Thursday, July 16, 2009

When broken shutters, hives and heartache lead the way to grace.

My camera reminded me.

I was on Cape Cod, sitting on the beach, trying to ignore a severe allergic rash that came out of nowhere, on the heels of my slow recovery from the lethal MRSA infection. On the heels of the final breakup of my two-year relationship. No, it was not a good month for me.

Little red bumps covered my chest, legs and arms. My feet, lips and ears were swollen beyond recognition. To keep my mind off of the pain and itchiness in my body, I decided to pick up my camera and take some pictures. After years of bringing my camera on various travels and leaving it in my suitcase because I couldn’t be bothered (it distracted me from the present moment, and I took bad pictures to boot!), a photographer friend had encouraged me so much that I now look forward to capturing what I see. Thank you, Friend.

I took out my camera, turned it on and looked at the digital display. Instead of the flowers I had been looking at, I saw a partial image—diagonal black lines framing the shot. I turned the camera around and looked at the lens. The shutter was half open. Great, I thought. Now this?!

I tried turning the camera off. Turning it back on. Off. On. The shutter would only open halfway. I was bummed. I knew I needed a new camera, but I wasn’t ready to make an investment at that point in time. Plus, there wasn’t much I could do about it on the beach. I felt irritability very clearly turning into irritation. I sat on the sand, pouting, while my friend lay down and went to sleep.

With no one to talk to and nothing to do, I turned the camera on again. And then I remembered. So what if the shutter doesn’t open all the way? You can still take pictures. Actually, this is kind of cool. My creative voice had returned. I started taking pictures, enjoying the new angle imposed by the half-closed shutter. Framing the shots in a way that would fit nicely inside a diagonal shape. What could I see? What couldn’t I see? It was fascinating.

After a few minutes of taking pictures, the shutter opened all the way on its own. And I was back to playing with the full picture. But now things were different. My world had shifted. I felt like I could take more chances. I lay down on the sand to shoot the beach scenery from a different perspective. The sand itself presented a cool-looking crab leg, some grass, a perfect red goldfish cracker—all for me to shoot.

When things change unexpectedly, we ask ourselves how can we go on? Quite simply. By going on. Maybe shifting direction a bit. Gently. Doing the best we can. In the midst of my Benadryl haze, I had forgotten momentarily. That from a halfway open shutter, light still shines in. Once we stop reacting to change and sit quietly with all of our broken shutters, hives and heartache, new opportunities reveal themselves to us. We realize that this very moment is exactly as it should be in all of its imperfection. Giving us the opportunity to experience life from a different angle.

In appreciating what we are able to see, create and capture from this different place, things right themselves along the way. Not only do they right themselves, but our world becomes richer, more beautiful. As we travel through times of deep imperfection, we gain confidence, become more courageous and daring in the process. Because we’ll always remember that once our world seemed to close in on us, and we were still able to move ahead and create something amazing. And as we did so, the world opened up and gifted us with grace.


When I returned from Cape Cod, I started working on a project with an organization that helps youth deal with grief and loss. And as if preparing me for this important work, the universe seemed to direct me to two films on this subject: an amazing Japanese film called Departures and a subtle Italian film called Quiet Chaos. In these films, the protagonists respond to unexpected loss by making their own changes and patiently experiencing the discomfort of it all. In so doing, they let their new lives unfold before them and lead them to unforeseen beauty, love and grace.


Alexis said...

Great post, Rita! Very inspirational!

I love the photos you took, with the shutter both open and closed.

You're a survivor and eternal optimist. :-)



riva said...

and you take beautiful pictures even with the shutter half open

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos...beautiful article.

A friend