"No… No…. That one I save just for me"
- Capt. John H. Miller. a.k.a Tom Hanks “Saving Private Ryan”
The scene is an almost an insignificant one. Private Ryan played by a young, spry Matt Damon is talking to John Miller, Tom Hanks in his prime. Ryan is talking about a memory where his brothers, which are now all dead, are getting in some sort of trouble with a woman. After the story he asks John Miller to tell the story about his wife and his rose bushes. Tom Hanks, sitting back is a bar chair, in the middle of a blown out town somewhere in the middle of war torn France looks down at his canteen and with a look of pure happiness and memories says “No…No…That one I save just for me”
Do we keep anything for ourselves anymore? In this day and age of thinking that almost everything we see and do is worth sharing. Do we ever keep anything to ourselves?
As artists we continually want to create and show the world what and how we see it. But do we ever think about what WE ourselves are missing?
Instead of pressing the shutter button on the next sunrise. Put your camera down and soak it in.
Instead of Instagraming your next meal. Give thanks for a second and talk to the people you are with.
Keep things for yourself. Its not a crazy idea. I have memories of Paris in February where I just sat and watched the world move around me. I have images of a sunrise over Mt. Rainer that a picture could never explain. Smiles from my girlfriend, nephew, mother and friends that I keep in places of my brain that hopefully never get taken away from me.
Just a thought.
Tip #1 - I pray you have moments that just defy all visual comprehension. Keep them for yourself, you may be disappointed by the way no one else can understand how great of a moment it is when you show them a picture.
Tip #2 - If you go to Hawaii, Take 5 pictures of waterfalls. Anything more just dilutes how amazing they really are.
At some point, as human beings, we all experience the same thing. Being in control, and not being in control.
If you sit back and look at you life you can divide most of your days, hours, years into the times you were in control, and the times you were not.
Which brings me to the times we are not, and a small meaningless experience in my life.
As a photographer I understand and openly embrace the constant knowledge that there are much better, and much worse photographers than myself. I admire lots and lots of photographers. I never compare myself to others in a negative way. I just know when someone is better then myself. And I strive to be better.
I believe that there are 2 types of photographers. The “artist” photographer and the “photographer” photographer. Artists live to create. They live to share their creativity. They cannot breathe without taking a picture. They live to inspire. Photographers are selfish, they think they are the next best thing. They ignore, and compare themselves to others. They are scared of the “next guy”. They have “secrets.” They feel that if they pick up their camera, they better be getting paid.
I write other photographers a lot. 67% of the time I never get a response. I always give them the benefit of the doubt and figure that they don’t get their emails from their website/blog whatever. I would hate to think they just refuse to take 5 minutes and write back.
As an artist, I love getting emails. I love the email that simply says “I love your work bla bla bla.” I always respond. I always do what I can. ALWAYS. I have been helped by many artists. And in return, I give whatever I can. As little as it may be.
I wonder how many of us do the same? I wonder if we check ourselves every now and again? I wonder if we know the exact moment we become photographers?
Tip #1. Think about the person sending you the email. You were that person one day.
Tip #2. Don’t be an asshole.
First of all, “Happy Elections are over day.” Whether your choice won or lost we all need to understand that we are all connected, even if we don’t like it, we are.
I am the type of person who tries to learn from almost everything. This week I planned on going on a 4 day trip to attempt to summit 6 peaks here in the Durango/Silverton area. I like a challenge and I thought I was ready for it. After some reading and planning via a map (remember those) I was ready to go.
What happened next was me underestimating a piece of earth and overestimating myself. My first mountain was Snowdon peak 35mi outside of Durango. You can read the post and view some images HERE
What I learned would have never happened if I did not attempt to do the trip.
First, without looking for a goal, a challenge, a chance to learn. You NEVER will. There is a world of opportunities to make ourselves better out there. None of them are easy, and if you really want, you could find the biggest humble pie and break yourself off some, but it takes a lot. It takes being open to failure, and failure is what really separates us all.
Second, mountains are like life, I know so is coffee and cars and motorcycles, You could make that analogy for just about anything. But hear me out, I looked at this mountain every way possible, maps, pictures, looking at it from a mile away, I read about it, I even asked advice about climbing it. But it was not until I went and attempted it did I really learn about what exactly I was dealing with. We all have the tendency to only scrape the surface of things and then think we “know” something. In fact, most of us barely know the world around us. We are all quick to judge, and even quicker to take a slice of information and call it fact without ever really doing what we talk about.
This mountain humbled me. It picked me up, slapped my bony little ass and showed me just how small I was. I did not summit, call it failure, call it what you will. But I learned about the mountain and myself. And I needed it. We all need something to show us exactly where we are in life. But what made this “spanking” different is that I could not argue back. I could not tell Snowdon Peak I was right and it was wrong or that I was better than it was. A lot of us take situations in life and never learn from them, mainly because our ego is directly linked to who we are, and breaking that bond takes some work. But once its broken, once you can be open for change, for another view or even from an ass whooping from a mountain. It is only then do you really start to learn and become better, maybe even happier.
