What happens if I do this is a dangerous question for a perfectionist. The first answer out of the gate is, You’ll make a fool of yourself. Some days, those brave, looking-up days, when I’m too curious to keep my eyes trained down, I say, So what.
The other day I couldn’t call to mind the face of a man who, not so long ago on July 4th, sat across a table from me. My table, at my home.
It was a timid day, a looking-down day. I have a tendency if left to my own devices to stare outright at people. I watch them, study, take mental notes as I find my writer-mind begin to describe what they are doing. The problem is, of course, that people with eyeballs in their own heads are wont to look back.
I have been asked more than once why I am staring. I have not yet mastered an unwavering vocalization of my answer, which is, simply, I find you interesting.
So I over correct, I don’t look up. And that’s when I miss things.
No camera, no lens, can keep me from a moment as much as my own insecurity.
Later that same day I knew I would be disappointed if I missed the fireworks. It had rained, stormed wild and windy. The rain was still drizzling soft when we went to scope out the field we would sit in to watch the show.
There were reasons not to go. There was damp ground and mud, bugs and crowds and tired kids.
There were reasons not to bring my camera.
But fireworks move me, and haven’t I been begging from my tired days to be moved?
I have made a habit of drawing a line and telling myself No further.
How do I pick up my foot and step right over?
I quiet the mental protests that scoff at the camera in my hand.
You’ll miss it, they say, with your face pressed up against the viewfinder you’ll miss the whole thing.
And, Who do you think you are? What’s the point of taking pictures no one wants to see but you?
I pack my tripod anyway.
Because I’m curious.
The curiosity moves like a whisper through me, but it moves where the voices just promote a sizzling, simmering kind of stillness, a stillness without rest, or comfort.
I set up my tripod, fiddled with aperture, ISO, shutter speed, testing them, curious.
It turns out I didn’t miss a moment of the show itself because the settings were such that the best I could do was push the shutter release and wait while the shutter opened and let in the light.
Click- and a question of how it would turn out.
A tweaking of my settings, my angle, another click.
Click, and wait.
I couldn’t look away from the fireworks themselves, brilliant and bold, crashing together in the small space of open sky. In the pauses I would try something else, something new.
And what of people I find interesting? I can’t look away from the fireworks but they don’t look back. Though full of questions, I don’t often ask them out loud to quell my curiosity.
What if I ask?
And if I’m not satisfied, if the answer comes out distorted, untrue, what if I make the necessary adjustments and ask again?
How can I justly rage against inauthentic relationship when am not showing myself authentic in my curiosity?
Emily Dickinson wrote, “I dwell in possibility,” and the romantic I once was wrapped herself up in the warmth of the thought.
But I can see a problem with possibility.
Possibility feels too much like something I could leave off for another day, like laundry, or any one of the dreams I have for what I want my life to look like- someday.
Possibility, though so positive sounding, actually gets me nowhere.
Possibility can turn its head and bite back, because it is possible I am all the things I fear I might be.
Emily was a fool for dwelling in possibility. Optimists and pessimists alike can dwell in possibility with self-satisfying results.
Curiosity can only end one way if you follow it and that is in satisfaction. Even a less interesting conclusion than one might have hoped for is counted as satisfaction if an answer now rests where the once was a question.
Click. And I am moved. Moved by the beauty of the moment, pounding through in bursts of sound and light.
There is a safe beauty, beauty I can drink in with my eyes, my ears. There is a full harvest moon rising slow and I can chase it clear up into the sky. There is music that moves right over and through me and I can relish the shiver in my skin as I listen.
But there is a dangerous beauty that beckons when I drop my mask and you drop yours. I ask a question and you answer honestly and both of us think at once, “What happens if I do this?”
Authenticity is a dangerous proposal in a world where our contribution is often measured in just how much we shine a light, and we know that “honest” sometimes means a slip of the dark draws down our smile. It is dangerous to ask a question when the answer might sting. It is dangerous to answer honestly when you risk being discarded.
A click. A question asked.
A friend finds out about my struggle with depression and is surprised.
“You hide it well,” she says, and it stings, though that wasn’t her intent.
Is that what I want? To hide well?
I started the year off with heavy doses of curiosity. I started with a question: how can I best approach a day as if it were all mine, all of life teeming in its meshes?
I have watched those calendar squares fill and empty. I have seen my soul do the same.
Grace and peace, hope and home, have been portioned out for me from unexpected corners, and I have to say, I am curious what will happen next.
The photographs in this post were taken by me.