POLITELY DIGITIZING THE WOODS

Woods along Holly Oak Creek

22 January, 2001

Our friend Shari said something memorable Saturday night. For all I know, she (like you) often says something worth remembering. All the same, I remember little and was lucky to remember this.
. . . It's not that I'm an aged creature; no, not at all. That can't be! Not yet! No, the problem is that I carry on many conversations as though they were a game in which the object is to keep a topic alive without letting it grow stale for any of the participants. I enjoy talking, sometimes at its best, as a form of active relaxation, a game in which I don't keep score and remember little of what was actually said.
. . . What Shari said that I actually remembered was this: "It puts everything in perspective. The problems of the day aren't as important once I'm on horseback."
. . . I found her comment illuminating, no doubt in a way she didn't intend. You see, I have a neat little catalog of unpleasant experiences that put problems in perspective. These traumatic experiences include murder, suicide, fatal car accidents, divorce, insanity, and Bruce Willis movies where he's trying to be cool.
. . . Memories of these horrific experiences put everyday problems in perspective. It never occurred to me that doing something you love -- like riding horseback -- also could put problems in perspective.
Woods along Holly Oak Creek
. . . Perhaps that's why, the next morning, without really thinking about it, I pocketed my camera and went larking about the newly fallen snow. Several inches had fallen while our village slept. The sky awoke clear and blue. The world, covered with a thick frosting, looked like someone's sunny birthday cake.
. . . As I went around capturing images, something I love to do, I did not have a sense of gaining perspective on my problems. Instead, I was faced with a problem I'd faced many times before -- wondering what to photograph.

An embarrassment of riches -- that's how the problem might be described. This time it happened just as I entered the woods along Perkins Run. The tall trees thrust their bare limbs into the bright sky. Wind had not touched the smaller, sheltered trees. Their limbs still held mounds of snow, all of it shining.
. . . I'd take a step, take a picture. I'd turn my head, take another picture. I took eighty photographs that day. I could easily have taken eight hundred. But who's going to see them? Who's going to give each image the attention it deserves? Not me. I've put a few low-res images here to illustrate this letter. Perhaps I'll do more and create an on-line portfolio of images from my expedition. Maybe. But I want to do that, too, with the photos I took on the beach in San Diego a few weeks ago. But when? And what of those thousands of photos I took during the 20th century? When will I do something with those?
. . . Such thinking stinks of futility. As I walked through the woods, I had no such depressing thoughts. I was giddy and amused.
. . . If I was taking photographs, it was a way of involving myself with the surrounding splendor. I had no hope of capturing what was around me. A photograph is not a forest. Instead, I felt like each click of the shutter was a bow to majesty, an acknowledgement of gratitude, a way of paying respect.
. . . It's as though I was saying “Pleased to meet you" to the forest, the creek and to the shadows on the snow. If I was clicking away with my camera, it was the same thing as being polite, a way of being gracious in noble company, as though I was saying, “You're so gracious." (CLICK) “Thanks for making me feel at home." (CLICK) “What a lovely place you have." (CLICK) “Yes, if you insist, one more serving. It's delicious!" (CLICK)
. . . Nature is a hospitable lady who makes even me behave like a gentleman.

Woods along Holly Oak Creek

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One cat runs up the stairs, the other stands in front of me.
Monday, January 15, 2001.

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One tree and two people welcome Mr. Death.
Monday, January 29, 2001.

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Text and images copyright 2001 Danny Nelson Schweers

 

 

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