Fall colors peaked in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park this last week, and with camera in hand I did my best to find a spot to capture a small part of it. Driving along the Nantahala river in North Carolina, we took a left turn from the main road and followed a path that bordered a tributary, eventually pulling off in a quiet wooded area along a secluded stretch of flowing water.
Securing my camera to its tripod, I pulled off my shoes and rolled up my pants to wade in the crystal clear water. The surging cold encompassed my feet and a startled brook trout protested my encroachment with a flick of tail, splashing me as it quickly chose relocation over confrontation. Settling my equipment firmly on the polished rock foundation provided by the riverbed, I peered through the viewfinder to acquire the pixels I wanted to capture and started the process of stopping time.
There are few things more relaxing to me than the sound of moving water; be it the waves of an ocean percussion against a sandy beach or the rolling melody of a winding river. Given the choice, I’ll take the seasonal colors of the deciduous forest paired with the symphony of falling water over fireworks and band noise any day of the week for my festive celebrations. Put a camera in my hand and you’ll keep me focused for hours with ease.
On this occasion, as I stood in the middle of this little river it occurred to me that perception can play a big part in processing what goes on around me. Falling leaves and rushing water sounds chaotic, and yet even surrounded by all this action is a serenity that is easily tapped with a simple choice of managing perspective. The mass of falling leaves settle to the ground because their work is complete as the trees are readying for winter’s approach. The water, though loud and rushing, still moves with intention; guided by the boundaries of the river’s edge controlling direction. Both can be metaphors of progress and purpose.
Think about this the next time you feel your world is turning upside down. What may appear to be uncontrolled chaos might just as easily be broken down to find loosely organized progress when self-imposed stress is removed and the perspective is challenged. With practice, perhaps you can learn to relax in perceived turmoil to the dismay of those around you.