Edited from a letter originally written to a friend on Tuesday, 1 May through Thursday, 3 May, 2012
January 22, 2012 was a stormy day in winter, the last day of a passing winter storm. It was the last day of a retreat conference event in Pismo Beach. I had barely had a moment for pause all weekend, save a few hours on Saturday afternoon. It was not a restful weekend for various reasons, and by the time it was over I was so done with a retreat without quietness or rest. I wasn’t sure about my decision or whether it would be “worth it,” but I took the suggestion of a friend to drive further up the coast to Montano de Oro State Park.
It’s quite the sloooow drive through shopping districts and rural areas. It seemed far, I’m not much a fan of the beach, would I regret this?
What I do regret is not getting any photographs of the grove of eucalyptus trees on the drive in.
I have some pretty epic seascapes from that day — God really came through for dramatic and perfect lighting! I didn’t have a proper camera and lens to capture the eagles (!!!) soaring overhead and resting on the side wall of a nearby cliff, but they were there too. Crazy as I am, I spent a couple hours lying down in the edges of various cliffs to capture certain shots.
Please remember it was January — very resolutely “winter.” My mother or sister might’ve frowned at the view, as every growing thing was brown or dead. But to do so would’ve been indicative of complete lack of imagination or perspective. As I walked out to the cliffs, I noticed how fantastic the light was, and I wondered…
This shot was a risk, I had no idea what I might get (and no way to know either, as I was shooting with a 35mm camera). This was taken while lying down on a wet and sandy trail, looking up through a lot of dead brush, shot directly at the light source.
For so many reasons, I could’ve gotten nothing.
And yet — look!!!
On a cold, windy, stormy day with dodgy weather, staring directly at a view of nothing but death and stormy skies, and all from the vantage point of a spiritual and emotional low…while lying on a wet, sandy hiking trail? In all aspects of this scenario, there promised no aspect of goodness. And yet? With the right perspective – low enough to see all that God had on-view that day — there was great beauty to be found (even among storms, death, discomfort, and austerity). How many people would have merely walked by and missed this? Glory to God alone for the great and inspiring beauty that day, but what was required to obtain this shot was someone with the imagination to see the (literally!) humble perspective to find it.
All life really is a matter of perspective, and it’s what we do with that idea that really matters.
I come from dark places. My soul is beyond the reach of darkness, but my day-to-day life is not beyond the reach of its effects. What I choose to do with those two truths is, however, what can make all the difference in the world with respect to the direction and the character of my life. Suffice it to say that I am adept at drinking poison from the wellspring of my own despair. I won’t say I’m immune from the temptation to revert to this, but watching so many I love fall by this? It’s just not productive.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t still feel it.
Perspective can change much, but one thing perspective cannot change is reality. The plant life along that trail was dead, the weather was still stormy, the trail was still wet and sandy. What was variable? My response.