What I Do
It's raining this morning. As the sun slowly rises I can see the bright yellow aspen groves on the flanks of Thousand Lake Mountain from my window. Soon the first light of the day will touch the crest of the red cliffs, then slowly make its way down in a beautiful display that had by now become a part of my morning ritual, along with the fresh brewed coffee and the hushed sounds of a small town slowly awakening. Tourist season is almost over and it's quiet again. I've been up since 5am and so far only saw one vehicle on the road. This time of year there is more to it, though. Autumn always has that intangible feeling of quiet drama. The dark skies as the last of the monsoon storms pass through, the colorful trees, the slight chill in the air and the palpable feeling of winter's impending arrival always put me in a contemplative mood. This is the time of year I look back upon, and forward to, in other seasons.
Later this morning I'll go for a walk in one of the glowing groves, breathe in the rich damp air laden with the unmistakable aroma of fallen leaves and wet sagebrush, pick some ripe raspberries and wild rose hips and listen to the breeze in the canopies. When winter comes, all will be reduced to monochrome and a perfect frozen silence. There will be no scents, no sounds, no motion; just a white stillness and a long wait. The knowledge of what awaits but a few weeks away makes every sagebrush scented breath that much more meaningful as I commit every detail to memory, gathering visions and storing them in a safe place to sustain me during the cold season, like logs in a woodpile.
It's no wonder this is also my busiest season for both teaching and personal work. There's a joy in being outside, challenging the elements to steal another nugget of beauty, a day at a time, knowing they will eventually win but, for now, savoring these last days of bliss and color. To me, "busy" often means long lonesome drives, empty roads, not always paved, and quiet time behind the wheel as I traverse the treasured American landscape I have come to call home. These are times for thinking and examination, when new ideas are formed and old ones revisited.
It's a strange business I'm in; one often misunderstood. There's no real word for what I do and maybe it's time to put a name to it. My job is to be inspired. I make my living conveying the inspiration I find to others, in various ways. I photograph, I write, I teach, I interact. What does that make me? My photography is not about photographs; my writing is not about words; my teaching is not about facts; and my interactions are not about being social. There's a higher purpose – the experience. Am I an experiencer?
I've been called a nature photographer, a landscape photographer, an author, an artist. In my mind, none of them truly describes what I do. I know nature photographers; I know travel photographers and adventure photographers and landscape photographers; I know writers and authors. What they do is not what I do.
I don't make things for a living. I live for a living. I am myself for a living. I seek beauty for a living. I think and contemplate for a living. I experience for a living. Seems so easy and obvious to me, and yet there is no term for it. In our society, it seems, you have to be defined by your job title. When meeting new people I can usually count on "what do you do?" being one of their first questions as they form their perception of me. To date I believe I never repeated the same answer, nor do I feel I have given one that was readily understood. I do what I once thought was impossible and, I suspect, in most people's minds still is.
When I try to explain, I am almost always met with skepticism. Can you make a living doing that? Well, yes. You won't see me featured in Fortune or Forbes any time soon but when I add up my monetary income to the intangible joys of a free and inspired life, I consider myself richer than most of those who are. Livelihood may be measured in dollars and cents. Life is measured in degrees of freedom. Living is measured in meaningful experiences. Yes, I make a very good living.