There is a farm on the way out to Triple Play Farm (where I am fortunate enough to do the Equine Facilitated Learning workshops) that catches my breath each time I drive by it. There are gorgeous white cows and horses and goats and the land slopes down, away from the road with all these interesting little hills and water holes. The grass is lush. Old broken interesting logs dot the landscape. And the light. The light is always so damn right there, even on gray days. Each time I come upon it, it takes my breath.
“I need to pack my camera next time,” I tell myself.
“Next time, I really will have time to stop.”
But then Happy is in the car or I get nervous about the amount of traffic on the road because the best place to take the picture is on a blind curve or someone is waiting for me somewhere- at the farm or back home- and I don’t want to keep anyone waiting.
And so I’ve never captured this farm on film (or whatever it is when you take a digital picture).
I tell you this non-story now because of an email I received today. But before I can tell you about the email, I need to tell you the story that inspired it.
Every semester in body image class, one of the fundamental lessons I teach is that we are all here on purpose. And when we find our purpose and plug into our passion, it is much harder to be consumed in our bodies, because there just isn’t the time for it any more. You have to find that thing that you love, that can consume you, where times falls away, and you have to make that a part of your everyday life, I tell my students. You have to give it room and fuel the flames.
And so, last semester, one of my students decided to take me up on that just as I took away the other thing she had been using to fill up her time. During that semester’s media fast, she backed away from her video games, grabbed her camera, and went outside. She took picture after picture. She submitted one to a photography contest and won a grand prize. She realized that she should have never put down her camera, that what she saw behind her lens was so much more thrilling than what she saw on her television screen. She flamed a passion.
Then, after grades were turned in, she came to me with a gift. I opened it and found this lovely framed photo. A solitary tree in the field.
“I have to explain this to you,” she said. “I have driven by this tree countless times and I have wanted to photograph it. But I never had my camera, and I wasn’t really taking pictures any more and then you reminded me of my passion and so one day, I stopped. I got out of my car and walked into the middle of this field and took this picture. And it is not the best picture I have ever taken or anything like that but it is THE picture because it got me started again so I wanted you to have a copy of it so you could know what this class has meant to me.”
Well, that’s beyond as good as it gets as an educator and so I carefully carried that picture home and gave it a spot on my little table of inspiration in the Sugar Shack.
Then, today, my former student emailed me to say that she is now working as a photography assistant and sent me a link to some of her photos and her work is breathtaking. She’s brilliant behind that lens, and I am so relieved that she returned to it.
Thank you for helping me find my way, she wrote.
It caught my breath, made my day– that lovely, lovely note– but it wasn’t so much because it made me feel like I had done good work. What it most made me feel like- because I was so inspired by flipping through my student’s breathtaking photos and remembering her story of stopping her car in the middle of the day and trekking out to that tree- was hoping in my own car, driving out to that farm, pulling over, and capturing the very thing that takes my breath.
It is literally what I want to do but this story figuratively inspires me, too. It makes me want to always tune into my reason for stopping the car and yielding to it.
What makes you want to stop the car? When was the last time you allowed that in your life? What will it take to make you stop for it again?
Yield already to what you must. It is the detours that most often take us where we need to go.