If I had a blog, today I would write about the beginning of my annual “90-Day Project.”
Every year, beginning on the Autumnal Equinox I set a goal of taking at least one publishable photograph per day until December 21st, the Winter Solstice. The idea is not entirely my own. My project is actually a homage to the work of one of my photographer heroes, Jim Brandenburg. In the late 1990’s, Brandenburg challenged himself with a similar task: Taking one great photo per day for 90 days during the fall and early winter in and around his home near Ely, Minnesota. However, since Jim is a world-renown photographer who made his mark working for National Geographic magazine, his quest was more demanding. Rather than take an unlimited number of shots and choose one favorite (as I do), Jim limited himself to taking one photo per day for 90 days. No do-overs, no second chances. His work was published as the book Chased By the Light, a copy of which sits on my desk for inspiration.
As it happens, today was a wonderful day to start taking autumnal pictures. It is sunny, in the mid-60s with a glorious breeze that carries the promise of the golden days to come. After morning chores, Mom and I set off on our morning walk through the High Field and into the woods behind our house. The dogwood trees are beginning to blush red and the big bluestem and Indian grass are heavy with seeds, awaiting the migrant birds who will arrive in our part of the world in the next few weeks. This early in the season, finding a “wow-shot” is less certain than in October when the woods are ablaze with color. In September, one must be more observant, more focused on the details of the fields and forests, to find Nature’s gems.
As is often the case, Mom (who I call my “location scout”) found my diamond in the rough: The delicate web of a woodland spider. The home of this tiny arachnid was not one of the flashy orbs that line the fence-rows this time of year. This web was messy, a seemingly random assemblage of spider-silk strung between saplings, right at eye-level in the woods. Neither of us would have seen the web but for a beam of sunlight streaming through the canopy of leaves above. The sun reflected on the web and set it aglow with rainbow color. In the center of the prism sat the wee spider, her delicate legs aglow as if lit from within.
After I took my photographs, I stood and watched the tableau for a long time. I couldn’t fault the spider for the condition of her web. Most days my life feels every bit as untidy. My emotions careen about from joy to grief and back again; I wonder where my life is going and how I can be a better architect of my future. I worry about money, my health, losing my loved ones, and what I can do to save our ailing planet. Up and down, round and round I go until I feel trapped in utter disarray, but my encounter with small Ariadne has given me hope. Maybe my “web of purpose” is supposed to be messy. Maybe its ok that I am working without a neat-and-tidy plan. Maybe the tangle of my life is really a thing of beauty, reflecting the light of truth, hope, and love.
This afternoon I will relax in the midst of my crazy life and find the center, the balance point where I can find rest and safety. My inner life may be somewhat disorganized, but it is the life I have built, the existence for which The Divine has given me instruction. Thank you dear spider for giving me peace. Thank you for giving me a good first day on my journey home.