It's nice having a photographer for a wife. Not only are there gorgeous landscapes on our walls, but I also have a charming collection of photos of myself in front of various monuments (it's harder to get Janine on the other end of the camera). But the best part is seeing how she finds beauty in unexpected places. An overlooked corner of a mundane street, transformed and given its moment to shine in romance and adventure. A bike chained up in an alley. Immense, intense emotion passing between two people in a private moment. It's taught me to look a little more carefully at the world around me.
Late last fall, we were in Toronto - and this is a bit corny but entirely genuine - and we turned a corner and peeking over the skyscrapers was a sunset.
"Thank you!" I exclaimed spontaneously, turning to Janine.
A quizzical look.
"Well, for the...." I realized that I was giving her credit for the daily disappearance of the sun behind the western horizon, and in general, wives don't find comparisons to images of closure and finality romantic, so I gave up and we had dinner.
Objectively, it wasn't a postcard sunset, but it had a certain confidence to it, as though, in bursting through the grey clouds, it proclaimed the irrelevance of the Toronto skyscrapers that otherwise dominated my viewpoint. It wasn't something I would have noticed before learning to see the world through her eyes.
I feel so grateful to have so many artists in my life: photographers, writers, actors and musicians. It feels a little funny to say that we underappreciate art in such a celebrity/entertainer-obsessed culture. Perhaps what I should say is that we underappreciate good art. Part of the problem is that, too often, we aren't willing to pay for it. If we want to experience the fullness of artistic expression, we need to allow people to dedicate their lives to their craft, and while they're doing that, they're going to need to eat. But I also think that another way to get more good art is to have more of us doing it. Do it in your spare time, even if your spare time is only about 15 minutes, once a year. Draw something, sing something, write something, as often as you can. As songwriter Glen Hansard said as he accepted the Oscar for Best Song a few years ago, perhaps feeling a little out of place among the Hollywood celebrities and searching for some commonality, "Make art."
Or maybe it's even simpler than that. Recognize the art around you. Recognize the art you already make.