Monday, March 2, 2020


I read this line in a New Yorker article by Nick Paumgarten this morning and was completely stopped by it:

"In the elements, performing tasks, the climbers achieve a narrowness of focus - a lizard-brain braid of adrenaline, expertise, and choice - that becomes a demented kind of meditation: Zen on ice.

This wonderful sentence put a chill of recognition down my spine. One of my earliest bush-soul connections was with a blue belly lizard - hyper aware and really fast. I have always preached that to do anything well you have to go narrow and deep and Nick just put narrowness and lizard-brain together in a way that made complete sense to me.

I was also an avid amatuer climber way back when. I completely understand the necessary narrowness of focus he is talking about. Climbing with your nose a few inches from the granite wall, you keep your focus very narrow. Your world does not extend beyond the reach of your limbs and where the next move will be.

I had not thought of the lizard brain literally, but of course, narrowness of focus certainly can be about survival focus and turning off the higher functions. Focusing on nothing else when your entire body knows you have to be in that moment completely.

Unfortunately, I never reached the level of expert in free climbing exposed rock faces. I have reached some kind of expertise in assembling visually cohesive compositions, and this process is not so much about using my lizard brain. Going narrow and deep in the creative process still very much applies though. And, like meditation, that is a learned skill that can take a life time.

Here's to narrow and deep in Utah.

1 comment:

  1. Here’s the serendipity of this Covid plagued, fire-infused, hurricane-threatened morning (hang in – this will be worth it): Earlier, I watched this profoundly harrowing, revelatory 8 ½ minute Eric Minh Swenson film on artist Hannelore Baron - .

    Then my wife delivered your blog from her morning’s carryover from yesterday’s rabbit hole excavation of the Internet. Which led to my reading your intriguing comment on lizard-brain focus not so much pertaining to your expertise in assembling visually cohesive compositions.

    Watch the video. It just profoundly changed my relationship to my artistic efforts and my sense of truly deep involvement with the work. I suspect it will affect you, too. Many thanks.