Keeping your photography gear clean is an art. So they say. To me personally it feels more like a task, like washing windows or meticulously folding laundry. I treat my camera like I treat our rust-infested car or garage full of toys and tools. I use them because they are meant to be used. My photo gear gets thrown in the dirt when I switch lenses in a hurry. I prefer sturdy gear that doesn’t crack open after a day on the slopes or a rainy day in the bottom of a kayak.
As a result of my (perhaps careless) nature, my photo gear is prone to wear and tear on a regular basis. And I am not even talking about backpacks accidently rolling down mountains and tripods falling into creeks. Filthy water drops get magnetically drawn to my lenses like flies to a cow pie. Dust always lurks in the corners of the sensor. And since not too ago I now wear grease-covered glasses too. All added up, you could say my photographic view of the world is often not crystal clear.
In life in general, what I see through my viewfinder is not any different. My window to the world is sometimes clouded, obscured by dirt I have kicked up myself: my attitudes, beliefs and perceptions. Recently, after a period of gray and clouded thoughts my window got downright dirty. My picture of the world, the world we live in, was murky to say the least. My focus was on a long list of troublesome developments, especially the numerous examples of greed and ignorance destroying our world at a staggering pace. Once noticed this muck on the lens was hard to keep out of my line of sight. I tried hard to wipe it off and start the day with a crystal clear view, but like a magnet the dirt always returned in days to come.
On days like that I feel uneasy, seeing the glass so half empty, my mind so filled to the rim with this uncomfortable awareness, at times unable to shift into an attitude that is soft and forgiving. I tried positive thinking, avoiding the news, distracting myself with a shopping cart of spiritual practices to be more present. Some days it works wonders. On other days they feel like band-aid solutions to something larger that has opened my eyes. Every now and then, in order to shift my perceptions, I need to see some real hope in action, experience true selflessness, capture the stories, digest and write about them.
Recently our small mountain town and pretty much all of southern Alberta got hit by floods. Torrential rains battered mountain slopes forcing statistically impossible volumes of water through under-sized culverts, dormant creek beds and onto comfortably-grown flood plains. The raging water bread-knifed its way through layer-cakes of stone and gravel. Highway asphalt peeled off like old paint from a prairie barn. For a short while our small town turned into a disaster zone. It exposed people to a short-lived but intensive spell of anxiety, uncertainty and isolation.
Then, in the weeks to follow, it offered an opportunity for connection, compassion and selflessness. Neighbours reached out, opened their otherwise locked doors to strangers. Volunteers worked countless hours to repair and clean up mud-logged houses and inundated basements. Community efforts popped up like flowers after spring rain. Unsung heroes and new leaders rose to the occasion and mobilized a wonderful force of nature I had already written off: us humans.
The event offered me an opportunity to see my narrow world anew. It forced me to change lenses and widen my perspective on hope for the world. It was exactly what I needed. It flooded me and washed away the rigid foundation around my hostage-held heart. My half empty glass quickly filled with floodwater. Now, seven weeks after the unexpected event the murky water has settled. I am left with some dirt and a column of crystal clear water. The combination will offer me some choice in days to come; to stir the dirt back up or leave myself with a clearer view of the world.