Another chance to remember

by Steve Brock on August 3, 2012

This past winter I started looking at moss in a new way. I began to notice something that was around me all the time back in the wetness of February.

Mossy Log with Mushrooms

But now that it is summer, most of the moss around me has dried and gone. So when I see it now, I don’t have to force myself to pay attention. It stands out on its own.

I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing, whether I’ve learned to look for it or whether scarcity forces itself onto our awareness. All I know is that when I encountered this moss and mushroom covered log last month on our trip to Canada, it caught my attention and served its purpose: It made me remember that moss was a trigger to remind me to be grateful for all that I take for granted.

So what are you taking for granted? Family? Health? Work? Friends? Food and Shelter? Summertime? Blessings beyond awareness and grace beyond understanding?

Take a second – make that a minute or two or ten – and pause right now. Yes, now. Be grateful. Don’t wait for more moss to remember and give thanks.

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Living through the lens

by Steve Brock on March 14, 2012

Very soon I will begin a series on how photography relates to meaningful travel. But I must confess that sometimes photography gets in the way.

Case in point: The last two weeks I have tried to notice moss as a reminder to be grateful for the many little wonders in life I overlook. It worked well for the first week. But then I fell into one of many the traps related to photography: I ceased to notice the moss and became more concerned with capturing images of it. I became more intent on forming an image than in forming a prayer of thanks or even truly observing the object for its own sake.

We have an inherent desire to possess that which matters to us. It happens at auctions, car lots and high school dances. The most extreme comment reflecting this tendency came from an acquaintance many years ago who, when hearing that my wife worked at an art museum, said this: “I don’t like museums. What’s the point of a museum anyway? You can’t buy the paintings there. And if you can’t buy them and own them and have them in your own house, why bother?”

You may wince at his comment, but if I’m honest, I’m not all that different sometimes with photography. If I can’t take a photo of that clump of moss, why bother stopping to examine it? Such thinking only spirals downward.

So the last few days as I’m out walking or hiking, I’ve left the camera behind. At first, every interesting tree or moss-covered rock felt like a missed opportunity, a loss of beauty. But each retains its beauty even if I don’t capture that in an image. I am finding I appreciate the variety of mosses even more.

My photo fasting won’t last. After all, where do you think the picture above came from? (I confess: after my walk today I ran into the house and grabbed the camera so I could look at moss up close, or so I rationalized). But realizing what it is that possesses me and drives me to possess other things is a big first step.

The hardest thing about all this is that it isn’t a desire to possess what is bad but rather what is good. As we mature, our choices are far less about choosing good versus bad but good versus best.

As we’ll see in the coming weeks, photography can add so much to your trips. It can be a very good thing. Sometimes the best.

Just remember what I sometimes forget: Live life with the lens, not through it.

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Another look at moss

by Steve Brock on March 6, 2012

Why moss? Why select a plant that doesn’t even have the decency to produce seeds or have roots that grip and extract nourishment? I have no good answer. Moss is but moss yet it seems sufficient and timely. Maybe even intended.

I grew up in an arid land, a place of borrowed water where green mattered. Here, in the Pacific Northwest, I live in a flurry of green, from the grey-green of conifers to the chartreuseness of the very moss that started all this. But that green, once so precious, has become an assumption, like a loved one you count on to always be there until one day they are not.

God has given us green, a concept that, like all colors, remains irreducible. You can’t unpack green or break it down into smaller components in the way you do a problem at work or a project at home. So what do you do with green?

You give thanks.

Or so I am trying. What started as an attempt to practice at home the same openness and attention to detail I experience on a trip has become something more. I could call it a meditation on green, but that’s too pretentious, like referring to a can of sardines as an elegant seafood dinner.

Instead, this particular focus on moss feels more akin to a spiritual discipline, an object lesson wrapped in the concentrated effort to be more grateful, to do what does not come naturally to me.

I need something in my life to remind me that my life is not mine. I need something that triggers me to remember that beauty invades me – or would if I let it – every day. I need a not-so-subtle cue to hold up to my eyes the grace that holds me.

Moss rarely grows more than an inch in height.

It will do.

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And just in case you haven’t had your fill of mossy images, check out my Pinterest board on the subject:

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The secret life of moss

by Steve Brock February 29, 2012

Travel makes you pay better attention but often at home we need to practice noticing everyday things like moss, a common sight where I live. Join me in this rediscovery its surprising beauty.

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