My year of seeing ended today, and a year is long but not too long; a year is long enough.
Today I went to take my last picture of the trees and I suddenly felt perfectly okay about it being over, although it was tempting to look for something spectacular on the last day, something that provided an ending, that put a nice, neat, pretty little cap on the project: a bright blue sky, a lone white dove flying through the park like a small miracle, a presage of better things to come, or even just some guy and his dog, but there was nothing out of the ordinary today. It was a typically damp and foggy winter day and there were dirty pigeons on the dead leaves at the foot of my trees and that was all. Anyway, it would have defeated the purpose of the project to look for something that was not there in order to infuse some sort of meaning into what has always been just a series of pictures of some nettle trees.
Let’s remember that the purpose was to train myself to look at things and see them for what they are and not what I would like for them to be. So it was perfectly appropriate that there was nothing out of the ordinary on this particular day, that today was just another day and that my trees were simply standing there.
In the course of the project I may have discovered them to be nettle trees, not the prettiest tree to look at up close, but pleasing from a distance, and hiding underground such strong and mighty roots that hold them up no matter what the outside world brings on, and all those things might have appealed to me immeasurably, but the point of the project has always been and has remained, even after my discovery, the year of seeing, and the exercise was always to see things more clearly for what they are, without adding an interpretation or making them over as something more or different in my head, and in that, I think I have both succeeded and failed. I do see certain things differently, and even when it’s tempting to infuse them with some sort of meaning that may or may not be there, or pass judgment, I can usually force myself to simply see instead. It is not a point of arrival though, more a point of departure: like most things worth mastering, it requires ongoing, conscious effort.
That said, it is probably very obvious that I found the way the trees changed so dramatically with the seasons, while always remaining the same trees a very poetic allusion to the ways in which a person might change over time, while always remaining the same in her core. How else to so succinctly describe how we are, each of us, one, and also so much more than that?
The nettle trees did that for me. And that is how I failed in my little project. I was unable to just look at them and see them for what they are. I had to make them more than that. But I am glad to have failed in this respect, because those nettle trees helped me see something else without infusing too much meaning or passing too much judgment. By looking at the trees, I could see myself, and just see.