Nearing sunset, Lake Crescent

Nearing sunset, Lake Crescent

“Some of my favorite definitions of wealth include the number of sunsets the family sees each year.”
— Mary Pipher, The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families

On two of my evenings at Nature Bridge, I took the time to walk to the Lake Crescent Lodge to watch the sunset.  These moments, and my early mornings on the dock waiting for sunrise, most closely approached what I expected from the retreat — time to settle, sit still, and quiet my thoughts, and rediscover my groundedness in the world.

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While painting was my personal focus for these days away, I was very happy with the photographs I took, too.  I got so many good ones.

It was perhaps a bit jarring for my colleagues on retreat to see me on my iPad so frequently, but I use this technology to help me manage my photographing work.  I took over 300 photos while I was at Nature Bridge, and I have learned that it is overwhelming to edit and caption so many photos at the end of a trip.  So I use my iPad as a handy tool to upload, edit, and caption my photos in small batches as I go along.  So for me, this was not a retreat from the tentacles of technology.  But I can see why people might wonder why I was on my computer so frequently when I was surrounded by all the natural beauty of Olympic National Park.  Perhaps watching me made visible all the time and effort, hidden from viewers, that I put into my photography and this blog.

One of my new friends asked me how much time I spend on the computer every day.  I suppose I am a bit embarrassed and a bit defensive about how much time I do find myself looking into a screen.  More time than I care to admit.  But I don’t have a cell phone, so I am not tethered in quite the same way as millions of other people.  I don’t have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest accounts.  But I do depend on my iPad for email and for uploading and editing photos.  So, yes, I am on the computer a lot.

She also asked me why I take so many photos.  Well, that’s a good question, too.  I take photos because I love to photograph!  I think I am good at it.  It gives me pleasure to share my images with readers of my blog.  But most important, I suppose, is that — like drawing and painting — when I look with a photographer’s eye, I see more attentively, and that gives me a deeper appreciation for the world.

These words of Frederick Franck about drawing, apply for me to photography as well:

“SEEING/DRAWING is not a self-indulgence, a ‘pleasant hobby,’ but a discipline of awareness, of UNWAVERING ATTENTION to a world which is fully alive.  It is not the pursuit of happiness, but stopping the pursuit and experiencing the awareness, the happiness, of being ALL THERE.”
— The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation

While being on retreat did not turn out to be as contemplative an experience as I had expected, I do appreciate being prompted to think about the choices I am making to spend time with my camera or paintbrush.  It’s always good to look at habits and decide whether to continue and recommit, go deeper (to the exclusion of other activities), or let go and find new pursuits.  I’m still committed.