A few days ago, I created this image of a barren branch of a Yucca plan. With the peddles of the blooms all but gone I felt that this image was a statement on three levels about life. First is our need for everything to its perfection. Second is the fact that things in our personal life changes and the blinders we put on to the world around us in order to deal with it. And third, the beauty in death and the life that flourishes around it. I see these things more so now than I had before and it comes from the stage of my life that I find myself in. And because I see it in nature I feel I can draw comfort from it when it gets hard to press on. So here is what I see when I look at this image.
Perfection, or the lack of it. Normally when most photographers create an image they take in account the light, time of year, the state of the subject and the final image. If most of the criteria have been met then the image is created with the knowledge that any flaws found will be corrected in the editing stage. But I find that even in this stage of defoliation still to be a perfect image because it embraces the flaws as well as the beauty that surrounds. In society of today, we are so obsessed with perfection that we can’t tolerate the flaws in our lives. This is displayed so overtly in the way we present ourselves in public and on our social media pages. Anyone who doesn’t fall into our box of perfection is often shunned and relegated to the fringed where “those people” belong. We don’t even tolerate failure. Failure is the way we move forward and learn but to fail in our society risks a negative stigma therefore it is tucked away in a dark place. I have failed and I celebrate this not because I have, but because I learn and move on to succeed. If we just would open up and let people know that it is okay to fail and not to be perfect we may not have so many people to move forward in their lives.
This image conveys to me about personal change, and how we may feel isolated and things have stopped, but it doesn’t stop. If we just look beyond our bubble we can see the beauty around us and with that draw courage and comfort to move on. In my life, there has been a lot of change that I have been processing, some of it well and some of it I choose to ignore. My first bit of change is the fact that my Son has grown and move out, which you would think I would celebrate and I am in ways. The part I find sad is that the time we had with him as a child is gone and as long as his childhood seemed, it wasn’t. Sometimes I think about in a few years we maybe involved in a wedding and then grandkids. On the surface that seems cool but it is just a reminder of my own mortality and that that my time is growing short with so much yet to accomplish.
I also feel that this image is analogous to the beauty in the changes of life. Even in death, life around this barren branch flourishes and continues. Despite this branch looking dried and brittle, in a few weeks seed pods should be sprouting from them to begin life’s cycle again. This brings me to my thoughts of my parents who are in their 90’s. A part of me had always thought that my parents would be there for me, to be the solid foundation that keeps life stable. The subtle changes of aging are often missed as a child and sometimes a young adult. It is when you are not constantly around them you see the toll of years drawn upon them. Still we ignore the inevitable as way not to be paralyzed by their impending end, but a way we can celebrate the life together. I believe that is why a sudden death of a loved one or even an acquaintance hits us harder than someone who is suffering a terminal illness. With someone terminally ill we can prepare for the passing of them. Where is a sudden death we are still in the stage of denial that it will happen.
I know this is a lot to read into an image that is just a dead branch in soft lighting surrounded by green leaves, but that is what I see. I plan to do a series of these life and death moments throughout the summer and fall. Who knows I may put them together and build a book or hang them on the wall for a show. I guess we’ll see as the time comes.