I believe in believing.
I recently discovered the power of the simple statement: I believe. I also realized how often I say, “I don’t believe it” when something miraculous occurs.
I’d lost my light meter. It’s not an inexpensive piece of equipment. I’m a photographer. In a previous life, I trekked through war zones, refugee camps and burning buildings. My light meter and my Leicas shared the journey. The sentimental value is priceless.
I lose things. I misplace things. They usually find their way back to me. I checked my car. I checked my apartment. I figured it would show up. My friend, Martha, who’d once found my lost keys in her kitchen garbage can, suggested I return to Bald Hill where I’d been photographing the previous week.
I waited two weeks before I returned to Bald Hill, convinced the meter was under my car seat or stuck behind a cushion. On a sunny Oregon afternoon, I climbed the hill and parked myself on a bench overlooking the valley. I sat and wrote in my journal and put no thought or effort into looking for the light meter.
After an hour, I walked to another bench, where I’d remembered photographing—and, still, I didn’t look for my light meter. I was so convinced I had not lost it here; or if I had, I was certain someone had taken it. I sat on the bench and read essays in the paperback edition of—no kidding—“This I Believe.”
Eventually I looked at the field where I’d been photographing and thought, oh I’ll take a look. Walking through the tall grass and brittle Queen Anne’s lace, I repeated my mantra: there is no way it’s here. Another thought followed. Cheryl, if you’re up here looking for it, you ought to believe you’re going to find it.
As my nephew, Christopher, would say: Duuh.
OK. I said it. I believe.
In that moment, I looked down and next to my left foot I spotted the black-lanyard. I followed it with my eyes, then my feet, only to discover my faithful Sekonic sunbathing, face up to the sky. I pressed the power button. The panel illuminated.
“Unbelievable.” I heard myself saying it. I swear. Miracle delivered. And dissed.
Now I pay attention to my language and I notice how often people say “unbelievable” or “I don’t believe it” when they encounter amazing things.
It’s just as easy—and more rewarding—to say, I believe.
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