How Do You Capture An Emotion?

The other day I went walking in Gay City State Park, not too far from where I live.  I took a trail that I have often walked.  It starts at a pond, and then cuts into the woods and crosses several streams.  One in particular has a wooden bridge across it, complete with a railing so you don’t fall in.

(c) Kathleen Thompson

(c) Kathleen Thompson

I stepped to the middle of the bridge and stopped. 

I saw the carved initials of people who had been there before me.  I noticed how much lower the water was than it has been in years past.  I remembered walks across this same bridge with Jonathan and Rosie, my friend Ruth’s kids.  At different ages.

When they were younger, they wanted to play in the water.  Splash.  Look for frogs.  Watch stuff float and flow downstream.  As they got older, we stopped here and talked for a bit.  Jonathan snapped tons of pictures.  We took in the beauty of the trees, stone walls, and water.

We’d talk about our dreams, about what was going on in their lives, what looked different about the place.  We’d breathe the fresh air.  Listen for the sounds of birds and animals.  The breeze rustling the leaves.

And now here I was in that same place.  Breathing the same air.  And yet it was different.  Seeing the same water.  And yet it was different because the water kept flowing from stream to stream to river to the Atlantic Ocean.

As I stood there looking from the bridge at the water with the sun glinting on it. I felt so much all at the same time.

Peace – from the hushed stillness of the place.
Joy – at the wonder of creation.
Delight – at its breathtaking beauty.
Gratitude – for the times I’d spent here with Jonathan and Rosie.

I lifted my phone to take a picture.  I wanted to capture this place.  But it wasn’t really the place I wanted to capture.  It was the emotion of being in this place.  The peace.  Joy. Delight. Gratitude.

How do you capture emotions like that?  Painters have tried.  Songwriters and poets have tried.  And as beautiful as their creation may have been, to them it fell short of the pure emotion they experienced.

I took a few shots, and looked at them.  The light danced on the water, and reflected off the changing leaves.  The water was moving.  I even tried a few different angles, which changed the view.  Changed the light.  The pictures weren’t bad.  In fact, one was actually pretty good.  But just as with other artists before me, none came close to expressing the depth of emotion I felt when I stood in that spot at Gay City State Park.

(c) Kathleen Thompson

(c) Kathleen Thompson

So I stood there longer, drinking it in.  Burning it into my mind and heart as another treasured memory.  One that might be triggered by the picture I took.  A picture I can pull out when I forget.

Isn’t that what art’s about?  To try and express the inexpressible and help us remember?  Express sublime joy.  Deep sorrow.  Exquisite beauty.  Remember our humanity.  An experience.  A special relationship.

So whether you paint like Monet… or draw stick figures.  Write like Shakespeare…or can’t put a good sentence together.  Dance like Isadora Duncan…or the Tin Man.  Make your own art.  Use a pencil, computer, brush, your voice, your body, or a camera.  Express the inexpressible.  Remember what matters.  Capture a moment…for a lifetime.

What art do you have that helps you remember?  Helps you express what words cannot?  Share in the comments.  And share with a friend.