Time Found

Time expanded for me one morning last week while waiting for a friend whose arrival time was uncertain. Having set aside time for our meeting, I pondered what to do until she arrived. This was the very first perfect winter’s day in Amherst, sunny, with fallen snow creating winter’s intense white brightness. The beauty outdoors inspired me to photograph the amaryllis that had just flowered in my living room. Grabbing the camera, I looked at the flowers, bold in their size and color, delicate in their detail. Each petal was a fiery red near its center, becoming white toward its tip. Slender red lines emerged from center to periphery, as if drawn on the petals. A similar red line etched the edge of each petal. These flowers were clearly a work of art, though their beauty would be very short-lived. The photos would provide a record.

How best to photograph them? Placing the plant against different backgrounds, I quickly realized it needed the simplest background—a wall. The differently colored walls and play of sunlight in the hallway and living room provided many options.

 I placed the plant on a table in front of a rich golden wall, taking pains to include only the plant in the composition, not the stone sculpture beside it. The stone sculpture was a dancing girl from Zimbabwe that I had lovingly carried back on the plane many years ago.

After several carefully-composed plant shots I noticed that the dancing girl was enthusiastically gesturing toward the plant. I had been trying to keep her out of the photo when, in fact, her grace and beauty were part of the scene. Unlike the ephemeral flowers, her stone beauty could last many years. I photographed them together.

 After almost an hour I realized that my friend had not appeared, that we would not meet that day. But the stillness of the time I allowed for her arrival created a doorway into spaciousness. Entering it, I was able to focus with clarity on the exquisite beauty of the amaryllis and then, noticing the dancer, to take the larger view. Fully engaged in seeing, appreciating and photographing, I had the delicious sensation of floating, almost magically, through a space in which time was suspended. There was as much time as I needed, without my knowing, or needing to know, how much.

In yoga we learn about the madhya, a Sanskrit word that means gap, pause, the place of stillness between two movements. It is the time between the ending of one activity and the beginning of another, time that can be as brief as the still moment between breathing in and breathing out. Yet, if we notice it, it provides a doorway into an inner spaciousness, a place where there is always enough time. The photos I took that morning to remember the soon-vanishing beauty of the amaryllis now remind me also of the madhya, the always-available gateway to time and space.

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6 Responses to Time Found

  1. jean zimmer says:

    Beautiful work, Karen. You decidedly don’t need an editor! I’ll carry the image of the amaryllis with me today.

    Kind regards,
    Jean

    • Karen says:

      Thank you, Jean. I take that as a great compliment, given that you are such a gifted editor. I think, though, that we–those of us who write–can all use editors to help us delve more deeply into our writing and see it from different perspectives. Similarly, those of us who practice yoga often find that our teachers help us delve more deeply into our lives and see it from different perspectives.

      Namaste,

      Karen

  2. Pamela says:

    I’m so glad you took the time to photograph and post this, Karen. I saw this confection as I was coming and going at your yoga studio, and it was the most generous, fleshy, elegant, flirtatious, and fully present amaryllis in the world. The play of rich coral, pink and white, of stripes, spots and swirls, of buds, tentative openings, and gorgeous splash was spellbinding. I hope it lives online forever!

    Warmly,
    Pamela

  3. Karen says:

    What a great description, Pamela!
    Strangely, the amaryllis story doesn’t end with these photographs.Two mornings later, I was stunned to find the plant on the floor, stems broken. There were no clues as to how it fell. Perhaps the weight of the flowers created the imbalance. I cut back the stems and put the usable flowers in a vase, then put the plant–just bulb and a few leaves–in a room I don’t frequent. I didn’t want to be reminded of how very evanescent its beauty was, of what had been lost prematurely. Ten days ago I glanced at the plant I had studiously ignored. The bulb had sprouted another stem with a bloom that seems now about to open!
    Karen

  4. lovely. this is a much-needed reading for a moment or two I happen to have between one cleaning task and a meal. I have been concentrating more and more on these in-between moments lately and indeed have found them expanding…I now have a name/concept to put with that wonderful feeling. Thank you! And the flowers are lovely.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks, Lisa. The concept of the madhya is very powerful. It really can change our experience of being busy, of time and of how much we have. I’m so pleased you have begun to experience it, and that you asked the question on Facebook that led here.

      Karen

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