Monday, October 19, 2015

Finding Perfection in the Present Moment

One day last week while I was sitting in my studio journaling, drinking tea and having a snack I realized that I was in a perfect moment. I was fully present and everything was beautiful.

The sun was streaming in the windows. The paint I'd just mixed was jewel-bright on my palette. The fresh cheese curds squeaked as I chewed them. My tea was that elusive temperature between too hot and too cold. The day hadn't been perfect, but for that moment everything was perfect. I felt content. Hopeful. Joyful.

I quickly filled up a page in my Joy Journal, observing and capturing those bits of beauty. Then I grabbed my camera, shooting about a dozen photos. I expected them to be dazzling. Amazing. Profound. As perfect as that moment.

They weren't. The composition wasn't good. There was far too much contrast thanks to the bright sunshine. Even with editing they weren't usable. Maybe if I had staged and styled the photos they could have been ok. But that was not the point.

studio, watercolor, journaling, tea, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I'm sharing my imperfect photo of a perfect moment because in it I see a larger meaning.

A perfectly styled photo isn't the same as a perfect moment. A perfectly styled photo might look beautiful, might even evoke emotion and convey the sense of a perfect moment, but it is an illusion.

True perfection, beauty, joy, has nothing to do with how something looks from the outside. The best moments aren't picture perfect. The best moments are those in which you are fully present. Life isn't a perfectly styled photo. Nature can wow us with beauty. And yes, sometimes that beauty is pretty close to perfect. But life? It is never without its flaws.

That doesn't mean it isn't beautiful. It all comes down to perspective. It always does.

Take, for example, all the spent flowers in my garden right now, especially the dried up echinacea and rudbeckia flowers. I always leave them for the birds, just as I do the sunflower skeletons. Some might say they're ugly, cut them down and neaten up their sleepy gardens. I don't.

Lately when I look at them, all I see is beauty.

Last month I couldn't resist painting sunflower seed heads (here and here). These other skeletons have been calling to me, too.

Where others might see ugliness, I see grace. They're dead and twisted. Crunchy. Not the sort of dried flowers you'd make arrangements from. And yet...

painting, watercolor, autumn, rudbeckia flowers, neutrals, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I could have been sitting in that perfect moment in my studio tallying up all the negatives, the annoyances, the fears, the worries. Those things are always present. Just as the joys are. But I didn't. I chose to see the joys.

I don't always win at that struggle, but sometimes I do. Sometimes I'm present in a perfect moment. Fully, truly present. And it is beautiful, in spite of everything else.

What about you? Do you struggle with this, too? How do you stay in the moment? How do you focus on joy?

16 comments:

  1. I do find it hard to focus on joy sometimes but I am getting better! I focus on joy by listening to some uplifting music or preparing something nice to eat. I hope you experience many more perfect times in the present moment! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, listening to good music and cooking something special are some of my favorite things to do, too. Hope you're finding lots of joy this week, Simone!

      Delete
  2. Anne, I think we've both been thinking along the same lines. I just wrote "Counting Life by Heart-throbs" today at A Joyful Cottage. At the end I mentioned today's post here at your blog and suggested my readers check it out. Hugs, Nancy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for mentioning me in your post (which was very thoughtful and thought-provoking itself!), Nancy. In this digital age it's sometimes hard to slow down. Blogging and connecting with other bloggers is a good way to take the time to focus on the moments and slow things down a bit.

      Hugs to you. Have a joyful, slow week!

      Delete
  3. I am trying to stay in the moment, be present. It's a lifelong struggle for me...but at least I'm aware! That's half the battle! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right! Being aware is the most important part.

      Thanks for stopping by, Kim!

      Have a lovely week!

      Delete
  4. This has happened to me sooo many times--trying to capture that "perfect moment" with my camera and it flops, big time. My husband is always saying to me, "this is one just to remember" and I'm trying to be better about that. Enjoying it...and then letting go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. For that reason I often don't take my camera with me when I'm going places. Makes me focus on remembering, not photographing. Glad I'm not the only one!

      Delete
  5. Hi Anne! I am visiting here from Nancy's blog, and I knew it would be a treasured read with her endorsement. I completely felt, and understood what you were saying, and in so many ways, live it out every day. Joy comes, not because things are perfect, but it happens in the simple moments of life that are usually (like you said) not really photo-worthy, lol! I have struggled too, to snap a picture of a perfect moment, only to find the picture imperfect, but the memory beautiful. And its okay! Enjoyed your post very much... and yeah for you to let the birds enjoy your garden. My chickens are "tearing" up the remainder of my garden for me, its quite a mess, but they're happy, so I won't complain, lol! Glad to have met you, and may you continue to have special moments of perfect joy that may or may not be photo-worthy :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed my post.

      You're so right about joy coming in the simple moments. And I think that's why it's so easy to miss.

      Glad your chickens are enjoying your garden. Someday I'd like to have some chickens of my own and let them enjoy my garden, too.

      Hope you have a lovely, joy-filled week.

      Delete
  6. It can be hard sometimes. I write this as my kids are home from school and the house is loud and messy. I'm still in my pj's at 11 a.m. but we spent the morning making scarecrows for a school project and will pick pumpkins this afternoon so it's all o.k. I have dead zinnias, hydrangeas, and mums out front but I think they fit in with the Halloween mood. Lol. Thanks for the lovely post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Dana.

      Sounds like a fun day! PJs, pumpkins, scarecrows.

      I like the look of the finished garden, even if it means no more flowers (outside at least). And you're right, they'll make good Halloween decorations. :)

      Enjoy the rest of your week!

      Delete
  7. This is such a beautiful post and I am glad to have clicked my way over from A Joyful Cottage.
    Sometimes, when life is over full - when everything is huge and immediate - it is good to draw in, focus on the things within arm's reach and find what beauty there is right here, right now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, thanks so much, Pondside. So nice to have you stopping by.

      This is beautifully put. The only way we can find beauty is in the here and now, within arm's reach. You're so right.

      Have a lovely rest of your week!

      Delete
  8. Very well said, Anne! It can be hard in life's rush and bustle to enjoy the moment fully but I find its the small moments of joy that stick in my head to comfort me when skies are grey. The kitties lying in a pool of sunshine, the flowers that hang on deep into fall, the sky after a storm - noticing these things makes me happy in a very deep way. I hope you find plenty of joyful moments today :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sharon. This is something I struggle with constantly. I need to keep reminding myself to be in the moment and to notice all those little beauties and joys.

      Your little list is lovely, and just the sort of thing I'm talking about.

      Hope you are finding joyful moments, too!

      Delete