Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Before There Was River Mud

Sunset at Joshua Tree National Park, CA. December 2005 / 35mm
I have been doing a bit of organizing lately and I came across an amazing number of decent photos - taken before this blog launched - that were really evocative for me. I've been actively working on my photography skills (and photographing quite a bit for work) since I turned 21 in 1995 and got a Pentax Manual K-mount 35mm from my parents. I'm going to make a point of sharing a few of those images and stories from time to time.
I took the photo above when Amy and I were on a cross country trip in December 2005. We flew from Raleigh to Phoenix and drove across the desert to San Diego. It was maybe December 27th and we were exhausted from a family Christmas and our flight. We visited some old NC friends in Phoenix for a night and then hit the road. I guess we understimated the vastness of the Mojave Desert - I'm sure we're not the first or the last - and we rolled into Joshua Tree National Park about 30 minutes before sunset. We had a really quick hike around the visitors center, took some pictures of the desert vegetation, and suddenly darkness was upon us....that's the desert for you.
The photo was one of those moments where I felt like things might be okay. My job at the time was literally destroying me from the inside out, our family income had flatlined like many peoples' around the world, and I just needed a break. 60 miles across the California border, here was this beautiful sunset. I have seen an awful lot of sunsets over oceans, mountains, forests, and deserts. And a thousand more over highways, either in my face or in my rear view mirror. This one, though, this was beautiful. I will never forget the way the sun burned through the clouds on that cool evening in the California desert.
And there's a reason I will never forget that moment of peace - I had no idea what whirlwinds were headed my way! Two days later, I would mangle my right foot on some volcanic rock while surfing in Ensenada, Baja Norte, Mexico. I dislocated 3 toes and couldn't walk. I think I mentioned that we were in Mexico in a fishing town. And a rental car.
That was just the beginning. In the chaos of boarding our flight while I was in a wheelchair in the airport, Amy accidentally checked the bag containing our passports and her clothes. We never saw it or our passports again. About two weeks later, as we attempted to cool our heels back in Baltimore, Amy's paternal grandfather died in western North Carolina. Less than 30 days later, my paternal grandfather - one of my heros - died in New York City. About 45 days later, I was offered a job with Ducks Unlimited (which changed my life), and my old employer fired me two days into my "two week notice," forcing me to sell my old car to pay the bills.
So much good came out of that period, even in the short run, that I don't even think I'd call it a "low period." It was complicated and ended up providing the structure on which I've built the last five years. And amazingly, I had no idea that any of that stuff - none of it - would happen as I stared west into California at that sunset.

Thanks for stopping by.


Leigh, Andrea Leigh Gil said...

I can relate to those moments of staring out into the sunset hoping that everything will work out.... and I still treasure moments like that that left me full of hope during times when hope was the only thing pulling me through. I'm so happy that things worked out for you! Beautiful photo and a great thoughtful piece.

tugboatdude said...

I remember this time period like it was yesterday.You have a great way of dealing with the difficulties in life that I just can't seem to nail down.I completely relate to this post.

Kirk Mantay said...

Thanks Leigh. I live for those moments now. It's a little easier as I get older because I've removed a lot of the variables - bad friends, bad clients, drinking too much/too often, job that's a bad fit for me & my life, etc.

So when the bad stuff comes - and it sure as hell still does - I now, maybe for the last 2 years - have a feeling like "OK, if I can just survive the initial impact, we will probably recover from this." I find anymore that it's not the individual crises - it's how closely and intensely they are strung together. That's what complicates things and make me wonder if I'll prevail. That thought of "I don't believe these 6 things all happened this week."

Kirk Mantay said...

T - it's all about relativity. What could possibly be thrown at you now that you have not successfully beat in the past? The only thing that makes it even somewhat challenging now is the timing, severity, and consequences. And for me, wondering " HOW LONG is it going to take me to repair this situation?"

2005-2006 was a tough winter for sure. Every winter since then has been better.

And even though I'm overweight and haven't surfed in 18 months, I still fondly remember my first day post-injury surfing - June, 2006 in Delaware - a day at the beach on the clock - courtesy of my new job at DU. Getting out of my work meeting 2 miles from the beach at 530pm. Driving to the beach. Suiting up. Waxing up. I remember putting my sort-of-healed foot down on that surfboard as it cruised down the face of the wave...and not eating it, and even making the next section. I knew I had powered through.

In some unexpected moments, you just pick your head up and realize, "Oh shiznit, it is actually going to be OK." Until that moment, put your head down and plow through the hard times!

biobabbler said...

That is a STUNNING shot. The restorative powers of nature are such an amazing source of healing.

Years ago I was a fee collector for the NPS and sold an annual parks pass to a guy who'd been told by his doctors he had one year to live. He sold his house, pretty much everything, bought a small RV, and the pass I just handed to him, and was going to visit national parks until his final day.

Unbelievable. I'd never been more proud of the NPS.

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