45 Degrees of Separation

(Sunday, December 11, 2011, 7:08 a.m. EST, 22 degrees F)

Full moon setting: this photo was taken 45 degrees to
the left of where we stand to shoot the video, toward the mainland

I visit this spot on the bridge (at least) once a week. This morning we arrived at sunrise—at 22 degrees the coldest since we started to record the videos. The beauty was absolutely breathtaking, captivating, magical; so phenomenal that words truly cannot describe. A full moon setting, the subtle pinks rising and reflecting from the water, a flock of Canada geese floating on the water just out of video view.

So beautiful that, after taking the video in the usual direction, I turned the camera about 45 degrees and took another. Now you can see the more intense pinks, the flock of geese congregated and warming up before they take flight.

Despite the frigid temperature, we stood on the bridge for almost ten minutes and then we walked more, in another direction toward another vantage point, to take some still shots toward islands north of us.

When I watched the videos at home, what struck me most was the incredible stillness interrupted by the cars zooming by. I marveled at the fact that the people in those two cars (and others we didn’t record) drove by the stunning beauty without even slowing. And it made me remarkably glad that I started making the videos—so that for at least the time it takes to make the video, I am required to stand and just observe and truly see what I might otherwise pass by. And it made me wonder…..what masterpieces of nature do I drive by or take for granted every day?

Are there places and things you pass by everyday that you never really notice? Are there times you force yourself or take the time to really slow down and see and observe?



  1. I LOVE seeing a new perspective of your video vantage point! That photo IS so magical. Love the pinks, the houses on the hill … Spectacular!

    The question you pose is one that actually inspired my entire blog. When I realized how much I was missing every day – before I really took the time to stop, to be in the moment, and observe – I knew I had to write about it, photograph it, and share it. Such an important lesson for EVERYONE, but maybe even more so for the writer.

    Thanks for the gorgeous videos and photo.

  2. Love the picture with the moon and road. My first thought was “We had a full moon here too!” Hello..we aren’t on different planets..I don’t know what my problem is today. It’s the full moon! lol

  3. Julia, you are so right! The very reason I love your Sunday videos is that they require ME to sit and watch the stillness and do nothing else. I also, like you, often wonder at how much people miss (myself too at times) racing around. I try to walk when I can, and get at least one walk with the hound every day. I love this time because it’s quiet time, fresh air, and I get to bird watch and notice the sky, the trees and all those other things that pass you by when you drive. Keep making your lovely videos Julia and letting us see a bit of your lovely home.

  4. Melissa, I love the way your blog encourages the obervation of nature and then helps writers think about how it can be reflected in or reflective about their writing. It’s so unique and wonderful. And as you say, such an important lesson for all of us — especially so for writers. Glad you enjoyed the new perspective!

    Sara, That’s so funny you thought that about the full moon — especially so because I thought the SAME thing as I started to write it. Seriously, I thought to myself…. how nice that they’ll get a chance to see not just the sandbar but also a full moon! HELLO, same planet, Julia! LOL here too!

    Abi, So happy my videos give you a chance to sit and watch the stillness. Your walks with the hound sound similar to my dog walks. Even if there are days I don’t really feel like going out –if it’s too cold or rainy or snowy — I always feel better after going! I love this time of year too!

  5. Ann says:

    I like the new perspective! The colors are amazing! I tend to look out a lot in the car. I love going over the bridge that we have near our house….

    One thing I take the time to observe around my area is the clouds! For some reason – Jacksonville, FL has the prettiest clouds!

    The other thing I HAVE to say (and you know this is coming) OMG! 22F?! That is so cold I can see my breath writing this comment!

  6. Ann, I’m with you, I LOVE looking at clouds when I’m driving in the car. And I can only imagine the incredible clouds near Jacksonville (I’ve never been to Florida!)… I’m imagining I’d be a lottt warmer than I am right now, even though we’re a toasty 29F this morning 😉

  7. I don’t drive, so I get to see a lot of interesting things every time we go out (“we” being relative to whoever I’ve convinced to drive me around at the time 😉 ). I definitely think there’s a lot to see that most people will miss through their whole lives, moreso now that everyone’s got a smartphone to constantly listen to music and check their facetweets. :p

    And THAT is cold! Phwaa!


  8. Barb Riley says:

    Clouds-watcher here too! Lately I’ve been appreciating the beauty of the midwest skies. Even on short trips to and from the grocery store, I can’t help but notice the clouds and all their wild shapes while I drive.

  9. That is a beautiful photo, Julia. Love the winter pastels. I am not usually a pastels person, but somehow enjoy those colors as they decorate the winter landscape.

  10. Ashlee, I do drive, but I think that being a passenger in a car is one of my very most favorite things — so I can well understand being an observer in that seat! It is a wonderful way to see the world go by and also have someone to talk to about it. What a really good point about smartphones even more diluting the ability to really see the world…. and I’m guilty myself, unfortunately. (p.s. yes, VERY cold!)

    Barb, The midwest skies are BEAUTIFUL — so many clouds and colors at all times of day. Very complex and fun to watch, I agree. It’s great that you’re able to really see them even on short trips!

    Karen, Glad you enjoyed the photo! I know what you mean about not being a pastels person — generally I’m not either — but that spot with the natural light, despite the sometimes-pastels, really has a drama to it. Maybe especially, as you say, as they decorate the winter landscape!

