I love Instagram. All those pretty pictures and all that inspiration usually makes me happy. To say nothing of the dogs! So many pictures of dogs! At least in my feed, anyway.
But every so often, I fall prey to the comparisonitis that seems endemic on social media. It mostly has to do with my house, because I mostly follow interiors feeds. I’ll see a gorgeous room and wonder, why can’t my place look like this? What am I doing wrong?
It occurred to me the other day, as I was staring at a gorgeous picture, soaking in all the details, that I rarely stop to do that in real life. How often do I actually look at my own home, purely for the pleasure of seeing the details that I’ve put there?
It doesn’t happen as often as it should. Because when I do slow down, when I take the time to stare at a piece of furniture or a corner of a room the way I stare at the pretty pictures on Instagram, I am filled with the same kind of joy. Look how the picture lines up with the row of hooks, I’ll think. Or how the colour of the plant contrasts with the drawing.
Little details, so easily overlooked.
So often, I blow through a room on my way to doing other things or so busy cleaning or putting the laundry away, that I don’t actually see what that room contains.
Maybe we all need to spend a bit more time looking at our homes, our gardens, our lives and a bit less time looking at the homes and lives of total strangers.
One way that helps me to really see something, is trying to draw it. I highly recommend picking up a pencil and trying to draw your kitchen table or the potted plant on your dresser. It doesn’t matter if you think you don’t have talent, or think you don’t know how. This is for the practice, not for ending up with a finished drawing that you can share with your followers. I’ve found that the seeing you need to do while drawing is deeper, more curious and open than mere looking.
I was first alerted to this difference by reading the book Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing by Frederick Franck, who was a dental surgeon before becoming an artist and writer. The subtitle is Meditation in Action. I highly recommend giving it a read and then giving it a try.
Seeing and drawing is an on-again off-again practice in my life that I really need to do more of. I’ve written about it before in Every Duck is Different.
It was, frankly, a slightly embarrassing afternoon of realizing that one of my big assumptions about nature was completely wrong. And that’s what I love about the curiosity required of this kind of drawing. You have to draw what’s really there, you have to draw what you see, not what you assume is there, what you assume you see.
And if you do it long enough, you start to fall in love with everything around you. The clutter on your kitchen counter becomes something you want to capture on paper. That tender plant with every leaf non-standard. The way the light falls across your sofa. Your husband as he naps beside you. When you clear away your assumptions, when you pick up your pencil and paper and allow yourself to really see, you fall in love, at least a little bit with that part of your world, that part of your life.
Do give it a try and let me know how you fare.