How To See With Your Soul (Photos by Lydia Lee, 10)

May 7, 2012 | 55 comments

I stood still, with my back against the barn, and my hands clasped in a knot behind my back so I wouldn’t interfere.

She had my camera in her hands, a big Nikon that covered her whole face like a mask. A cool spring breeze waltzed in her hair, and she knelt down to photograph single blades of grass.

And peeling paint.

And an old drill.

And a weed.

I stayed back, witnessing the way a child saw with her soul. I watched how she tilted the camera, knelt lower and reframed messes into magnificence. It stirred something new in me, like a hidden room in my heart had been unsealed.

The next best thing to capturing beauty yourself is this: Watching someone you love discover it for herself. And then again, maybe it’s not the next best thing. It might be The thing.

She held the silver button halfway down to focus on a rusty hinge then — click — beauty snagged.

She asked me for a turn with the Nikon earlier that day, while I stood on a wooden chair to get a photo of a bird perched outside the kitchen window. She asked if she could borrow the camera after church.

So after Sunday dinner, we went for a walk — one girl’s quest to uncover our photogenic world, and maybe a bit of herself.

She has watched me for years, sprawled out on grass, standing on countertops, dlimming lights, adjusting settings on a fancy camera that is too smart for its 40-year-old owner.

Years ago, someone teased me that if I’m always looking through the camera, I’ll miss the bigger picture. I’ll only see what’s happening through the lens, while most of the world passes by. I just smiled, and kept on snapping. For I’ve learned this:  I have only seen anything when I’ve stood still long enough to really see any-thing.

Here on a neighbor’s lawn, my daughter spread out on the grass to take a picture of a dandelion. She said she liked “the textures.” She found a muddy wheel, an old stump, a bucket of nuts and bolts, and a reflection of herself in an old mirror, leaning against a shed.

She pointed at an old door knob, an epiphany: “See Mom? Look at this. People don’t pay attention to stuff like this. And think how important a doorknob is, Mom. You could never open a door without one.”

She snapped her 152nd frame — of an old doorknob on a May afternoon, right here on a farm in Iowa.

She let the camera fall to her chest, and pointed again: “Look at how pretty that is, Mom.  Do you see that?”

And sure, I looked. Not at the door, but at the adamant girl, stubborn after beauty. And yes, I saw how beautiful that was, not the doorknob, but the child walking through a doorway, straight into a new way of seeing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photos by Lydia Lee. Used with permission. She hopes to enter some of these as 4-H projects in the county fair in July.

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by | May 7, 2012 | 55 comments

55 Comments

  1. elizabeth

    Oh, how sweetly beautiful. Tell her yes, just Y-E-S you go sweet girl already using the gifts and talents God has so sweetly placed in your lap and on your precious heart. And thanks for sharing these, I am in awe, but then I always am at the beauty right smack down at the end of our noses. Blessings today in the beauty. And tell her thanks for giving permission to share… she has touched another soul with her art.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Honestly, Elizabeth, as Lydia was taking some of the photographs, I wondered what in the world she was seeing, especially when she was in the grass. I got such a kick out of watching here, that I had a heard time seeing anything else. I think my view was pretty good — box-seats to God’s glory. 🙂

      Reply
  2. r.ellott

    oh my…I just love this…”The next best thing to capturing beauty yourself is this: Watching someone you love discover it for herself. And then again, maybe it’s not the next best thing. It might be The thing.”… and I have seen so much more beauty as I started looking through a camera lens…you have given your daughter a gift in the best way…a gift that is absorbed into their skin as they soak in being close…not those forced upon them… just beautiful…blessings to you.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      It was so fun to see this spark come alive in her. A guy from town stopped by and gave her some tips, which was really fun. He said to look for shadows, and patterns, and textures, and that’s what she went after.

      Reply
  3. Lyla Lindquist

    Hey Lydia, nice work here. Really nice.

    I have a shot of a door knob, similar to that one, from my husband’s grandfather’s homestead, now about to collapse. We went out to the old shambles last Father’s Day, and my husband was so taken by the doorknob into the kitchen — how his dad would have had a muddy hand on that knob so many times as a little boy, and what stories that knob could tell. I wondered the same about yours.

    Make sure your mom lets you take that camera out again sometime. 🙂

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hey Lyla … I am eager to show Lydia these comments after school today. Maybe she’ll get to respond here, too. I like the idea of having her think about the story behind the object. This deepens the beauty even more. Great tip! 🙂

      Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      We have a door with a knob that looks just like that. The door is up in the rafters of the garage, and my husband stores stuff on top of it. But I’ve thought of bringing it into the house. Been wondering about that knob, too.

