Walking through the Old Port section of Portland this week, I recalled a photograph I had taken two summers back. It was an image I had been proud of capturing -- the balance, the morning light, the peaceful surface of the water. A picture like that explains why I used to sit there some mornings when I was visiting friends in the area. I would sip my coffee from nearby Standard Bakery and indulge in slow reverie, tasting a mood reminiscent of retreats I have made in years past.
Want to see a contrast?
Not a Chamber of Commerce shot, is it? Not an image around which to create a visitor campaign with an eye to local development and tourist dollars. But when does the way we spend our days in real life have to do that?
On the other hand, the picture actually fits the mood of some retreats. Some of us manage to take time out during the winter months and choose to stand under grey skies and feel cold winds off the water. With nothing merely picturesque to distract us, we get closer to feeling what our lives are like -- or what they could be. We yearn for lives that do not close down when the circumstances in which we lead them touch on grief and loss and economic uncertainty.
Briefly freed from the routines of holiday hospitality, I gave my eyes permission to see things that no tour guide would point out. I discovered myself across the street from a building that looks to have been at one time a confident addition to a busy portside neighborhood. The five windows on its second storey surprised me and encouraged me to keep my eyes open for architecture that may have had something to say in years past.
I kept my eyes open that day and I recorded what I saw. Time visiting with friends sometimes feels like it has to be filled up with outings and amusements. I ventured to presume on the better instincts of friendship and earlier today in a gesture of holiday sharing showed these pictures within an early draft of the post. I even asked to hear the first paragraph read aloud.
Gifts look so many different ways. I liked the way they looked this morning.