‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free…’  Elder Joseph, Shaker Community

I made a new friend Sunday. He is sweet, sensitive, curious, kind, genuine, handsome, intelligent, gentle, angelic. We had a conversation that lasted for hours with neither of us able to move away. We talked about adventure, friends, animals (his favorite is the horse), racing, work, making new friends, imagination…..an entire galaxy of topics in this relatively short time.

Ten days ago, I had to fly overnight to Frankfurt, Germany, and then photograph the entire next day and night without rest, little food, and all the while feeling not quite up to the challenge. This was an important job for me and one that I wanted to create the absolute best images I could for a variety of personal and professional reasons. When I walked into the Festhalle in Frankfurt I was immediately concerned about my ability to do so as the space was so dark and cavernous. I don’t shoot with flash, and it would have been forbidden in this instance as my subject was horses. I was photographing the performances of Apassionata and the team that Mestre Luis Valença will be sending to the United States. The show debuts in Lexington, Kentucky, in late April.

I was prepared, had all the appropriate equipment, but I knew that if the technical challenge of such low light could not be overcome then even the most compelling image would be useless if it could not be used for print or projection. So I cranked up the ISO (1600 and 2000….EEK!!!) and set about the work. I resist chimping the screen in most instances, and with the action so fast and furious I would have lost the moments had I been looking at the back of my camera.

So about half way into the first half of the show I let myself relax and enjoy the actual performance. I noticed that I began to have a natural smile on my face rather than a conscious one….and I could feel some of the tension leaving my body as well. I decided to dial the ISO down…and choose moments to shoot rather than chasing every shot, every gesture. I was laughing out loud during the comedy parts, and floating into the romance and magic of the story. I was enjoying myself and allowing my curiosity to push aside the doubt and concern.

Back to my new friend: In all likelihood I will never see him again, but the impact of this meeting was so strong that it has caused me to write this blog post, and more importantly, to re-examine the swirl of my present life. Alexander, in the short time I shared with him on a cross-country flight, crystalised the lesson I had offered to me last week. His insistence about combining the world of imagination with the world we have built and others have built around us showed me that it is possible to remain a creative being, uninhibited by daily circumstance or momentary challenge. His self-discovery in the midst of self-creation was powerful to watch and reminded me that its okay, even better to PLAY while working. His example reminded me to drop the fear (the real word behind concern, worry, and insecurity) and rest in the knowledge that my intention will create a way.

Our teachers are all around us. Open your eyes and see with your heart. Thank you, Alex, for the simple gift of your spirit and kindness. You are so wise and wonderful. I hope your fourth birthday brings you all you can imagine.