Thursday, December 8, 2022


            At a summer camp in Vermont that I attended, as camper, dishwasher and counselor, the dining room featured wallpaper that repeated a small sailboat scene hundreds of times. Someone had hung an empty frame on the wall, and people kept coming to examine the wallpaper image that was framed. This taught me a lesson that I continue to learn: Pay attention.


            Kim pays attention on a regular basis, but it’s not just a photographer’s attention to a beautiful bird, butterfly or sunrise. No, it’s a matter of narrowing focus to appreciate even the commonplace, framed by our paying appreciative attention to it. It could be a stone, a pattern in the bark of a tree, or the taste of a cookie or piece of cheese.


            In his often anthologized “The Red Wheelbarrow,” William Carlos Williams celebrates this kind of attention:


The Red Wheelbarrow


so much depends



a red wheel



glazed with rain



beside the white



            A lot has been said about this little poem, some of it said by me, so all I’ll say here is that the poem celebrates paying attention. And it’s not about farming. The poet framed his observation.


            Here’s another:


This Is Just To Say


I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox


and which

you were probably


for breakfast


Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold


Though Williams obviously worked on this poem, it comes across as what’s sometimes called “found poetry” – a piece of real-world language not intended to be read as poetry, but when framed as a poem . . .. (I found a found poem once – someone had stolen my bike and left a nice note telling me where I could find it and suggesting I get a better lock. I lost the note, making it a lost found poem.)


            Let me conclude by mentioning the Japanese aesthetic idea called wabi-sabi, which celebrates imperfection, especially when the result of the passage of time. Celebrate, for example, the flaw in the porcelain teacup, lichen on a rock, the small facial scar. The older I get, the more I appreciate the idea of wabi-sabi. It broadens what we can frame and appreciate in what we find.

1 comment:

  1. As a former teacher, I recall saying to my students, “pay attention.” As a photographer, that expression became very important. As I grow older, I look at life very differently & pay attention in a different manner. I accept & embrace imperfection.
    I am paying attention to your blog!