Fayston, Vermont. When I want the dogs to stop barking, I use the “Enough” command. Lucy generally obeys, but Linus and Charlie also need to “Come” and “Sit”. Lately, I’ve found I’ve been telling myself “Enough,” too.
I’ve been feeling a lack of motivation, no mojo, burn out. I’m taking fewer photographs and deleting most of what I shoot. When it comes to cooking dinner, I can’t even. The news of wildfires, hurricanes, civil unrest, unemployment, bleak economic numbers, and the recent report of RGB’s death have me turning off the news and away from social media. The pandemic has me staying away from people I love and places I want to go.
I’ve had enough.
I realize that I write this from a place of privilege. My family members are safe and healthy; my house and my car are paid for and not under threat of natural disaster; I have plenty of food; and I have a job that pays well enough – there’s that word again – and provides health care benefits.
And yet I feel overwhelmed. Lately I’ve been working long hours, and that adds to my fatigue. To re-center, I express gratitude for all that I have, every day. I take time for yoga breathing and stretching. Movement helps shake me out of my stupor, and I have ready walking companions in my dogs. Even a short walk does us all good.
The problem is that Charlie Brown is a sniffer, not a walker. Charlie doesn’t just stop and smell the roses, he interrogates each petal. His deep sniff everything approach is annoyingly slow when I want to move. To him, however, simply walking is boring. His analytical sniffing shows me that if I slow down and focus on the details, routine tasks become more interesting. Instead of counting how many miles we walk, I listen for the different bird songs I hear. I note the progression of foliage color.
I’ve applied this detail-centric lesson to my photography by taking out my macro lens and stalking butterflies. I also returned to a back-to-basics approach and shot in full manual mode. I blew through several rolls of film. Let’s hope I have a few good shots.
Lucy photobombs my kitten shots… When I give Lucy extra attention, Charlie sulks. Linus just snores.
Further, I have a new subject in the form of kitten Alice. Sleeping kitty photos are adorable. Doggo Lucy is jealous. Lucy photobombs my kitten shots. She becomes upset if I bring Linus or Charlie outside for a few snaps without her. When I give Lucy extra attention, Charlie sulks. Linus just snores.
Even with a fresh subject, still I am shooting less. I am working a lot, so I have less time. But I also question the relevance of my pet and butterfly photos when so much of the world is ill, angry, hungry, and broke. It doesn’t feel like I’m doing enough.
Applying Charlie’s sniff-the-small-stuff approach, success for me is now measured in tiny victories: Did I press the shutter today? “Yes” is a win. Did I eat a meal and not a Clif bar? “Yes” is a win.
Last weekend, I drove 50 minutes to South Burlington to drop off a couple of rolls of film for developing, then, masked up, I went next door into Michael’s for a picture frame. I immediately became sidetracked by the Halloween displays. I bought a bright purple wig for Linus. I forgot the frame. But I did find a spark of creativity. Probably not what the Michael’s marketing team had in mind, but I had been thinking about photographing my dogs in silly wigs for months.
Driving to the store was a win. Bringing home the wig was winning the tournament quarterfinals. The next day, I coasted through the semifinals by photographing Linus in the wig. He will do anything for a cookie. I need to find a black Joan Jett wig for Lucy to take home the trophy. But even if I only have silly photos of Linus, it will be enough.
“What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.” – John Updike