These little birds don’t communicate like you and I. In fact, while watching them wander along the shoreline I never heard them make a single noise. And yet, as the waves would brush up onto the beach the entire group would move as if connected. Mesmerized, I followed their dance up and down the sandy promenade that mirrored the ebb and flow of the gentle water waltz. Occasionally, the group would stop and some members would plop down to rest, the others going on about their business with little regard for the setting few. Then, as quickly as they stopped, they jumped up again and meandered their way along the shoreline in search of the next best thing to find, whatever it might be they were looking for.
Although they moved as a group, it was clear that they did not have any specific pattern of interaction. Each little avian hunter appeared expertly focused on whatever tasty morsel it might find in the fringes of the watery diner and seemed oblivious to what the active peeper next to it might be doing. As an observer, it was fascinating to see this flock move as a unit, yet work as individuals. There was not an obvious collective goal, but it did feel like they had a strong desire to remain together. Interesting and fun to watch.
I know that many times in the past I also wandered through the day in crowds of people and focused on my own tasks at hand, unaware or maybe unfocused on the people surrounding me. It is so easy to get lost in myself at times. In fact, some of my loneliest moments presented while surrounded by the largest number of people.
I believe we’ve all been there at one point or another and truthfully that helps to consider that this feeling is never unique to just me. But how I deal with it is so much more important. As so well put by John Donne:
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Perspective is the key and understanding that although at times I may walk with blinders on toward those around me, and try to consider myself alone, as soon as I am willing to open my eyes to the synergistic quality of human life; I am no longer capable of being alone or lonely.
Why do I take pictures, you ask? I am happy to explain. I believe we all should take more pictures; and here is why.
There are very few things that get me to the relaxed state faster than sitting on an open beach like the picture above.
Taking pictures is one of those things.
You see, I am drawn to the sound of the ocean and the lullaby that the waves can whisper in my ears. The feel of warm sand on my feet and the smell of the salt air pressed against my face by the ever present warm breeze waltzing in from it’s watery voyage. The blues and greens of the sea and the sky mixing colors that artists envy. Cotton-soft clouds that float through the air and bounce invitingly on the atmospheric currents. All of these things cover my spirit with a gentle blanket of peace.
But I am limited right now in the time that I can spend in this coastal Arcadia; so I stare at the picture above and I imagine all the sounds, scents, and scenery that I felt when I snapped the exposure.
I struggle daily with the harsh reality of the world and I allow it to overwhelm me at times. The levels of cruelty that we can reach with each other and the conflict that I and the souls I mingle with face each day all pass before my eyes and are seen with unfiltered vision.
But when I raise the camera and peer through the viewfinder my vision clears. The chaos and anxiety created by the world is removed and I see a picture. I see a story. I feel a calm developed by a sense of wonder pushed toward me through the lens with creative earnest. I snap a picture. I stop time. I grab a reprieve and I carry it away with me in pixels full of color and form. The camera stops the insanity that is our world and settles it down to red, green, and blue channels and mixes them together to show me something more wonderful and peaceful, and simple.
As I have said on my photo website; I selfishly take these pictures for me, but I happily share their vision with anyone who will take a look, in the hopes that they offer a moment of reflection. Although I have a specific tale to tell in each of the pictures I take, the story seen by others in each one is theirs to do with as they please.
I think we all need to take more pictures of the good things and take the time to narrate our fond memories with the hope of easing the strain of life’s journey just a little at a time.
As the sun slowly sets over the distant horizon another day comes to a close and our measured time washes another 24 hours from the bank of life. If I am there to witness it, I consider myself fortunate for the chance to use those minutes and hours to write another chapter in my own book of memories.
Time is an interesting quantifier. 525,600 minutes of our time tick off each year. On leap years, we get an extra 1,440 — a days worth. Whether I pay attention to it or not, the background passage time makes is not impacted by my actions. It moves at a constant pace regardless of how it is measured. And while I perceive time to pass at differing speeds relative to the activity I am present in each moment; it cares not about my perception and gracefully or not it marches right along.
One of my favorite aspects of photography is it allow me to freeze a moment in time and put it into a 2-dimensional package for me to hang on to. With these papers covered with no-longer-wandering pixels, I can re-create memories and return to past experiences for any reason I chose. The past is the past, but memory can make it feel real again in the present.
I have to be careful, though. For some of my past is not always good to have with me in the present. I file those memories under the category of REGRET. My favorite definition concerning regret is, “to continually go back and visit untoward memories with the hope the past will somehow change.” I know it can’t be done. I know that others are aware the past won’t ever be different than it was. Yet I can still wander around back there in self-pity and a state of mental destitute for days at a time; but always return with the same history I started with. Those minutes, or days, or weeks are wasted.
Henry David Thoreau made a fine recommendation, “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”
I still look back. I end up going that way sometimes. Perhaps another opportunity for positive change?
I can’t keep others from traveling into my past; especially to the memories I created with pain or suffering to them or others. All I can do is ask for forgiveness as payment on my debt and then I can travel in the present with a focused goal to not add to those debts. If my plea is ignored and those harmed chose to stay with regret in arrears, it is beyond my scope to belay it.
So I will chose to go forward tomorrow if I am allowed once more to be a part of that next 1,440 minutes of constrained eternity. I will look for good memories to pack into my camera and I will deliver them others. Whenever I can, I will be a positive force on the timeshare of life with my fellow travelers.
♦Photo Tip♦ Most of us are taught to put the sun at our back when we take a picture. Don’t be rigid with that advice. When you stand to take a picture, use the sun to create the effect you are looking for. To you back, your photo will be well lit for details; although people will be squinting for the same reason. The sun to either side; shadows are cast short or long and can add both dimension and contrast effects. Put the sun behind your subject and you get a silhouette as the focus of your shot. Experiment!