Photography as Sacred Pause

This is the first of what I hope will be a series of interviews on sacred pause—to share our personal experiences, what we’re learning, and how we can encourage one another to pause in the midst of our busy lives. Lois Siemens is a pastor, calligrapher, and photographer in rural Saskatchewan, and I really appreciate her willingness to do this first interview! 

1. What does sacred pause mean to you?
In the movie, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Vermeer is almost done the painting. Something is missing. The maids are setting the table for dinner, and Vermeer has an idea. He asks his wife to put on her pearl earrings. Vermeer calls Greet, the maid, points to the earring and says. “See Greet, a point of light directing the eye.”

This is what a sacred pause does. It directs my eye, my focus. When I can focus on one thing, I can often see the whole. I don’t know how this works but I experience it all the time. When I walk into the woods I am overwhelmed with their enormity,

Lois Siemens 1

but when I focus on a single dried up leaf curled around into a cup into which snow has softly fallen, I am directed towards seeing the whole.

Lois Siemens 7

Focusing on one small thing relieves me of taking care of the whole. I am bombarded every day with truckloads of information and when all of it is important, it is overwhelming. I can’t take care of it all. But I can focus on one thing and look for its beauty and connection to my life. The word that comes to mind is: realignment.

Lois Siemens 4

Maybe the way it works is that when I focus on one thing I begin to see the relationship to the whole and in so doing, can respond to the whole? Genesis 1 is not a picture of God taking the primordial soup and throwing it up in the air and creating everything in one fell swoop. No. One by one, methodically, with focus, each thing is brought to life—sun, seeds, cattle… Is it because size doesn’t matter, as Madeleine L’Engle pointed out so often in her stories? When I was sitting with a photo editor putting together a photo collage, the pictures she rejected were ones where she had too much too look at. When there were too many images in one photo she said she didn’t know where to direct her eye. This is why photography has become a sacred pause.

I don’t know how it works, but after ten or thirty minutes observing one leaf, one row of trees, the play of light on one body of water, I shed the unnecessary. When I return to the image and look deeper, it is as if I am entering the story behind the story. I return to my work, rested.

Lois Siemens 6

2. What are you still learning?
In my course on chaplaincy we learned that everyone is telling their story all the time. You have to learn to listen deeply. When I look at the photographs I take, I am always looking for the light which I think is a metaphor for looking for the story behind the story. So, I guess, it is a form of journaling. I am learning to trust my intuition, to look at an object from all sides. Did you know that the backs of flowers are sometimes more interesting than the front? When I approach a biblical text, I find myself trying to see it from different angles, in a different light.  I think the biggest gift photography has given me is attention to detail.

Lois Siemens 2

When looking closely I cannot hurry or the shot is blurred. It is the same when I sit down on my favorite chair and snuggle under my prayer shawl. The faster I pray, the more unfocussed I am.

3. What advice/word of encouragement do you have to share?
The most helpful question I learned at InterPlay: after an incident, a conversation . . . whatever, ask: What did you notice? In order to answer this question you have to stop and use your feeling/thinking/sensing parts of you to answer it.

Lois Siemens 3

Thank you, Lois, for sharing your thoughts and photos. May you enjoy sacred pauses throughout your day.

Writing/Reflection Prompt: Consider Lois’ question, and write a response: Did you know that the backs of flowers are sometimes more interesting than the front?


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13 thoughts on “Photography as Sacred Pause

  1. Hi Elfrieda – thanks for your comment. I thought you might also like to know that Lois has graciously offered the use of her photos on this blog, so you’ll be seeing more of her photos 🙂

  2. Lovely to return to your blog and to this resonating post. Art-making is quite grounding for me and, dare I use the over-tapped word, spiritual. Indeed, the enlightened don’t need art. But I am human and I need it to remind me… About the wonder of Being, that there is the extraordinary in the ordinary, and if I can, reminds me to stand guard over someone else’s solitude, to borrow from Rilke. Thank you, April.

  3. Such lovely photos to illuminate your thoughts. One phrase in this interview struck me – “You have to learn to listen deeply.” To listen deeply – what a gift to give. Lots to ponder here. Thank you.

  4. I never dreamed I’d pick up a camera for anything other than capturing family memories. But in the last couple of years, I’ve discovered that I see differently through the lens. And sometimes God shows me things I didn’t see at first–the light, color, lines, shapes. Wonder I’ve walked by. Yes, a sacred pause.

    I love how Lois describes light as a metaphor of looking for the story behind the story–in scripture, in creation, in the created. I’m soaking in her photos and words.

    And I’m giddy over connecting with you.

  5. I found this post deeply insightful so have subscribed-thanks for good food for thought- and lovely pics and words- absolutely loved this post.
    God Bless you with many sacred pauses- and may He remind me to take many, also 🙂

  6. Thank you for all of your comments – Lori, I love the focus of your blog on encouraging one another; Sandra, I’m also glad to connect with you here, on your blog/Twitter/Facebook/GooglePlus (is there any place you’re not connected?): hisfirefly, I enjoyed browsing your site just now and hope that we can be friends along the way also; Mary, how nice to meet you, and thank you for following. I plan to post another Sacred Pauses interview soon.

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