Infinite inklings


William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence was the first thought I had when I saw this picture in my haphazard portfolio of photo memories. To be clear, it was this small bit (the part most of us know) that came to mind:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand,
And Eternity in an hour.


William Blake (1757-1827) has seen fit to send me a personal augury (a sign or omen) today: this part of his poem, in a book of the same name; a gift from my mother, was one I read over and over again as a child. When Mom gave me a mustard seed pin, I would think of these lines yet again. Thus began my education about the power and beauty of tiny things. To this day I am fascinated by the minute: the artists who make miniature replicas of life from clay, teensy dew drops that only my macro lens can capture, microscopic particles, insects hidden under rocks and between blades of grass, and minuscule inklings about strangers.

My son’s find (pictured above), important enough to him that he stopped playing to bring it to me, made me smile then, but amazes me now. He is nine–and he loves nothing more than time outside running around with friends. That a small wheatish grain could stop him in his tracks moves me beyond words and into reverence. To see a world in a grain of sand…

Lately I have been seeing a lot of the microscopic; the importance of small moments within relationships, brought home by death, Alzheimer’s, illness and the steady march of time that grows my children up while I am blinking–unwilling to take in what I am seeing, yet embracing it all the same. There is no solace in ignoring what is before me. The greatest struggle, however, is not in the seeing, it is in my inability to refocus, or perhaps de-focus, to zoom back out and enjoy life without feeling everything at a cellular level.

I seem to be craving the opposite of Zen moments; it is oblivion and pure abandon that I crave (yet can’t imagine), but only because despite the blazing beauty of my current hyper-aware state, I am getting burned. I am living in constant awareness, attempting to make the most of everything even as life’s constant thrum stokes the fire that blazes within me. Is it okay to be this vulnerable, this open?

Fire swallowers, in order not to get burned, master the art of cutting off oxygen; sword swallowers, in order not to die, must not swallow. Surely there is a trick to living with eyes, pores, and heart wide open. I know so many who seem to clothe themselves with daily awareness as elegantly as Princess Grace; I just wonder how they do it.

Perhaps the answer lies in the kind of sloughing off one would do in a plane that is too heavy. Out would go the unnecessary items; in this case: guilt, regret, unnecessary and self-imposed expectations, insecurities, perfectionism, procrastination, fear, doubt, and that ever-present Everyman persona. Without these companions, I am already breathing so much easier that even my son holding infinity the palm of his hand won’t shake me.

Eternity in an hour, however, may be an entirely separate matter…

27 thoughts on “Infinite inklings

    1. This came, this morning, with much tugging, pulling, and resisting. What began as a reluctant cry for help became the answer to it. Thank you so much for your support, Jayne.

      1. “What began as a reluctant cry for help became the answer to it.” Ain’t the Universe grand? It never fails to show us the way when we ask in faith believing. Never be reluctant to ask. There’s an answer for everything if we’re willing to be open.

        Again, lovely work Britton.

  1. I remember watching you fill journals upon journals with your thoughts, reflections and daily discoveries. Your writing shows a true passion for the art and a genuine thoughtfulness regarding the world around you. Thank you for sharing.
    As always, with love.

  2. I suspected this about you from your responses on Facebook, your photos, the angles and subjects, your writing, your passion, this exquisite ability to see the world in a grain of sand. Seems to me you’re gaining elevation. Stay open and vulnerable.

  3. The ‘tugging, pulling, resisting’ it took to put into words (so beautifully) your own sense of infinite inklings strikes me as the heart of it all. I don’t believe those moments of zen ever come without resistance. And it’s ironic, in a way, that you refer to those ‘unnecessary items’ as ‘companions.’ It’s only when I can stand apart from my anxieties, fears, doubts, etc., that I can see them for what they are — and even the way they’ve sometimes played a protective role. So for me, it’s less a question of sloughing off than it is a question of asking them to lighten up. But it all boils down to breathing easier, doesn’t it?

    1. Leave it to you to notice connections to my own post I had not seen…companions-yes, indeed, they are a bit necessary at times, aren’t they? Thank you for such a careful reading and for the love behind your response.

  4. Britton, your passion for life unfolds beautifully both in your writing and your photographs. Staying open and viewing life up close, while it may add heartache at times, it also adds a richness that makes you who you are. Zoom out, breathe deeply, relax, dance, fling off those heavy expectations of yourself, celebrate, then ever-so-slowly zoom back in and find your center. From what I know of you, your center seems pretty great.

  5. Hey Britt! I love the Blake connection here. I’m also fascinated by the minutiae of life, and firmly believe that our lives are steered by far smaller events and decisions than the big ones we fixate on. Another Blake I like, but understand less:

    “O Rose thou art sick.
    The invisible worm,
    That flies in the night
    In the howling storm:

    Has found out thy bed
    Of crimson joy:
    And his dark secret love
    Does thy life destroy.”

    I’ve added you to my blogroll now, tho I was convinced I did it a week or two back. So, I shan’t miss another of these =) Thanks again for your support of 30 DAYS OF ROTH; it’s been my pleasure to meet you.

    Indigo x

    1. Ah, Indigo, you took the bait-and I thank ye for it (Irish accent).

      I really love that Blake you included…stealth rose-zapper in the night, so captured by the velvety crimson beauty that he had to, because of his nature, destroy that which he loved?

  6. This is so beautifully described! See a full, energetic life in a grain of sand or a grain of wheat! Life does exist in the smallest of things and only those who take a moment to look deep into it can appreciate the life they have.

  7. Hi Britton– this is beautiful, hopeful, powerful. As a poet and friend, I must say what you might imagine I would say– that it is not possible to live open to life without getting seared. But we each come from our experience. One can be too open and in the wrong ways, as I was trying to articulate in my post today re the fly-fishing extended metaphor. But I wonder how else we are driven to make something with experience– all of it– work it into art, statement, make it part of our footprint in the universe. For me the pendulum swung all the way out to the toe of the boot of Italy and clear across the continent in the opposite direction before I began to be able to tell myself that it’s o.k. to pull back and close down and grow some defenses…… love, Jenne’

  8. Most of us live trying to find the balance between the minuscule and the enormous, running from one end to the other, to wonder at the intricacies of something tiny, and feel awe at the majesty of the large. I recently came across a website (can’t find it now) where a scientist put items of similar relative size together, beginning with microscopic atoms, and going all the way up to the size of the known universe. It’s interesting to see that Pluto’s diameter is about the same width as the United States. There is wonder in all of it, from small to large, and being open to all of it is just as big a commitment regardless of the size of the thing.

  9. For some reason, we are in the middle. Expanses beyond imagination on one side, and Higgs bosons on the other so tiny as to defy all but the imagination of mathematics. Stars that live billions of years, and atomic spare parts that live only billionths of a second. There we are in the middle again, conveniently positioned to reach in both directions to try to understand our place and time. I like how you inspire me to think.

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