We went to South Dakota last week to get away for a few days. You may ask, “Why South Dakota?” I’d answer, “Because it’s beautiful. The leaves are changing. Last year 24 inches of snow fell in 24 hours the second day we were there, and we missed out on exploring the Black Hills. So, we went back to try again.”
We were driving from Rapid City to Deadwood on a route we hadn’t used last year. The fall foliage was gorgeous…golden aspen leaves were quaking in the wind -- red, orange and yellow waving joyfully. We drove past homes that were “out in the middle of nowhere” and talked about how secluded living would be for us. Several times I thought of reaching for my phone to snap pictures of the beauty, but I never did. I thought “I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities for pictures later. Just enjoy the drive.” It was a first – I take at least 3 shots of each opportunity, then choose the best one later. Taking dozens, sometimes hundreds, of pictures is normal.
Deadwood was quiet and cold, and yes, it snowed on our first day in town. Only 4-5 inches this time, so it was beautiful AND our plans were still a go! One day we drove into Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower. It was a perfect day for it – partly sunny, cool, and not many cars on the road. It was a relaxing drive, and as we neared the country’s first National Monument (thank you, Teddy Roosevelt!), I grabbed my phone, opened the camera and got ready.
Devil’s Tower is remarkable! I admit I had low expectations, given all I knew about it was its role in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. But the sheer size of it! The geometric columns that no one can understand how they were formed. (Duh! It’s called God!) The boulder field that lay around the base was a total surprise; some of them were bigger than a pickup truck! I took pictures when we first saw it in the distance, from the scenic outlooks, from the parking lot, and from multiple points around it as we walked the 1.3-mile trail around the base.
As we walked, a thought hit me. I wasn’t going to be able to tell Dad about it the next time we go to Uvalde. He’s okay with that, though. I’m sure Heaven has more majestic things to “ooo” and “ahhh” over. You know, like Jesus! But simply put, I missed my Dad.
It dawned on me that one of the reasons I take so many pictures is so I could take them home and show Dad pictures of the places on this Earth that he never got a chance to see. I hadn’t taken pictures of the trees on the first day because subconsciously I knew my audience wasn’t going to be in his recliner to look at them.
My Dad lived within 90 miles of where he was born for his whole life except for his time in the Air Force. His worldly travels were in the belly of a C-124 as a loadmaster, and he fell in love with seeing new places and meeting new people. He planned to do a 20-year career in the Air Force, but things didn’t work out that way. So instead, he and Mom traveled to different parts of the country following hunting, country music, kids and grandkids. As Dad got older and began to have health challenges, he couldn’t travel as much, so I became his lens to the world through my pictures.
This revelation – that my purpose for taking pics was not really for me, but for Dad – took me by surprise. I can look back and remember thinking often how much Dad “would love it here”. The pictures were my way to take him there and to thank him for instilling in my heart the beauty of our world in things large or small, magnificent or humble, handmade or God-created.
Since we got home, I’ve been trying to be more aware of other little things I do and why I do them. I clean the house before Dean returns from a work trip so he walks into a home that is done…it’s peaceful. I do little things for people to make them smile, whether I know them or not. But those things aren’t the same. I took pictures for my Dad, many of which he never got to see well because of his poor eyesight, because it was my way of sharing my love with him. It was “our” thing (my brothers and sister each have their own way of loving him).
So, I ask…What is it that makes you do that thing you do? What is it that causes you to buy “another _____”, sing the special song, say a little prayer, or whatever it is?
Please don’t feel bad if your thing isn’t nice, or even good. I am not so positive-minded to think that all the answers to this question are good things. There may be a person who is difficult for you to be around for long periods of time. If you know you are going to see them, what things do you do to ready yourself mentally and spiritually for the encounter? Or what causes you to get your guard up?
Pay attention to yourself for a month and notice the thoughts which seem to pop out of nowhere but lead you to a familiar action without a second thought. What does the awareness do for you? What action can you add to it to make it more meaningful? What can you change to make that negative thing less impactful?
Why do you do what you do? Now that you are aware of it, can you enhance it? Can you let it go?
Now when I take pictures, I think of Olivia, and how sharing my pictures of places she’s never even heard of yet as a six-year old will hopefully plant a desire in her heart to explore, to embrace adventure, to discover God’s majesty in the highest mountain or in the smallest animal. And I pray that we will be with her on many adventures as she gets older (and hopefully won’t mind adventuring with Lolli and Pop). We’re starting to do so now with a trip to Disneyworld. She was 3 the last time we went, and Dustin was with us, so it will be a time of old memories and new ones, “miss you” tears and hearty laughter, starstruck girl hugging Elsa and Anna. Lolli snapping pictures and Pop buying Mickey Mouse ice cream bars.
That’s what we do, and we do it because we love each other. That’s reason enough.