Tag Archives: writing

Tutored by the Land

Last month I made my first trip to the state of Montana – ‘Big Sky Country’ – where the rolling plains stretch out endlessly between the mountain ranges, and the heavens laden with fluffy white clouds press down on the swaying grasses, grazing cattle, and rustic barns below.  Four of us boarded a trusty Subaru Outback for the five-hour journey from Salt Lake City to Lakeview.  The drive went by quickly; my new companions were interesting.  Between a discussion on the philosophy of eugenics and its role in and before World War II, listening to Cheryl Strayed conversing about her wonderful book ‘Wild’ on NPR, and a stop to re-fuel with gas and a flavored latte in Pocatello, we were there in no time.

We attended a University of Utah Photography and Writing workshop entitled ‘Tutored by the Land’.  Three days were spent taking walks and drives, snapping photos, discussing composition (for both photography and writing), reading acclaimed authors, and eating excellent fare.  During this time I met some fascinating people – a stockbroker turned Buddhist, a cancer survivor, two people that independently had climbed every peak over four thousand feet in New Hampshire, an immigrant doctor from Pakistan, and a ninety-two year old on a “quest for fun”, to name just a few.

Each new friend had incredible stories and wisdom to share.  Most significant for me was from my ninety-two year roommate, Ann, who when asked “From your perch at the top of the tree, what are the most important things in life – what really matters?”, told us that not much really matters, except your people.  I found that a great reminder.  At the church I attend, Mountain Life, they remind us that it is God and other people that are paramount too (not material possessions, or popularity, etc., which can be short lived and ultimately unfulfilling).

The second noteworthy thought that helped me to put things into perspective, came from my new friend’s blog and a Buddhist flow chart.  I am a worrier and I try hard to diminish this tendency.  The chart shared: “Can you do anything about it?  – No – Don’t worry; Yes – Don’t worry.” I found that powerful.

I feel enriched by my journey to Montana.  I came away from my experience not only tutored by the land, but also tutored by people.  I have more than photography and writing to dwell on and practice, and some great new friends to boot.  I look forward to growth in all these areas.

Here are photos from my trip.  I need to select two that will hang in a gallery this December, as the culmination of my course.  Which two would you choose?


Harvest moon

Dewy Aspen

Ann, on her “quest for fun”

Montana ‘Big Sky Country’

Full moon silhouette

Frosted spiders web

Towering lookout

Fire tower silhouette

Abandoned barn.


First Steps

Today is the start of a new journey for me, a journey of discovery, growth, and fulfillment.  Today I leave behind uncertainty, my tendency towards worry, and pushing my own needs to the back of the line.  Today is empowering, exciting, and filled with endless possibilities.  Today I am strong, I am powerful, and I am ME.

Today I am following my innate desire to write about and to photograph the world around me.  To stop and notice, observe and think.  To breathe and inhale it all, the incredibleness of God’s world; from the grand beauty of nature, so apparent where I live, to appreciating the small things that touch my everyday life, a kind word, a smile, a simple interaction with another human that can seem so little, but mean so much.  I want to capture it, to dwell on it, learn from it, and share it with others.  And as I step outside on this first crisp morning, my journey begins.

The stunning view from my house.

The stunning view from near my house which is so conducive to pondering and peacefulness.

Each day I post I intend to set aside a couple of hours, to walk and ponder topics, capture things with my camera, then let my thoughts turn to words.  Today I want to share the stunning view from near my home, which accompanies and inspires me during my time for reflection, and also what I thought about on my walk.  It began with a quote which caught my eye this morning.  It was posted onto Yoga Instructor Sadie Nardini’s Facebook page, painted in it’s blue italics on a corrugated wall in Austin.  It is by America novelist and poet, Jack Kerouac, from his book Mexico City Blues “Derange pas ta tendresse, Don’t break your tenderness.”

"Derange pas ta tendresse, Don’t break your tenderness.”

“Derange pas ta tendresse, Don’t break your tenderness.”

The words jumped out the page to me.  I wondered why.  I reflect on them – Don’t break your tenderness – the letters swirling in my brain.  I think of tenderness as the way we act towards others, of patience, of understanding, of softening your heart and emotions to the way you think of and treat people.   I see myself as tender.  I like to do things for others, to anticipate their needs, and help fulfill them.

I feel I am being told to remain TENDER on my journey, which is important to me.  I want to continue to care about other’s needs and give them time.  But I want this new path to bring me personal STRENGTH too, and the ability to recognize and fulfill my own needs.  Is it possible to possess these two opposing emotions? To be tender and strong?  I try to think of someone who has these characteristics, and the first movie I owned, Braveheart, comes to mind.  I imagine William Wallace galloping alongside his troops embodying both these traits.  I dwell on the words brave and heart, both strong and tender.  And I know it can be done.