November Reflections

“After all, there seems to be no objective meaning in human existence; life has only whatever meaning you choose to give it.” ~ John Keats

Overnight the first snow of the season fell where I live. While only amounting to a heavy dusting it clings to the trees despite the gusty winds. As the dark of night gives way to the drab, gray light of morning I remind myself that we have yet to reach the half-way point of fall. Yesterday I heard Christmas music playing outside a shopping plaza, no doubt intended to fuel the holiday shopping craze. But, it’s still fall, and will be for several more weeks. One of the tragedies of adulthood is our inability to focus on the present, we so often are thinking of tomorrow, or worse, dwelling on the past. It is November 2nd. Winter is coming, but not today.

I hope to return to the mountains sometime this month to experience the woods in transition, “stick” season as some call it. It seems to me an almost vulgar name for such a quietly beautiful time of year. There are trails I have been meaning to explore for years now, this would be an excellent opportunity. Where I would stay is nestled in a quiet valley along a river, well away from the hustle and bustle of the larger towns. I try to encounter as few people as possible when I visit, just as I aim to deprive myself of news from the outside world. It is cathartic in ways I cannot explain.

Photography is easier this time of year, my attention no longer divided by the glitz of the fall foliage. I am reminded of a quote by Erich Fromm, “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” November offers no such guarantees, and for that I am grateful. I have found that many of my most meaningful images are made under such circumstances. I am sure some photographs will be made, but that is not the point. Wandering the woods with no particular destination, observing and listening, that is what it is all about. I find it difficult to maintain that mindset in the early weeks of fall when trying to make photos in between workshops and other obligations and I believe my photographs suffer for it.

Several friends and family have expressed dismay over the coming winter and the isolation it will bring, especially in these times. It may be an overstatement to say I am looking forward to it, but I am certainly not dreading it. Each season brings with it opportunity, and for me winter is a time of reflection and preparation. There is a new presentation in my mind that I would like to put together. I would like to get back to writing. It is November 2nd. Winter is coming. There is time.

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