The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharperEden Phillpotts
When asked, why I am never at home for my birthday, I say it’s because being in winter I tend to seek out warmer places. This is the first time in many years that I will be celebrating my birthday at home. Although travel restrictions to our regional borders have now been lifted, I am starting to appreciate the benefits of home.
There are many reasons why people choose to go away for their birthdays. It could be that they want to get away from all the fuss. But it is more likely that they want to acknowledge yet another milestone doing something significant that they will remember in years to come.
Remembering the Milestones
Seeing yourself reclining in the refreshing waters of a natural infinity pool atop a steep hill, gazing out over natural vistas of Kakadu is a great way to remember where you spent your birthday three years ago. It is also a validation that back then you were able to make it up that steep hill despite the fact that your legs were like jelly and your face took three hours to return to its natural pallor.
The following year I was fortunate enough to be in Carnarvon Gorge, Queensland experiencing a quiet tranquil birthday. With its incredible nature walks, the national park has interesting biodiversity including an elusive platypus which we stalked relentlessly without a single photo.
One of the amazing events which we could not capture on camera was a guided night safari following sugar gliders through the forest trees. The small possum-like creatures are busiest at night and glide from tree to tree as well as occasionally crashing down to earth when their timing is amiss. Being in tune with these marsupials, our guide was able to interpret their tiny sounds and project their trajectory with his multi-coloured torch beams. Despite the lack of photos, I can still recall the immense joy I felt experiencing this unique event.
Last year I celebrated my birthday in Bruges conjuring up romantic images of cobblestone lanes, ancient buildings and rowing around winding canals. I remember the heat because of the many beer tastings in old pubs along the way, especially the cherry beer which turned out to be my favourite. It was so hot that I had to stop at a little boutique and buy a summer t-shirt. The photos taken earlier in the day show me sweating it out in long sleeves.
…Worth a Thousand Words?
Have you ever looked through old photo albums and gazed at the many birthdays you have celebrated in print? The six-year-old image of yourself at the beach? You can vaguely remember the red swimsuit you are wearing but you can certainly taste the strawberry-flavoured ice-cream you are frantically licking as it drips down your arm. The wind is blowing the curls off your face and you can feel the warmth of the sun on your face. As you slowly walk along the beach, the burning sand slithers through your toes in time with the loud crashing of the waves.
While photographs can capture precious moments in time and evoke all our senses, they fail to record the emotions we feel as we look at awe-inspiring mountains, gushing waterfalls or iconic ancient monuments? Sophisticated cameras can bring a photo to life by capturing depth of field, scale and atmospheric perspective so we imagine we are really there. But there are moments when we need to put our cameras away and simply absorb the feelings of awe, wonder and joy.
Capturing the Essence
When I returned from India the first thing people asked was “What did you think of the Taj Mahal?” It is difficult to find words to describe it that have not been used before. When I wrote Chasing Marigolds, I described it as “breathtaking, unbelievable, awe-inspiring. As the pale pink sky blended into blue, this dramatic interplay of light over the stark white building, recreated the magic of the Taj.”
Photographers quickly offered to take photos for me from the most strategic points, showing the best reflections mirrored in the pools. However, after a few minutes I put my phone away and slowly walked around the perimeter, seeking solitude. I simply wanted to absorb the essence of this iconic site.
Previously when I have been recording videos, I have found that constantly peering through a small lens is a real deterrent from experiencing the wonderful vistas, places and people that really need to be observed and enjoyed.
The current trend with taking “selfies” seems to focus on “I was here”. But if you are spending so much time lining yourself up in front of some famous monument or spectacular landscape are you really looking at the sight worth seeing?
There is beauty to be found in everything you see. It does not have to be obvious or well-documented to be worth capturing. Go out and record your iconic images, acknowledge your important milestones but remember to enjoy every moment of each day and take some time to absorb the essence.