Monday, September 22, 2008

Lost in Perception

I am not a visual artist, but I masquerade as one in drawing class.

I have always considered myself very observant (when I choose to be). I love the play of light through windows, leaves, and water. The cascading shadows that tuck themselves into corners fascinate me. I thrill at unexpected splashes of color on gray winter days. Fleeting expressions on the faces of friends are wonderful discoveries. I am surprised by the patterns that run through everything. And, I appreciate beauty across the vast planes, and around every street corner equally. I absorb what I see, and render my perceptions in words, not visual images.

But I have this class, so I am giving it a try.

Now, I am quite near-sighted, so I have always assumed that I miss a lot that others could see at a distance. Now, I am amazed to discover how much I overlook that is right in front of my face. Drawing still life cones and pitchers and apples with anything resembling real life requires eye muscles that I am not accustomed to exercising. I must stare, and stare, and stare, and sketch and stare again until slowly and ever so gradually what I see deconstructs into shape, light, shadow, value and texture.

Shadows have layers and light has shape. Form stretches into the formless, and surfaces have “value” I never realized. I have always understood that seeing requires more than looking, and that absorbing requires an act of attention, but I never grasped that seeing and then translating that sight into my own visual interpretation requires traveling to an intersection of perception, attention and understanding that is unfamiliar to me.

And, if my perception of a pitcher is flawed, what about my perception of the world? I observe, I think, I consider, I form opinions, I like, I support, I judge, I reconsider, I feel comfortable and uncomfortable, I reconcile, and then I begin again on the same subject, or something else altogether. But do I truly see? Clearly? Do I travel to that alien intersection of perception, attention and understanding, or do I take the superhighway to some vague rendering that is - oh – the “sufficient” view?

I take the superhighway.

Like everyone else, I am faced with a tidal wave of information each day, and I use whatever method works for me to select my important things. I pay attention, I try to grasp, I respond in a way I feel appropriately, and I move on to the next. But, now I wonder if I am seeing the completeness of the thing I am seeing. Do I recognize the complete form, light, shadow and value? Can I deconstruct and put it back together again? Have I taken enough time to do so? Or do I move on (too soon?) in complacency, boredom or self-defense?

This election season contains so much information and misinformation that I cannot hope to perceive it all fully, but now I wonder if I see its form at all. The wars, the economy, social ills, even 9/11 (thanks to the information provided by a friend) are complicated forms casting deep shadows, and a cursory glance will not deconstruct them. Gossamer opinions, promises and accusations fly between the candidates, and when the pundits get involved, credibility takes such a hit that what I think I see dissolves before my eyes. Factor in the fact that the current administration has misbehaved so badly that I routinely become irritated and turn away, and all becomes fog.

But, Fog is a dangerous thing. Fog obscures sight, and without sight, we are vulnerable. We are vulnerable to those who lie, deflect, hide, and pause for a day to see if we are still paying attention. We are vulnerable to those who steal, abuse, snatch for unrestrained power, and hope we are too blind, too stupid or too undisciplined to call them to a reckoning. We are vulnerable to those who tell us that what we see isn’t what we see, because anyone who seeks to obscure anything does not mean us well.

I need to open my eyes and stare. At everything. I need to look deeper, longer, more patiently and more often until my perception reveals the form. I need to see what’s here, and what’s coming. For my own good. It’s a hard thing, I see, but I’ll try to do better. We all must do better.

Hey. What do you see?


Anonymous said...

Fe, I want to be like you when I grow up. No joke, no lol. I really do. Your writing makes me gasp. Sindy

rebecca said...

what an excellent analogy, fe. reading this, i could not help but keep nodding and saying, "yes, yes, yes!" i think we all tend to live life in a bit of a haze because we cannot absorb all of the details that come at us daily (and some of us don't even want to, myself included). the internet has been both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because you have information at your fingertips, 24/7. yet, personally, i sometimes find this very thing overwhelming. so much out there! i find the more i read, the less i know and the more (at times, not always) i feel anxious that i will not live long enough to learn all that i want to learn. but who does, really? and, i think, that (for me, personally) this contributes to my "fogginess" of mind and awareness.

this post was excellent and one that i will certainly come to and read over again and again because it speaks of our nature and how much more in tune we should be in life. i know i am leaving work today with a different view after reading this - i will certainly be paying more attention to those shadows.

CoyoteFe said...

Gasp Sindy???
I await your next entry with bated breath!

CoyoteFe said...

Hallloooo Rebecca!
I love searching for information, but sometimes the net drags me so far down into the weeds that I hanker for a machete!

Dinnae fret. No one will learn everything they want to learn. Ever. That's what the next life is for. And, the next ...

Light and shadow. How does one choose a favorite? :-)

You say the kindest things!

Lori Skoog said...

Ms. Fe...Look at your comments. The world is finding out about you and your great skills as a writer. I read you first!!!!

CoyoteFe said...

Ha! The world is a very big place, Lori!
Thanks for the good thoughts!

Esther said...

Fe, I love it when you look at the little things in life. It makes life so much richer! Thanks for a beautiful post!

CoyoteFe said...

Thanks for visiting Esther. I'm glad your back home and happy!

San said...

I see a brilliant post, Fe. Wrought with reflection, shadow, and nuance. On many layers and with many facets.

Thank you for your eye-flexing observations.

CoyoteFe said...

San - Thank you! Now, if I could just learn to see what I am drawing!