A bird of paradise solar-powered light was one of the first things I bought when I reclaimed my garden, a particularly painful place for me. For several years, I avoided it because it made my heart ache and caused me to question whether me leaving my marriage and my previous life was misguided and mistaken. It was a place of regret, where I’d stumble in my conviction that this was the direction to go.
At some point, I managed to realize that it didn’t matter whether I regretted it or not. It was what I had chosen, and there was no going back. And then I reminded myself over and over that when I chose to leave my marriage, I chose it because I couldn’t stand the darkness of what was going on in my life anymore. And what has happened since I’d left it was continued proof that I’d made the correct decision. Re-evaluating, looking back, was just keeping my face turned towards that darkness I had rightfully chosen to leave behind. I was facing away from the light I’d said I wanted to find.
Eventually I began to turn around, look out, find myself. And although I would have never initially said it mattered, one of the most important parts of that process is turning out to be reclaiming my home, my space. It was and still is a brutally slow process. There have been so many setbacks, from little potholes to massive unexpected canyons along the way, that most days, including today, I’m still unsure if I’ll ever get past all of it.
But even if I never get past all of it, avoiding places in my home and heart is going to narrow the chances of it. So as I can, I’ve been traversing what I find I’m avoiding. And at one point, that included my garden.
This past spring, right after a grueling mediation and before my divorce was final, I decided it was time to give new life a fighting chance to blossom. I wanted to dig out the weeds that were choking everything in my life, and I decided the garden was the perfect symbolic place to do that. I wanted to sit in peace back there, and I hoped that doing so, would somehow bring me more peace in the rest of my life. And I enjoyed getting dirty and sweaty working it all out.
One day while I was out there planting new plants, and setting up ways for them to get the water they needed, I was looking at the butterfly garden decoration my (now ex) husband had put in. I wasn’t ready to give it up, even thought it hurt to look at it. But I did decide I wanted a light to illuminate that area. It would take attention away from the butterfly, and it would make it brighter when I wanted to be still and relax.
So I went shopping for one, and the bird of paradise solar light is the one I bought. It wasn’t an extravagant purchase, but I liked it because it was unique. A bird in paradise, I remember thinking; I hoped that description would eventually be true. And when I looked at the picture on the box, it gave me so much pleasure that I resisted throwing the box away, even after I’d installed the light.
At the same time I’ve been getting past everything I discovered was going on, and all that’s happened since, I’ve been trying to transition to a new life. I’m hoping to starting an additional career soon, and I’ve got some hobbies I’m extremely passionate about, including music, writing, and photography.
One of the things I’ve become fascinated with is night photography – leaving the eye of the camera open for so long, it eventually shows you what’s really there. And it usually shows you what there is to see in an unexpected, beautiful light. When I’m standing there, with the shutter wide open, waiting from moments to minutes for the camera to find what is there, I always think about how similar it is to what I’ve learned it’s important to do; keep my eyes open and truly look for that’s there, even when it’s not obvious at first. And I’ve discovered that often when I do see it, it shows up in an unexpected and often beautiful light.
I don’t think about what’s inspiring me to take a picture. I see it, I take it, and then somtimes later I get more understanding of why I was drawn to it. Besides photographing in the dark, I love photographing known lights at night as well. The moon, streetlights, city lights, reflections off the water, building lights shining on other buildings, and most recently, spotlights at a local music festival….all of these have been showing up in my pictures. With the lights at night, I think it’s my photographic way of saying that seeking the light, facing it, leaving my eyes open towards it, is how I’m going to find my way through a dark part of my life.
So back to my garden. I’ve tried a few times to take pictures of this bird of paradise solar-powered, take-my-space back garden light, but I just couldn’t get it right. And I didn’t want to stay back there long enough to truly see what there was to see, so I’d mostly given up. I saw it had turned on every night when I returned through the garden after taking sunset pictures. But I just let it go.
That changed last night. Finally I was able to sit there long enough to find my way on the camera and to patiently wait for the pictures to reflect what I saw in that light.
I’ve been divorced for six months today, and today is the last interaction I’m legally obligated to have with my (now ex) husband. What an interesting coincidence that, in the same way I’m learning how to capture the light with my camera, even when it’s dark, I’m figuring out how to face forward so I can find the light in my life. It’s unique and it’s beautiful, and just like that bird in paradise solar-powered lamp, it’s all and completely my own.
~ cj 2013.10.08