This evening, as the light was fading behind some pretty dark storm clouds, I was inspired to shoot some photos & pretend that I was camping. I am like most people in that I am not able to camp every day of my life. However, those brief times when I can shoot photos by myself, are like small camping trips. Times to make memories and to remember adventures.
In the spring of 2000, I was living south-west of London, England just outside the town of Bracknell. At the time, the world was recovering from the disappointment of the whole Y2K fiasco & the break up of the Spice Girls. I had no trouble getting over either of those two things but the media was saturated with reports about both of those topics.
One night I was watching the telly (BBC2), the first interview of George Harrison (the former lead guitarist for the Beatles) since the attempt on his life around new years of 1999 aired (read more about that here). It struck me that George was sitting in his garden (Americans know this as a back-yard) of his house a mere 10 miles from where I was watching the broadcast. I had walked past his house a few times and seen him or his wife on the back porch of their house. Now, here he was recovering from a stabbing in the same place.
The reporter asked George the obligatory questions “What was it like to be a Beatle?”, “How is the recovery coming?”, -and my personal favorite- “What was it like to be stabbed?”. My mind temporarily took over and in my hypothetical situations George looked at the reporter and said that the stabbing “tickled”. I love it when reporters ask retarded questions because it opens my mind to a whole world of absurd possibilities. My imagination quit caring and I began to realize that this interview was going to be like all other celebrity interviews (mind numbing drivel). Just when I was about to quit watching, George did the unexpected.
In the middle of another vapid line of questioning, George bend down from his chair and picked up a small leaf off of the grass. He proceeded to look at it, examine it, and study it. The reporter finally stopped her line of questioning and just sat there looking at George with a bewildered expression. Then the brilliant moment occurred.
George held the leaf up in front of the reporter and said, “Look at this. I mean really look at it. Isn’t it amazing?”.
The reporter sort of glowered at this leaf which had upstaged her for the moment. She didn’t get it.
It seemed that George was focused on the things around us which hint at genius, beauty, and the tenuous nature of life. This may be why the reporter missed what he was getting at. She was focused on trivia & her ability to “properly” interview a world famous celebrity.
For me, camping provides those “isn’t it amazing leaf moments” which allows the soul to find what is important about life. It is time spent with friends, family, and good food away from the trivial matters which occupy most of my time. Seeing the beauty of this world provides those times for contemplation, reflection, and imagination. Life seems to suddenly shift itself to the priorities which actually matter. The URGENT matters in life aren’t always the most important.
As Robert Pirsig put it in his book Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, “To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.”
Camping helps me cling to the sides of life’s mountain and live, for a time, in a space without time. It is therapy, an escape from the non-reality of daily life, and a way to experience life and LIVE it -rather than just talking about it.
Of course, not every camping trip is pure bliss. In fact, some of my favorite camping stories are twisted messes of disasters and peril. The paradox is that it is those very disasters which make it obvious what is of real value in life.
For me, life is remembered best by those extraordinarily good and the extraordinarily bad camping experiences.
There’s another leaf turned over in the story of the jPod. Isn’t it amazing?