06 May 2009

No photos, please

So I didn't bring a camera on this trip. Most of the time I forget to carry it or the battery is dead or the memory card is full or whatever else is wrong, but on this trip I purposely forgot.

Over the past few years I've become better at journaling about the small things in my life. Initially the journals were sent to my boyfriend in Kenya so that he could have a window into my daily life. I would paste coasters from pubs and movie stubs and postcards and things into the journals as a pictorial and tactile connection. In February I finished the last journal I'd started for him, but finished for me. The relationship ended, but that practice didn't.

So I'm in the habit now of saving maps and brochures and church bulletins and free postcards from businesses and I cannibalize them to represent my experiences. Usually they accompany a note, small or large, in my own handwriting about my response to the experience. I write down sermon notes and phone messages and driving directions and deep thoughts and quotes, and lately, I've begun sketching.

On NPR yesterday there was a man talking about how drawing is one of the only things we stop doing when we realize we're not professional-level good at it. We still play sports just for fun, we still pull out the guitar, we still do lots of things we're not great at just to enjoy them, but we rarely draw. I loved hearing that message because I've been drawing more and more lately, from sketches of tattoos I'd like to get to people I remember from Africa to making my co-workers at Lahash draw our images of the Kingdom of God.

All this to say that yesterday, instead of taking photos in the Everglades, I drew. They're not beautiful or clever, but they're not terrible either, and I realized something. As I stood in one place sketching a bend in a canal or an alligator four feet away, others came along and snapped a shot and went on. I realized the gift I was receiving of being present, of seeing the details in how the grasses bend away from the bank, how the cypress leaves point straight up, how the egret's neck bends at a funny angle to help him fish. It was lovely, and more valuable to me than the postcards I inevitably purchased to add some color to those blue ball-point pen on paper sketches.

Do it, people! I challenge you all to draw something, anything, big or small! Draw with your kids or your spouse or your friends in pen or pencil or crayon. I want you to send me your drawings. If you email me at leishlin [at] gmail [dot] com, I will ooh and aah, and as added incentive, I will send a bag of Storyville coffee to my top two. (For the month of May Storyville coffee is donating all proceeds to International Justice Mission, one of my favorite causes.)


kate said...

i love this post. slowing down + really taking in our surroundings is precious. i am so glad you left your camera. =)) thanks for the good reminder to slow down.

thatoneguy said...

I if only I could find my Ed Emberley books...