Solace of Perfection, Beauty of Decay

Dragonskin - Bouquet
Dragonskin – Bouquet

Let’s just say that life has been a bit stressful lately with everything going on. Back in high school and college when life was understandably a bit like being high strung on a high wire, I would throw myself into poetry. I spent long hours playing with words and sounds, line breaks and juxtaposition. Now, since writing is kind of a career for me these days, I find that I need some other creative outlet that I can throw myself into head first without worrying about being good at it.

For the last couple months, it’s been nature photography. (Really, it’s been longer than that, more like years, but I’ve really ramped it up this autumn.) Until only a week or so ago, all I had was a dinky point-and-shoot camera with very few setting options. If you’re anything like me, here’s some advice about hobbies: having shitty equipment can help loosen the grip of perfectionism and challenge you to get creative.

Steampunk Leaf
Steampunk Leaf

This autumn, I’ve been obsessed with rot and decay. The forested park at the end of my street has been beckoning. When I’ve felt overwhelmed with bills and deadlines and looming to-do lists, I’ve slipped my dinky camera into my pocket and headed out into the woods. I’ve spent hours hunched over taking odd close-ups of half-disintegrated leaves and bent-and-broken twigs. People walking past with their dogs have slowed their pace, wondering if I’d spotted some rare creature among the detritus. Nope. Just the detritus itself.

Dragonskin - Molting
Dragonskin – Molting

It’s not like I can afford any fancy photo-editing software, either. Just the free version of GIMP. Which means another excuse to spend hours making painstaking adjustments for even the simplest bit of clean-up or mood effect that might take two minutes with Photoshop or Lightroom. I obsess over pixels the way I used to over iambs — in that utterly free way that doesn’t matter to anyone but me.

Antiqued Wildflower
Antiqued Wildflower

Now I have a new camera — a fancy Canon DSLR that I was able to get for myself as an early solstice present thanks to the prize money from 1000kalema. A whole new bunch of features and settings to master, new details to obsess over, new lenses to work with…. I’m hoping this step up in equipment will keep me busy at least through the end of my Saturn Return. You can probably expect the photographs about decay, death, time and eternity to keep on trickling in.

Pomegranate and Candle
Pomegranate and Candlelight

(If you want to watch the trickle in-real-time, I’m over on Flickr.)

Alison Leigh Lilly
Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.

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