Banal happiness

Although we who live in Western Europe haven’t had any real winter this year, we are still glad to be able to perceive the spring’s coming. As the weather turns warmer, springtime also marks the growing season of numerous plants as well as flowers. Walking around in town, I feel blissful catching glimpse of dandelions’ florets dancing in circles as the wind lifts them up and frees them from their parent plants.

Spring’s coming to our little town

I was walking down the street with a friend of mine one day, when I suddenly saw a dandelion standing alone by the road side, whose florets and seeds were totally intact despite the strong April wind. My first reaction, as always, was to stoop down to be able to capture a close-up image of the brave soldier The Dandelion with my phone’s camera. My friend then was very surprised. The astonishment didn’t last long and soon turned into embarrassment. She whispered to me bewilderedly:

ʻHey, stand up, won’t you? This is embarrassing!ʼ

ʻHuh? What is embarrassing?ʼ I returned the question, still busy adjusting the right focus mode.

ʻStooping down by the road side to take pictures of wild flowers. NO ONE does that.ʼ She snapped, impatiently.

ʻBut it’s a dandelion!ʼ I stared at her, probably with an even more surprised look. ʻWhat’s wrong with taking pictures of a dandelion of such a great beauty?ʼ

ʻExactly! It is JUST a dandelion! You can find them everywhere you go! Now won’t you please stand up and walk ahead before everyone on the street starts to gaze at us because of your awkward action?ʼ

I quickly took two random pictures of The Dandelion without caring too much about focus mode or composition and continued the walk quietly with my friend to avoid any further unnecessary argument; though I regretted this resignation later because the quality of these two photos was nothing like what I had expected to achieve. My friend’s words yet lingered in my mind for a long time.

“JUST a dandelion”, “you can find them everywhere”

Hearing these words suddenly made me imagine a giant refusing to take pictures of any human while saying scornfully: “Humans probably look just the same everywhere!”. For I know that people differ from one another in both look and character, I can assume that the same goes for any animal or plant.

Not only did The Dandelion have a different appearance from other dandelions, its surroundings also evoked another atmosphere than other places. I personally have loved this very flower because it appeared to be lonely in the middle of a grass cover and wasn’t near any other plant of the same kind. I have called it “brave soldier The Dandelion” because there was a lot of wind on that day, which proved to be a big challenge to such a diminutive and fragile looking being. My friend was right, it is extremely easy to find a picture of intact dandelions with just a click on Google Image, but these pictures will certainly not evoke the same feelings that I’ve had when I decided to stoop down and to take out my camera. When were these photos taken? What were the photographers thinking at the time? Did they have troubles taking tons of examples without having one satisfying shot? Did they hear the wind whistling to the oaks nearby?… I know the answers to none of those questions. Yet being able to take a picture on my own and to look at it again from time to time, sure reminds me of the valuable experiences that I once enjoyed. The feelings that I’ve had for The Dandelion came briefly, but were undoubtedly memorable.

Looking back, I remember being asked quite often: “Why are you taking pictures of banana skins?”, “Yuck! Why on earth do you have to show me photos of a dead cockroach?”, or “Seriously, what is it now? A sand pile?”…

I can assure that it doesn’t feel very pleasant to meet with these reactions and to be laughed at all the time for doing what you love. In such situations, I usually suggest people to try to see the beauty lying within these banal objects, which has surprisingly never succeeded. However, deep inside my head, I can come up with tons of different reasons for taking pictures of cockroaches. It has always been difficult for me to efficiently turn all these ideas into words in front of people, but I guess that words also exist to be written down on blogs.

Ever since I read Yoko Ogawa’s novel “Secret crystallization”, one of my favorite books of all time, I’ve always feared that familiar objects and people around me would disappear one day, and that no one will remember about them anymore, and that, as time pass by, I myself would also gradually forget their look, their faces, their reassuring smile,and even their existence. I wonder if anyone still knows how simple animals and things such as cockroaches, sand dunes, apples and cups used to look like when they’ve disappeared for good. For this reason, I often turn to the camera for help. The existence of all small things and of all people, strangers or kin, is important to me and has made my own existence much worthier. Seeing a bee flying by on a sunny morning makes me happy, being smiled at by a stranger on the street leaves a warm feeling in my heart, looking at a snug little house reminds me of my family’s cosy living, hearing a dog barking suddenly gives me a start, using my old pencil recalls me of how my friends used to laugh carefreely at the funny drawings I made back when we were 13,… If those little details hadn’t existed, me having even a slightest nuance of emotion would have been impossible.

If they hadn’t existed, the world would have been nothing but a colorless space.

If they hadn’t existed, we would have been floating senselessly in that space.

If they hadn’t existed, happiness would have depended completely on the communication and the relationship between people.

No, if they hadn’t existed, we maybe would never have been born.

For this reason, they, simple little things around us, deserve more attention than what they’ve received. I guess they’re like super heroes, saving the world quietly without making boast of their actions.

I present you Mr. Sand Pile, the quietest super hero of all time!

Besides, ever since I started to take pictures of banal objects, I’ve begun to be able to see their value. They make me feel relieved when I’m depressed; they assure that the world around me hasn’t changed; and unlike the chaos happening inside my head, they stand calmly and steadily. Thanks to that emotional support, I feel happy, and I believe that we all can feel happy if we can reach out to beautiful little things in our daily life. It’s not like I’ve lived long enough to be able to confirm that statement, but it has worked for me during these early years of my life.

Not only does this concern objects, animals and plants, this also apply for humans. As we always tend to look for greener grass on the other side, we forget that there is not only grass on our side, but also flowers. We go on vacation to gorgeous ancien cities without noticing how lovely our little town is. We complain about people around us and see only their defauts while forgetting their bright sides. For example, when I was a kid, I used to be jealous of my friends who didn’t get scolded at all by their mothers. Always thinking that way, I couldn’t notice how affectionate my mom was at times. Though these gentle actions could be smaller, they probably meant more than anything and helped making me the luckiest child ever born on earth.

Therefore, despite being laughed at or having to hear complaints from my best friend, I’ll just keep taking pictures of those silent heroes, who have constantly been giving colours to my life.

Some other photos I took of a snail, a dead cockroach, and a dying plant, which caused my friends to ask more questions than ever. (Don’t look any further if you’re afraid of cockroaches though)

 

_Cu_

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3 thoughts on “Banal happiness

  1. Your narrative reminded me of an American photographer named William Eggleston who was brought to my attention in a History of Photography course many years ago. He made quite a name for himself photographing commonplace subjects. So you are thinking rightly; just stay a little longer with the subject that interests you and figure out how to bring back the beauty that you see there. You can find his story if you Google his name along with “J. Paul Getty Museum.”

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    1. Thanks a lot for your comment. I’ve just looked up the photographer’s name on Google and seen the photos of his freezer and some ordinary objects. My first thought was “Wow, this is exactly what I want to achieve!”. I’ll learn more about this subject to be able to turn my words here into images and to convince other people of banal objects’ beauty just by letting them see the pictures, just like what I see Eggleston do. Knowing that there are other people who share the same thoughts gives me a lot more confidence!

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