Yesterday afternoon a fog took over. I had been too busy to notice when it started, but it just kept creeping closer and closer to the house. This view looks out toward the mountains.
The air was palpably wet but not actually precipitating. Night was beginning to fall. Was much happening here? Many would say: Not a thing! Do you see mountains? Neither do I. Is this anything except a photo of the woods on a dreary winter day?
Looking at the cottage with fog in the forest behind it had a somewhat lesser sense of the world encased in a temporary, foggy hold where nothing is happening. The cottage itself gives at least a focal point, a bit of eye candy, as they say (for someone who is intrigued with home design anyway!).
Most of the time when I look at a scene involving nature, I am astounded by the colors, the complexities, the design, the way the ever-evolving world appears at this very moment. The fog yesterday made me think of the ways that the world – the one we live in, function within and find ourselves every day immersed in – speaks to us visually.
It is the goal of media to get our attention. If you partially close your eyes while watching most any show (eyes closed enough so that you can’t see detail), you still see that the camera angle changing frequently and the images randomly alternating (just as frequently) in degrees of brightness. You are hardly allowed a few seconds to become adjusted to one scene before another pops onto the screen. This is not accidental. Look here! You know this is the most interesting thing happening right now! Nothing else (in the room in which you sit or anywhere else) is more important! Some new stimulation wants your momentary devotion.
In everyday scenes involving people, while we sit in traffic or navigate the challenges of the home or workplace, our senses are bombarded with the colors and styles of the clothes people wear and the vehicles they drive, the technical and mechanical gadgets that continually try to outdo the one that came before (even if before was yesterday), and the personal antics, showiness, bossiness, and buzz of humans wanting to be noticed, jockeying for status, dominance, and favor. Your eyes don’t get much rest.
Nature is a bit more subtle about it. A photo can look like a still life, but in real time even a tranquil scene of fog enveloping the woods will soon include a scampering squirrel, a flitting bird, a falling leaf. The photo may look static, but there is activity aplenty within the scene.
All of which is to say that we get so caught up with what’s in front of our eyes, we miss what’s not.
What, besides the presently invisible mountains, am I not seeing in these photos? What fox is lurking? What birds are looking for nesting material? What branch needs only a strong wind to snap it from the trunk? Every fallen log is in some stage of decomposition. Animals of every kind are looking for food, protecting their homes, doing their best to stay hidden while they get their own needed rest.
When the scenes around us include people, we routinely don’t see so much. To name a few, we don’t see the effort some people are making just to appear “normal,” the misdeeds others are desperately covering up, the heartache of recent news, the fears that accompany decisions, the competitive spirit masquerading as teamwork, the fatigue that’s making it hard to focus, or the careful maneuvering of circumstances (benevolent or malign) to accommodate a singular need.
We are so busy, so occupied, so full up (!) seeing what we see that we forget there are invisible pieces to this puzzle, pieces kept invisible on purpose or not, pieces just as pertinent to the big picture but much harder to detect. And because they are competing with the bombardment of what we do see, because they remain invisible, they are often not considered. What we don’t see can be more important than what we do see. It may never actually surface but might often more directly affect the outcome.
I don’t suggest we can ever have all the pieces that would construct a complete image. For all the bright colors and sharp images playing out in front of us, we still see dimly. Anyone trying to solve a crime, figure out why an engine won’t run or attempting to fix a broken relationship suspects or knows they are missing something vital. What we have at hand to work with, at any given time, is only marginally above scanty. We can never see it all. Even under the best of circumstances, it’s a stretch to think we are ever, truly, fully informed.
That’s okay. That’s as it is, as it must be, as it will always be. But don’t forget that there’s more to the picture than what you see. And don’t think that everything you don’t see is bad. For every person who’s conniving, another is making a grand effort to be positive. For every snide look, there is one (let us hope more) of tenderness. For everyone who’s posturing for kudos, another is quietly and lovingly serving a fellow human.
You know who you are – doing good every day in your own way, wondering if it will amount to anything, hoping the situation will turn around, wanting so much for this person you care so much about to heal, to accept, to grow. You may think that what you are doing is invisible, and maybe it is to the world at large, but goodness makes its mark just the same, never doubt it. Kindness, caring and good cheer are never for naught.
Today I want you to know that I know you are there, doing your seemingly invisible good. You, bringing a quiche to a friend whose father just died. You, going to hospice house to sit with a lonely someone for a few moments. You, visiting one you love who doesn’t know your name any more. You, warmly welcoming others on a regular basis. You, sweeping up so someone else doesn’t have to. You, including someone who is often excluded.
Bless you, and all like you, who make the world a better place.
8 thoughts on “What We Don’t See”
This was so wonderful, Patricia. Thank you for writing. It made me think more about our lives!
Thank you, Nancy. Every now and then we do need to think more about our lives. An honest assessment often brings about some good that wasn’t there before.
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Very intelligently written! And wisely as well… Have you read “It Sifts from Leaden Sieves” by Emily Dickinson? I will paste it:
It sifts from Leaden Sieves –
It powders all the Wood.
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the Road –
It makes an even Face
Of Mountain, and of Plain –
Unbroken Forehead from the East
Unto the East again –
It reaches to the Fence –
It wraps it Rail by Rail
Till it is lost in Fleeces –
It deals Celestial Vail
To Stump, and Stack – and Stem –
A Summer’s empty Room –
Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,
Recordless, but for them –
It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
As Ankles of a Queen –
Then stills it’s Artisans – like Ghosts –
Denying they have been –
It’s about snow, but similarly to your fog, it conceals a larger truth.
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You have blessed my day with your kindness in sharing this poem, Rob. No, I was not familiar with it. Alabaster wool filling the wrinkles of the road– what an amazing and beautiful expression of snow! And yes, its ability to conceal the larger truth is so like fog, and both parallel the blanket that is figuratively thrown over much of what we otherwise might see in our everyday lives. Thank you so much.
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It was nothing. You’re welcome! Glad you liked. 😀
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Wonderful post. It is true that so much goes on behind the scenes. Our minds are, indeed, filters, focusing only on what’s important to us — what we decide deserves our attention — so we don’t go crazy. In this picture, I see sanctuary enveloped in the warm embrace of Mother Nature. Go figure, huh? Mona
You are right, Mona, the filter serves to keep us from being overwhelmed (though I sometimes feel that way anyway!). I love how you see the image of sanctuary wrapped and embraced — that’s lovely. Thank you 🙂
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