Do You have Mid-Life Myopia?


Myopia: near-sighted; short-sighted

The other day my husband and I were visiting Hamilton, Ontario (about an hour’s drive away) for a doctor’s appointment.

Even though we grew up nearby, neither of us have spent much time in this city of half a million people, halfway between Niagara Falls and Toronto.

An industrial city on Lake Ontario, it’s known as the Steel Capital of Canada, and we were mostly exposed to the foul-smelling harbour as we passed on our way to Toronto.

I said to my husband that I couldn’t really think of any positive qualities about Hamilton. What a judgmental thing to say! I had to figure out what I was missing. There must be some positive qualities to this place.

As we continued to the appointment, we passed many buildings for health services. I realized that this is where people go for major surgeries and cancer treatment. My husband was going to see a hand surgeon.

Hamilton is home to McMaster University, which has a highly regarded medical school, and hence, many teaching hospitals. Our experience with the doctor and a senior resident there was truly exceptional.

Well, there was one positive aspect.

When I returned home, I got curious and did some research on Hamilton. With the steel industry in decline, Hamilton is becoming known as an artistic hub and attracting the film industry.

Aesthetically, Hamilton is home to some gorgeous waterfalls, as well as the Royal Botanical Gardens and they are in the process of redesigning their waterfront. It seems that there is more to Hamilton than I thought.

I’d experienced mid-life myopia.

Myopia, also known as near-sightedness and short-sightedness, is a condition of the eye where the light that comes in does not directly focus on the retina but in front of it, causing the image that one sees when looking at a distant object to be out of focus, but in focus when looking at a close object. ~ Wikipedia


I started thinking about myopia after this article was posted by Jeffrey Davis on Facebook.

It reveals the startling increase of myopia – 66% – since the early 1970’s, due mainly to an increase in technology use,  both personally and in the workplace, and the fact that we spend more time indoors, not getting enough sunlight or seeing distances.

The researchers suggest spending more time outdoors and taking frequent ten-minute breaks from closeup work as ways to prevent and counteract myopia.

Myopic Perception

A person can become “myopic’ in the metaphorical sense when their ways of thinking become narrow and don’t reflect the bigger picture, hence the expression “they can’t see the forest for the trees.”

This is very prevalent for those of us in mid-life. We think we’ve seen it all. We become jaded, forming opinions based on our own personal experiences, our likes and dislikes. We don’t take into account the evolving nature of things or that other points of view might also be valid.

We never have all of the information.

In my photography workshops, we practice having a more open-focused attention and, in doing so, we discover how much we filter our experience. We learn to see ordinary, familiar subjects in fresh, new ways. One person in our Photo by Design group this week commented on how she was astonished by the veins in leaves.

The first step in seeing less myopically is to notice our opinions, judgments, and filters when they come up and then to question them vigourously. This is what I did in noticing my judgments about the city of Hamilton.

The illustration below (created by my daughter, Kelly) summarizes the many obstacles to seeing that can lead to this mid-life myopia and prevent us from truly seeing what’s there.
We can cure myopia by making it into a game. Notice the judgments that come up and then ask, “How can I see this differently? What am I missing? How might others view it?”

Oh, and the advice from the researchers for myopic vision works well here too. Spend more time outdoors and take frequent mind breaks to take in what’s happening right where you are, in this moment.

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Adventures in Seeing – Denial


This week at the Adventures in Seeing Google+ community, we’re depicting and writing about the word “denial.” All of our weekly words come from David Whyte’s book, Consolations. Please feel free to join us.

This week David Whyte brings a whole new dimension to the word “denial.” He says,

Denial is underestimated as a state of being. Denial is an ever present and splendid thing when seen in the light of its merciful and elemental powers to cradle and hold an identity until it is ready to move on.

According to Whyte, denial belongs to us all. No human being, even the Dalai Lama, can avoid it. We are all limited in our views in some way. We only see our immediate horizon.

Moving from denial to acceptance only happens when we are ready to bring attention to this horizon, seeing what it beckons us to look at beyond it.

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Adventures in Seeing – Crisis

This week at the Adventures in Seeing Google+ community, we’re depicting and writing about the word “crisis.” All of our weekly words come from David Whyte’s book, Consolations. Please feel free to join us.

David Whyte, in his book Consolations, equates crisis to the “dark night of the soul.”

This dark night could be more accurately described as the meeting of two immense storm fronts, the squally vulnerable edge between what overwhelms human beings from the inside and what overpowers them from the outside.

While this is one kind of personal crisis, I needed a simpler definition to chew on. This was handed to me by centenarian philosopher Grace Lee Boggs through an On Being podcast. She said she learned from her father that “crisis is both a danger and an opportunity.”

Boggs was speaking of the crisis in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan, where populations have been dwindling and buildings abandoned. Those who remain are slowly forming a new identity for this one time automobile city.

The refugee crisis happening right now in Europe is a classic example of where danger and opportunity go hand in hand, although these refugees are heartbreakingly experiencing more danger than opportunity.

To me, crisis occurs at a breaking point. There is life before and then the point where it can no longer go on as before. There is no choice but to cross over into a new life and all the uncertainty that entails. On the other side is both danger and opportunity.

Sometimes, the breaking point is unexpected, such as a job loss, an illness, an accident, or the loss of a relationship.

And sometimes we willingly initiate it through leaving a job or relationship or standing up for ourselves in a brand new way.

