Autumn Leaves and Power Lines – A Study in Perception

Autumn in Connecticut has been one of the most vibrant in years. As I drive to work I see colorful trees all around me. It hasn’t always been easy to photograph them, however.

(c) Kathleen Thompson

(c) Kathleen Thompson

The power lines get in the way.

Interestingly I don’t notice the power lines at first. I only see the beautiful trees. And then I raise my camera to take the shot. Sometimes I see the power lines through the lens. And sometimes I don’t notice them until I open the picture.

Why is that?

Filtering. My brain filters out what it doesn’t consider important and focuses on what I consider to be the main object – the trees. The power lines are in front of the trees, but still appear less prominent in my mind’s eye. It is only when I view the picture that I see the reality of the scene – the power lines are marring the beauty of the photograph. I end up deleting the picture and looking for another tree to capture.

If we can filter out the power lines from our mind’s eye, why can’t we do that with life? Why can’t we focus on the beauty and not on the ugly thing that’s also in the picture?

We can.

It takes practice and purposeful seeing. Just like when I intentionally look at trees with autumn colors, and ignore the power lines, I can do the same with the little annoyances that creep into my view. What I focus on is what I notice. If I meant to look at power lines, I would see them everywhere. If I focus on the frustrations of life, they come sharply into focus while the beautiful things recede.  When I focus on the blessings, I notice and appreciate them.

Beauty and ugliness are both there. What we “see” depends on our focus.

Focus on the trees. Ignore the power lines.

What are the power lines in your life? What are the trees? How have you learned to focus on what is beautiful? Please share here.