Still Learning To See

Getting unstuck

Like many of us, I’ve lately felt really stuck.

While there are many things I don’t know or understand, I realized again this week I actually do know what is important to me. I plan over the next weeks and months to share some of those thoughts and ideas and illustrate them with photographs I’ve made. This may be a bit of a change from where I’ve been in the past in this blog so I ask you to just hang in there with me as we explore.


Tonight I went to a concert with our local Montpelier Chamber Orchestra. What a joy to be so absorbed in the music—Virgil Thomson, Beethoven’s 8th, Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and a new work by Angelica Negron called “What Keeps Me Awake”—that this messy world of ours retreated into the background for a bit.

The Copland—and the inspiration of hearing so many people work together to make beautiful music—caused me to come unstuck, to realize that no matter what happens next Tuesday, I need to keep following what I do know and do what I can to help heal the world while also not doing it more harm. It is a task I’ve always felt called to, one that my mom and dad both just expected of their children: “Our family has all we need but others don’t, so we need to give of ourselves to make our world better”—that was the essence of who they were and what I learned from them.


My mom, in particular, was able to create love from nearly any situation and with nearly any person. She was so clearly  the source of life and nurture for me. I don’t know who she’d be voting for on Tuesday, if she were still alive, but I do know she’d be deeply troubled by the events of the past year. She was conservative in the best sense of the term even if a family rumor had it she voted for FDR—probably the one time she cancelled my father’s long history of voting solidly in the Republican column!

If she were here today, I know she’d turn to the people around her in an effort to bridge the gaps that have formed and seek the common concerns we all have. She believed so deeply in the basic goodness of humans, and that we actually need each other to be complete in life. Imagine! She’d also probably turn to the natural beauty of the world around her as a reminder of how life really is most of the time and to her deep faith in a god that she had grown up with and felt a personal relationship with all her life.

“‘Tis a gift to be simple,’Tis a gift to be free,

‘Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be.”


This entry was published on November 6, 2016 at 9:56 am. It’s filed under Fall colors, John Snell, John Snell Photographer, Photograph, Trees, Uncategorized, Vermont and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on “Getting unstuck

  1. Karen Dailey on said:

    I look forward to seeing where this restless, newly unstuck place takes you, John. It’ll be enlightening and supportive of living life. The important thing coming out of this election, for me, is that we find ways to connect across this country (and world) to the hurts, the needs, the desires for joy and equality in ALL our lives. For me, it starts with me and with each person with whom I come into contact. May it be so… and thanks for your consistent inspiration, John.

  2. Deborah Leu on said:

    Heartfelt and warming thoughts in a time of unrest. Great photos, always. We’re on our boat for our annual charter owners’ meeting and cruise. A good time to be away with only sporadic cell and internet connections.

  3. Beautifully said John..It has been. an unsettling year to say the least. HUGS to you & Liz.

  4. In speaking of your mother, you mention she would turn “to the natural beauty of the world around her as a reminder of how life really is most of the time”, and I think it’s good to remember that the natural beauty of the world is the true “real” world ALL of the time. We bring our human consciousness upon this vast mystery like a flashlight illuminating tiny sections of a vast mural. Wendell Berry says it best for me in “The Peace of Wild Things”:

    When despair for the world grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

    Wishing you peace as this day passes into the next regardless of what we humans do–and the day-blind stars are always waiting with their light.

    • Thank you. Yes, the world has ways of reminding us we are simply part of her, not on the outside looking in. You and my mom would have been such good friends!

      • I often think of all the kindred spirits that have moved through time, maybe to miss each other chronologically, but still a part of a shared light. I would have loved to have met her, but having met you, I know who she is/was–a very special, alive, aware person! So rest in the “grace of the world”, John–you have a gift for seeing that goes above and beyond and within each incredible moment.

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