Like everyone else in the Northern Hemisphere, I have been enjoying the fall colors. A boulevard runs through my neighborhood, lined with young maples that turn the most amazing colors. There are shocking reds that are especially beautiful when half the tree has turned and half is still green. And then there are the yellows, which I didn’t used to like as much until I noticed that each yellow leaf is veined with a web of orange, which gives the yellow leaves a depth and complexity that makes the reds seem a bit … obvious by comparison.

You might expect this post to include photos, but the absence of photos is, actually, the point of the post. I can’t get enough of these leaves, and for the first few days they were turning I thought, “I need to take pictures of them.” And I thought about it, and wondered whether my camera phone would be sufficient or whether I should bring my regular camera out on a walk, and then I thought about lighting and composition and exposure. It was at this point – the point where I realized that I couldn’t make up my mind about how to photograph the leaves that I realized that the best move would be to simply not photograph them at all.

For me, it happens with navel oranges, wild blackberries, leaves in their fall colors, the scarce and fleeting days of summer in Seattle. It happens with flavors and sensations and experiences of all kinds. They’re there, and because I know they’re going to go away soon, I am desperate to seize them; to possess them and somehow preserve them for later. I’m starting to realize that the preserved version can never equal or even approximate the version that’s experienced firsthand.

So, I’m trying to learn how to just let go. I realized recently that every time I try to capture or document an experience, I miss not only THAT moment, but also the next one and maybe the next one after that And who knows, maybe the next one would be even better if I could just be there for it.

Out for a walk last summer I stumbled across an amazing stand of blackberries. These were possibly the biggest, best, most juicy blackberries that I have ever enjoyed. They had been soaking up the sun on a west-facing slope, undisturbed, for weeks. Each berry seemed a bit better than the one before it and I ate until I could eat no more. Don’t judge my gluttony because you would have done the same thing.

Once I was full I was tempted to run home for a bucket so I could hoard the rest for later, but my better nature prevailed and I let them be an experience unto themselves. It will never be repeated but that’s OK. The memory of those lovely berries is with me still, in this frigid, gray November.

Posted by lesherjennifer

5 Comments

  1. Great post Jennifer!

    I love what you say about trying to capture an experience and missing the moment. For the longest time I struggled with that very same dilemma when I sailed. After hundreds of pictures of muted sunsets, dolphin tails and wide format shots that weren’t wide enough, I realized that there was no adequate way of truly capturing the essence and detail of a moment. Any attempts to do so interfered and detracted from the experience. So I gradually realized the best I could do with my camera, and quick notes in my logs, is to provide myself reminders for when I had time in the future to reflect on the present.

    A design professor of mine used to say, ‘If a picture is worth a thousand words, an experience is worth a thousand pictures.’ But even a thousand pictures falls short of capturing the experience, interferes with the experience, and can, at best, only serve as a reminder of the nuances and detail of the experience.

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    1. Thank you Kai. Your comments really resonate – especially the part about the photos of dolphin tails. Better to to have a perfet memory of the whole dolphin, eh?

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  2. You “paint” such a vivid picture, or pictures, Jenn. No doubt this will carry over to your book and contents therein.

    With pictures one has to physically look at them, one at a time, while imagination and memory can be surfed at blinding speed, recalled and filed/refiled/recalled at will.

    jc

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  3. Thanks Jim!

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  4. […] So, I’m declaring a moratorium on compulsory happiness. If I want to stay home and read a book, and get my exercise by strolling around my neighborhood enjoying the sunshine, views, and sound of jet takeoffs, then so be it. And who knows, maybe I’ll stumble across some joy-inducing blackberries. […]

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