time

The ache of ephemeral experiences

by Steve Brock on May 4, 2015

Murrow Drawing

Good Friday has come and gone this year. What I take from it is a story both overly recognizable and endlessly new.

What made this story of suffering, death and greater love so powerful this year was the use of sand painting during the Good Friday service at our church. As various pastors and elders read each of the final seven sayings of Christ on the cross, an artist created images of each scene using only her hands and sand. She poured and then spread the sand around a large glass plate while the image was projected onto a larger screen for the audience to see. Her “paintings” displayed great depth, texture and nuance.

The most powerful moment, to me, came when each reader finished his or her narration. The sand artist would then take this incredible work of art and, with a wave of her hand, erase it. One moment we were looking at a rendering of Jesus and the thief, side by side on their respective crosses. The next, steaks of sand shadowing the bright background.

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Last week, I read about an artist, Ethan Murrow, whose drawings in graphite on paper were on display at the Winston Wachter Fine Art gallery in Seattle. My two sons and I were in the area, so we drove to the gallery to view the drawings. Phenomenal, both in technique and concept.

My favorite image of all was one called Wagon Train (shown above). I loved the subject matter but when I looked closely, I realized that Murrow hadn’t drawn this one on paper. Instead, according to our guide there, he had spent four days with a Sharpie drawing the image on one of the gallery walls. And when the show is over, they will, amazingly, just paint over this image (which, if on paper, would likely be sold in the $15,000 to $20,000 range).

One day, beautiful art. The next day, another painted wall.

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I want to hold on to things of beauty. Make them last. Enjoy them over and over. But these two experiences, like certain moments on trips, inform me that there is another way.

Sometimes our greatest experiences are ephemeral. They are momentary, one-of-a-kind wonders that do not, cannot and were never meant to last.

For example, have you ever sat in a lovely restaurant or at a sidewalk café or on a bench overlooking some landscape and you find your heart catching in your throat because the scene, the moment is so beautiful? I have literally ached with a joyful sorrow in places where I never wanted to leave even as I knew I never could stay.

These ephemeral experiences are often some of our most poignant and meaningful. I find myself desperately wanting them to last even as I know that if they did, they would cease to be as special.

And so when confronted with art that disappears in minutes or days, a meal that lasts only as long as it takes to eat, a place where I can visit but not tarry or a person I can meet but not know deeply, I can simply give thanks and appreciate what I have experienced.

We need not possess something to be changed by it.

 

 

 

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Forgetting what you love

by Steve Brock on April 25, 2014

Landing in Salt Lake CityLast week I was in Chicago for work. I had an early morning return flight, so I was up before the sun and walking into the terminal a little after 6:00 a.m. As I did so, I turned and looked out on the pinkish glow of the morning sky. “Nice light,” I thought, the photographer in me about as awake as the rest of me. Then I turned and walked into the terminal.

Even as I waited in the security line I wondered this, “What has happened? A year ago, I would have had my camera out and would have found something – anything – to photograph here.” Even in the terminal, waiting to board, I looked out the large windows near the “L” concourse and thought about taking a picture.

“Nah,” I reasoned. “Too much of a hassle. Plus, I already have a ton of airport shots.” At that point, I headed to the gate to wait and to forget I even had the brief desire to photograph.

Two days later at home, I’m on my desktop computer where all of my photos are stored. For some reason, I toggle through the screens and end up on Lightroom, the program I use for processing and organizing my images. The photo you see above was displayed. I have no idea why. I hadn’t been looking at it or any other photos taken around the same time. But Lightroom can have a mind of its own sometimes.

It’s not a great shot. In fact, I added some texture to it in Photoshop to cover the reflection from the inside of the plane cabin that occurred when I took the photo one evening landing in Salt Lake City on a stopover heading home. But I just stared at it, entranced by the colors and the clouds and the reminders that images can bring to you of trips past.

It made me sad.

Why? Because it made me realize that in the busyness of the last several months, I have let photography slip away. I had my trusty point and shoot camera with me in Chicago and the camera on my phone is quite good and always with me. It’s not like I lacked the means. I just lacked the desire.

We can become so busy with things, often very good things, that we let others go. It’s natural in a world where we cannot add even a second to our daily allotment of 24 hours. But last week made me realize that in the inevitability of limited time, I don’t want to lose what matters.

The funny thing is, my busyness right now is mostly spent on other things that matter a great deal. It’s not like I’ve become addicted to video games or watching marathon sessions of House of Cards. In life, we will always have to make choices not so much between good and bad – we’re usually OK with that – but between good and best.

So here’s my question for you: What’s your best? What brings life and joy to you? And are you spending time with it, whatever that might be? Are you investing in what you love or are you allowing the distractions of life to pull you away? What, in your heart of hearts, do you miss right now?

I think I’m in a season of rest, a pause from photography. I’ll still take a shot here and there, but I think there will come a time when the longing to create a powerful image overwhelms me. I will at that point do whatever it takes to take whatever it is that moves me.

But how about for you? Are you in a season of rest? Or have you simply let slide that which fulfills and satisfies you? Listen to those longings. Heed them. After all, you only have 24 hours each day to do not just what seemingly has to be done, but what should be done.

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