“I’d started playing another game, one I kept a secret…I called it the Perfect Picture game. The goal was to find snapshot-sized scenes in my town that showed absolutely no sign of Katrina. The game had been especially challenging right after the storm. Broken limbs, torn streets, and mangled houses relentlessly assaulted the eyes. With the Perfect Picture game, I’d discovered I could turn off my peripheral vision and focus on one small area…Much later, I would understand why the game seemed so important to me. The miraculous gifts of the storm were those of the spirit…Yet it was difficult to pair any image with those inspiring qualities. Meanwhile, the losses of Katrina were imminently visible, branding the brain with panoramas of despair and pain…Finding even a small visual balm — like a small garden planted by a neighbor — gave us the power to heal our dreams and restore our peace.” — Ellis Anderson
In her award-winning book Under Surge, Under Siege, Ellis Anderson writes movingly of her small Mississippi town surviving the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. Faced with overwhelming loss and grief, the residents of Bay St. Louis pulled together and rose above sorrow through their relentless determination to overcome despair with optimism and strength. The Perfect Picture game was one of my favorite parts of Anderson’s engaging book, and probably was an influence in the creation of this blog. Just as Anderson managed to frame islets of perfect beauty amid massive destruction, so we can create mental places of refuge from pain by focusing our eyes (literally and figuratively) on what is beautiful and inspiring. In 2013, try creating your own “perfect pictures” with your camera, your eyes, or your heart.