One of the reasons photography is so important to me is that it encourages me to concentrate on finding beauty. When I’m feeling uncertain, anxious, or unhappy, redirecting my brain to search for beauty helps. It provides a distraction while the camera is in my hands, but the effects linger well past the actual experience – like a temporary reprogramming of my brain. Photography doesn’t allow me to escape the world or my obligations, it just allows me to put them in context.
Yesterday morning, I spent a couple hours scooting around on the frozen surface of the Platte River, photographing ice, frost, water, and sunlight. The temperature was hovering around zero Fahrenheit, but there were a few tiny slivers of open water to be found on the otherwise solid mass of ice and I was drawn particularly to them. I spent most of my time lying prone and scooting around the edges of the shallow water. I got my elbows wet a couple times when I leaned a little too heavily on the thin margins of those openings, but my coat absorbed the water before it got to my skin.
In addition to the distractions of the ice and frost, I also pondered some mysterious trails in the sand at the bottom of the river. The long tracks were less than 1/2 inch in width and seemed to go in all directions, so they definitely weren’t just caused by objects being pushed by the flow of the river. They reminded me of trails made by freshwater mussels, but they were awfully small and my understanding is that the strongly shifting sediment in the Platte makes it a difficult place for mussels to live. Big snails? Tiny aquatic voles?? I have no idea. Help, anyone?
This weekend’s warm temperatures will melt most of the ice I was sliding on yesterday, but it will also help clear the river for the sandhill cranes that are already starting to arrive. Those cranes, along with ducks, geese, and other water birds, will provide another source of beauty and distraction for the next month or so. As those birds move on northward, green plants will start to poke out and re-start the growing season. There’s a constant, if ever-changing supply of beauty around to help me deal with all the aspects of the world that are less attractive. And I’m very grateful. Be well, everyone.