Christmas Day is now past and a major tree un-decorating project looms darkly over my near future.
While laying the lights onto the Christmas tree a mere three weeks, or so, back, I commented to my son that I was frustrated that I couldn’t get the lighting wires to settle into the tree so as to disappear satisfactorily.
His response to this was, “Do you really think anybody will notice? Don’t people see what they expect to see?” His case being, I suppose, that people were experience-trained to perceive the lights and ignore the occasional uncooperative wire.
Naturally, he was speaking from a man’s point of view. Men will just see a tree with lights. Women, I’ve found, tend to examine Christmas trees in great detail. Any unusual ornament will produce questions about the history behind it (where and how you got it, how long you’ve had it, etc. – the type of questions that are better asked of my wife, as I can only respond to each of them with, “Uh, I don’t remember.”).
I try to hide the wires for the benefit of the women.
Tangentially, let me pose this question to you: What do you see in the following frames?
images from http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/
Pure beauty, right? Objects of stunning symmetry about multiple axes, incredible detail, transparency, prismatic highlights of color, each snowflake unique and a masterpiece of creation.
Now, what do you see in the photo below?
This is a photo of my uncle standing in front of his home a few days ago in Minnesnowta.
What did you see in the photo?
Did you look at this and visualize the movie scene where Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby sing White Christmas as the doors at the back of the stage open to a gently falling snow, or maybe the Budweiser commercial always shown with TV football games at Thanksgiving, the one with the Clydesdales pulling a wagon over a stone bridge in a forest during snowfall?
Whenever I see snow like this it reminds me of walking about a mile from the Architecture to Engineering College across the university campus with the frigid prairie winter wind whipping sleet in my face and the bitter cold getting down my coat, stinging my neck and wrists (other associations include cold, wet feet; ice-caked windshields; frozen brown slush in potholes; cars that won’t start and dealing with this stuff month upon month).
Individual snowflakes are beautiful, especially in photographs made with special equipment. I have no history impacting these images. I therefore find them beautiful and pleasant to observe.
I do have more than a little experience slip-sliding down the interstate in evening twilight on icy roads in high cross-winds, with the white stuff rapidly accumulating before me. Experience also, with shoveling out the driveway and sidewalk before leaving for work and coming back to walk the dog in the sub-freezing darkness of night - the kinds of snowy scenes you won’t find on postcards or visitor information brochures.
In the end, I guess people do see what they expect to see and respond accordingly, personal experience being the master of perception.
That’s not to say you can’t make the best of a bad situation. Here’s the result of one man seeing opportunity in the snow for making lemonade when life gave him lemons…