Tip of the day #1: Find something to kick your ass. Find someone to critique your art. Find something to humble you, Find a race that will show you your still not in good enough shape. Find someone smarter than you and shut up and listen.
Tip #2: Climb the south west gully on Snowdon Peak, its the only way to summit. I know this because I did not and realized I should have.
I know, the title is a little heavy. But it is exactly what fell into my head at the moment I thought of writing this post.
I was sitting below a 400 foot rock wall, high above the Indian Creek valley in Utah. It was my 3rd day of learning to crack climb.
For those who do not have any idea what “crack” climbing means, it goes something like this. You put climbing tape all over the back of your hands, you stuff your feet into climbing shoes a size and a half smaller than your foot, you then find a vertical crack in a rock wall millions and millions of years old. You jam your hand in the crack using a couple different techniques that I will not mention because its impossible to explain. You then insert your toes or feet into the crack, when you get your foot or toes in as far as they can go, you torque your knee the opposite way ensuring that your toe/foot is jammed tight enough into the crack that you can stand…..repeat, for the next 100-200 feet.
On paper it sounds like pure painful hell. In real life, it is. Along with being one of the most challenging and painful things I have ever done. Which means, its fucking fun as hell.
As I was sitting below the walls, watching other climbers climb up sheer walls with the same ease that people blink their eyes. I got a little frustrated. I was tired, bleeding, sore and wondering if I would ever be able to climb a route clean. (no falling) (Which I only did 2 times in 2 weekends)
And then it hit me.
We, as in all of us, get frustrated with a number of things. And when it comes to learning new, foreign, and uncomfortable things, we often get frustrated and quit. All of us in some ways seek challenges, if you don’t, your life sucks. When we find these challenges, whether they are a class in school, a book, a sport, a new job, a new group of friends or in my case, a 200’ crack in a meaningless wall. We are faced with this idea that things should come easy, or at least come easy in a week. But when faced with long term challenges, that is where most of us fall apart.
I sat and thought about why I was frustrated. I had no reason to be that hard on myself. There was no way in Gods great name that I was going to be able to climb the walls I sat beneath. Instead of being frustrated, I realized that there was a world of knowledge right in front of my face. Instead, I listened to the way people explained how to climb. I focused on the tiny things that would help me climb. I thought about the small things that people often miss when climbing, my breathing, my feet, my thoughts. Being 150’ in the air and having the world in your head disappear is not as easy as it sounds. Instead of being frustrated about not being able to climb “perfectly” 3 days into trying it, I realized that this challenge was going to happen in the future, not today, not next week, maybe not even this season. This challenge would take time, a thing that I have found, is very un-american.
I left Indian Creek extremely sore, tired, my hands were all cut up, dehydrated, smiling like a child and smelling like a bum in Chicago in the summer under the “L” tracks. It is an experience will never forget, even though I will probably be back in the next couple weeks. But most importantly, I finally understood the false permanence of today, and the prospect of the future.
Tip of the day #1: Check yourself when you get frustrated with something new, if not, you will miss everything you need to succeed.
Tip #2: Don’t get dehydrated.
For me, the greatest book I have ever had the chance to read, so far, has been “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck. It is the only book I have read twice. For those who have not read it, it is an almost unimaginable story about 2 families. One of the families being his own grandparents. The thing about the book that I have never been able to read in any other book is the way Steinbeck describes his aunts and uncles. He spends only a couple pages describing who they were in the most endearing, vivid and passionate ways. He does not go on and on about who they were, he does it in 2-3 sentences. And in those sentences you feel as if you know exactly who they are. I remember reading about his family and I thinking to myself, I hope one day, that I get the chance to talk, write or be written about in the almost other-worldly way Steinbeck did.
Which brings me to my best friend. Ryan Sievert.
As I write this I am eleven days away from leaving Chicago and my entire life behind. And for those of you who have done this, you know how introspective things can get.
Ryan is my best friend. Born and raised in the town sharing a border in what was then, the country. We never knew each other growing up, its what happens when fifteen years of your life is bound by travel on BMX bikes. Only until high school did we even have anything in common. Ryan and I shared what most high school kids either shared in loving, or shared in loathing, sport. We played hockey together. But, as most high schools, we never found each other in the same ‘group’. Ryan had more in his life then myself, while I lived, ate, drank, and slept hockey. Ryan had art and music, something my life was almost devoid of for years. High School went on and College went by without a blink. It was not until much later in life did we ever speak again. I cannot even remember what even sparked us meeting again. But like Ryan reminds me of, Chicago is a small place, and eventually everyone knows everyone.
