Wednesday, November 14, 2018


This morning I noticed that our outdoor thermometer showed very little red. The temperature has been dropping recently, and it got cold last night: near 0F/-18C.

Although I'm still limiting my social media exposure, I do cross-post a photo to Facebook and Instagram, usually daily but sometimes not. Taking and sharing photos is partly an act of attention and partly an act of caring for my extended family. They enjoy seeing random day-in-the-life moments from this lovely place I live, which has meant so much to our family.* 

So: the thermometer. I considered taking a picture of it. I considered what I'd say: "Soon, this temperature will lose its shock value, but today? Yikes."

I didn't actually take the picture, though. I thought maybe something else interesting would turn up. The lake looked interesting, and I was up early enough to watch the light change.

So I started my morning social media/email check-in. Facebook showed me a memory from this date four years ago. The thermometer, at nearly the same temperature. Nearly word-for-word the "shock value" quote above. Predictable much?

Every year, I try to embrace winter as it appears. I really do enjoy winter. After I have mitts in all the jacket pockets, after I remember the rules for scarves (fleece go with coats that have velcro closings; zipper-closed coats are safe for knits), after I have zipped the warm lining into the shell, I'm happy to bundle up and get out in it.

However. I sometimes find transitions difficult. Well. Given that post from four years ago, apparently I always/usually/often find this particular transition difficult. So I'm right on schedule for this cycle. Which is reassuring, I suppose.

And as I continue thinking about attention--mine and the attention of others--I wonder what other cycles I'll find. One thing's for sure: it's time to re-acquaint myself with my sweaters.

* Or perhaps my family is just being nice. But it's still a lovely place and I still enjoy taking the photos.
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Paying Attention

Here are a couple of quotes from What Light Can Do, collected essays by American poet, translator, and critic Robert Hass (2012).

"One of the things I love about the essay as a form--both as a reader and a writer--is that it is an act of attention. An essay, like a photograph, is an inquiry, a search....There are a lot of different ways to write essays, a lot of different ways to say thing, so the pleasure and frustration of writing essays is that you are often discovering the object of inquiry and the shape of the search at the same time...."

And later: "The deepest response to a work of art is, in fact, another work of art."

I've been thinking a lot about attention. Times when giving attention to something grants it power. And other times, when something gains power through our inattention, when we deliberately ignore it or maintain ignorance about it.

For the past few months, the Thunder Bay Art Gallery has hosted a national touring exhibition of Uprising: The Power of Mother Earth, images by celebrated Métis artist Christi Belcourt with artist and storyteller Isaac Murdoch.

The exhibition is important for many reasons, and it's worth reading the museum's page about the exhibit (linked above) if you can't experience it first-hand.

The images are breathtaking. The number of images allows you, wandering through a space, to see how her work has changed. You can see where she has placed her attention and how she directs your attention. How backgrounds, even away from "the action" of a piece, can reward your attention. How she considers elements many times in different forms, saying something (or allowing you to see or hear something) different every time.

I've been thinking about the quotes and the exhibit in relation to attention. Specifically, where I put my attention.

Where do I direct my attention? Where should I?