I know the sag of the unfinished poem. And I know the release of the poem that is finished.

 –Mary Oliver

Ever have a dry season? By that I don’t mean, have you ever been “creatively stuck.” I’m pretty sure we all have, and I’ve written on that “stuckness” before. To me, a dry spell, is different. It lasts longer. It is just a little frustrating, especially when you tell yourself, “I should be able to break through this.” Or, truthfully, you might say to yourself, “I’ve got nothing.” These are words of discouragement and imply that we have a level of control that is not always possible. Sometimes we do, but sometimes we just don’t.

Morning glory seeds I’ve saved for who knows how long. They are now dispersed in the ground. We’ll see what nature does with them.

A SUMMER OF “DISCONTENT”

In case you’re wondering (or have noticed), I’ve been in that kind of season pretty much all summer. I know and recognize some of the reasons for it, which is helpful. It is helpful because with a few steps back and looking at myself and this time with an aerial view, I am able to tell myself, “It’s okay.” It happens to all of us at one time or another, for all kinds of reasons.

It would be easy to write off this time with excuses – common ones like, “It’s just too hot to be out photographing.” That may be true on some days, but it’s not been my reason, and it would be a cop-out if I said it was. There have been many, many, many times when I’ve ventured out into the swelter for the sake of photography. Countless times over the years I’ve gotten out there and “went for it,” armed with towels, water, snacks and extra shirts. The truth is that it’s not the heat that has kept me in the “empty” zone.

Flower petals saved . . . I think they were tulips. Made with Lensbaby Double Glass optic.

Closer view of the petals in bowl with Lensbaby Double Glass optic.

I can never say that there’s “nothing to shoot” because that, too, is simply never true. If you’ve been around me long enough, you’ve heard me say, “there’s never nothing to shoot” (which means that there is always something), If I (or you) say, “there’s nothing I’m interested in shooting,” that would be more accurate. There’s a big difference in those two phrases. During this time, the second statement is the one that’s been most true. I haven’t ventured out really to photograph anything, and I’m within easy reach of refuges with bears, the coast with all kinds of treasures, and even closer to grocery stores that sell flowers. I haven’t even done the flowers.

Multiple exposure of dahlia tops and petals before they landed in the trash.

NOT EVEN FLOWERS?

By now, I’d be deeply surprised if anyone who knows me doesn’t know how much I LOVE flowers. I truly do, with a passion. Over this summer I’ve had access to beauty in many ways. I’ve had opportunities to visit sunflower fields. I’ve had bunches of sunflowers in my home. They were beautiful. Did I take some pictures? Yup, but not many and not with any major level of excitement, intention or creativity. They just were what they were, pictures of sunflowers, uninspired.

I’ve even had DAHLIAS (my favorite)! I had them arranged in at least five different vases with beautiful colors and shapes and placed them in my living room with the best of intentions. Did I immerse myself in their beauty? With my eyes, some. With my camera, not really. Again, I brought them out to photograph just once and only played with one of them. The rest of the time my attention was drawn to a “dead,” dried hydrangea bloom. I realize now why that was the case. And now, while the dahlias are still in their vessels in my living room, they are now fully dead – appropriately – and have most definitely lost their luster.

Aerial view of dahlias and petals in their final resting place.

Even as much as I love dried (dead) flowers and such, this batch of dahlias will not be saved for future explorations. They are headed for the trash. Yes, the trash. (I have come to realize that I have more than enough dry, dead subjects available to work with.) Am I more than a little surprised and discouraged? Yes, a little, but it’s okay. Even though the fire was not ignited in a mighty way with the dahlias, I feel encouraged that the fog (or dust bowl) is beginning to clear. The dust is beginning to settle, and I am more able to see. I say “beginning” because that is the truth. It is and always will be a process to move through periods of uninspired times.

Until I brought my eye to the viewfinder, I didn’t even know that this was a dried maple.

LESSONS FROM THIS DRY SEASON

You might wonder what I have and am learning during this dry season. I can tell you that while it hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t been incredibly difficult either. One of the first things I have learned is to Accept the Season. It is okay to be in a state of “empty” (how it feels). I know that there are seeds that have been sown along the way, long before this summer, whose time has not yet come. My creativity is not dried up or dead, like my flowers. It has been in a state of rest, dormant but not destroyed.

I have learned to Give Myself a Bit of Grace during this time. As one who makes her living as a photographer, I could find it easy to beat up on myself for not being more assertive in getting going, for not forcing myself to be creative, to get out and back into the shooting mode. First, forcing doesn’t work, and I don’t have to.

A forgotten bunch of dried flowers interpreted with motion and multiple.

What I’ve learned in this time is that sometimes Our Batteries Get Low. Sometimes our lives veer from “normal” into times that require a different approach. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from people, “you’re always so busy.” They have been right, and I have done that to myself. Lesson for me: you can’t refill your tank when you’re driving on empty. What I’ve been doing for the last several months is taking time for me – to rest, reflect and gradually re-engage. It is clear to me now that I’ve needed this dry season in ways I would not have anticipated. And, because I’ve taken this time to “pull back,” slow down and acknowledge my reality, I am able now to feel the rains coming (not the monsoon). I am beginning to feel the juices slowly bubbling and flowing back. I feel the hibernation coming to a close.