Flow and The Eye

It is a Friday night and I’m on a treadmill at the local YMCA reading one of Martin Seligman’s books about positive psychology. As I crank the incline down to 13%, I hit the chapter about “flow.”

You know when you get really into some hobby that you’re doing and lose all track of time? That’s flow. It’s not physical pleasure (having sex or eating chocolate) and it’s not the kind of gratification that you get from doing charity work. It’s what happens when you’re doing something you’re good at, which makes you think, but which also makes you feel fulfilled. You’re not even thinking about being happy about what you’re doing…you’re just doing it. You’re so into what you’re doing that you forget to be happy about it.

This happens to me when I’m building a web page, playing the piano or doing a crossword puzzle. But when I read that chapter on Friday, it reminded me of a hobby recently rediscovered.

“It just makes you rethink the way you look at everything. The whole world is no longer just STUFF that is THERE. The world is a playground for light and shadow. You keep wanting to climb under or on top of things, just to see them from a different angle. It makes the whole world newer and more fascinating.”

Those are my words from last weekend, and I am trying to explain to Male Suitor why I was excited about a camera someone had sent me. I hadn’t used an SLR camera in about 5 years, so I am rusty. I need to relearn all of the camera techniques, but most of all I need to relearn how to see a shot when it’s right in front of me. My brain is so used to getting up, going to work and going to the gym that I forget to stop and LOOK at things. With an SLR camera back in my hands, all of the ability to see a picture in front of me is starting to come back. The mindfulness is slowly returning.

I probably suck pretty hard right now, and I don’t care. Photography was in me once. It wasn’t put there by years of schooling; it was just there. Once it was let out, my teacher starting badgering me to change my major. It must still be in there somewhere and all I have to do is dig it out from under all of the obligations and corporate key cards and bills and loads of laundry.

“The light is the whole point, and it’s like a liquid. It flows around the bones of your face, like right now when the shadow is pooling into your crows’ feet.”

I wished that I could take a picture of him standing there with the light hitting his crows’ feet. All I had were parentheses around my mouth from sleeping on my face. But he is camera shy.

“I like those crows’ feet on you. It makes you look like you’ve spent your life smiling.”
“Nice save,” he said, kissing me on the forehead.

I stood and memorized the picture in my head, loving the light and still secretly loving those crows’ feet.