It's the last few days of my road trip and I’m starting to feel sad that this adventure is coming to an end. It’s normal, I know, as I’m driving through the Rockies to think that I’ll be leaving them soon. I yo-yo between wanting more time, excitement for home, and trying to stay in the moment. Thankfully I saved the best for last - a day in Waterton Lakes National Park. I first learned to camp here with my family, and years later took a job in the park so that I could teach myself landscape photography.
Obviously, now is a good time to talk about mindfulness, which I find I need to learn over and over again. As a newbie climber I rushed up and down the mountain. My goal was to take a picture of the big view. But as I stuck with it, time trained my eye to enjoy the subtle changes of light and beauty all the way up.
I finally understood what textbooks were trying to tell me about soft controlled light, leading lines, and the importance of using a tripod. I could see that the forest looks better as the sun crawls across the floor at sunset, much better than the hard glare of high noon. In winter I appreciated the tiny pops of green moss that were the only color in the whitewash of snow. I started to love just looking through the organic tangle of nature and finding compositions that were more and more complicated. Learning to hike changed me completely, from an anxious ambitious girl who didn’t know what she wanted, to a person who is in absolute joy just to be here.
I’m not perfect. I still want to see so many places, I run myself ragged to fit in one more. I still want to accomplish accolades, make money, feel successful. I still get sad sometimes when those things become too big. But hiking has taught me that there’s a place I can go inside myself that pushes those things aside. I can breathe deep like it’s easy to when the air smells like pine. I can notice all the living things around reminding me that it’s a gift to be alive. I can be thankful for all that I am already. I didn’t have that before.
There’s a lot of talk about meditation and mindfulness going on right now, and it’s easy to dismiss it as unnecessary or understand the theory only. I struggled with applying it for a long time, until I realized that I was already learning how to be present in the background, through something that I naturally enjoyed doing. For me photography is flow.
Well, it’s nearly midnight and we’re approaching the park gates. I can’t wait to see what tonight brings. I’ll be hanging out by the water, seeing the stars through my lens and having a beer with my parents. Just like old times :)