Saturday, October 10, 2009

essence, and I'm not talking about emeril

The wife of a colleague is developing a business as a photographer. She posts her work on facebook, so I get to see what she's up to and watch her style become increasingly honed. The other day she posted that she was looking for people to do a collaborative photo essay project, so I shot her an email to learn more. As she describes it, her goal "is to show each person either in settings that portray their life story, or settings that tell the essence of who they are... The final shots will comprise a triptych, so it can either be a 3 part story, or 3 essential characteristics."

So I've been thinking. The idea of portraying my life story doesn't hold a lot of appeal. There have been so many difficulties, heartbreaks, disappointments and struggles, that even the good and cherished portions of my life feel outweighed by the former. A photograph of me that might reflect my work as a priest, though representative of 20 years of my vocational life and journey, would likely convey to me that portion of my life that still seeks fullness and purpose. And my marriage, as grateful as I am for its gifts, has been challenged from the beginning by stresses and misfortune that bear down with boulder-like weight. Life story? I think not.

Which leaves essence. As I have considered what that might look like, literally, images of Scotland come to mind. As a landscape, a geography, it is the place where my soul feels most at home. I don't suppose Anna and I will be able to pop over to Scotland for our photoshoot, but that is where I would like it to be. I plucked the images in the collage above from photos on my computer. They were culled from the Internet, and either are or evoke places that I have been and love. As I reflect on them now, they may well capture three aspects of my essence better than I could have intended.

The vertical photo is on the Isle of Skye, and is very suggestive of highland topography. It says "endurance" to me, withstanding the ravages of weather and isolation to flourish in its season, to glow under the light of the northern sun and to offer itself in all its ruggedness to any who would seek its companionship.

The heather is beautiful, soft and gentle with its tiny blooms, a composite of color that is rich without being overbearing on one extreme, or insignificant on the other. It, too, has its season of beauty. In the off-season, hardly discernible against the land on which it grows, it draws strength even in dormancy for that period in which it shines.

And then there is the abbey ruin. Constructed with care and crafted to reflect the glory of God, it invites the spirit to soar with a freedom loosed by the divine. Though damaged, it remains a bulwark for the seeking heart, the weeping soul, the life that reaches through long-gone rafters to the promise of heaven.

These aren't the totality of me or my essence, but they do speak to the truth of who I am. It is a place to start a collaboration of two artistic souls. It will be interesting to watch where this effort leads.


Nancy, Near Philadelphia said...

If you'll email me privately, I'll respond to your question about the school. Your comment came "No Reply" and I can't locate an addy on your profile.

Jayne said...

It's wonderful that you feel such a deep connection with the place of your family roots, and the photos you've chosen do seem to be your essence. :c)

Jan said...

"Essence" is a wonderful concept that I've never considered before. Since I went to the Isle of Skye with my mother in 1978, I loved the photograph and your description. Thank you for sharing so beautifully.


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