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what do you see?

I like to take pictures.  I take quite a lot of them.  My iPhone is full of random snapshots that I like to capture while I go through life.  I take pictures of food before I eat it.  I take pictures of my neighbourhood as the seasons change.  I take pictures of unique products and silly situations and beautiful scenes.  I take pictures of things that make me laugh.  I take pictures of moments that I want to remember.  Sometimes when I go back and look at a picture, I see things that I never saw when I was there in the flesh at the moment I took the photo.  A picture can remind me of things I have forgotten.  At best, a picture allows me to slow down and really see.

The picture above is one I took on rue St. Laurent yesterday of a band that was playing at the street festival.  I remember the energetic music and the vibrant performances of the musicians.  I remember the jazzy rhythms they incorporated in their songs and the way they made people smile and stop walking.  I remember seeing Dean swaying gently in time to the music.  But when I look at the picture, I notice details that I never took in when I was actually there.  I don't recollect that they were playing in front of a drugstore.  I don't remember the bikes parked on the sidewalk.  I don't remember the oil stains on the street.

And this is what life is like.  It moves by at such speed that we cannot take in everything that is happening at any given moment.  I choose what aspects I remember, what parts of life my mind lingers on.  The snapshots in my mind are, for the most part, those things which I have placed value on.  Sometimes the choices are subconscious, but in general, I believe that my memories are a collection of what I am looking for.  If I am looking for fault, I will notice the dirty street before I hear the joyful sounds.  If I am looking for friendship, I might notice the way the musicians interact and communicate without words.  If I am hungry or thirsty, I will see the drugstore which sells cold drinks and snacks.  If I am in a depressed state, I might observe that the two-dimensional picture is in black and white, lacking animation and colour.  If I am nostalgic or looking for renewed hope, I might imagine the brilliant, intricate harmonies coming from their instruments and place myself in the sunny setting for a brief moment.  If I am looking to make sense of life through details and facts, I might make a note of each finger position and try to deduct what key they are playing in.  What I see in large part reflects what I value and how I perceive life.

To my chagrin, I very often see the negative before I see the positive. I often find fault before discovering hope and enjoyment.  I have been known to ignore people and focus on tiny, rather meaningless details.  But looking at this photo today, I realise that yesterday I was seeing as I want to see.  I saw beautiful people in a beautiful city doing something beautiful together.  I saw people making good music and good memories.  And I remember looking at Dean while the band was playing and exchanging knowing smiles in that moment.  May I embrace more moments in my life with that kind of gracious and open joy.


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