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A Gift

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

A.A. Milne

(Winnie the Pooh)

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The Falls

The waterfall was mostly hidden from sight, but the sound of falling water caught my attention. When I got close enough to view the falls, I saw that they weren’t created by geology, but by beavers—those industrious little chaps of the forest. I had never seen such a high beaver dam before, so promised myself that I would come back at another time with the appropriate camera equipment.


Several weeks later, I was lying in my bed, the dawn light sneaking around the blinds in my bedroom. I was annoyed that I had woken up so early, but my mind wandered as I stared at the ceiling and that scene of the waterfalls appeared again. Why not, I thought. I’m awake anyway. I was up and dressed in short order, put together the camera equipment I needed and drove to the Cochrane Ranche Park. It was a Spring morning yet comfortably warm. Song birds were calling out their mating messages and crows were flying in pairs high overhead, nattering to each other.


I swung my loaded camera bag onto my back and headed up the valley trail at a brisk pace. At such times, early in the day and alone on a trail in the woods, I’m usually at peace with myself. Any worries or anxieties about chores to be done vanish and I find it easy to be mindful. I was running the scene of the waterfalls in my mind, trying to previsualise what I was going to do when I reached them.


Looking ahead, I stopped in my tracks when I saw a beam of sunlight that had found its way through the trees and lit the path ahead of me. I stood, staring, absorbed by what I saw. I felt peaceful as I took in the scene, but within a minute that was lost to my excitement to capture with my camera what I saw. Bag off, opened, lens selected and mounted, but when I looked up the magic was gone. A cloud had covered the sun. I couldn’t see the sky through the forest canopy, so I tried to relax as I sat down on the ground to wait for the cloud to move. I didn’t have to wait long and I made a photograph of that beam of light, filtered through the trees.


As I put my camera back in the bag, I thought, what a gift that was.


A little further along the path I met a man and his dog on their way back from their own morning walk. He, like me, was in a good mood. We stopped and talked for a while, discovering that we had both worked in Calgary, retired, and found what we wanted in Cochrane. He had been in the town for a year compared to my ten years, but we both had the same good feeling about what we had done. His dog was as relaxed and happy as we were. As he nuzzled me with his nose, I responded by massaging his ear. Then he laid down, inviting me to give him a rub, which I did, and he closed his eyes, contented. His owner and I said our goodbyes and I continued on my way, feeling even happier about being out and about at this time of day.


I did get to the waterfalls and spent almost an hour gathering photographic assets with my camera that I could use in post processing to create what I had previsualised. The image at the start of this essay was the result. I like it. It is a good documentary image of a high beaver dam, but, for me, the art of the day was mother nature’s gift.


The Gift

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