It is June 2022, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere is already behind us and I find myself back in the place I call home on the top of a mountain with a heavy backpack strapped on my back and a little dog on the leash. The last time I was here, it was autumn. Leaves were yellow and orange and it was raining and storming continuously. It got so bad that after a little over 2 weeks of being battered by the weather we returned home early.
Then the pandemic hit and we could not go back to this place in the French mountains and I vowed I would never complain about bad weather again in my entire life if only I could go back there again with Kayla, our dog who is totally responsible for us falling in love with this place. Kayla is a climber, she is a mountain dog, despite her petite posture. She was built for a life in the mountains, with little paws that nonetheless climb faster and more securely than any human could.
Now it is June, this mountainous area known for its bad weather conditions and persistent rain is basking in sunshine. Not just that, after now almost two weeks, I start looking at the immensely blue sky searching for any kind of cloud. I promised not to complain about the weather though. It is 40 degrees in the valley below, it is incredibly hot, the light is difficult to work with, so in photographic terms, 2019 was a good year with loads of rain. I laugh at the irony of it all and go with the flow.
These mountains, the forests, they are familiar, but I have changed. I look at this place with eyes filled with wonder and gratitude with the knowledge that the options to travel can be taken from us any moment. I feel enchanted, yet can not get my camera to register it, due to the harsh light conditions. I don't take this opportunity to be here for granted though. There will be other times that the conditions will help the camera capture the sense of wonder that I am feeling. I won't turn my back on the landscape just because I am not particularly happy with cloudless blue skies.
There is a dog on the end of the leash, she knows just how to appreciate this moment. She does not care less about the blue sky, she is out here, early in the morning, taking the panoramic trail with me and she looks like she is flying over the rocky paths with the happiest of looks on her face. I know better than to not be intensely grateful for this. She is 13 years old and we managed to get her back to the point where she can enjoy these hikes again.
I carry all my gear with me, because you just never know. I can't afford to be snobbish about the light even if it is challenging, very challenging. The path makes a U turn and I am lead into a forest I know so well. The trees are like old friends of mine and I have come back to visit them. I find myself gobsmacked....Not just one, but all of my favourite trees have collapsed. They are no longer there. I stand there with my hand covering my mouth, hardly able to digest what I am seeing. I am almost ashamed to belong to the human race which is responsible for this tragedy. In the evening I sit on the balcony thinking about my feeling of loss and realize that I photograph transience, not permanence. My heart belongs to those trees and forests, that I hope will outlive me, but that I fear will not.
These trees filled me with awe the moment I saw them, they urged me to create something that did them justice, or so I hope. Now they have gone and I hope their photos will convey the reason why they needed to be protected. I can't resist the calling of these transient beings, with branches reaching for the sky, no matter if it is blue or grey. I must tell my story about them, because I can't delude myself and think it is their story that I am telling. I can only hope that by telling the story of the magic of life on this planet, that I see when I look at these trees, I tell their story as well. How they came to life, how they grew and reached for the skies, how they stand tall in all their magnificence and how they struggle to survive. I tend to photograph the survivors, the ones who are persisting in their urge to live, the ones that convey transience and the fragility of life. As this is the only way I know of to tell their stories, to hopefully ignite in others the sense of wonder that I feel.
Musing about this all, I look over at a sleeping dog, on her back, making sleeping sounds like only she can and I realize that to her, this morning was perfect. Blissfully unaware of something like climate change, she just loves the great outdoors, loves the wind playing with her hair and the rocks beneath her feet. She loves the moment and quite a few of them, I might add. I envy her for not laying worrisome thoughts upon the moment, but to just letting it be. I know she is right, our wise little furry friend from Tibet. Without the worries, we are the same, with our love of hikes, views, challenging paths and the wind in our hair. It is a wonderful day.
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