      Reply
  4. amy

    Your daughter sees such beauty. Where does she learn to see beauty? From the one who came before her and doesn’t trample her efforts to see her own version of what is beautiful.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Amy, Thank you for your kind and affirming words. I literally had to lock my fingers behind me. I know how I “get,” wanting to demonstrate, rather than letting her experiment on her own. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

    You tell that beautiful daughter of yours that I know her heart and how she sees and I’m rejoicing with you as you watch her move out in her gifts.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Patricia, She’ll be thrilled to read your comment. Especially after I take her over to your blog, to see the kind of beauty you find through that camera of yours! Wishing you could come to Iowa to give us some lessons.

      Reply
  6. Megan Willome

    Please tell Lydia her photo are better than anything your friend Megan can do.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      You’re sweet, Megan. I’ll let Lydia read the comments tonight, and she’ll be so pleased. 🙂

      Reply
  7. David Rupert

    You have your own blog staff photographer? Amazing!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Yes, and she works for free! 😉

      Reply
  8. Gramma T

    Lydia Lydia how I love the pictures. And what a perfect one of our sweet little Ella and the bunny. She so loves having her picture taken and I know how she especially loves that girl behind the lens.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hey Gramma T — Yes, your Ella makes a mighty fine model. Lydia said, “That one is a blue-ribbon winner!” 🙂

      Reply
  9. Beth

    You have quite the budding photographer on your hands, Jennifer! I especially like the one of the dandelion too–the “texture” as she said, and I think, the crispness of the photo, are truly amazing! Thanks for sharing your sweet mother’s heart as well. Great post! 🙂

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Beth,

      Thank you for your encouragement. I had so hoped to let Lydia read these comments tonight, but we didn’t get a chance. She’ll be beaming when she reads them tomorrow. I was surprised by the dandelion photo in particular. I wondered what in the world she was seeing down there, with her belly to the ground. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Christine

    Bless you for trusting her with an expensive camera, thus giving her the opportunity. Your trust will bless. Great job, Lydia and her sweet mommy.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank goodness the camera has a sturdy strap that goes around the neck. 🙂 Thank you, Christine, for your kind words. Lydia thanks you as well.

      Reply
  11. Dolly

    Oh my, Lydia, you are talented…thanks for sharing and thank you to your wonderful mom for giving you the gift of being you and exploring and looking…so wonderful!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Dolly,

      Lydia and I both thank you for your sweet words and encouragement!

      Reply
  12. Betty Draper

    Jennifer…came for a visit, walked out with a warm heart…beautiful. I so agree it’s more fulfilling to see those we love grasp beauty, understanding, more about the creator. I will be back for another visit.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Betty … Oh, you make me smile. And you left a little of that warmth behind, with your sweet words. Thank you!

      Reply
  13. Joe Pote

    “yes, I saw how beautiful that was, not the doorknob, but the child walking through a doorway, straight into a new way of seeing”

    Beautiful! Not the words…but the heart of the woman who penned the words…the woman seeing the beauty of her daughter learning to see beauty…

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Joe! It’s a beautiful thing, watching your child seek wonder.

      Reply
  14. Kim

    As a former 4-H photography leader and mom, I LOVE that she’s getting started so early with her efforts for the fair! It looks like she already has some contenders. Sounds like you both had a fun afternoon, full of beauty and memories and new revelations. Priceless!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Kim! I had hoped to show Lydia the comments tonight, but we didn’t get a chance. I did, however, get a chance to tell her about your comment in particular, and she was beaming! 🙂

      Reply
  15. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    There is nothing that says “I believe in you” like that folding of the hands, letting her experiment.

    And just look at what she did!

    Just amazing.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Sheila … I know how I can “get.” So I figured I’d better lock those fingers tight. 🙂

      Reply
  16. Simply Darlene

    lovely
    a girl after
    my very own heart

    my fav is the one with the syrup jar ladies–even though the way that 2nd glass gal is looking at me makes me a little uneasy 😉

    blessings.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Darlene … Yes, it is a little spooky. Though I think she picked just the right one to focus on. She had such fun with focus and depth of field.

      Reply
  17. Kristin

    Oh, she is definately a photographer in the making…she has the “eye” 🙂 My husband is a photographer and I hear this all the time. I love her pictures!
    So glad I found you through Jen F. blog. Nice to meet you 😉

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Nice to have you here, Kristin! Isn’t Jen F. a sweetheart? Glad we can make a connection through her. … And thank you for the kind comments about Lydia’s photos. She’ll be so pleased.

      Reply
    • dukeslee

      Hi Jessica! Lydia and I thank you. Glad you’ve stopped by.

