Yesterday I took a walk in the historic downtown district of the city where I live. I brought the new, fancy camera that I just purchased to get in some practice. After an hour of snapping poorly exposed photos of buildings and trees, I managed to take a decent photo of a red leaf vine growing over a brick wall.
During my excursion, I was concentrating less on telling an interesting photo story and more on capturing something that didn’t scream ‘I don’t know what I’m doing!’ When looking at the vine on the wall, I was attracted to the colors–the near perfect match of red in the brick and leaves–and the pattern of the vine. It wasn’t until I got home and took another look that I noticed how the vine added another layer to the brick wall, as if adding another dimension of life to it.
What the photo doesn’t show, and what I honestly didn’t think to explore until now, was where the vine is growing from. Behind the brick wall is the yard of a historic farm-house that is a landmark in the city. The wall acts as a barrier between the yard and the street. I imagine the vine started growing in this yard and, upon meeting the brick wall and determining there was no way to grow through it, the vine decided to grow up and over it.
Maybe we have something to learn from this vine.
We–people–encounter brick walls too. While they may not be physical, they are just as palpable. These walls are made of things we hold onto–emotions, histories, experiences–that we didn’t even know mattered to us until they are all piled on top of one another in an impenetrable form. It’s usually at this point, when the walls have taken shape and are impossible to get through, that we feel hindered by them.
So what does one do in the face of a brick wall? There are a few options. You can try to ignore it, but that rarely works. I mean, it’s a big, brick wall; not easily overlooked. You can try to be poetic about it, but that’s just a diversion. After the poem and applause, you’re still staring at a wall. You could tear it down. But, in a twist of irony, that thought is paralyzing. Yes, the wall is restrictive, but at one point it protected you. You built it for a reason and it is a part of you, or you a part of it. Either way, tearing it down would leave you too vulnerable.
What if you grow up and over it?
What if by acknowledging that the wall is there, but refusing to let it stop you from growing, you simply add another layer–another dimension–of life to it? What if you keep the wall and it keeps you…and together you create something different.