delight, gratitude, photography, symbolism

delight in the form of a broken lioness

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It’s an unexpected experience, this thing called delight. It’s a word that we don’t hear all that often anymore but one that seems deserving of a comeback. Perhaps more than deserving at this point and time – perhaps necessary. How often do we actually go out and seek delight? When I think back in my own life to moments where I felt the sensation of utter delight, it hadn’t been something I was necessarily looking for.

It was unexpected. Un-awaited. Unsought.

In an instant, there it was. I imagine if I had been an observer, I would have noticed my mouth agape, the corners of my lips upturned as if readying for a smile, a sparkle in my eye, and a lightness of being. Delight has that effect. It inhabits us, even if only for a fleeting moment – hopefully, long enough for us to become aware of it to enter fully into its presence.

I’ll admit that the past several months have been a bit rough. My father’s health has been declining, and he has been enduring chronic, nearly unbearable pain for an extended period of time. If you know him, you know that he has always been a “go-er,” a “doer” – one who chooses not to slow down – even through and despite any pain he may have been experiencing. Even though his own gait has been stilted with limping for a couple of years, he continued to drive for Meals on Wheels, do nearly all the yard work, volunteer at a local pantry, help with church activities, and go for coffee every morning with the “old cronies.” However, the pain of the last couple of months has stopped him cold. He must use a walker to move from one place to another – and with each step, it is easy to see the excruciating pain he experiences. He no longer leaves the house except for appointments – and rarely leaves the couch or chair. To say this is uncharacteristic of my father is an understatement.

Procedure after procedure have been tried to no avail. Each new procedure presents us with both hope and trepidation. Hope that something will finally work to relieve his pain – and trepidation that it will simply result in another disappointment. Another disappointment for him. Another disappointment for my mother (whose patience in the past month, in the midst of frustrations and uncertainty, has risen to an unbelievable level). Another disappointment for his family and friends who miss his contagious (and loud) laugh and presence.

Watching parents age is not for the faint of heart.

And so with a combination of my emotions on overdrive from my father’s challenges, from watching my oldest son Nick graduate and look with excitement toward the next chapter of his life in college, from feeling a void at not being a part of an annual event in which I participated for the past seven years, and from several rejections in the vocational and photographic realm, I have definitely been in a phase of my life that is demanding that I move with grief and loss as frequent companions – in all the myriad forms they take.

Not that this past couple of months have been only grief and loss. There has been much to rejoice along the way, too. The moments that my dad feels good enough to come to the table to play a few rounds of dominoes. Laughter with my mother that is so intense that she “hurts from laughing.” Truly feeling excited about Nick heading off to begin his college life because I remember feeling the same way. FINALLY getting a “yes” on something that was probably the yes that I wanted the most. Patience from my husband and sons as they realize that I’m a bit “on edge” at the moment. Getting away by myself for a few days…

Finding gratitude in the moments, around the edges, and in the midst? That I can do – most of the time. I’ve been practicing that for a while. But finding delight – which seems much rarer and harder to expect? Is it possible to seek delight? I don’t know for sure, but I’m willing to try.

In a conversation with a friend recently, in expressing the challenges that life is offering me, I mentioned that I was going to actively seek light and delight. So imagine my surprise yesterday morning, when delight found me – in the form of a broken figurine of a now faceless lioness tossed randomly aside in the grass near a path on which I was walking. I can’t explain it. I laughed out loud when I picked it up, and I was giggling inwardly all the while that I was posing her in a shallow puddle nearby. I knew it when I felt it, though. THIS was delight.

As these words formed this morning, my curiosity was piqued. I believe that our external world has a way of showing up with signs and messages – if we are open to seeing them. I find it extremely satisfying to seek meaning and metaphor in that which we encounter in our lives, and in this case, I found a broken, faceless lioness. With a mid-August birthday, I am a Leo, and I have been known to shoot a portrait of a lion or two. I’m a sucker for symbolism and metaphor, so I had to know. What might a lion or lioness symbolize? What message might this animal be offering to me? And, thanks to the wonders of the internet, these three topped my Google search:

Family ties

Courage

Strength

Ha. Coincidence? I doubt it. And the fact that the lioness figurine was broken? Even more appropriate. Yes, courage and strength are necessary these days – but I’d be a liar if I claimed that my courage and strength hadn’t been fractured or sprained as of late. Besides, I’m not sure I would have found the same delight in a lioness that had been whole. This lioness was faceless for goodness sake, and I offered it a photo shoot.

Yet there was something satisfying, something delightful even, about taking that which had been cast aside and forgotten, broken, abandoned, and “in the mud” – and honoring it with its own (admittedly comical) photo shoot. Though she had no face and no voice to speak, she still held a message – at least for me.

Delight in the form of a broken, faceless lioness.

Unexpected. Un-awaited. Unsought. Just as delight usually is.

–shari miller

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