Life in the Box: Visual Emotion


Along the forest trail, morning light weaves through new tree buds and tickles tiny spring beauties for an instant. Suddenly the sound bouquet of twittering sparrows, scraping of branches with wind, and swishing creek water all stop. Click. I have captured a photo! Click. Click–click. Click.

Taking photos is a meditation for me. And more than that, I find that viewing the world is a cortexual pleasure. My other senses are enjoyable, too, but a view, a flash of color, a sparkle in the grey—visuals seem to access my spirit and activate my emotions instantly and deeply.

Sometimes I think I would never enjoy life if I couldn’t see. I can list hundreds of times when the swirls of color in the sky have lifted me from dark and depressed thoughts. When seeing a puppy in a passing car window has warmed my heart, interrupted a serious argument, or distracted me from my route.

I can get into a “visual mind-set” sometimes, especially after wandering in a park doing my click-click thing. Joining into a conversation afterwards is hard; my thoughts are “oh,” “hmm,” and “ahh” to the point that wrapping the shapes and colors and contrasts and movements into nouns and verbs is almost impossible. Sorry, I can’t talk right now, I’m visualling.

The scientists can tell us about right-brain and left-brain thinking. For me, the truth is that words have always been my second language. Or, maybe a third language. Words are the things I attach to experiences of watching. And listening to the world, for me, is about the ways the words sound emotionally before I access my “word brain.” Swish, fast motion, slap, a sarcastic tone, oh, a word.

But–back to visuals. I’m currently learning about judging photos that others have submitted in my camera club’s monthly competitions. It’s really wonderful to see what others are choosing to visualize with their cameras. I love the places they are going and experiences they are capturing.

But putting words on what makes a photo outstanding is a struggle for me. All the photos are giving me something. Some of the outstanding photos turn my stomach. Some make me laugh out loud. Others are quiet and introspective. How do you rate them?

It’s a good experience to rate them, though, because it helps me with my daily struggle to put descriptions and words into my own “click times.” I’m becoming conscious of what visuals do to me. And I’m becoming a bit more conscious of what my visuals can do for others. I’m a bit more confident that I’m not the only one who adores communicating without words.

As a writer, that’s a hard-won admission. As a human, I’m glad to have the enrichment that the “ums” and “ughs” of this crazy old world offer us with every blink. Or click.

Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, narrating and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process and life issues, both inside and outside the box. Her opinions are her own, and are not necessarily those of this web site.