Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Appreciating the scenic route

Backlit Moss on Trees, Skykomish, Washington

Even when we are on the scenic route, I suspect that most of the time we still remain fixated on our destination. The view outside the window is prettier, but it’s still just time filler. If it were food, it’s definitely not the main course. And I don’t often think we even treat it as an appetizer.

Better appreciating the journey is something that I have been working on for years. And I remain a work in progress.

Our obsession with arriving somewhere is not limited to road trips. I have found myself doing it while hiking. Far too many times I’ve raced up mountainsides, gasping for air as I try to get to some lake or ridgetop as quickly as possible. How many times have I done that? I don’t remember, just as I don’t remember much of the magnificent scenery I huffed and puffed through.

Over the years, I have gotten better at slowing down. Sometimes I head down a trail without a deadline. Other times, I start hiking without a purpose.

I’ve always been amazed at what I’ve discovered when I’ve slowed down. I’ve noticed far more wildlife. I’ve appreciated the abstract art left behind by the forces of erosion. I have almost always found something to photograph.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when driving up a mountain pass on the way to what I thought might be an interesting photo shoot. I left home a little later than planned, so the time pressure was off. I knew there was no safe way to arrive at my destination by sunrise.

Funny thing is, by being late, I ended up on time for something unexpected. I passed a forest draped in moss just as the sun cleared the horizon. All the trees were aglow. Lit from behind, the shaggy moss picked up the intensity of the sunlight. The thick tree trunks remained in dark shadow.

I found a safe spot to pull over and for a half hour I worked various angles, trying to find a composition that balanced the spectacular beauty of the contrasting light. There was no need to hurry. The other opportunity was out of reach this morning. And had I been on time for it, I would have passed these trees in the dark.

After the light faded, I continued on my way, deciding to scout out my original intended destination. We were in the middle of a brutal cold snap and I thought I might find interesting ice patterns on the river. It turns out, the water level was so high, the river didn’t freeze. So had I been on time, I wouldn’t have got the shot I envisioned. I also would have missed the mossy trees.

The journey can be its own reward. I plan to keep reminding myself of that.

(Prints of Kevin Ebi's images are available through LivingWilderness.com. Learn about new work by joining his mailing list.)

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