I don’t know how many drug stores are left in this age of mail order pharmacy, nor how many ever would have let you just sit around reading comic books you never paid for, but I found myself thinking about this issue of waiting over the long months of winter, now just passed. As a church our focus in April is transformation, and however silly Calvin’s notion of success, there remains the point that sometimes transformation is not about going somewhere, nor changing some thing. It can also be about watching for the transformations that burst forth before our eyes, if we have eyes to see.
Over these long, cold months I found myself watching a set of videos from The Great Courses. Joel Sartore is a long-standing National Geographic photographer, and I wanted to know what I might learn from his decades of experience. He talked at length about photographs he took in his own backyard in Nebraska, and from planes flying over the Serengeti.
No matter where he was talking about taking pictures, he talked about the role of light in transforming the scene before our eyes. He has flashes and gear more expensive than I’ll ever own, but more often than not what he wanted to do was take pictures with the light that was there. And that meant being up early, and spending the bright mid-day hours preparing, but not shooting. And then capture the scenes again in the fading half-hour before and after sunset.
The very same scene when photographed at midday was blown out, the colors lost, flat and without depth. But when he could wait for the scene to transform, something entirely new appeared before his, and our, eyes.
Transformation isn’t always like this, of course. But if you’re like me you see the same places and the same people in the same context week in and month out. Perhaps you are saving your eyes that see for the ones you love most already, letting their finest qualities show before you, and yours to them. Or perhaps you’re giving your best hours away. What would it mean if you transformed your patterns long enough to see what beauty is already present, but not yet seen in the harsh light of midday? What would it mean if you waited somewhere long enough for the transformation to occur?