Getting There + Moody Magnolias

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{This photo and verse were previously posted, but not together. I’ve since combined them,
so I thought I would “re-post” it along with some other images and ramblings today.}
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Have you ever thought about how dull trees in Spring might become if, bare from winter, they all developed their full-Summer greenery overnight?… as opposed to a gradual filling in of full-grown leaves that started out as tiny buds? I hadn’t. Well, that is to say, not until I recently took the same photo thrice, each of the three spread out over the course of a week. I took the second of the three one day last week while home, sans-transportation {as Isaac and I usually are} and itching to take some outdoor pictures {but not really free to do so with my son napping inside}. I found myself heading back outside to get a photo of that same old tree in the front yard that I had photographed a few days earlier and many other times in the year+ that we have lived here.

There I was out in the yard, once again… trying to get another picture, but one that was different from those I’d taken before, because I just couldn’t bring myself to take yet another photo of that tree, especially if it would look anything like any of the previous pictures. But then it hit me… instead of aiming for something different, I decided I would use the lack of originality to my favor… purposefully take the same photo. Not just similar, but the exact same… so as to show what a difference a few days and some warmth and rain can make. Something to show how much growth had occurred since the first photo.

Wouldn’t you know it? I could not find the bloomin’ {meant as an expletive and not literally} branch that I had photographed a few days earlier. If any of my neighbors were home and watching through their windows, surely they thought I had gone mad as I circled… and circled… and circled this tree with my camera in hand, gazing upward in search of who knows what.

Once I finally found it {whew!}, I had to keep coming back to my computer inside to study the angle and crop I used for the original shot so that I could get the second one as close to it as possible. I think I went inside and then back out at least five times. {Again… if the neighbors happened to see my peculiar front yard shenanigans…}

Anyway, I finally got the shot… close enough, at least. And I put it side-by-side with the original. The nice thing about the full week of overcast skies we had last week is that I could create nearly identical photos {other than the new growth in the second shot}, because the same grey sky served as my backdrop… and a nice one at that, I think.

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A few days after I took the second shot, I was happy to see the grey skies return just so I could do yet one more… #3…

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Pretty good growth happening in the span of just one week, no?

Before long, we won’t even be able to see the sky through these branches… and all that glorious southern exposure light I get in my house all day long during the winter months will no longer be streaming through my windows. But the mostly-green view we get in place of the sunlight is a nice alternative. So I can’t complain.

Anyway, I sort of like the theme of my photo series and how the baby-steps growth seen therein correlates to life and making it through hardships. It’s in the process and progress of growing within such difficult loss that I find beauty. If I could be healed overnight and achieve full growth instantly, I would surely miss all the beautiful stages of change in-between. Even when the “trees” of our lives are very nearly barren, they can still appear beautiful if looked at from the right angle.

To be honest, this is how I pray in regards to getting through this. I don’t mean something as simple as thinking “glass half-full” over the “half-empty” view. It’s messier and more complicated than that in the trenches of grief. It could be so easy for me to give in to bitterness… and probably even understandable in the minds of many, just as I can understand {better than I used to} why people become bitter after the things they have endured and come through. But I truly believe that we can’t be both bitter and grateful at the same time. I would have never thought to word it that way, but I’ve believed it very much none the less. When I did see it worded that way in a quote that one of my favorite bloggers recently posted, it struck a chord with me. The quote…

Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift. My resentment tells me that I don’t receive what I deserve. It always manifests itself in envy.” ~Henri Nouwen

I don’t know this to be true from some lofty position that has never known suffering. I believe it to be true from and out of my experience. I could feel it on my darkest days… on the most disappointing days… that if I chose the path of resentment toward what I was facing and bearing, I would not be able to find and know gratitude too. Sometimes it’s a daily choice and not so much some one-time decision, although the longer you choose gratitude, the easier it is to make the choice. I don’t think anyone chooses to be resentful as much as they allow resentment to creep in, then making it more difficult to choose the alternative, gratitude.

