Into Focus


A few days ago, though metal frames, I watched light from another sunrise filter through the trees as I have hundreds if not thousands of times. Fog hovered just above the lowlands while dew coated the green grass. Birds sang from the trees as four swallows flew in formation through the air, air that was thick and rich and full of oxygen. It was a pleasure to breathe on this morning.

I don't think I have ever witnessed such a beautiful morning here. The colors were more vibrant than I could capture in a picture. Doves coo’d and the cattle grazed beneath a blue sky that was bordered by high, thin, cirrus clouds on the southern horizon. Crows answered the doves across air so still I could hear vehicles from twenty miles away as they passed down a highway.

A turkey gobbled from within the fog; a red wing black bird sang, signaling that the fish were biting. Cardinals darted this way and that as they flew to the bird feeders. Pollen laden tassels sprouted from the tips of the oaks. 

I removed my glasses and rubbed my eyes, thinking about the last time I experienced a morning such as this. Sometimes it takes a different set of lenses to bring things into focus.

It was about this time of year, 13 years ago, when I sat at a picnic table on a cliff somewhere along the southern Oregon - northern California coast. It was one of those trips of mine where I went without direction to write a book. I felt lost at the time; grief kept me blind; depression kept me negative.

Someone who happened upon the location where I sat pointed out to me the gray whales in the ocean below. He said they were thought to be trying to remove the barnacles by swimming where a freshwater river met the saltwater of the ocean as they migrated north. Those whales migrate around 11,000 miles yearly. I had not even noticed them. 

Some call it the mind’s eye, although I prefer to call it the mind’s lens, that moment when light shines though from a previous memory into the present moment, allowing one to focus on something one could not see before. 

I put my glasses back on and slowly my thoughts returned from some 13-year-old, 11,000-mile journey, to the chair I sat upon, staring out across the North Texas Cross Timbers, just a few days ago. Perhaps those whales and I had more in common than I had realized at the time. Grief and depression were as annoying to me as the barnacles were to the whales and we were both swimming in an estuary of brackish water at that point in time, hoping something would change.

Somewhere along that 11,000 mile journey (and the hundreds of thousands of miles since), somewhere within all the sunrises and sunsets photographed, somewhere across the seasons filled with growth, death, and hibernation that have come and gone, I’ve learned that seeing doesn’t always involve eyesight and a lack of visuals does not always mean a lack of vision. Sometimes you have to trade one lens for another, if you want to bring the world into focus.