Excavation, Thoughts & Photography

5:45am this past Monday morning I sat atop a mountain peak waiting for the sun to rise. The view was black with a gray haze of pre-sunrise. I could see shadows and silhouettes of trees and rolling hillsides. I set up my tripod and placed my camera on top, set the aperture to f/22 and shutter-speed to 45 sec and waited for the oncoming light to capture the image. Waiting for the shutter to click I noticed the peace of this instant, the stillness of life. People all around me are asleep as well as wildlife, and the sun itself. “This is a prayer-filled moment”, I think to myself. Setting up my second shot I could see the slight break of blue in the sky but no red glow of a morning sunrise. The morning light would only go from black to shades of gray for the rest of that day. Soon the rain would come.

Walking throughout the land I got a sense of how the land works in balance with its environment. The phrase “consult nature first” echoed in my head. Why are we always excavating our landscape? I live in the suburbs, 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. I wonder when, or if, the last time I walked on land that has not been excavated?

I noticed the purpose of the land that I was standing on. The land is un-excavated earth that works in complete harmony for which it was created. Farmland with apple orchards, sunflower groves, hayfields and grazing cattle all help to sustain the other purpose. The apple trees on the top of the hillside collect water in their leaves that trickle down to the sunflower groves and then the excess water fills a pond at the bottom of the hillside. The cattle drink of the rainwater from out of the pond. The traversing peak is filled with hayfields, which the cattle will eat. The natural compost that the land generated from the waste and debris will become the nutrients which will bring life and growth back to this land in the next planting season.

Walking down from the mountaintop soaked in rain and mud from my morning of photography. I become thankful for all the past books that I have read about nature and spirit. Gary Snyder, Thich Nhat Hanh, Henry David Thoreau all sit with mindfulness in me. I wipe the mud from my shoes and tripod and reflect on this older piece that I wrote last august.

“No answer, but the question itself brings peace. Nature created this soil, these elements that gave me birth. Reaching, I grasp a handful of soil. I think of the natives that have died to create this soil. Their past lives permeate my existence. I am born of this earth. I will die and return to the soil. What may I offer the earth in return for this life granted to me?”