Anyway, as much as “in gratitude” seems like the more pleasant way to live, it’s not always an easy choice. I mean, there were times in my life when it was easy… but I imagine that those were times when life was generally going along how I would have expected it to and I found little to resent. The rubber meets the road when life gets hard. There was a very rough patch for me there, shortly after Anysia died, where resentment felt like it would win. Any gratitude I had up until that point was very, very hard to see… which is, I guess, a great reason for making those Ebenezer lists.

Resentment threatened to keep me from getting back out there and being social. I hardly wanted to go to the store for fear I might see a woman pushing her baby in a stroller and think that’s not fair… that should be me… I wasn’t asking for much… just one more child to raise… I think I deserve that as much as the next person, yet, for some reason, I did not get it. I remember struggling with this most back when I was still pregnant—after we first found out something was wrong. I went to church, and instead of only finding comfort there {which was found, to be sure}, it also tormented me a bit to walk around pregnant and see moms holding their brand new babies. I looked at them and struggled knowing that there was a significant likelihood that I would not be in their place six months down the road. It was actually really hard to look at their babies. But loving babies as much as I do, I looked anyway. Never have I known such mixed emotions. And recently, to be brutally honest, I had to fight those very feelings of resentment when I watched my sister-in-law have her second baby. {Not resentment towards her, of course… just in knowing she received what I was hoping for.} It’s not that I should be so super-human that I wouldn’t even think along those lines at all. But I knew that if I let it take root, it would be too hard to dig resentment out. As well, I know I cannot retain my gratitude for the daughter I had… have… if I make room for bitterness or envy.

Eventually, resentment will choke out gratitude… like an invasive weed. Gratitude is a gentle gardener that weeds out bitterness.

Recently, I reactivated my Facebook page after having it down for a year. There was a day when I thought I would not be able to see others posting photos of their new babies… or even the babies who had been born shortly before I got pregnant again. I truly thought it would be too hard for me. But as I work through my grief in counseling {which has been an awesome tool to help me compartmentalize my grief at this stage so that it doesn’t spill into every single aspect of daily living—which is perfectly acceptable initially, I think, but less manageable four months in—and is helping me to be more present with my child who remains}, I’m finding that I can look at the world much the same as I did before, perhaps even definitely more grateful for life and all that I’ve gone through than I was before.

The quote above affirms what I’ve been working on—what I’ve worked hard and prayed so much to live out… to not merely accept our loss, but to be grateful in it as well. Little by little, deep sorrow is giving way to its fruits.

I know sorrow is not the same thing as resentment, but out of sorrow can come either resentment or gratitude. It’s a sobering responsibility to model gratitude for our children… one I hope I can live up to for Isaac. He is definitely watching to see what we choose, even if he’s not aware that he watches. I pray that this tree will bear the fruit of gratitude, even if the process is gradual.

I think I’m getting there.

What’s really nice is when others seem to affirm it for me as well. After hearing about my first photo shoot gig since our loss {which I’m excited to share here soon}, my original counselor {who still sort of counsels me on some levels} wrote this to me yesterday…

It’s good to hear, though, that you are pursuing your passions once again. It is heartening, especially as I remember those times when you were so hopeless that you would ever see the ‘next’ in life. You are making your way through the process of grief. It is a life-long process, but you are steadily finding the path of living with the ache in the heart, while still experiencing the joy of fulfillment of the sweet parts of life—your passions, gifts, family… Remember this when the waves hit in the future, as you pass milestones, or hit roadblocks, or even experience fresh griefs—there is a pathway through—one that leads to the place of perfect peace and rest, joy and renewal of all things.”

Yes… renewal. A word that fits so well with much of what I’ve been posting here lately.

As for renewing my pursuit of a professional photography career, I really didn’t think I would be wanting to look for photography work again so soon. And to be honest, it still makes me slightly anxious… what if I am asked to do a maternity or a newborn shoot? But I do feel more ready to put my time, talents and new camera to use again than I thought I would by now. And after shooting for a friend earlier this week {work I didn’t really go looking for, but rather came looking for me}, it felt so good to be back at doing what I love so much. I have to believe that it’s the improved weather, the grief counseling I entered in hopes of managing my grief, and feeling less isolated due to getting out there again {both in person and online} that has helped me turn a major corner.

