I’ve got a stream in my backyard. One month every year, it turns into a river. Snow, freshly melted, descends from the Sangre de Cristo mountains, and snakes along the border of my property.
It’s as nice as it sounds.
But life being what it is, sometimes weeks go by, and I never even see it. Wake up. Drink tea. Feed the kids. Get the lunches packed. Take my son to school. Do work for my 7 jobs. Go to the gym.
You get the point.
Two weeks ago, I had a mini-epiphany. How many people in the world would love to have a gorgeous mountain stream in their backyard? (Obvious answer: Billions.)
And how many of those Billions would go weeks without sitting at their private Zen paradise?
Likely answer: not that many.
So I made myself a promise that I’d endeavor to sit by that stream once a day, listening to the gurgle of water running around rock, watching the light glint from odd angles, feeling the shadow of ravens as they glide overhead.
I’ve mostly kept the promise, aside from a day when I left before the sun was up, and came home after dark. (I thought of going out with my Iphone as a flashlight, but I don’t think the bears have hibernated yet.)
What can I report? Well, my stress level has gone down, for sure. And my appreciation for life’s brevity is at an all-time high. On Sunday, one of our “adopted” red-tailed hawks screeched not 15 feet above my head, while the sun’s rays warmed my cheeks, and all was right with the world.
It may sound trite to you, but appreciation is a highly-undervalued state of mind. It allows us to find peace with our lot in life, and focus on the small moments that ground us in the present. (Granted, if I were living in Syria right now, I might not preach inner peace so blithely. But I’m in Taos. Thank God.)
Sometimes, a good photo book can offer the same sensation. It reminds a jaded psyche that no matter how many donuts you make, and how much you might hate the taste of sugary-glaze, there is still joy to be found in child-like wonder and curiosity.
Will I get hurt if I jump off that swing when it’s at its apex. (Shout out to Joanna Hurley for schooling me in the proper use of it’s vs its, early in my writing career.) Will I burn the house down if I point a magnifying glass at those dry blades of grass just off the porch. (Never did it.) If I tied 5000 helium balloons to my house, like that Old Dude in “Up,” would it lift off its moorings and head towards the great beyond?
These are the types of questions you’re forced to ask when you look at “The Life of Small Things,” a new book by Adam Ekberg, recently published by Waltz Books in Indiana. (Yes, Indiana.) There is a forward here by Darius Himes that forced me to write a good column this week, because I didn’t want to look outclassed to those of you who subsequently buy the book.
(Short version: Dude can write. If he ever gives up his gig at Christie’s, I may well be out of a job.)
The pictures in this book do speak for themselves, so I’m loathe to describe too many. They are cool, funny, and clever. Warm and cool is a difficult mix, but he pulls it off with aplomb. Balloons repeat, as do disco balls. Items that symbolize fun and leisure. (Birthday parties and Studio 54)
A goldfish in a bag, plopped upon a field, shows up two photos before a splash in a sea. I like that they’re connected, but not sequentially, as many would do. Flashlights abound, reminding us of sleep-overs and camp-outs gone by.
Milk jugs are punctured multiple times, conjuring not just the obvious spilled milk, but the act of “peeing,” which gets a laugh out of my kids every time. (Say pee or poop to an adult and you get nothing. Try it with a 3 year old, and you’re guaranteed a giggle.)
Explosions, fires, soap bubbles, and a lit-up vacuum cleaner lonely in the snow-covered gloaming.
Yes, this book fits the bill for my “preference for edgy pictures,” which makes it the right book to discuss in my first book review in a month. But don’t fret. This one is not just for the hipsters.
Everyone still has a kid somewhere inside. You just need to know where to look.
Bottom Line: Fantastic book of innovative, witty constructions