08 June 2010

On Finding Paradise

Hello, my dear friends! I hope this Tuesday afternoon finds you well.

First off, I would like to thank everyone who has followed so far — 50 followers in 3 days must be some sort of record! Let's see if we can reach 100 by 10 days, shall we? *grins*

Now... I'm trying something new today — a podcast. Because I speak rather quickly in parts, the music is rather loud, and my accent (which doesn't seem like an accent to me but might to other people) might make the tale difficult to understand, I've included a rough transcript below it. The story is of a journey I took yesterday afternoon. It's rather long, I know (1,400 words, which took up four whole pages of my journal last night)... please try to bear with me, I promise it is worth your while.
Note: the following account is the intellectual property of Olive Tree. (c) 2010.

Using this link, you can download the podcast for viewing on your iPod, mp3, or plain old computer. :)
 {don't worry — no bugs allowed.}


On Finding Paradise

    It’s six-thirty and I have nothing to do. I put down my book — Isabel Allende — and look out the window at a yard sprinkled with the remnants of this morning’s downpour. My father is working late again, and my mom is in the garden. Light dances between the leaves of the two-trunked birch tree.

    I get up and change into my Uniform, with a capital U. It’s not much — just some old jeans, a t-shirt, white flip-flops, a brown jacket, and (of course) my camera. I put the strap around my neck. The heavy black weight comforts me. One hand on the lens, the other holding the body in a death grip, forefinger poised above the shutter, ready to capture a fleeting moment that would otherwise be lost forever. With my camera, I become a different person. I’m stronger, more sure of myself, and I begin to see the world around me in light meterings and perfectly frames shots. I flick the switch from off to on and whisper across the hall... through the kitchen… out the door.

    My first obstacle: crossing the highway. Well, what passes for a highway around here. Only about three cars grumble past me every few minutes. In my mind, one would be too many. Still, it’s better than the city where I used to live, where everything was grey and even the mockingbirds were drowned out by traffic. I slip into the green embrace of the trees and am absorbed by the ancient forest.

    I have a bad habit of following deer trails. I usually get lost and it takes hours to find my way back. But I love it. I pick one that shoots off from the trail where people walk their dogs. I’m hoping to find some deer — the fawns will still be spotted and awkward with youth. In a matter of minutes, I am blissfully and utterly lost.

    I note the position of the sun so I can find my way back… eventually. I appear to be heading East. A butterfly with fire-colored wings comes fluttering at my head like an angry little fighter jet. Its wingbeats match the thumping of my own heart. It dive bombs me a couple times before settling on my head. After a few minutes it flutters off, apparently satisfied I am not some new kind of flower. I whisper goodbye.

    The deer path disappears and I am left wading through ferns. I can’t see where I put my feet and brambles scratch my exposed toes. I ridicule my choice of flip-flops. I continue walking for about half an hour, until I see a glimmer of water through the trees. This doesn’t really surprise me — I knew the ocean was just a couple miles into the forest. Pleased with my new destination, I plow ahead. I have an odd way of walking in the woods, much like a bird, where my head and feet move forward first and my body follows. It is quick and virtually silent — two things I prize above all else when photographing in the forest.

    In a matter of minutes I find myself at the top of a hill, a steep drop below me. I run my fingers over the bark of a huge tree — its trunk is at least five times wider than my waist. It must be hundreds of years old. More trees like this surround me. Ferns grow at their bases. The overall effect is of secluded magic.

    I can just see a beach of stone at the bottom if the hill. I have to hang on to twisted roots exposed to the air by eons of ocean wind to keep from falling flat on my face. My camera bumps against my chest and I hope I won’t lose my balance.

    The view before me is like none I have ever seen. Well, no. The beach itself is a pretty common sight around here, at first glance; about a hundred meters long, a tideline of seaweed perhaps fifty feet from the lapping water, stones rounded by countless tides slipping beneath my feet. But for me, this little cove is much more. In that moment I am seized with the adrenaline rush of discovery. My heartbeat pounds in my ears. I feel utterly alone — the only evidence of humans on this beach are a few lobster pots that have washed up and are caught in the mangled tree roots. Ripples pattern the ocean surface — mosquitoes are skimming over the water and minnows leap to catch them. Bigger ripples betray that mackerel are hunting the minnows. I think about how the chain must continue — striper probably sulk in the deeper water, waiting to snap up the mackerel. I can only imagine what must hunt the striper — I saw one once that was close to eight feet long, lurking under a ferry dock when I was seven. The soft tinkling of the waves lapping against the quartz-striped boulders that guard the little inlet from the rest of the world remind me of tiny wind chimes. I sit cross-legged on a boulder and dangle my toes in the frigid water, though the June day is warm and I strip off my coat. This place instills in me a sense of history. I can’t really imagine any modern human sitting where I do, other than perhaps Native Americans hundreds of years ago when the world was still wild. I picture a girl, about my age, but with skin several shades darker than my own and feathers braided into her long black hair, dressed in soft deerskin with a bow slung over her shoulder, barefoot, sitting on the rock where I sit, gazing at the ocean I gaze at, waiting for her brothers to come back from the hunt. I look over my shoulder, half-expecting to see her sitting there, but I’m alone. I think about her Great Spirit, the Thunderbird. Surely this is just another interpretation of God? Because when I look around, I am overwhelmed with a sense of respect and admiration for Him, for His creating something so beautiful. I appreciate every detail — the ocean, the lone Canada goose ducking its head underwater, the seagrass, the circle of life that starts with a mosquito and goes all the way back to a striper. I am utterly at peace. I have a mini-epiphany, more of a general feeling then a thought. I realize that this is my nirvana, my heaven, my paradise. Not so much because of its location, but because it makes me think. This is a place for prayers and wishes and history and hope.

