Uniquely Common Place

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An image search in Google for “blue iris” brings up 4 million possibilities. Why would I bother taking a photo of a blue iris? Why would I bother to show it to you? Because this iris captures a moment near the end of a day by the lighthouse on Mayne Island. This iris reminds me of a moment that was filled with the beauty and wonder of the world as I grappled with the devastating BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. I was feeling overwhelmed with hopelessness about the extent of this tragedy. I was angry at humanity for its greed and stupidity. Then I saw the blue iris. I stopped and drank it in, and as I did, all my fears melted down into the ground beneath my feet. I had this one moment with this blue iris, a moment that stilled my anger – a moment that allowed a sad sigh to be released and replaced with a soft smile as I traced the spiral curves of the intricate blue petals with my eyes.

When we think about how many sunsets have been painted or how many survival stories have been written or how many love songs have been sung, or how many photos have been taken of babies and old people we could ask – do we need any more? But we don’t or at least I don’t. I don’t because these common place moments are part of humanity’s mind, body and spirit motif. I can always look at an iris, baby or the weathered face of an elder with fresh eyes. I can always read about a hero having survived a war and a trip over the Himalayas with an open heart. I can always listen to a love song with new ears.

Yet when creating, we are encouraged to offer something new, something fresh… something that has never been done before. How can we do this when these engaging topics have been presented and consumed some 4 million times, like the blue iris above? I believe the answer lies not in the frequency of an old tale but in the precise uniqueness of its moment of telling. There are no two moments that are the same. Trust that if you are present to the creative moment you are in that is all that is required. You will see, feel, hear, smell and sense your subject in the uniqueness of that moment. Moments are temporary. Little lasts from one moment to the next for us to revisit. That is the nature of living. As creative beings we can create, capture, write and sing as if this is the only moment there is… because it is. There will be no other like it.

Now there are four million and one images of a blue iris in a Google search.

Sprout Question: What is your favourite work by another about a topic that is common place?

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

19 thoughts on “Uniquely Common Place

  1. “I believe the answer lies not in the frequency of an old tale but in the precise uniqueness of its moment of telling.”

    Terrill – There. You’ve said it perfectly. That’s precisely why we can have four million and one blue iris photos and still be captivated.

    Sprout Question: What is your favorite work by another about a topic that’s common place?

    Trees. There are zillions of trees. Yet a photograph, a story, a sitting-beneath, never fails to stir my heart. I’m currently reading, “Meetings with Remarkable Trees” by Thomas Pakenham. The verbiage and photography is breathtaking.

    • Oh yes Laurie… trees – how could I have missed these in my telling of uniquely common place. There are over 56 million images of trees available using a Google search for images. If there is one topic I have painted and photographed the most it is trees. My hands reach out and caress their leaves, branches and trunks on every walk. I will have to look up your latest read about trees Laurie. Thank you Laurie for this sprout offering.

    • Kim, I think a passion for butterflies and their symbolic strength for representing transformation is something we have in common…. I am glad you added butterflies to our conversation about uniquely common place. Thank you:)))

  2. Here’s my own favorite by another, though it’s topic (on the surface) is commonplace:

    Whose woods these are I think I know.
    His house is in the village though;
    He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow.

    My little horse must think it queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near
    Between the woods and frozen lake
    The darkest evening of the year.

    He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there is some mistake.
    The only other sound’s the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.

    Well, to state the name and author of the poem would be an insult to you and your readers, but it’s a case of the seemingly pedestrian that yields a sense of awe, mystery and beauty, within the parameter of tranquility and meditation.

    But I can’t blame you for being angry over this incalculable catastrophe, especially as you are an impassioned environmentalist and nature-lover. I share your pain, and like you when something goes terribly wrong, I take solace in beauty, whether it be tangible things like the world around us, works of art or relationships.

    This beautiful iris is a glorious metaphor.

    • Sam Creative Potager has an international readership so there may be some who don’t know who wrote this poem and others who may need to guess but we will leave them to do a wee Google search to confirm their hunch. I too love this poem and having been in a horse drawn slay at winter dusk, I feel I know this place… yet, this poem has had such a lasting impact that I’m sure that the specifics described are only garnish on a moment that touches something inside us at a much deeper level. Your whole sprout response is very poetic Sam. Thank you:))))

  3. What is your favorite work by another about a topic that’s common place?
    How about a love story, boy meets girl, they fall in love, there are family complications/situations to deal with… common place. But there are two movies that I love that tell the story of the average boy-meets-girl in an unexpected way. Elizabethtown and Say Anything – years apart but by the same director, Cameron Crowe. That to me is talent, to tell the age old, but average, love story in a new way.

