In a day and age where time in front of a screen consumes our lives, we are in more need than ever to unplug from technology. How and where each of us do that will be unique and different every time.
It could be a trail (my preferred version), a river or a lake, a thicket of azaleas, the magnolia tree in your front yard, or the forest behind your fence. Your version of unplugging could be anything. No matter where you live, nature is all around you and it’s literally busting at the seams, or through the sidewalk cracks, to get your attention.
Don’t get me wrong: I love a good Instagram post, perusing Facebook, or a clever Tweet. Too much, in fact. Posting and perusing are woven into the fabric of my life and they’re not going anywhere.
I was at a talk recently where the speaker said, “Noise keeps us focused on things that are unimportant.” I’ve been mulling that over for some time now. And in some ways, I disagree. It’s important for me to stay connected to my friends or get updates on my relatives, and social media helps with that.
But in other ways, he’s spot on. It’s important for me to stay connected to myself, and the best way for me to do that is to take a hike. What about you? How do you connect with yourself? If you find it hard, these first weeks of spring could be the perfect opportunity for you to unplug for an hour or two. Just sit in the stillness of nature. Instead of tweeting, listen to the birds. Instead of settling for the mountain sunset on your screensaver, head outside and catch a glimpse of the real thing. You can always upload photos of it when you get home.
In 1972, I first visited the enchanted kingdom of Nepal and began photographing the Himalayas. In 2012, I travelled to the 22,000′ advanced base camp north in Tibet and made photographs with the 8×10″ camera of the North Col of Everest(Qomolungma) which represent the highest photos ever made with the large format view camera.
Early on, I became aware that the Tibetans have called the mountain Qomolungma, Goddess Mother of the Universe, since the 12th century and the Nepali’s call the mountain Sagarmatha, The Stick that Churns the Ocean of Existence. During their Survey of India in the 1840’s, the British determined the mountain to be the tallest in the world and realizing the geographic significance, named the mountain after George Everest, the Second Surveyor General of India.
Although the British may have imposed the name which is most commonly accepted today, this mountain is regarded by its cultures and people with the utmost reverence and regard. It is imperative to recognize the historical and spiritual meanings of names originally given to natural wonders and landmarks by those who live in their shadows.
To see more of Jeff Botz’s work, visit jeffbotz.org
The river is a sage teacher.
Her lessons are revealed patiently by the current, but almost always resonate to life in the real world as well. One of the most profound things that the river has taught me is the notion of responsibility. Responsibility comes in many forms.
I am responsible for my paddling partners. When we slide into the river together, we are subconsciously looking each other in the eyes and saying, “I’ve got your back, and I know you’ve got mine.” While paddling, we are acutely aware of both our own well-being and that of our partners, because the stakes can be high. Over the years, I have felt the power of this relationship from both sides. My life has been saved by a friend, and I have paid that gift forward to others in their times of crisis. Both experiences are equally as powerful, and they somehow pave the way for deeper and more rewarding relationships off the river.
I am responsible for my own decisions and actions. When I decide to run a rapid, that is my decision, and mine alone. Once I paddle out of the eddy and commit, I am on my own, and must deal with what comes…the river (like life) is a one-way street. This actually makes us stronger people, because we learn to keep a level head in chaotic situations. In my experience, the most successful people are those who take responsibility for their mistakes and shortcomings, and don’t pass blame to other people. When I make a mistake on the river, I must acknowledge that I have made that mistake and scramble for plan B. I cannot blame that mistake on anyone else, because I alone am responsible for the decision to be in the rapid, and for my own paddling. The river does not accept excuses.
Winston Churchill said “the price of greatness is responsibility.” On the river and in life, we show what we’re truly made of in how we look out for one another, and how we deal with the chaotic times.
It is human nature to take a chance. To step away from the comfortable, from the familiar, and seek an unknown. To ask a question. Often, we don’t know why we are asking these questions, or what we are looking for by asking them. But we ask. Once the question is asked, once the familiar is left behind, an exploration begins.
The word explore is defined by the action of traveling through the unfamiliar in order to learn. We typically associate exploration with the great adventurers, thinkers and philosophers of human history. With an unparalleled, modern access to knowledge and information, it is easy to assume there is little left in the world to explore. Little left that is unknown to humanity, (without a genius’ mind, a large amount of wealth to fund such an exploration, or an extraordinary amount of courage). To think like this, however, would be to forget that by our very nature we need to explore.
As humans, we are constantly exploring our world, communities, history, natural environment, or even ourselves as individuals. Our personal explorations of what it means to be alive makes us the individuals we are taught to embrace as truly unique people. Because no two people are alike, we each explore something different in every moment or experience. Some seek more, some seek less. Some far and wide, some close and in-depth.
The world is full of beauty, wonder and inspiration. No matter what you’re interested in, where you live, how old you are or what you do for a living, allow a passion within to initiate your own chapter to explore.