I am grateful for aspen trees, especially at this time of year. Their leaves turn golden as if the sun has come to shine inside the white bark trunk of every tree and glow out the tip of each shimmering leaf.
Are you aware that a grove of aspen trees is a single organism? This is another reason I love them. Everything that looks like individualism is community united by rootedness underground.
This is my world.
I take a lot of pictures so it makes sense that I would have a lot of photographer friends. A nurturing community of souls help to color my life with more vitality and depth.
I teach skiing with Jim Cox and numerous times he has saved me on the slopes. He takes my sulky student for a chairlift ride and works his magic of songs and stories on the 7-minute ride up the hill. At the top, the 5-year old girl who was a ragdoll and limp is now full of pep and ready to go.
He does the same thing with his camera, taking lonely places and filling them with life. This is because Jim is a natural at spying where community is blooming. He transforms stop signs much the way he changes ski slopes.
Steve Maxwell uses his lens to listen. Last year he took photos of homeless people and recorded their stories for a traveling show. These are the invisible people that many of us marginalize and tend to disappear from our consciousness. Steve brought them into sharp relief and, by making the invisible seen, a part of me I’ve kept hidden felt able to walk about as well.
The beauty of art is that it brings a subject forward and allows me to make friends with it. When I went skiing with another photography friend, David Frank, he helped me see life against the perfect background.
A bird was flying ahead of us. It disappeared into a tangle of trees, then reappeared against the clear, white, cloudy sky overhead. I lost that bird again as she dove right in front of me but was obscured by the camouflage of bushes at her back. Without contrast, I could not see a bird that was merely feet in front of me. A clear background is everything.
This is why I am also grateful to Jim Hamlin and his wife, Harriet Carmine. By radically adjusting the background, they are allowing me to see where love abounds. By shaving people’s heads I can see past vanity and witness beauty.
They had a son die from cancer. Last year they organized the first St. Baldrick’s Fundraiser in Grand Junction, Colorado. and made over $25,000 to fund the research of childhood cancer. I can’t look at all those bald heads without seeing a layer of love where hair used to be.
It is no surprise that Jim Hamlin is best known in our Plateau Valley for his gorgeous photographs of the aspen trees. We are a community of individuals, but we are tied together at our roots.
What does your community show you? How are you tied to the people near you? What have you missed until the right background revealed it?
I’m grateful for the chance to walk my high school son down our dirt road to the bus stop. He could tell me to get lost, or leave me in the dust. But, for now, he’ll let me linger at his side a little longer. I could see it as a chore, facing the cold, but I remember, most of the time, motherhood is a gift. It’s changing who I am, one step at a time.
I hope you will join me for this month of soulful gratitude. Leave a comment and tell me what small thing is bringing you happiness. Come talk with me Monday November 12 @ 10am PST/ 12 CST/ 1 pm EST when we’ll be chatting about the power of focus, photography, and the wonders of recording gratitude.
To be a part of that call simply dial (805) 399-1200 then enter your *secret code* 208594#
*Long distance rates will apply, but otherwise the call is free.