Ode to Jeffers

SSA Photography (236 of 400)

The shore of Spanish Beach, along Seventeen Mile Drive in Monterey, California, is littered with little cairns like the one pictured above – simple stacks of stones left as memories by passersby.  My son, Kemper, toppled this one, just to build it back again, and as I was snapping pictures of the shoreline he begged me to take a shot of his cairn.

We had visited the “Tor House” earlier in the day, and so my mind was filled with thoughts of Robinson Jeffers, the resident poet of Carmel for the first half of the 20th Century.  Likewise, the Sobersanes wildfire was still raging down the coast.  I was struck by a line in Jeffers’ poem, Fire on the Hills: “Beauty is not always lovely…”  The simple sentiment described the fire in his poem and the fire in the valleys raging at that time.  Later, when I was editing the pictures I took, I came across this one, and I remembered ruminating on that line as I took the photograph (as I still remember it today).  Though beauty is not always lovely, sometimes beauty and loveliness can be found in the simplest things – like Kemper’s five-stone cairn, which his small hands slowly stacked in the smoke-filled air of Spanish Beach.

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Stepping Stones

SSA Photography (108 of 400)

The first step, my son, which one makes in the world,
is the one on which depends the rest of our days.



This photograph, like many I have posted lately, was taken in North Carolina on a friend’s property outside of Brevard.  The rustic stones are not remarkable in and of themselves, but the thoughts they evoked for me made me snap this photograph as I was wandering the gardens with my macro lens taking pictures of the needles of a short-leaf pine, or the bloom of a bergamot bee balm.  I have taken millions of steps in my life, some far more important than others.  The first step is always the most important, as one cannot fully embrace the others on the journey without a solid beginning.  In recovery, the first step is acceptance, and in grief, mourning; without recognizing the importance of the first step, the others will be shaky at best, and at worst wholly ineffectual.  This is by no means my most beautifully composed shot, nor the most interesting one I have taken, but it is evocative of a life’s journey.  This allusion is what made me pause and even consider the steps, which I had passed hundreds of times before on my way up to the cabin.  As Voltaire noted, the first step we take on any journey is the one which will determine the rest of our days.  I have taken many a first step, some multiple times after failing on the journey, but whether acceptance or mourning, the first step is the foundation upon which everything else can be built.

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