I turned on my computer yesterday to find that all my files had disappeared. Everything I’ve written, the recipe book I’m working on, contracts and personal papers, and of course, all my photographs, gone. This, of course, wasn’t the first time I’d suffered such a loss. When I left Alberta, most of my photos and writing were left behind. I managed to save some information on flash-drives, but there wasn’t enough time to transfer it all.
Because I used to carry much of my writing back and forth to work with me on flash-drives, a good deal of my recent work was preserved. I still had the old flash-drives with the photos from Alberta I had managed to save, but nothing from the last three years remained. I was devastated. Just the day before, I had gone to Peachland on a mission to find and take my first photo of 2021. I know. It’s kind of weird I make a big deal about my first photo of the year. It’s just a thing I do.
The idea was to have a pleasant lunch at my favorite restaurant in Peachland and then see if I could find a worthy subject for the all-important first photo. It wasn’t a big ambitious adventure, simply the spark that lights the fire.
I remember what my outings were like when I lived in Alberta. I always had a camera with me then; I kept one in the car. I can’t do that here. But when I was going on an actual outing, it was an event. I knew where I was going. I packed a lunch. I brought my sketchbook and my notebook. I brought a variety of lenses. I could still walk, and I wasn’t afraid to get dirty.
I showed up at the wildlife centre one day, after a long day of birding in the wet spring sun. My hair was a disaster, my face streaked with sweat and dirt. My clothes were covered in mud and I had a hawk in a box.
I’d found her hopping along the side of the highway, unable to fly. It was easy enough to come up behind her and capture her in the long grass with a cardboard box. I took her straight to the wildlife centre and they named her after me. She never did fully recover from her injuries, which we assumed were from being hit by a car, but she lived out the rest of her life there and seemed content.
My friend, Mike, at the wildlife centre, looked at me strangely that day – most likely shocked by my unruly appearance. But he told me how lucky I was to be able to do the things I do and see the things I see. Most people, he said, never get to experience what true wilderness and wildlife are about. He was right. I was lucky to do what I did, even if I didn’t get out very often. I’m still lucky because even if I can’t walk, I can still get to the wild places.
I can still see what I see.
Confucius said, “Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it.”
Maybe that’s why those photos are important to me. I want to show you. I want you to see what I see. I want you to see beauty where yesterday you might have only seen a tree stump, or a rock. I want you to feel the thrill of life in every breath. I want you to feel the sun on your face, even if you can’t get out, and see the perfection of a line or the pattern of the whorls in the sand.
Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Luck was with me once again. My vanished files turned out to be a wire that had come loose. My photos were all still there, now all backed up on flash-drives. Have a look and let me know.
Do you see what I see?