  11. I love taking time to appreciate what I see when I’m out walking with Lola (when I’m driving, I have to focus on traffic 100%), but I’m not as observant as I’d like to be. I tend to get lost in my thoughts.

  12. Whenever I take my daily walk, I am aware of the tiny beautiful details I zoom past almost everyday when I am in a hurry to get somewhere. It is truly magical and inspiring to take time out of our hectic lives to stop and smell the roses–whatever form those roses might be. Thanks for this reminder, Julia.

  13. Shary, Thank goodness for drivers like us who focus 100% on driving! But, I do love being a passenger so I can watch the world go by, don’t you? I think writers often get lost in their thougths, so I know just what you mean!

    Jolina, I agree that it’s so wonderful to be able to slow down and appreciate the magical and inspiring moments — although doesn’t it seem like those moments are too few and far between?

  14. Jamie says:

    I am falling in love with your piece of the Maine shoreline. (Even at 22 degrees). The silence punctuated with nature’s whispers, is beautiful. I too every now and then point out an amazing sunset to my children. My youngest must appreciate it too – he will say, I wish I had my camera. Thanks. I loved it.

  15. Jamie, I’m so glad you’re falling in love with this little piece of Maine! It is a lovely spot that offers beauty and also much to observe — with a real sense of the peace of nature, too. I love that your son wants to take pictures of the sunsets! What a wonderful thing to share together!

  16. Julia, I’m just waiting for you to pop your head up on the screen some day. I think you should do that some time. Just to make sure people are on their toes. 🙂

    I usually drive past the historical markers that say the Sante Fe and Overland trails crossed here all the time and think nothing of it.

    We went out to an apple orchard a couple of years ago and while on the little wagon ride out to the apples, the land owner showed us the permanent wagon rut marks from all of the pioneers. I saw the historical marker nearest my house the other day on the side of the road and for some reason I thought of that farm and how cool it would be to be able to see the “footsteps” from a long time ago.

    Enjoy your view!

  17. Hallie, I know what you mean about the historical markers because we have some of those too — and I too pass right by! The permanent wagon rut marks and historical marker near your house remind me of the feelings I get sometimes walking through my 100+ year old house: thinking of all the people who lived here and looked out the same windows…. or as you say: “footsteps from long ago.” So intriguing an idea! (p.s. You have NO idea how many times I’ve thought of popping in on the video camera screen…. just to keep everyone on their toes!! 🙂

  18. Patrick Ross says:

    Your observation of the drivers flying by without seeing the beauty reminded me of the opening of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, where the narrator discusses with his son and riding companions the beauty they’re driving through, while observing the “dead” faces of people driving in cars the opposite direction. I’d love to say I’m always the one taking in water, sun and geese, but often I’m that driver.

  19. Patrick, Unfortunately, like you, I’m often the driver zooming by too — which is why I’m glad I have that 10 minutes on the bridge every week. I love the quote from the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; I’ve had that book on my TBR list for a long time — must get to it!

  20. CMSmith says:

    When I was in my twenties and had just started a job after graduation, I was having dinner with a male friend at my apartment. My table was beside a sliding glass door to a small patio. At one point, my friend looked out and saw a hot air balloon in the sky, and then we looked and saw two more. We laughed at how much of the world can pass us by because we just weren’t watching.

    Beautiful shots. I can imagine your visible breath on the air. It was nearly 60 degrees here today.

  21. Lisa Ahn says:

    I agree with Abi — I love that your videos get me to stop and look and wonder. For the rest of my day, I’m rushing. I think my New Year’s goal should be to slow down.

  22. Christine, It is truly incredible how the world really can pass us by if we’re not watching… I’m glad you enjoy watching our videos that we make in our attempt to slow down our world… (p.s. I am longing for those 60s!)

    Lisa, I’m so glad that the videos help you slow down, too…. it’s so easy for me to say I’m going to really notice the world around me, but it’s amazing how much effort it takes. It sounds like a New Year’s goal I’d join you in (if I can slow down long enough 🙂

  23. Nancy Kelley says:

    I take regular walks through my neighborhood, with my iPhone camera in hand. I love snapping pictures of the trees, bright green against the brilliant blue sky; or the blossoms just starting to open; or the sunset on the first day of summer. It’s just my neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.

  24. Nina B says:


    Also, your question at the end stunned for a minute. “Are there places and things you pass by everyday that you never really notice?” OY, yes. Too much yes.

  25. Nancy, Isn’t the iphone camera wonderful? I love doing that too! I totally agree about finding beauty in our neighborhoods — it’s just amazing once you slow down and look, isn’t it? And I so agree that snapping photos helps!

    Nina, Glad you enjoyed the videos & photos! I know it sounds crazy but I’ve actually driven over that bridge — right by that amazing view — without even noticing… at all! So, just like you, I pass much too much by!

  26. Susan Okaty says:

    Your post definitely reminds me to take time to notice my world. I wonder what I’ve been missing? Loved the pictures and videos.

  27. Susan, That’s such a great question… I so often wonder what I’ve been missing, too! (Although, I guess we’ll never know what we’re missing, because we missed it!) Glad you enjoyed the videos and photo!