It was mid-July, 2020. We took a very short trip for a photo of a comet we could not spy with the naked eye. For me, this was a moment for the child inside. I was once again a 4th-grader with a telescope in a suburban driveway. I am not, by any measure, an astrophotographer. Like my younger self, I can’t find the patience for the care and attention it takes to be really good.
In moments like this, when I am capturing the wonders of the natural world, I do something a bit odd. After taking the photograph, I feel compelled to thank things, like this comet millions of miles away, for allowing me that moment.
Not A Care In the World
Comet Neowise took no interest in me. It took note of this fleshy speck on the watery rock it was flying by. Nor would I expect it to. This celestial object has not a care in the world. It just is. And we repay it’s blissful state by only showing interest when it is near enough to witness. There are a rare few who have the knowledge and equipment to observe it outside of these relatively brief moments of spectacle.
For me, verbal acknowledgment that it was a rare event and that I was fully in that moment was necessary. I do the same with the random fawn spotted on a walk in a local park. After I click the shutter to photograph a brilliant formation in a cavern, you might hear me mutter a quick thanks, too. Maybe this is my way of noting those brief moments of true connection with the world around me.
Distance in the World
I tend to be like this with people, too. I say thank you from a distance when they have no way to hear. Maintaining connections to those who aren’t near and present is definitely not a strong point. I think about a lot of people all of the time. I remember times, both good and bad, which continue to influence me.
Recently, my mind has wondered back to very specific groups of people I used to work with while in college. The group of guys who met once a week after work to play Dungeons and Dragons. That beautiful girl I had a crush on who asked me out one night during our shift. I haven’t seen them in twenty years, but their influence is part of my living, breathing world.
I sometimes think about reaching out to those people, but I always feel like I would be encroaching. That’s the side of my brain that also tells me I’m no good at photography talking. It won’t shut up. It routinely reminds me what a failure I am. I am harangued for not keeping in touch with “the guys” better. It laughs at me for not saying something different to that girl. It haunts me with every decision I make each and every day.
I know I’m not alone in this. Some time ago, I heard a presentation by Denise Jacobs, author of “Banish Your Inner Critic“. I’ve recently started reading the book. It is difficult because nearly every paragraph points directly back at me and says, “This is you!” If you’re reading this and recognize that evil, overbearing, inner voice, take a look. I’m not very far into it, but it has already helped me recognize the source of the negative thoughts. I can’t fix the past, but I can work at trying to prevent my brain from destroying my future.
If you’re out there reading this and we haven’t talked in a decade or more, feel free to encroach. I’ll be my usual awkward self, but I do care and I’d love to catch up!