We in some way became friends because there are not many of us left. It is sad to say but ‘men’ real ‘men’ are not around anymore. Men who know how to open doors for women, how to “do the right thing” how to dress right, to drink right. Men who do not take themselves so seriously. Men who work and work and work because its in their blood and they do not know any other way to survive. Ryan and I found all these things suddenly in common at the age of 30.
I was able to witness a Ryan going through some horrible family problems in his time living with me. It was nights over scotch and whisky’s that showed ourselves just how fragile and unrelenting life really is. Realizing that life never stops and that no one, not even our parents have it all figured out. Ryan would go on and on about how ‘fucked up’ and frustrating it is that even our parents, the people we looked up to, have things just as figured out as us two wandering ‘kids’. I watched as Ryan fought with old relationships, and grew up to know just how great his new girlfriend was. I was witness to him leaving a position with a company that other people would sell their mother for. I watched as he sometimes gracefully wrestled with the idea of leaving the Ad world for things he ‘truly’ loved.
What made our friendship almost laughable was where we were in life. In some strange parallel universe way, we were going through the same things. Leaving jobs we had for years because we were dying inside, the frustration of not knowing what the fuck we were doing in life. We drank and talked and listened and made it out the other side. We never judged because without saying, without thinking about it we were like brothers. The kind of brothers that shared very few friends with each other, but knew that no one mattered more. The kind of brothers that would tell the other they are wrong, and they would unselfishly agree. The kind of brothers that knew the other was smart and wise and would take what they said as gospel. The kind of brothers that were going through this day to day, wake up go to sleep, life and somehow try to be creative, try to see the world, try to love someone without losing a step. There is no one in my life I value more than Ryan. In a world of Reality TV, homophobia, political nonsense and the idea that we have it all figured out. I am beyond blessed that I have a friend that has my back, and that whole heartedly cares about my well being.
Tip: Tell your best friend you love him. Be a man.
Tip #2: Ask someone how they are doing, and mean it.
Life. is. unpredictable.
We have all heard, or read, or made up stories about how short life can be. So and so’s mom died while cutting grass and got stung by one hundred wasps, Johnny down the street got cancer at 10 years old. The stories are all out there. And thankfully, the stories stay the fuck out of our lives. We all seem to use these stories to strengthen our imaginary foundation of “living free” or “living life to the fullest”. But in reality, we never ever change our life because of these “stories”
Until the stories come closer. Or heaven forbid, happen not to someone else, but to someone you love or like or admire.
I have not seen Kevin for almost a year. He moved to CA for work and we have kept in touch the old fashion way, text messages and the internet. Kevin and I were “thick as thieves” really great friends. We mostly spent time together on bike seats. We rode together almost religiously. I was there to see him run over a seagull on the lakeshore during a very early morning ride. I was there suffering with him during a week long cycling camp. We always had a great time together. And as much as men don’t like saying it. I loved the man. We were bro’s
Catching up with Kevin a couple of hours ago was great. Breakfast, coffee and talk about trips to CA to ride and get in touch with new people that could help me with my photography. He talked about how he just got married three weeks ago to his awesome girlfriend of over two years, Kelly. And I mean Kelly is awesome because she is one of very few women that I know that rode over 100 miles and kept up with the men. And she was a beautiful, friendly, funny woman. And Kevin loved the shit out of her.
At some point in between talking about Alaska, or Jimmy Chinn, or mountain biking. Kevin leaned back and his eyes kinda changed. “The real reason I am in town is because Kelly was diagnosed with cancer Monday”………….Its at this point where my mouth drops open and my body becomes completely numb, along with the uncontrollable urge to cry. The first things out of my mouth are “Are you ok?” The rest of the conversation is about how they are looking for questions on what to do next. Who to talk to, where to go, Question upon question. He talks about how they both understand that the road ahead is hard and filled with fog. And that they know it is coming, but they are ready to do it together. He talked about how grateful they are for their bosses who are covering their travel and days off. And more importantly, how this will forever change their lives.
I could easily use this story for my own position in life and say how everyone should throw caution to the wind and go open a comic book store. But I am not. What I am going to say is cliche to the utmost.
If you are a mad, stressed out, worry wart, pissed off, egotistical, buzz kill of a person that lives for work, only to wear what you do as a badge of honor. I am telling you this. Whatever you are worrying about, stressing about, mad about. What ever is hurting your ego. It really does not matter. The woman next to you matters. Your parents matter. You brother matters. Your friends matter. Your grandparents matter. I hope that I never again see a friend so scared because the woman he loves has the, even tiny chance of never being in his arms again.
Tip: Call you family and ask them how they are doing. Tell you friend you love them. Kiss your girlfriend or wife like you mean it. And figure out what matters.