All of us have a complex internal landscape. It’s the many layers of our dynamic personality, our interests, inhibitions and passions that create this labyrinth.
When I began to explore landscape photography, I had to think wide. I needed to think beyond the scope of my eye and further beyond the edges of my lens. I rented a wide-angle lens. I twisted and turned that lens left and right getting as much of what I could see in the shot I wanted. But there was more. And even if I rented the larger, more sophisticated wide-angle lens; it still couldn’t capture everything I wanted.
This is how I feel about introspection as a parent. I reach for the outer edges of it all. Wondering, processing, trying to understand where connections are being made stronger and where others are losing ground.
My husband said it best when he shared with a friend who asked him what parenting four children is like, “It is like looking in a mirror while simultaneously having every single thing you do be taken in at a microscope level …all day long.”
I travelled to Vienna, Austria years ago. And on the top-level of a double-decker bus, and through a loud-speaker that was deafening, the driver shared that the nearby train tracks were built before there was even a train. He said the route between the Alps and Italy was dangerous and steep and no path like it had ever been done before. But there was a hope for connection in the future and tracks had to be built first.
Just like this. Parenting. You have to build tracks as you go and when the track ends or the route becomes very challenging…you have to build on. And the whole time, you are having to watch yourself do this through the eyes of your children too.
We are entering new territory with our daughters. I see them watch me in an entirely newly focused way and it makes me feel like I better have my act together.
But I don’t. I am always evolving and always digging deeper like an Austrian nesting doll, looking for my center. And when I think I’ve found it, well, I have more to seek out.
This feels vulnerable in the raising of daughters. And though vulnerable isn’t an easy feeling to move through, I am becoming more comfortable with this sentiment too.
I guess we can lay down as many tracks as possible and plan for as many connections possible. The diversions and stops will happen. The routes may be trying. The beauty of the trip may feel at times like you are in a second-story viewing car. And at other times, like you are putting coal in the engine while pushing with all your might to just get there, wherever “there” is.
The “Greats” in Landscape Photography had an incredible giftedness for shooting wide while capturing extraordinary detail. Ansel Adams to Eliot Porter have demonstrated this ability with astute skill.
As a parent, I want to replicate this savvy talent. I want to see wide and yet with extraordinary detail to what is. I want to keep perspective about where our daughters are going and what life is yielding for them. While at the same time, I want to catch the minute details of their voices, their intonation as they read, their sophisticated humor, their interest in birds nests and their fascination as wisps of dandelions fly from their fingers. I want the expanse of an incredible landscape portrait while catching everything along the way.
Is this possible??!!
I am doing the work of laying the tracks each day. Most of the time, I feel like at am in the tender. And on occasion, when I am in the viewing car taking in all the beauty that exists in the stages and ages of our daughters, absorbing the depth and width of connections between myself and our children as well as the connections between our children and the world, I am awe-struck.
As a parent, I have the opportunity to build tracks over and through impossibly steep and tricky terrain every day. I can encourage growth and light in my own life as well as in our daughters. And then I get to sit back, and with complete humble appreciation, see the landscapes around me for what they are; Radiant, ever-changing, energetic forces of nature.