Snapshots from an unexpected journey

My elbows and knees are dusty. Grass seeds stick in my socks and trousers. I have sand in my shoes. And I've barely started. I want clear portraits, and I'm willing to get dirty to get them.

Sand all over me and grass seeds, that isn't too bad. Last summer, I took portraits of small streams running down the side of Mt. Ireland, with all their attendant brush, grass, and rocks.

By the time I left the mountain, with about 30 photos in my camera, I was wet and muddy: elbows, knees, a broad streak of mud down the front of my shirt, and I'd sat in mud. I had water and mud in my shoes. I had managed to keep my camera out of the mud and water, but I used a branch to help pull myself up from one of my prone shooting positions, and the pitch I got on my hand from the limb smeared onto the camera. The lens stayed clean, and that's the part that counts.

I'm on the Oregon desert now, and the last rain was weeks ago, so no mud. Plenty of dust and sand. Ah, the next portrait: rabbit brush. Light green, with yellow flowers, and in front and to one side is a perfect clump of grass, bleached light yellow by fall, with seeds headed up.

Down on my knees isn't low enough, so I am prone, elbows in the dusty sand. I shoot from a low perspective so the photo includes sky, Oregon-desert blue, with gray and white clouds, above the brush and grass. I stand up, move two feet, and lie down again; stand up and shift a ways to the side and lie down again. Now I have it right, so I press the shutter release.

I've walked half a mile. I've left a wandering line of footprints, elbow prints, knee prints, body prints in the sand, and I have 42 photos in the camera: brush, grasses, very small purple flowers, jumbles of lava rock rising above the Oregon desert sand, sometimes with currant bushes, rabbit brush, and clumps of grass growing from spaces between rocks.

An unexpected side journey, tributary to my main direction, rises from this project of photographing parts of Oregon. I don't consider names of plants and places terribly important. Names are given by other humans and have no eternal value.

Yet I've learned the names of many birds and trees for the sake of communicating about birds and trees with other people. When I can find books that are efficient for me in this learning process, I'll learn more names of brush, flowers, grass, rocks, and the dirt itself.

I'm dusty all over, decorated with grass seeds, and I have dust and sand in my shoes. Dusty fingerprints ornament my camera. Dust sticks quite well to the pine pitch I've carried on the lower-right side of the camera since my image-gathering on Mt. Ireland. The lens is clean.

My tracks across the Oregon desert look like a map of my journey through life, wandering one way and another, an unexpected tributary to one side to investigate a particularly nice clump of rabbit brush and to look at a large jumble of black rocks. This is a beautiful day on the desert, attended by warm sunshine, dramatic clouds, soft breezes, and I have some good images in the camera.

I'm on a pleasant journey through life, and I have many strong, good memories. I set up tentative goals to head toward, always willing to take an unexpected direction to capture a particularly good image, to find something new to learn, to build good experiences and good memories.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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