When curiosity outweighs our expectations, we find more delight than disappointment in the day.
~ Oriah ‘Mountain Dreamer’ House
I’m venturing out at night, again. It’s part of my intention to live life beyond work and rebuilding a home. To return to what engages my wonder and awe, feeds my heart, mind, and curiosity.
Tho I feel so very lucky to be here with the privileges I have, my permissions to myself it’s okay to let go betray me. They’ve come with lying on the sofa at the end of a day for too long. I sometimes briefly nod off in the darkened rooms at events. My bobbing head waking me to what I’m missing. Travel, my other companion to such permissions, has been absent for three years.
Self forgiveness can be hard. Because I know what I missed is extraordinary. A moment that can’t be recovered. It’s sometimes a tug to turn my attention back to the present. This is a key message in my book and workshops. Proof it happens to all of us.
The latest episode was a few weeks ago when I saw an extraordinary humanitarian and photo-journalist. Iranian-French Reza Deghati who works under the name Reza. His vitae includes covers on National Geographic, Time, and Newsweek, + decades of travels around the world, often living in far flung or war torn (read, dangerous) locales for months at a time. Places that are words in the News for most of us in the US, or ghosts in the living rooms of vets come back from their experience.
Reza’s images are intimate, and bear witness to the stories of individual lives. Stories etched on the subject’s face or belongings – a girl’s favorite dolls for sale on a street corner to buy food for her grandmother who hasn’t eaten in three days; a child’s stiff, frost-covered sneakers that needed to thaw before she could go to class; dirt, expression, focus. The faces and postures revealing the details of their stories without words. We don’t need to see the buildings reduced to ash to imagine what being human is for them. Or for all the others with them, trapped in history.
Reza says his goal is to help people tell their own stories. To give them the tools to do it. He spoke of poetry. How he reads poetry every day. I wrote as he spoke, capturing nearly all his words:
Poets have reached the extreme beauty of humanity. They use the same words we all know – and then, put them together into something that touches the heart and mind. Same with the image where you can see the words of poetry. Both take you out of your daily life and put you deep inside yourself.
Wow, I thought. Exactly.
He ended with a thought I think applies to writers, as well. Or any of us, for that matter: “Where do you put your camera? Your brain, your heart, your stomach, or under you belt.”
I asked this question in a workshop. The answers from the participants surprised me. Most began somewhere else (their brain, under their belt, their gut), then traveled to their hearts. And it seemed those, like me, who feels it with my entire body, did not feel disconnected with the heart. It was as if when we’re given the invitation to notice, we all know the heart is our true compass.
I often say writers and artists are powerful. For Reza, a young man documenting the political struggles in Iran in the 70s, he realized photographs were perceived as actual weapons by the Iranian government. He was arrested, spent three years in prison for his photos. He was tortured there, then forced into exile when released. Forced from his native ground.
In a section of Reza War and Peace titled “Thoughts of an Exile,” he writes:
“Within you remains the memory of your lost country, and you may feel disappointment in the land where you are now living, the country you thought would be your promised land and beyond it your way of being free. There remains, too, a feeling of mourning for your native land.
This grief is always with you below the surface, but the longing for your homeland is called up even more acutely by a tangible reminder of your country — a familiar smell, a food that tastes like a dish back home, a countryside that evokes scenes from your childhood. You feel it as well when you hear someone speak your language and you hear once again the melody of your native tongue. For the exile, the joys of the present are full of memories of the past.
I can’t help thinking about Reza as we head into Thanksgiving and the holiday season, a time where connection with family is emphasized. Or thinking about how intimate his images are. How they so often reflect longing for Home. How this season brings Home up for so many of us. How so many feel like exiles in one way or another.
I also can’t help thinking how longing for Home is at the heart of my novels. And how over the past nearly 3 years of my blog, I’ve written Home is up for me 4-5 times. Just this year, during the extreme physical hardship I went thru to get back my soul home, Santa Fe.
The stories we see outside us are nearly always reflections of something that resides inside us. Not word for word, thought for thought, detail for detail, but connection. I believe this reflection always happens when you chronicle the human heart. I work with writers. See it again and again.
In this moment, I see my work with writers as connection in a way I hadn’t thought about before, too. As I hold space for them, ask the questions leading to discovery of what matters for them, offer help so they find the way to say it. . .it’s like Reza who gives cameras to people so they can tell their own stories. It’s my genius, delivering metaphorical cameras. My charge from the Universe. No wonder I love what I do and feel it all magical. Big Heart moments. We’re made of stories, and connection.
Another small journey. Getting to Wise.
A Writer’s Life.
Tell me. . .Where do you put your camera?
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