• shelisloterbeek

"There is only life."

Updated: Dec 30, 2018


When my daughter picks a gift, I never know what's coming. I've received countless plants I've managed to kill - even a venus fly trap - and a plethora of NFL gear of which I am a nominal fan. So, when she handed me an instax polaroid camera along with a handwritten ticket for 250 easy or hard hikes I knew we were in for a good time.


Our first hike was the day after Christmas. It was "Phoenix cold" and blustery. I told her the faster we moved the faster we would be warm. As we traipsed up Silly Mountain she told me she was a third sixgill shark, a third dog and a third mountain goat. And human, of course. Her imagination is beyond me.


We talked a little about life, but mostly her chatter consisted of imaginary scenarios going on in the mountains around us. I thought I might capture her smallness and the gray of the day so I pulled out the polaroid (pictured left). She was beyond excited to pull the photo from the slot and wave it around. Watching it develop soon lost it's excitement and we moved along. I didn't think the photo was too bad for a first time. I put it in my pocket.


She wanted to see another photo so she began a commentary on all of the interesting things asking if we could take a photo. I finally succumbed. Photo 2. I didn't realize I needed to reset the light setting each time i turned the camera on. The photo is completely overexposed because of this oversight.


So I'm starting this journey of contemplative photography and I thought for sure I'd have some witty or profound thing to say about the first photo. Something about being small but creative or the world being large. But it wasn't until I took the photos out of my pocket and noticed the first one with a fingerprint and long purple smudge and the overexposed photo sitting next to each other with the furry creosote seed and yellow desert flower we had picked up and they all sat together and it caught my eye.


I paused.


I had been disappointed with the photos. I'm not a perfectionist...really...but I do have ideas about how things SHOULD be. In the past I would have never even have paused to take a second look.


But as I looked, I was full. The photos weren't perfect. My technical skills were lacking. But there was a love and fullness beyond explanation. The whole outing was a thing of beauty. Beauty in the creativity of a wildly imaginative little girl. Comfort in the grayness. Silence (between chatter) for solitude. Friendship in the relationship. Gifts, if they are noticed and lived in.


"There is nothing perfect. There is only life." Sue Monk Kidd


An Offering in Response:

With gratitude for the day

The ability to feel my feet move

My breath quicken as I climb up mountains,

As I experience the imperfection of life

I'm aware of Your great creativity

Abundant in vivid imaginations

The freeing realization that nothing is perfect,

But all being enveloped by life.




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