l'll never forget the moment my 6th grade art teacher taught our class how to make viewfinders. (Have you ever seen a viewfinder? They look like this.)
I distinctly remember feeling a sense of freedom as I peered through my viewfinder and spun slowly around the classroom. I had the power to shift perspective and choose what I wanted to focus on.
Viewfinders are adjustable paper frames that some artists carry around and hold up to the world, trying to find a pleasing arrangement of lines, shapes, and color. It's like the real life "crop" option and can be used as a tool to isolate the things we find beautiful from the things we find chaotic. You can get really up close to things with your viewfinder to see things in detail. Or you can stand further away for a bigger picture view.
Ever since becoming a mother, I have been terrified that I'm going to "miss things." Milestones, pictures, ideas, footprints, marks, moments, ect. I desperately want to capture every fleeting moment as it unfolds but I know that is impossible because time moves too fast, there is no pause button, and we get caught up in the spinning center of it all. We must improvise, we must choose, and we must focus.
So, for the first time since childhood, I made a viewfinder.
For me, motherhood is constantly unfolding through seasons. There are so many moving pieces and so many little destinations. Things are always blooming. The pace of life has changed and so have I. I find myself falling into different rhythms every other week, finally getting the footwork down moments before the tempo changes completely. It's exhausting and beautiful and fulfilling and humbling.
When it comes to creating, ideas often come through to me in glitches of brushstrokes. Sometimes entire paintings flicker through my mind. When my son was a newborn, I wrote an instagram post explaining how that season of motherhood felt as a creative person:
"It feels as if I am standing in the middle of a swarm of butterflies with an empty net. Hyper aware of all of the ideas in the world fluttering around me, but unable to fully process or generate anything because my net has holes in it."
He's almost two years old now. Here are two things I've learned:
1: My net wasn't broken- it was expanding. It's no secret that our hearts grow to accommodate a higher capacity of love. I think our nets continue to get bigger and deeper, too, to allow more room for the depth of inspiration that new seasons of motherhood provide.
2: Without visual clarity, even the strongest net will fail you. Honing in on moments and areas of our lives and giving them crisp edges. Taking time to look more closely at things as we separate certain certain elements them from everything else, only if just for a minute. By isolating the rest of the scene, we are able to focus on what is actually occurring within the four corners of our current frame.
An easy way to create a viewfinder is to create two letter L's with both of your hands, flip one of them upside down, and bring your fingers together. After scanning the room, what do you land on? It's your composition. The unique arrangement of what you leave in the frame and what you have left out. It's a self portrait of what you have chosen to focus on here and now.
I happen to believe that art and magic live inside just about everything...from within the confines of a blurry photograph to the marbleized swirls within a spilled mess. The same two people do not always see the same mini masterpieces, because the viewfinders through which we see the world are as unique as we are. Only you have the right set of eyes to uncover the unexplored mini universes we encounter on a daily basis. To quote Ludwig Mies: "God is in the details."