Waves surfaced in Kodak, Dektol developer each time I plunged my warm hand into the 68 degree fluid to process photographic prints. Prior to digital cameras, photographers could send negatives to labs to make photographs or develop their own. I chose my basement darkroom to produce pictures to find a truth within my images to give meaning to my art.
Tongs and other darkroom tools were used to place image-exposed Kodak, Polycontrast paper into the cold fluid. Agitation of the paper by shuffling it back and forth was necessary to remove air bubbles from the paper’s surface. Free of air bubbles, Dektol could uniformly penetrate to Polycontrast’s imbedded silver to create an image I sought. My hand was a perfect tool for this job. In spite of the cold, the tactile sensation from moving the paper forward and backward in the fluid, coaxed the image into view.
At first, a ghostly vision appeared as I continued to massage the paper’s surface. Discernment was critical. Remove the paper prematurely and the image would be underexposed, lacking detail, the proof to support my truth. Overexposure was equally disastrous, hiding the photograph’s story in a dark mishmash of excessive detail.
Why is discernment critical, you might ask? When the image is ready, why not remove the print from the developer? Unfortunately, photographs continue to develop after the paper is removed from Dektol and placed in the fixer, the second step in the process. Discernment, based on self-knowledge from prior experience was the deciding factor for when I would fix the image.
To rely on self-knowledge requires trust that what we know from the past will be useful and appropriate in the present. And, it may be difficult to trust without possessing more information. We may be hesitant to take action so we delay and wait for more information to surface. Sometimes the information we believe we need to confirm self-knowledge may overdevelop our vision and block our truth similar to the overdeveloped print in Dektol. How do we trust self-knowledge to find the optimal point to stop developing our vision and move forward? Look to the seashore as a way to examine this issue.
We trust the ocean to continuously deliver waves to the beach as she has for millennia. Does the sea metaphorically search for information concerning how to produce each new wave? Does her self-knowledge, born of tidal and geologic forces, allow her to create waves without deliberation? Let’s assume the later to examine the potential of self-knowledge.
The sea “understands” how to repeat waves that meet the beach before the earlier wave fully retreats. The ocean knows the optimal time to release each new wave without seeing the return of the previous wave. The overlapping, foamy intervals flow forward and backward, just like processing the sea’s truth in Dektol.
Each wave is evidence of the ocean’s self-knowledge of how to make waves. The ocean doesn’t seek confirmation of her ability to produce waves. Nor does the ocean need to see the result of each wave prior to releasing the next. No one questions the sea’s ability to create waves or the validity of the ocean’s purpose. We accept the sea’s knowledge and her behavior as the essence of the ocean.
Accept self-knowledge as your essence. Have faith in your discernment to cease development of your vision at the optimal time to achieve your truth. Your truth, like the print in Dektol is what’s meaningful for you. You realize you don’t need every fact to fix your image. Nor do you need confirmation of your ability to know your purpose. Trust the natural rise of self-knowledge like the wave trusts the ocean. You’ll know when it’s time to stop developing your idea and create the vision of your truth.
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
I write personal essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and self-development articles from my home in Madison, Wisconsin.