Seeing yourself in pictures that aren’t selfies
I’ve known a lot of people from Colorado and they all speak of the mountains the same way.
They get a look in their eye as if they are picturing and they talk about “my mountains.”
Until I visited as an adult, I didn’t really get it.
I’d seen the mountains as a child, on cross-country drives. I’d seen them on tv, in movies, and in magazines.
But getting up in it was different. I understand how people feel about their mountains.
And yet I don’t.
I am just a visitor - they live in and among the mountains.
It was the same with Yosemite.
I’d visited as a kid. I’d seen the Ansel Adams pictures. I’d seen it on tv, in moves, and in magazines.
But when Kim and I drove there for the first time, it was different.
Just to get there from the nearest town is quite something. Driving along the ridge, winding back and forth, and finally coming to the entrance.
And from the entrance, it’s still quite a drive to the falls, Half Dome, and the other sites you’ve heard about.
Each morning we’d get up and go outside and just look. We’d walk a bit and look some more.
We’d talk to rangers and hear them talk about the land like it was theirs.
Not in an “I own it” way but more of an “I’m lucky to be part of it” way.
Maybe not even that.
Maybe it’s more of an “I’m lucky that it’s part of me” way.
I have amazing pictures that I took at Yosemite. But mainly they’re amazing because they remind me of life-changing visits to the park with Kim and Maggie.
I show them to friends and some pause to see it through my eyes and are struck by the images.
Some can’t. They just can’t.
They can’t see something they haven’t experienced.
Some can’t see something they have experienced.
There’s a folk song we used to play in college radio.
I can’t remember the artist - but it told the story of a couple who got in their Winnebago and drove to the ocean to see the whales. The wife was overwhelmed with the beauty and the majesty of what she saw and kept reporting back to her husband who was experiencing the world from their motorhome.
When she returned from walking on the sand and experienced the world around her, he gestured excitedly to share his amazement of what he was learning about the ocean from his little television set where he was watching Jacques Cousteau.
It’s not that experiencing these worlds from a Winnebago on your tv is wrong - but you’re right there. That world is right outside your door.
Take a step.
Make it ours.
I don’t know how to get people to open those doors.
I did some text banking this weekend to encourage people to vote.
I was shocked at how angry and determined some people were.
I couldn’t get them to open their door and look outside.
And so I do my little part by writing and sharing what I’ve seen.
I might not be able to get you to visit Yosemite, but maybe I can take you there in other ways.
Maybe when you see those awful apocalyptic pictures of the red skies in the bay area and the yellow skies in the pacific northwest you’ll feel for the people and understand the issues we face.
You’ll feel at least some of the horror as you watch people talking about their homes, their forests, their lives.
You’ll see it in your homes, the parks around you, and in your life.
We can’t truly imagine the ominous scenes any more than we can picture the majesty of the mountains or the overwhelming beauty of Yosemite without being there.
Our planet and all of us on it.
Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 25. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe