Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Getting a Little Perspective
It's that time of year again in Washington D.C., where the snow melts and the rains come in and the weather starts to get just warm enough that you think you might have survived the winter after all; and all along the National Mall, the cherry blossoms start to bloom.
There's something special about the cherry blossoms. People come from all over the world to see them. When they are in full bloom, you can't hardly walk; the tourists and photographers as thick as ants. Some people say this is because they're so beautiful, but I think the truth lies somewhere closer to this: in a year of 365 days, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom only about five of them.
That picture above? I took it last year on the only day the blooms were at their peak and the rain wasn't beating down on them.
One day. One chance to get the perfect picture. And really, you don't even know if you got it until you get home and download or print them. And if you didn't? It's too late.
Last year I took that one day off from my regular routine and strolled around the tidal basin with the millions of others looking for that perfect photo. I knew exactly what I wanted. I took about 300 pictures in a few hours, and some of them were truly spectacular.
But none of them was the one I wanted so badly.
On the metro ride home I tried to figure out how I missed it. Of the hundreds of photos, how could I not get a single shot in which both the cherry blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial were in focus?
See what I mean?
I've seen this picture a thousand times by other people. How come I couldn't get it right? No matter how much I fiddled with the shutter and the aperture, no matter how I framed it, one of the two turned out blurry.
And then I realized what was wrong.
I was too close.
I was so close to the cherry blossoms that the camera couldn't open wide enough to focus on both something that near, and a subject that far away.
I needed distance.
This coming week the cherry blossoms are back, and most likely, I will trudge back into the city to get that one elusive shot. All I needed was a little time to figure it out, and a little distance.
Writing is like this. When we are in the midst of our masterpiece it's easy to feel like time is running out. Others all around us are hitting the jackpot, but it seems just out of reach to us.
Sometimes what our writing needs is a little distance. A little time to ponder and wallow in, to figure out not just what we want but how to get it, to finagle a bit to get all the parts to come together.
And a little perspective to remember that while it can seem that the opportunity is fleeting, it's not. It comes again. And again. And again.
Doris Lessing was 88 when she won the Nobel Prize for literature.
Now there's a little distance, time and perspective.