite length and has been used by you and Matthew to manipulate one another. The other end of it is still being held by Matthew , who has started down the mountain and is out of view. Your letting go of the rope indicates you are willing to trust your son to find his own path, just as you are learning to find your own.” Then I added, “Bob is standing next to the stream and he has also dropped his end of a rope that has connected him with Matthew . Your son will find his own path because you have both been willing to let him go.”

Where did that healing wisdom come from? It does not matter whether God really spoke through me or whether the words I said were simply my own inner wisdom expressing itself in a metaphor I could understand. What matters is that I experienced a sense of peace I could not have imagined possible earlier that day.

There is a footnote to this story. Thanksgiving came two months later and for many reasons we chose not to invite our son for dinner. His absence created a hole in the fabric of our family and reminded me of the deep pain I had felt earlier. As I wondered how I could get through the day without being constantly reminded of the fact that David was spending Thanksgiving alone, I decided to go into the study and look again at the picture of the mountain stream. Immediately I felt comforted as the peace I had experienced earlier returned to soothe my heart.

If you have experienced this kind of healing through pictures, I would love to hear from you.