by Karen Bjork Kubin
There’s so much in the news these days. So much in the lives of those I love. The stakes are high everywhere I turn, and everything demands a response. So I find myself renewing old vows: to care for myself better so I can better care for others. To stand tall, both physically and emotionally. And to adopt and live out a new word for something I have been working at for several years, now.
I observed Advent the last few years by looking for light of all kinds and sharing it on my blog. It is a tradition that feels increasingly important. What better way to handle the shortening days? What better way to wait for the Light of the World than to keep my eyes open for harbingers? This year I got completely distracted, though, when I took a picture of the Christmas tree through the lens of a teleidoscope. A teleidoscope is a type of kaleidoscope with an open end and a lens which, instead of making patterns out of shifting beads, allows a person to make patterns out of the world around them, broken and reflected. I fell in love with the possibilities. Everything I looked at was changed. A pile of laundry became a bouquet of poinsettias. The fish tank turned into a mosaic from some ancient holy place. The bare ceiling in the hallway burst open with glowing petals.
All of this took work. The teleidoscope my husband brought home from Salvation Army is heavy brass, and nearly as long as my arm. Pointing it at my subject was not a big deal. Adjusting the lens, maintaining the angle, and then holding my phone up to the eyepiece and trying to focus on the image inside was a lot more difficult. I usually took pictures until my arms were too sore to keep holding it up. But the effort was worth it. It is a powerful act, seeing the world transformed.
What does this mean, exactly, that I will twist and tire myself with the effort of turning laundry into something beautiful? It will still be laundry. And I do not mind—let it be laundry. But also let it be beauty, and mystery. This is where my resolve lies this year. I am attaching myself to the word shift. I want to hone it to a fine blade and carry it with me everywhere. Shift perspective, shift my focus, shift my gaze. Acknowledge what is there in front of me, always. But then see it new, and more, and beyond.
A violinist by training, Karen Bjork Kubin works as a free-lance musician, teacher, and conductor in a small Midwestern city. Her poems and essays have appeared in Rock & Sling, Whale Road Review, Off the Coast, How to Pack for Church Camp, and American Suzuki Journal, among other publications. She blogs occasionally about life, art, and other things at kbkubin.blogspot.com.