Yesterday afternoon, I walked my kindergarten students to their buses with a spring in my step – for once the buses pulled away, Winter Recess began! It was a blue sky day, and my first order of business was to take my camera exploring! I needed to do this not only because it is my passion, but also because I needed desperately to unwind from a very high energy day at work. The persistent misbehavior of some of the children throughout the course of the week had managed to drain my energy, and I needed to recharge my battery.
I had no specific destination in mind, although river and mountains were calling to me. I headed east along the Battenkill River toward the Vermont border and was dazzled by the scenic, snow-dusted Green Mountains in the distance, which stood out vividly against the backdrop of clear, blue sky.
I breathed in the stability of the mountains and the beauty of the view – and felt serenity wash over me. Healed by nature, once again!
On a whim, I followed a road leading to the Rexleigh Covered Bridge that connects the towns of Salem and Jackson, New York. Whether in the form of barns, cardinals, this bridge, or other structures, I find the contrast of red against a snowy landscape dramatic and compelling.
After a chilly photo shoot, I headed back down the road and noticed a baby evergreen tree growing along the side of the road. The sun was shining on it just right, and it captivated my attention. As I drove slowly past the tree, the angle of sunlight changed, and the tree didn’t look so extraordinary.
It occurred to me that, in terms of photography, circumstances, and people, the right angle makes all the difference. Thinking of my challenging students (and how their behavior affects my energy and attitude toward my work), it seems important to regard them from a more flattering angle, in order to really connect with them. If I go to work dreading having to manage persistent behaviors or feel my energy being sucked out the instant a certain child walks through the door, it means I haven’t yet found that angle – or that I’ve lost sight of it. If I am not connecting with the child’s light – his or her highest good – then I’m not engaging the magic. The child’s needs are not met, and he or she doesn’t shine. Neither do I.
In contrast, I recall how children’s faces light up when I present them with a cardboard star ornament painted their favorite color. In the center of the star, I print the child’s name, and on each of the five points, I write one lovely quality I see in the child (for a total of five). It is a joy to see my students beam as they gaze at the special star in their hands. The same thing happens when I give them a “What We Like About (You)” book written and illustrated by their classmates. I truly believe that when we see people from their most favorable angle and connect with their inner light, we help them to shine. Doing so makes real understanding, communication, and relationship possible. If you don’t feel an outpouring of love and compassion toward someone, you probably have not yet found that angle.
The same is true for circumstances. With effort, we can change the way we perceive a circumstance or situation. It’s not always necessary to change the circumstance. Oftentimes, changing the way we see it makes a critical difference. Therefore, when we have a negative attitude toward our circumstances, I believe it is useful to reflect on whether there is a more positive, empowering way to perceive them. And if we’re honest with ourselves, chances are the answer is yes.
How easy it is to fall under the spell of certain thoughts which might not serve us. Thoughts are not truths. They are like angles of light based on our position relative to the various external elements of our life. They are not the light itself. We must choose them wisely, as a photographer considers lighting in composing a photograph.
This is what the baby evergreen taught me as I drove by it.
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