Seeing and Everythingness


A few days ago, when plunging temps turned the fog into a blanket of hoarfrost on the Mountain, Jackson and I went for a trail run. The tall white pines and oaks wore white lacework, as did the waist-high shrubs lining either side of the Perimeter Trail, creating a delicate white room within the larger cocoon of grey cloud and overcast. I stopped several times to take photos on my phone, trying to convey the sense of immersion in this crystalline space.

Back home, I flipped through the shots and selected one of Jackson looking sideways, poised between two symmetrical trees coated in white. I posted it on Facebook, where dozens of friends ‘liked’ it. (I had had to crop it first, having managed to get my finger into the top of the frame. The result was a better photo, as I also cropped part of the bottom, which was not as white due to the dirt trail.)

Taking photos while I’m outside adds another dimension to what I’m doing; it makes me an artist as well as an athlete. (I mean ‘artist’ in the most expansive sense of the word, not claiming any special talent or value in what I do.) I’m not just running or cycling or walking; I am also creating. And sharing: an essential part, to me, is bringing my views back and displaying them to Susan as well as through social media.

Knowng that I will be showing others what I’ve created motivates me to find special subjects, to look for meaningful objects for the eye and mind. (I’m sure all these things are common knowledge and practice for ‘real’ photographers.) In a sense, I am exhibiting my art in the gallery called Facebook. Here, this is what I have seen and created, I am saying; I hope it resonates with you.

The act of photographing is an enabler, a catalyst, for pushing me to see. Being out there looking for subjects of photos is a different process than just being out there. I pay more attention, I think in different ways, I am more attuned. You might say it heightens my awareness, grasshopper.

I have also taken photos of the view from the Cross, looking out on the humid summer clouds over Cowan toward Winchester; of the natural Z-geometry of a stream in the woods, backlit by the sun setting through the trees; of the distinctive iconography of stone outcroppings on the bluff’s edge. The seasons and variations of this place give endless opportunities to see and to capture unique lines, colors, and shapes.

 Perhaps the best part about this practice is that it takes me away from the tendency to think of, and use, the outdoors as a gym. This is the idea that a trail is merely a pretty treadmill, a fire lane a more interesting stationary bike. It de-objectifies the place where I go to exert myself, and places me more firmly in my right relation to nature. It engages me with the surroundings.

I feel immense gratitude for having discovered this path for expanding and deepening my experience in the woods and on the trails of this Mountain.