I have just read Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke and the advice I have carried away with me is to embrace solitude. We have so few opportunities to be alone, between work, fixing dinner, the telephone, catching up on emails, facebook, blogging, tweeting, shopping, reading and all the other distractions of modern life. Even when most of us are alone, we snatch those rare few moments and duck under a pillow or screen of a laptop. Sometimes some vegetable chopping or laundry folding might take its toll on our fleeting time.
On the other hand, imagine a walk on the beach alone, or a walk around the block, not to quickly walk the pooch and run back to the bubbling soup on the stove, but to be really alone. Imagine being still.
What I love most about photography is the concentrated attention I give to an object or a face. Both writing and photography is an excellent outlet for some fine tuned observation.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” Writes Marcel Proust.
I think writing and photography go hand in hand, both train the eye to be accurate, to stop and attempt to see the essence of what is in front of you. Real observation requires honesty, quiet and a curious mind.
How often do we notice a flower with the awe of a young child? These lines from Rilke perfectly capture the innocent contemplation of something as ordinary as a garden flower.
“And flowers , as enormous as they are to children, gazed back into it, on and on.”
He closes the poem with a gentle nudge that were we to take the time to embrace the art of seeing the rewards would be plentiful.
“And the rumour that there was someone
Who knew how to look,
Stirred those less
So as Rilke writes:
“Fling the emptiness out of your arms into the spaces we breath; perhaps the birds will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.”
Listen, look, touch, taste and above all stop. You might be missing something important.