(Note that there's no picture with this post.)
I've taken to walking to try to improve my deteriorating heart-health (having your ankle chained to the leg of the desk all day isn't all that good for you, turns out). I walk a circuit around the river (bridge to bridge) because it's flat. Our thoughtful town fathers installed not one but two paths—one for walking, the other for anything on non-motorized wheels. Trés civilized.
Yesterday was a perfect day for walking: clear, 64°F (~18°C), windy. And partly cloudy—but they were those gorgeous, fleecy, lit-from-above clouds that seem made for the camera. (I think those of you on the East Coast are due to get the same weather today.)
Regarding that "made for the camera" comment, I know it's said you should always carry a camera, that the best camera is the one you have with you, etc.—you know the adages. I didn't take a camera with me yesterday, however, on purpose—because I need to keep moving, rather than continually stopping to work a picture.
And a good thing. On a fine Saturday, the people are out. I would have gotten distracted by warm'n'fuzzy little human-interest ops. A small boy tethering a huge bundle of helium balloons, fer instance (okay, a little sappy); a couple sitting on the riverbank picturesquely holding hands; a very pretty blonde mother with a mop-headed blond child on a recumbent bike with—never seen this before—a recumbent-bike sidecar; a very tiny baby (maybe a year old—with his/her parent, of course) feeding a flotilla, an absolute Armada, of mallards—I mean like two hundred of them. Not greatly promising ops, maybe, but good guilty pleasure stuff if you've got a camera in your hands.
I might have been able to ignore all those if I'd been feeling disciplined. But then there was this: right next to the town's life-sized, lifelike statue of three bears...a guy in a bear suit. I know. (And, don't ask me.) How could I have resisted that? I would have stopped for that, for sure, no question.
I even encountered some bonafide wildlife. I got right up on a red-tailed hawk. It was at eye level and not more than eight feet away (I would have said six, and I really think it was six, but if I say six you'll think I'm exaggerating) when it took off right across my path. And get this, I didn't even notice it until it took off. It was right in front of me, on the lowest branch of a small sapling, but there I was, just trundling blindly along, dum-de-dum-dum.
This may be nothing more than a gentle conceit, dear Reader, but here's what I believe. If I'd been photographing rather than just walking, I wouldn't have missed that hawk. I would have noticed. Having a camera in your hands just puts you into a heightened state of seeing, one tier higher on the visual alertness scale. Just holding a camera I miss less. It's not entirely something I can turn on and off at will. The camera is the switch.
Going by the weather, at least, yesterday was the first day of the fall, and fall is by far the best season in Wisconsin. Not a day too soon.
"Open Mike," the moniker for the Editorials on TOP (often but not always or completely off-topic), shows up on Sundays.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Jim Simmons: "I hear ya, Mike. When I was in my 20s and lived with a camera strap practically sewn into my right shoulder, I saw everything around me. Heightened visual presence at all times. Having spent a few years in art school helped hone that discipline of course.
"But then I took on dependents and responsibilities and other forms of adultism. The camera would get left behind. And slowly my mind began to be overwhelmed with the mental noise that Eckard Tolle has taught me I am sometimes consumed by. I can now walk for miles and not see a damned thing. My head is so busy 'thinking' and my eyes are so dulled, it's a wonder I don't get run over most days. Common phrase in my family—'Earth to Jim.' I am realising more and more that I need to carry a camera and work it as a form of therapy. Photographing and 'trying' to play the guitar are the two best forms of forcing thought to leave my head. I need it terribly!"
Featured Comment by Lois Elling: "I feel naked if I take a walk without a camera, but I'm also well aware of the fact that I do less walking with it than without it. So, I understand your choice to walk without one.
"Last June I was walking at a local reservoir and was walking on a cloud because I'd just spent several minutes photographing a beautiful great blue heron. He seemed to be quite patient with me and let me shoot away. After he left, I moved on down the path, rounded a bend, and was surprised by a hawk flying out of a low-hanging branch right in front of me. And I did have my camera with me. Of course, I kicked myself for not paying more attention. On the way back, I found the hawk (a juvenile) again and got some pictures, although he wasn't nearly as accessible as the heron. Some images just have to be burned into your brain, rather than on film or sensor, I guess."