Sunday, November 13, 2016
As I prepared to drive north, I plugged my iPhone into the cassette adapter and tapped on the audible.com app. I knew exactly what I needed to hear on my two hour drive - the words of Brene Brown. I pressed start on her book The Gifts of Imperfection, which I also read a few years ago. As I pulled into the Starbucks drive-thru lane I stopped the book. The book wasn't narrated by Brene, I needed Brene's voice as much as her words. Instead I chose The Power of Vulnerability - Teaching on Authenticity, Connection and Courage. Only four months had passed since I last listened to this, but I am a different person than I was four months ago.
My drive north would bring me to a place filled with memories - Ludington State Park. I had been to the park only the week before with my daughter and her dog, Findley. Before that it had been almost a year and a half since my last visit, and before that at least a couple of years, which seems utterly ridiculous for as close as I live.
Being there had awakened all my old loves of the place. The only problem with last week was that it went too quickly. On my agenda for that day had been the 1-1/2 mile trek out to Big Sable Point Lighthouse, where I hadn't been since 2011. But my daughter, being the stickler for family traditions had insisted we do the walking loop around the dam, followed by our packed picnic lunch. After lunch, when Findley would be slightly tired we could take a leisurely stroll on the Lost Lake Trail. At eight months Findley's two speeds are fast and faster, so there was no leisurely stroll and I barely had time to raise my camera and take a few snapshots. But even with Findley's fast pace it was still four o'clock by the time we returned to the car. The journey to the lighthouse would have to wait for another day.
Only a week later, on a perfect early November day, sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60's, I was suppose to be home doing house projects while my daughter and Findley were gone for a few days and I had the house to myself. It is hard to get big cleaning projects done with a puppy running around. But instead I found myself in my car driving back to Ludington State Park and this time I would get to the lighthouse.
Even though I have been coming here for over thirty years, the drive into the park never fails to take my breath away. The summer homes and trees abruptly end and all that's left is the road, the dunes, and wide open space.
I pulled into the beach parking lot at 9:30, still early enough to catch some good light at the Big Sable River outlet to Lake Michigan.
Satisfied with my photographic captures thus far, I set off down the gravel two-track path to the lighthouse. About a half mile down the road, I came upon a sign that said Historic Shipwreck and the arrow pointed over the dune toward Lake Michigan. Hmmm...I didn't remember this from five years ago. Over the dune I went. As I came over the first dune this is what I saw...
Not a shipwreck, but it did give me that fluttery feeling inside. The bench begged to be photographed but it also beckoned for me to come and sit. I took off my camera backpack laid it on the bench and settled in for a therapy session with nature.
In Brene's sessions that I listened to on the way up she talked about the year she spent in therapy, therapy she needed to deal with her own issues that were arising from her work on shame and vulnerability. Maybe that's what I needed, a year of therapy to figure some of my crap out. But as I sat on that wooden bench surrounded by sand dunes, blue skies, Lake Michigan and lot of open space, I realized that photography is my therapy. I have access to it any time I need it, not just in scheduled fifty minute sessions. It may not talk to me in a physical voice like a therapist would, but it does have its own language, and I can hear it if I am only aware.
A few people commented on my last post about how self-aware I am. I am because I intentionally try to be. I want to figure myself out, where I am, and where I am headed. It is not a straight and narrow path, it is a constantly winding switchback without an end in sight.
One of the questions I asked myself as I sat on that bench. Why am I always anxious to travel and explore new places? Especially when places so close to home are amazing and filled with wonderful memories. Too often when I go to new places I feel rushed, always looking for "the shot" and usually not finding it, leaving me disappointed in the trip. But then I come to a place like this park, one that I know well and I can find all kinds of things to photograph, still not always "the shot" but the memories carry just as much weight here as perfect light.
I need to stop chasing the new and exciting all the time and instead seek the familiar places that I love. I think my photography and my writing will be stronger because of it.