    The sun is steadily disappearing behind me. I check the time on my camera — 7:30. I need to get back. I’ve been gone an hour… it feels like three. Reluctantly, I rise. I want to sit back down, lie back down and shut my eyes, absorb the heat of the rock and the magic of the place, stay there forever and ever. But I stand. I scramble back up the muddy hillside, dying my white flip-flops a lovely earthen tone in the process. I find the sun again through the towering trees and blunder West. I find the deer trail, then the dog-walking path. I start singing softly — the words aren’t any language I know, they just pop into my head and I murmur them to a tune like a Latin hymn. A woman jogs past me and turns her head, probably wondering what a singing teenage girl with mud on her face and a big black camera is doing on her path. My stomach sinks. I can hear the rumble of traffic in the distance now — the real world is pulling me down from my perch in the stars, from my place in heaven. I wish I could be the Indian maiden and sit on the boulder forever, never having to worry about who thinks my clothes are dumb at school or the zit on my cheek that seems to be as big and red as Mars.

    I decide never to show anyone the way to my paradise. Not because I want it for myself… rather, because I want anyone who goes there to feel the same thrill of discovery, the same awe for their God.

    My feet know the way and carry back to my front door, though my mind is still on the beach. I take a deep breath, open the door, and step back into reality.

Thank you all very much.


  1. Wow! That's amazing... I love your photography!

    Swirly Girlxx

  2. Wow Olive Tree--I was very much absorbed into that wonderful post. Your outstanding choice of words were so delicate and descriptive, along with your creative photography. I could definitely picture the whole scene in my mind, as I read further.

    Very cool post: Podcast, Photos, and a story to go along with it.

    -Alexandra :)

  3. Wish I could have read it all!! But I have to get to my concert... I'll read it all when I get back! Great photography and description! :)

  4. I love the pictures! I don't agree with the Great Spirit being an interpretation of God...but I love the prose, too! I wish I could go in our woods like that, but we have too many copperheads...=(

    That's awesome you live by the ocean. I love the ocean! :)

  5. Wow... As I read that it made me wish I don't live in the city, though my city is beautiful the only thing even close to what you described is the parks... We have beautiful parks. But the sad thing is, my favorite park, the one that was my playground in preschool has a big, nasty, ugly Safeway across the street... :( Whenever I go camping I love to walk through the woods, even though I don't do that much. I love the ocean too. We go there every year, and from my city we have an ocean we can go too-- but not the real ocean really, just a Sound. But when we go to the Ocean, it is the real ocean, the wind in my hair, sand blowing across the sand dunes, my cousins, aunts and uncles all sitting around a campfire. I chase my dog across the beach, with my favorite cousins. It is probably my favorite place in the world. It makes me want to cry when I think how run-down it is, and that it will probably close soon.


  6. That was so gorgeous! I listened to the Podcast, just excellent. I loved it.

  7. Nice job Olive! :) Really liked it! Wish I had as much skill as you :( ..... *pouts*

  8. Love your blog! I stumbled across it from my dear friends blog "Cassie at Inside my mind". You might like to check out my photography blog, its: http://kristenannphotography.blogspot.com/.


  9. Wow...that was amazing. I was so obsorbed in your discriprion and wonder of the creations of our God. I love looking at your pictures. It helps me see the wonder of God's creation. By the way, what camera do you have?

  10. That was beautiful, Olive Tree. I listened to the Podcast while reading your post and looking at your stunning photography.

    Thank you for sharing :)

    Hugs & Blessings,
    Twinkle Toes

  11. Wonderful Post Olive Tree!!

    And I went to follow your blog, and it said I couldn't! :(



  12. Thanks everyone! Tessa, I have a Nikon D60.

  13. What a beautiful, delicate post! Your empathy is lovely and your writing (and photographs) capture wonderful expression. So, is your "story" more truth than fiction. =D It seemed much too real for you to be making it all up...

    Your friend,

  14. Wow Olive. Those pictures are SUPERB! I especially like that first one. Am I right to suppose that's it's of a fern? The story was amazing too- it's great that you can find your own little spot, your own little paradise :)

  15. Cassie: it is 100% true. That's why there's no dialogue... I kept a mental notebook of my journal and wrote it all down when I came back. :)

    Cornet: yes it is. :)

    Tessa: I use a Nikon D60.

    Henna: strange!

  16. That was amazing! I loved the pictures!


  17. Oh how beautiful! And to have the beach in your "backyard".......I love living out the country, wandering around in the woods, down a path looking at Creation. I have a "secret" place as well....but I'm not going to tell you where it is :P

    Very well done! Just reading this post made me feel peaceful.

  18. Wow, 50 followers in 3 days really is a record! It's taken me since August to rack up 41 followers:).

    Your photography is amazing! The second to last picture is my favorite.


  19. Thats cooL! Sad that she got cut though :(

    Thanks For commenting Olive Tree!
    I actually am really happy i Re-found you. I think you were off for a while and then i could not find your blog!

  20. Yeah totally strange!!!!!

    I'll try again!



  21. I wasn't able to get the podcast to work, but I finally did, and it was beautiful! I think you should do more podcasts like that, it was really good! :)


  22. I like your way of writing and your pictures! Your post matched my feelings, because I live in a desert and dream to get back to woods and water and greens all the time! If it isn't a secret (or maybe I missed it) where do you live?


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