A crisis has the power to shatter our illusions, to reveal that in this impermanent world, there really is no ground to stand on, nothing we can hold on to. ~ Tara Brach, True Refuge

Yet, this moment of surrender can sometimes lead to opportunities never before imagined. That is the hope.

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What Moves You to Expression?

This week on Guy Tal’s Facebook page, he posted a picture with a quote by Robert Henri. The idea behind it was that technique is only necessary to “serve you for the idea or the emotion which has moved you to expression.”

I was struck by that phrase “moved you to expression,” and wondered if or how we really know what moves us to expression?

Sometimes we’re not aware of what moves us to expression because we’re looking for that perfect shot that others will like.

Or, we don’t trust what moves us to expression because we fear it will be judged.

Or, we start working what originally moved us to make it “more worthy.”

How do we learn to know and trust what moves us to expression?

1. Respect our feelings.

In my last post, I talked about the passing of my dog, Daisy. The next day I was feeling very sad and went out for a long walk. My intention was to feel the feelings and not photograph anything until I felt a strong resonance or pull. I was twenty minutes into my walk before I came across this scene.
The light sparkling on the water drew me in, but this dead tree leaning towards the water perfectly visualized how I felt. What moves us to expression is often something that reflects our inner state.

2. Notice judgments.

Often, we let our own judgments of what is a worthy photograph or what others think is worthy stop us from acting on what moves us. Years ago, I discovered my deep love for rust and just went with it. Not everyone gets it, but I know I have a few converts or already like-minded rust lovers. This led me to exploring abstract photography more fully.
Here, I noticed the way the light brought out the colours of this rusted post. There’s also a subtle, circular pattern present which also draws me in. If you notice yourself drawn to something, but worry if others will understand it, or think that it’s “not normal,” you’re on to something important.

3. Watch for recurring themes.

Notice when similar subjects keep coming up, not just things like doors or flowers or water, but more subtle connections, like cracks in things, soft focus, moody light, or openings. This is a great exercise in self-awareness and may even lead to a project or exhibit.
One of my many recurring themes is what I call “light paintings.” The example above shows the way light brings out the many colours of green in the plant.

I create albums on Flickr for different themes so that I can keep track of them. Here are a few –  Sand Art, Cracks in Surfaces, and Window Reflections.

This quote by Edward Weston, from a letter he wrote to Ansel Adams, sums it up well.

I never try to limit myself by theories. I do not question right or wrong approach when I am interested or amazed, – impelled to do work. I do not fear logic, I dare to be irrational, or really never consider whether I am or not. This keeps me fluid, open to fresh impulse, free from formulae: and precisely because I have not formulae – the public who know my work is often surprised, the critics, who all, or most of them, have their pet formulae are disturbed, and my friends distressed. I would say to any artist, – don’t be repressed in your work – dare to experiment – consider any urge – if in a new direction all the better – as a gift from the Gods not to be lightly denied by convention or a priori concepts. Let the eyes work from inside out. ~ Edward Weston, from Ansel Adams: Letters (1916-1984)


How do you honour what moves you to expression?


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Watching the Clouds Roll Away

I’ve been doing a lot of cloud watching lately. Clouds are a metaphor for passing thoughts and feelings. They’re everywhere, yet always moving along – important to remember.

Alfred Stieglitz (1864 – 1946) was an American art promoter and husband to painter Georgia O’Keefe. He was also an excellent photographer and once spent a year photographing clouds (short video here).

The idea behind his project was to show how his photographs were not connected to subject matter but were “equivalents” to his inner state or feelings about the subject.

I’ve written about equivalents before, and about clouds (see the links below), but I’ve been noticing them more lately because of an Instagram account called “cloudreporter.”

Anyone can submit a photograph of clouds to this account via email and they’ll post it ( I’ve submitted a few myself. I thought that I noticed clouds before, but a series of recent road trips has me really paying closer attention.

I’m amazed and in awe of the many different types of clouds there are and how they’re constantly changing. Here are a few that I’ve particularly liked. You can see all at my Flickr album.

What are the clouds like where you are today?

I’ve Looked at Clouds

Thoughts on Equivalence and Contemplative Photography

Cloud Symbolism

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Wabi-Sabi for Photographers (Part 2)

IMG_7715Last week, I wrote about this book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, by Leonard Koren, and how it confirmed for me that wabi-sabi includes subjects that are often overlooked.

This week I’ll share examples of the material qualities of wabi-sabi, as summarized from the book. I noticed that my examples lean towards walls and roads and rusty things. But, any object can be a subject for wabi-sabi.

First, wabi-sabi lives by the principle that “all things are either devolving toward, or evolving from, nothingness.”

Material Qualities

Natural Process – materials affected by weathering and human elements. Shows up as rust, tarnish, stains, warping, shrinking, shrivelling, cracking. Yet, they still possess a sense of poise and strength of character.
Irregular – odd, misshapen, awkward; what many would consider ugly. May be something broken (by an accident) or just happened by chance.
Intimate – small and compact, inward-oriented. They beg us to get close, touch, relate. Tranquil and calming, enveloping and womb-like.
Unpretentious – do not blare out their importance; not the center of attention; the overlooked. Understated and unassuming, yet still have a quiet presence or authority.
Earthy – coarse and unrefined. Made from raw materials; tactile.
Murky – a vague, blurry quality; sponge-like, faded colours. Hard edges take on a soft glow.
Simple – economy of means, pared down to essence (but still retain the poetry), clean and unencumbered, limited palette yet emotionally warm.

What does wabi-sabi mean to you?

Read: Wabi-Sabi (Part 1)

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