Another Wednesday, and I’m sitting outside in my comfy camp chair, gently rocking with the breeze as I write this. If I sound mellow, that’s about right. Two weeks of being in one place has been a luxury. This trend will continue till late January, and I’m enjoying it so very much. It’s not that I hate moving, it’s more that I’ve realized I was moving so much that I didn’t have time to be still and let what I’ve seen seep into my soul and then come back out as art. I was taking photos on the fly, hoping that a bit of post-processing and a quick blog post would capture the essence of what I saw. As the weeks and months flew by, I was getting more frustrated with my posts and yet I couldn’t figure out why. It took sitting still for a few weeks to realize that things need to change when I go back out on the road next January.
This is the first time ever that I have not been in motion in my adult life. I’ve always been working or looking for the next job; I’ve never had the luxury of just being somewhere, without the pressure of a job, either in progress or ahead of me. And since I moved into my trailer, this is also the first time I’ve stopped for more than a few weeks and not had to be thinking ahead about packing things up and moving to the next spot. I have the time to think about what I want to do, and the when and the how of it. This stillness is starting to pay off.
Two ideas I’m working on have to do precisely with “moving and doing” vs. “stopping and thinking.” In 2019, I’ve decided to focus my travels on two themes and build in time while traveling to stop and reflect on those themes and process the photos and experiences before they get away from me. Sometimes it feels like the last two years of traveling are a jumble in my head and the challenge of writing in depth about what I’ve seen or done is overwhelming. By focusing my travel on themes and locales, with time to synthesize my thoughts and images before I move on, I hope to produce better blog posts and maybe even some essays that dive more deeply into places or topics of note.
The first theme for 2019 is the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. I had originally planned to explore places in Alabama this fall, but I realized I wasn’t ready for it. I need to do more reading and learning about historical events and and politics before I see these places in order to fully appreciate them in the context of American history. This winter, I’ll be working my way through a reading list as well as selecting places to visit and then the time to absorb it all and write about it. I’m giving myself eight weeks in the Spring to explore this theme, and that feels like a solid start.
The second theme is more photography-based. One of the photographers I’ve followed for years is David du Chemin, because he writes more about the why of an image than the technical side, like lenses, tripods, and lighting. He’s much more apt to ask Why that image and not this one? or What story am I trying to tell? and that speaks to me more than worrying about which F-stop I’m using. His latest missive was about diving deep, rather than wide and in it, he challenged his readers to pick a subject and dive into it for a year. The second I read that sentence, the word “trees” popped into my head and it hasn’t left.
The idea of spending a year really looking at and learning about trees seems to be exactly the right idea at the right time. As with all ideas that resonate deeply with me, the synchronicity of trees has been building for a while. I just finished reading The Overstory, a fantastic book that weaves trees into the stories of several characters, who then are woven together by the tree story lines into one larger epic, sort of the way individual trees are really a forest. The book is amazing on many levels and it got me thinking deeply about trees and all that I have seen as I’ve gone cross-country the last few years. In 2019, I want to head out west by mid-year, and so the range of trees and forests I could see in the next year could encompass most of the forests in the US, if I plan it right. I have no idea where this theme will lead me, but I want to find out.
Other than thinking a lot, I haven’t done a whole lot the past week. Did a few hikes bathing in the Florida forest, had some good meals with friends, walked around the neighborhood, and got to know my way around on foot. Now if only the weather would cool down, it would be perfect.
When you go into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees… and some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens and some of them are – whatever. And you look at the tree, and you just – allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is, you sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way, and you don’t get all emotional about it, you just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that, and you’re constantly saying, “You’re too this,” or “I’m too this,” or – that judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees, which means appreciating them just the way they are.