What to Look at Instead of the Sun

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Still — in a way — nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small — we haven’t time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.. So I said to myself — I’ll paint what I see — what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it — I will make even busy New-Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers”   –Georgia O’Keeffe

On Saturday I had the distinct pleasure that is having both solitude and an hour or so unassigned to any one particular task. Instead of plugging into a podcast or immediately reaching for my phone, I took to one of my favorite childhood pastimes– lying down on the swing and looking up at the sky.

It was blue. Large, clean white clouds stood still. If I could hit a mute button on nature, I would have thought it was a bright sunny day. But, un-muted, thunder was sounding from all around, and as I stared, it flashed– crisp, bright lightning against the blue.

I instinctively started counting– how many seconds until the thunder roared again?– another relic from childhood.

That flash of out-of-place lightning was, for lack of a better word, stunning. I was glad I had been watching when it arrived.

I haven’t bought solar eclipse glasses or kept my son home from school for the excused absence the parish is allowing for such a phenomenon.

So on the swing Saturday, I wondered, should I have procured those precious glasses? Should I, an artist, have prepared for this rare visual feat of the cosmos? But when that lightning flashed against the sky, I felt confident that the solar eclipse is one of many glorious sites to behold– that even on my porch swing in Covington, Louisiana, the big world reveals its majesty to me when I stop surfing, scanning, and just look at it without a screen between us.

All of this is to say, if you aren’t prepared to witness the eclipse later today, find something you can stare directly into– a flower still connected to the ground, landscapes reflected in still waters, spiders moving deftly across nearly invisible webs, the lines of your very own hand.

Look without instagramming. Without comment. With curiosity. With awe. Take your time.

Yesterday, I joked with a friend about my fear that when the eclipse arrives, I, like a fly to the zapper, won’t be able to control myself and, as though possessed, will raise my eyes toward it and suffer all the eye damage Facebook friends have passionately warned against. What is an artist without her vision?

So I won’t look directly at it. I’ll just look at the way the light fades and changes the things around me. And then, maybe, once it’s all said and done, I’ll carve out more time for focused watching from the safety of a sturdy swing.

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Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

August 21, 2017

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2 Responses

  1. I love this. It’s so worth unplugging and being reminded of the beauty we miss staring at screens.I’m glad I got to experience the eclipse with you in St Louis and.. I’m glad you looked 🙂

    1. Thank you, Gretchen!! For all my unpreparedness I was able to watch it, with glasses, in the path of totality! I may have been a little excited. Looking forward to chatting with you more about the live painting in the future.

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