A Strange Day

Sometimes I want to tell a story without images, only with words. A story like this one.

Yesterday was a strange day for me.

While walking in the woods I met a man walking barefoot. He stood with his feet on a large maple leaf looking into the sun breaking through the bright green canopy of spring above and smiling at it. I smiled at the whole spectacle and the pure joy radiating from him.

I approached him and said it was a great idea to go barefoot. He said he was on a journey of self-discovery but he was thirsty and asked if I had any water. I gave him one of two bottles of water I had and told him to keep it. Then I removed my shoes and walked barefoot myself. I wanted to discover something myself.

I discovered long forgotten feeling of the ground I walk on. It reminded me of my childhood when I was running around barefoot all the time at my grandparents’ farm. And the gentle poking of rocks made me feel more alive.

Later on I was on my way to pick up food when I met a beggar who was done with begging for the day and was sitting alone and playing a guitar by himself for himself.

I’ve seen him before. His bright personality and appearance was very memorable. I told him the song was too sad and he played a joyful one.

At the restaurant I got extra food because I knew I’d like to share it with him. On the way back I asked if I could sit and listen to him playing while eating. He was delighted at that. So, I sat on the ground and I was in a concert, the audience of one. The best entertainment I had in months!

He played 3 songs that he wrote himself until he got tired and wanted to have a dinner too with whatever he got from begging. I shared what I brought and we had dinner together talking and talking. When we finished I thanked him for his music and left.

Later I was sitting outside reading a book in warmth of the evening sun. I was taking my eyes off the book from time to time to look at the sunset. A hill, really just grass covered big mound of dirt left from a construction long time ago, was blocking my view.

I meant to climb that hill with a camera for quite some time. I wanted to see the view from it but the hill was in private land (owned by construction company I presume) and that was stopping me. But yesterday I just got up, went to the hill and climbed it and had utter delight standing on top, looking at the sun changing hues as it was slowly rolling toward the horizon.

Yesterday was an interesting day for me.

Being One With the Place

Last week I just spent a few days in the Palouse and something unusual happened on that trip. I did not take pictures there. That’s right, I spent several days in one of the most sought after photographic destinations in the world and for a few days I did not take a single picture.

It’s important to mention that I had  been to the Palouse many times before and had taken countless pictures there. But not this time.

When I got there this time I realized that I didn’t have anything else to say about it; I have exhausted my visual language in photographing it. And instead of photographing it I decided to experience it. Simply being present there.

Instead of driving up to location for sunrise when an alarm went off after a night sleep in the car I was peering through the windows covered with a veil of snow white petals taken off the apple tree I was parked under by the gusts of wind whose rhythmic shaking of my car lulled me to sleep the night before.

Instead of driving around looking for photographic opportunity I was sitting at the top of Steptoe Butte, reading a book, doing some work, or just staring in the distance.

Walking among the trees of abandoned orchard I’d stop caught by the singing of the birds. I’d stand for I don’t know how long listening to them because the time lost its meaning and only the melody of the nature remained. I’d stand as quietly as possibly and just listen.

Next day I walked to the top of the Steptoe Butte proudly towering over the ocean of rolling hills. There’s a road there going all the way up. That’s how most people get there and that’s how I used to get there too. But, I wondered, what it would be like to walk that road instead. I drove to the top first, left my car there and walked down to the base of the butte. That way I would not chicken out and turn around half way to the top. I’d have to go all the way because that was where my car was. Following a spiraling road bound around the butte a few times down I went.

Walking it gave me a new appreciation of Steptoe Butte diverse natural beauty. A green carpet of grass with orange and purple and yellow and blue polka dots of wild flowers was covering the slope.  A multitude of plum and apple trees covered in blossom ranging from pure white to gentle pink were rising from that carpet. And isolated rock gardens not tamed by the vegetation yet.

On the way back I spotted a faint trail going up, more likely walked by wild animals than people. I took it. And just like that my walk turned into a real adventure. I found wild flowers I had never seen before, I experienced rich scents I had never smelled before, I saw a herd of deer that quickly retreated away from me and an ant mound that I carefully walked around at a safe distance.

A patch of trees that seemed insignificant from the road turned out to be a real forest where one could use ‘up’ as the only way to keep walking in the same direction. I had to find my way, sometimes walking around spiky bumbles, sometimes retreating and finding another way when facing especially dense vegetation. When I finally walked out of the forest onto the road I was rich with new experiences and much closer to the top than I expected.

In the end I did take a few pictures when the light was so dramatic that it was hard to stay away from the camera.

Restrictions Mean Creativity?

For almost two month now we’ve had Stay at Home order in Washington state. It ruined my travel plans and I was pretty disappointed with the loss of photographic opportunities. But I stayed at home and only walked close to it to keep myself and other people safe. As days passed and I kept walking the nature trails next to my home, I first came to terms with the restrictions, and then I started appreciate them because I was falling in love with the place I live in.

Day after day I was walking in the patch of wilderness near me. Little by little I studied it. Now I know every little stream, every little trail. I know many trees and rocks. I know how they look in sunny weather and in cloudy one. I know how they look in the morning and in the evening.

I spent hours sitting on a rock or log by a burbling stream in a cool shade of a tree while the sun was winking at me through the canopy. And I was winking back at the sun, listening to a story the stream was telling me. Or read a book myself. Every time I would make sure to leave no trace and take a good picture of the place.

The forest became my friend. I saw it waking up after winter, stretching its muscles with the cracking sound of its branches, dressing up in a green dress with flowery polka dots. Every day I had little discoveries waiting for me, brightening my day: a new flower blooming that was not there the day before, a tree having a shimmer of green where there were bare branches earlier, a deer walking among the trees.

The forest was never resting, always changing. And yet there was a sense of calm and peace in the forest. Nothing was rushed and everything got done. Slowly day-by-day it was coming to life.

By now I came to appreciate the restrictions for making me fall in love with the place I live in. I was challenged to find something interesting close to home. And I became more attuned to its beauty. And I became more creative.

I’m eager to see it living and changing through all the seasons.