Two weekends ago was my 40-year high school reunion in Red Oak, Oklahoma. I had every intention of being there. I’ve not been to Red Oak in over 30 years. I’ve not been to Oklahoma in ten. I wanted to go.
It didn’t happen. “There’s an 80 percent chance of a stroke or cardiac event while driving for that long.”
Okay. Swallow the disappointment. Make other plans (Kat was insistent). The encouragement was to take a few days to me, get away from the kids and the animals and various responsibilities and just relax.
Relax. Right. Remind me how that works?
Since I couldn’t go South, I went the opposite direction. Slowly. Heading up US Highway 31, I meandered through Kokomo, Peru, Logansport, and Valparaiso, taking time to stop in each, look around, and take pictures. Keep the pace as slow as possible while still making progress. I’ll talk more about that next week.
I landed, on purpose, in Chesterton and the Indiana Dunes State Park and Indiana Dunes National Seashore. Why? The closest thing to a beach without going to an actual ocean. Put a chair in the sand. Take a book. Take the camera. Relax.
There’s that strange word again.
I was hoping for an epiphany of sorts, a sudden revelation of something I’d never considered, something that would be life changing in a positive and powerful way. Those things happen to people my age, don’t they? At least, they happen to some people. I keep reading about them.
Then, as I’m settling into my extremely inexpensive but still clean hotel room, the AP alert on my phone dings. Leon Redbone had died. Fuck. Here I am trying to figure out what this relaxing thing is and mortality reaches up and slaps me in the face. Again. Reality is a bitch.
For the next six days, I talked to a 26-year-old bird migration expert, saw the effects of climate change happening right in front of me, witnessed the counterpoint of industrialization imposed on nature, studied the effects of cooperative versus predatory competition, and wore my legs out climbing up and down sand dunes in my bare feet. I have stories and over 1,000 pictures and I’ll get to each of them in due time.
The night before I returned home, I looked across the lake at the dark silhouette of the Chicago skyline. From the viewpoint of a 300mm zoom lens, the city looks … huge. Back off that zoom a bit because it more than fills the frame. I realized there would be no epiphanies, no startling revelations, no sudden bits of wisdom that would alter the course of what’s left of my life. Perhaps my relationship with reality is too intimate for there to be any shocking surprises. Perhaps I put too much effort into attempting to alter reality to be impressed by anything that might be new. It’s all data after all, isn’t it?
If relaxing means sleeping past 4:00 AM, I made it. I actually slept until 6:00 the morning I packed up to return home. I took a short way home down I-65, walked in the back door, loaded artwork in the van, and went back to work. There were only two days until the next art exhibition opened. And the kids’ last day of school. And the refrigerator was empty. And there were clothes all over the floor. And there were client issues to address. And there was medicine to pick up.
Life continues right up to the point it doesn’t. Either we’ve done something worth remembering or we haven’t. Choose carefully.
So we start this week with a mixture of shots from the various beaches, the ones I could get to without endangering my own longevity. We’ll explore the other stories over the course of the summer.
And maybe I’ll learn how to relax.