    I’ve thought about this for myself, as I work on my photography. I’m taking pictures in places that many others have taken them before, but my vision is slightly different. The moment is different. Someone may look at that image at a point in their lives that it strikes them. We will never reach a quota on pictures of trees or iris or anything else, of telling a common place boy-meets-girl story, because there is always room for one more point of view, different angle, different light, different time.

    • Kat your sprout coming as it does at this moment in the post and comments seems to take us even deeper into the subject of uniquely common place. Thank you for taking the time join in.

      P.S. I haven’t seen either Elizabethtown or Say Anything… and I just watched the trailers. I think I need a girls night with a big bowl of popcorn and pjs… anyone want to join me?

  4. Thank you for the beautiful iris photo and inspiration for today. About ten days ago I also took a photo of an iris that I posted on my blog.

    Great spout question.

    Many years ago we purchased a small original Picasso while on vacation in Hawaii. It is just a simple sketch of his trademark “bull.” He did it on a page in an art gallery program that was mostly blank, except for a quote in French, which basically says, “that which I do today is already old tomorrow.”

    Great art inspires and need not take days to produce to be effective. I suspect he spent no longer on the sketch than he did to sign his name below it, but it is a treasure we will enjoy forever.

    • Ah yes Sherwin and your iris is a beauty!

      Your “we purchased a small original Picasso” story significant. The idea that “great art inspires and need not take days” is not necessarily an easy concept to grasp. An art colleague on twitter started a conversation about bringing her work to its core essence – bringing it into a minimalist state. Some of the feedback she got from other artists was that the more brush strokes there were in a painting, the more perceived skill was attributed to the work and the more money a buy would be willing to pay for the piece. And there is a story about Picasso that really gets to the bottom of this idea that great art is something we can’t imagine doing ourselves. The story as told on “Picasso” post by Digital Strategist, Silu Modi, goes like this….

      Some guy told Picasso he’d pay him to draw a picture on a napkin. Picasso whipped out a pen and banged out a sketch, handed it to the guy, and said, “One million dollars, please.”
      “A million dollars?” the guy exclaimed. “That only took you thirty seconds!”
      “Yes,” said Picasso. “But it took me fifty years to learn how to draw that in thirty seconds.”

      We have a frequent visitor to Creative Potager who is a master with line drawing and that is Jerry Shawback. He has been getting ready for a show that opens tomorrow night at Affinity Galleries7065 W Lexington Ave West Hollywood, CA (just in case you are in the neighbourhood:) Here is a link to Jerry’s drawings which are usually posted one every 24 hours http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawback/4686484675

  5. Terrill,

    I read this yesterday when you first posted it, but my mind was a bit clouded with midday mist. So coming back to this with fresh eyes and fresh ideas, and more in the moment I can respond.
    The lines that spoke to me now where these, “Trust that if you are present to the creative moment you are in that is all that is required. You will see, feel, hear, smell and sense your subject in the uniqueness of that moment. Moments are temporary.”

    I am not sure I have favorite work of another that is common place. Because with the shifting time, my personal evolution, the moments are never the same. So if I have seen something or read something or heard something, it has a different meaning, presents a different purpose, may enlighten, and may just be boring at this time.

    I am Love, Jeff

    • Jeff good of you to drop in. I can relate to favourite work shifting over time… all I have to do is watch, read or see something that inspired me a number of years ago to know that the moment has passed. Great point to add into our conversation.

  6. A group of painters painting the same scene will each take away something different, Say it is a group of six painting on the coast there will be six entirely different interpretations.The human spirit is unique and and therefore brings unique perceptions and understanding .

    • Oh yes Elisa “walls and stones” are some what attracts my creativity as well.

      In May 2002 I traveled in Peru for a month with my partner. We traveled lightly, by ourselves with only carry-on size backpacks. On our journey we saw many sacred walls build by the Inca both in Cuzco and Machu Picchu. I have many photos from that time but the resolution is too small for large prints.

  7. Pingback: Monday Morning Diary (June 14) « Wonders in the Dark

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