Before this turn, I found that I was losing ability to write here because the pain became too intense and writing about it only made that pain worse. Now, having come out of that most recent stage {probably the lowest spot I hit}, I find it hard to write the many things I wanted to previously because I’m used to writing out of the pain, and it still feels foreign to me to write about Anysia out of a place of much less pain. Perhaps after I have had my final counseling session and I feel less a part of the process and more the product, I will once again be able to sift through all that I’ve left unsaid and put it down in black and white here.

I know I’m rather wordy here today. But I’m attempting to document where I am at in all this. Having not written here much lately {and expecting that I won’t write much in the near future}, I think I’m trying to cram a lot of thoughts into one post. With what I’ve explained above and the fact that I’m going to get out there again with shoots, I will probably only get on here to post shoots or the occasional lately/update post, as well as continue to post weekly for Project 52. Additionally, we have some pretty significant renovations happening in our home over the next several weeks, which should keep me well away from my blog again.

So my hope is that this post is the last long one for a while, and that when I come back to writing more here, there will have been momentum in the area of photo shoots, too.

Speaking of doing photo shoots again, one of the reasons I was so drawn to the above photos, along with this next {more brooding} shot below taken one of those days, {and perhaps the reason I took them in the first place} is because I have recently been watching the film version of one of my favorite-ever written stories about redemption, Jane Eyre. {I’ve been sick on and off for the past week and a half, so I think I’ve watched the DVD at least ten times during my cumulative downtime.}

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I’ve seen every film version there is {…I think… and if not, I will find and watch any unseen version!}. Up until Mr. B. picked up the version I’ve recently been watching from the library, the 2007 Masterpiece Theater version had been my favorite. Before that one came out, I really loved the Ciaran Hinds version and the William Hurt version equally because of the acting in the role of Jane Eyre, played {respectively} by Samantha Morton and Charlotte Gainsbourg. In fact, seeing Gainsbourg play Jane Eyre {the first time I’d seen her in anything} was when and how I became a fan of her acting.

But the Wasikowska/Fassbender version I’ve been watching the past several days is now my new favorite… hands down. It was released in 2011 when I was pregnant with Izzy. My two sisters and my mom and I went to see it in the theater. I remember, at the time, not thinking as highly of it as I did the 2007 version. But now, immediately upon my first of several viewings three+ years later, I give it even more thumbs up than the previous version. There is so much I love about this latest film. Not only the two actors who flawlessly play Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester {not to mention the always impressive Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax}, but also the exquisite music, the wonderfully moody {sometimes brooding} cinematography, the script, the artistic use of symbolism throughout, etc. Each time I see it, I notice some nuance that I hadn’t the time before. And I cry good tears at the end every time. The way this version ends is similar to all the others, but there is something so simple, yet moving, about the way this one ends that gets right to my heart more than any of the others.

All that to say… during my recent photo shoot {which was fashion-related}, I was so happy to discover a nearby magnolia tree. I thought I had missed my chance to photograph any magnolia blossoms this year. Before I discovered this tree, I figured they had all bloomed and fallen off by then. But no. There was a rather large one still full of blossoms… just waiting there for me {or any passerby} to behold.

Having seen the film {with all its beautiful Spring-time scenery, rich with green foliage and pink and white flowering trees swaying in the wind… in some rather visually breath-taking scenes that I’m sure would appeal to any photographer or nature-lover}, I was so moved and motivated to go take some pictures of similar beauty. Though none were shown in the film {I think they were all apple- or cherry-blossom trees}, I kept thinking of magnolia trees each time I saw it. All I wanted to do was get in the car when Mr. B. arrived home each night and drive around in search of one to photograph. I didn’t expect to have the chance, so I am very happy one came along in the middle of a busy street/shoot.

Breaking away from the fashion shoot, I made a b-line to the tree. I might have trespassed a few steps off the sidewalk to get one or two of these shots, but I consider it so worth the risk! I could have stood there shooting that tree all day. Once again, I was glad that it was slightly overcast, because it very much contributed to the mood I was going for… a mood that comes out so beautifully in the movie scenes I was referring to. I tried to process the images in such a way, too.

I can’t say they turned out to be exactly in the same visual vein as the film scenes that inspired them. But it was still very gratifying to try. These are my favorites…

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