      Reply
  18. Rebecca

    Breathtaking photos Lydia! You’re quite on your way to being a very talented photographer. I hope you hang on to that wonder, that sense of seeing beauty and value in every little thing. Thank you for letting your Mom share your photos with us. Can’t wait to see your next installment! 🙂

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      A sense of wonder is a gift, isn’t it, Rebecca? I think children do a really good job of helping their parents regain a sense of it.

      Reply
  19. Monica Sharman

    Long ago I read a parenting tip to do just that: give the child a camera and a roll of film to use all for himself. Neat, huh?

    I’m hungry for whatever’s in those jars. 😉

    She has a great eye, that girl.

    Reply
    • Jennifer@GDWJ

      Monica,

      What exactly is a “roll of film?”

      (Just kidding. I did actually do darkroom work back in my early journalism days. I was horrible at it.)

      Reply
  20. laura

    This just makes my heart happy. Lydia? You have an eye for beauty, sweet girl. I think you learned from the best.

    Reply
  21. Diana Trautwein

    I’m with Laura – happy heart here. Lydia, you definitely have the ‘eye’ of a photographer and the determination to learn the craft. That will take you a long way. When I bought my Canon 20D, I gave our old AE1 to my grandson. He was 13. Within a few weeks, he was literally running circles around me. He is now 21 years old and a junior at Chapman University’s Dodge School of Film, hoping to become a cinematographer. You have a head start on him, girl – you’re just 10. Imagine what that camera will show you over the next dozen years or so. Oh, my. And imagine what you will show us about beauty, texture, shadows and wonder. GREAT JOB. (You, too, Mom. You, too.)

    Reply
  22. Sandra Heska King

    This just makes my heart sing. Lydia, I can tell you’ve got your mom’s heart and her cross eyes. And I hear you talking like her–you’ve been paying attention. Keep your eyes open, girlfriend. Keep looking for those wonders. I can’t decide which picture I like best, but it might be that reflection of you. 🙂

    Reply
  23. Barbara

    thank you so much, Lydia!

    Reply
  24. Molly

    Yes!
    I love that…”And think how important a doorknob is, Mom. You could never open a door without one.”
    Love, love, love, made me smile with sound!
    Go “mom”. watch the flower unfold.

    Reply
  25. Jessi

    Beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
  26. Deborah

    aaaw, everyone has already said all the things I wanted to say! I’ll just add – I love the dandelion too. God is in everything, isn’t He? X

    Reply
  27. michelle derusha

    Lydia! You have a gift, an incredible eye (like your mama, I might add). Seriously, girl, those Mrs. Butterworth ladies are wonderful…and that swirl on the wood – love the depth and perception.

    As for you, mama dear, I totally agree — taking pictures helps me glimpse God right up close. I try to get out in my backyard at least once a week so I can remind myself of how close He really is.

    Reply
  28. Alicia

    Oh, my, I LOVE the thought of your daughter exploring the world through a careful eye. Slowing, savoring, celebrating. And you there to soak it all in. Beautiful! As always, your writing makes me feel like I’m hanging out on your farm. Next time I may just bring my own hay bale 🙂 (My kids don’t believe those are for sitting.. just for jumping on!) Blessings to you and that sweet little girl of yours.

    Reply
  29. Sylvia R

    You have so many comments here, but I just have to add one more. You caught me right from the start with “and my hands clasped in a knot behind my back so I wouldn’t interfere.” Yes, I know about that! And the big wonder of small hands on a camera and a small one’s eyes finding amazing things for all of us to see. I think my granddaughter’s going to be like that. When she got hold of my camera (at 4 yrs old) and explored just her living room, she got some pretty cool captures, too. I saved them and thought I’d add a couple to my blog sometime. I’m so glad you shared yours! What beauty, and delight! Thanks.
    PS This also shows how examples are “caught.”

    Reply
  30. Lydia Lee

    This is Lydia.

    Thank you everybody for your nice comments!!!!
    [:

    Reply
  31. Charity Singleton

    Oh Jennifer, to see your daughter engage like this, to slow down and really see so young. She has a lifetime of seeing things ahead of her. So precious.

    Reply
  32. Ann Kroeker

    Lydia, I see your little comment here, and I want to add my voice to the mix. You have an artist’s eye! I’m so impressed (and a little jealous 😉 ) Keep making your art. Snap a thousand photos, ten thousand (with your mom’s permission, of course) and keep SEEING.

    Reply
  33. Herman Coetzee

    Such a beautiful story. Finding beauty is a gift of the soul, the Higher Self. Delightfully brilliant, the two of you are. Exillirating talent. Wonderful to be in the moment, transcending self.

    Reply

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