I’ve been resisting the foul weather.

By doing so, I’ve put myself squarely in the middle of the wrestling match with “what is.” I dig myself into a bigger hole of misery while petulantly insisting that only warm sunny days are acceptable. How long have I fallen prey to this kind of resistance to the yin and yang of life? Way too long.

I confess that I’ve been complaining (mostly in an internal dialog with myself—at least I’m not asking other people to join me in my temper tantrum) ever since this last stretch of rain and cold has lasted a solid two weeks. Geez, I’m ready for spring. I deserve cheery days with the sun on my skin and birds happily singing, don’t I?

Steer Into the Storm, ItalyWise

© Jed Smith

Once again, my photography leads me to some “aha” moments.

There I was, confined to my studio with the rain bearing down on the skylight, the storm growling its presence with intermittent thunder. So, I decided to do a search of my photo database to see if anything might jump out at me as I contemplated this week’s post. Within ten minutes I landed on some stormy day images I took during one of my frequent trips to Burano, a colorful island that is about 30 minutes by vaporetto from Venice. Fortunately, on that particular day, the weather had thinned the crowds dramatically, leaving me the opportunity to get to work (while wedging an umbrella under my arm to protect my equipment) and capture the day without competing with throngs of tourists.

Once I got past the inconvenience of the elements—once I told myself to go ahead, to steer into the storm, I found beauty.

This is a short photo essay from this one particular day. And, while editing it and putting it together, I believe a deeper and wiser place within me served up a sorely needed message:

Embrace the whole ball of wax.

The subconscious speaks to us in many ways. Dreams are a biggie—when we take the time to remember and write them down. Hidden in their rich symbolism often are gems of messages that are intercepted and shot down by the conscious, conditioned mind. Too often, essential truths remained hidden from our sight. Thank God, my art and photography find a way to pass the sentries of my left brain. They function like dreams, serving up the wiser, deeper parts of me when I follow my intuition and don’t intellectualize creativity.

Resist not evil.

I’m anything but traditional when it comes to my personal beliefs. But, as I write, these purported words from Jesus’s teachings come to mind. When I first heard that passage, way back when I was dragged to church by my well-intentioned parents, I was totally confounded. I thought to myself, You’re supposed to fight evil with everything you’ve got. But, now I’m beginning to see this differently, and I consider this a “pointer” to making peace with the things we consider to be dark, bad, uncomfortable—things contrary to our ideas and insistence on only residing in the light, happy parts of life. I’ve spent so much energy trying to avoid and jettison such things. I’d been convinced there was no real beauty there.

The beauty of the whole.

Art wouldn’t have its power without reflecting the entirety of the human experience. Great art often unflinchingly goes right into the tensions and uncomfortable issues and questions of life. Beauty doesn’t have to be “pretty” or acceptable. If all art exhibitions contained only flowery, sunny scenes with happy, careful people, they would get tiresome in a hurry. And, much as I keep telling myself that I haven’t reached enlightenment yet because I haven’t been to nail down a perennial upbeat, carefree mood, I know that, too, would quickly become boring (and like eating only sugary treats). I think I’ve been mistaken. I think I’ve been sold a false bill of goods, like most of society, believing I should only pursue the happy times and then just grit my teeth, clench my jaw, and get through the “dark” part of living.

With significant life changes, dancing with the dark becomes a necessity.

When you do something monumental like dismantling your life and plopping yourself into a dramatically different culture, you’re stripping away the status quo and inviting a bit of a self-reckoning. Italy has delivered so much beauty to my life. The massive change also has exposed parts of myself, and my overall approach to life that I now realize have been flawed. It has been the setting for me to discard old ideas about enlightenment and what “should be.” I’m learning to sit with discomfort when it happens. I’m learning to be curious about my reactions and my resistance to the commonly perceived “less than” moments and things.

And, I’m learning to, as the Beatles sang, “Let it be.” That includes welcoming the rain and finding beauty within.

Steer into the storm, ItalyWise

© Jed Smith