Monday, July 22, 2013

Ivan Doig, Finishing Well, Courage... and Serendipity?

Last year, I found myself in Montana - literally.

I had spent ten days there – discovering new places, finding inspiration, shooting more work and visiting with longtime friends.  I ended up on a journey thru a region that was new to my eyes – although it was familiar to my mind from reading the novels of Ivan Doig.  His stories will take you into towns such as Valier, Dupuyer and White Sulphur Springs.  They are poetic and extremely visual, so you can imagine how wonderful it was to find myself spending time in this part of the state.  Two of the nights were spent in White Sulphur Springs – where I hunkered down in the comfort of simple lodging under a big ominous sky.

It was there that I would stare into that big sky and wonder about the reality of relocating to Southwest Montana.  It would be a courageous move to be sure and it didn’t take me long to realize that the timing was about as perfect as it would ever be if we were going to do it.
Perfect at every level you can imagine.

Relocating to Montana has been on my radar for close to 25 years.   Having my wife and kids onboard with the idea was a huge blessing. I told them that all five of us have to be in agreement, or it was a no-go.  So with that, five thumbs were held high in the air and we started the process.

Bozeman is where our new roots would take hold – that was a unanimous decision early on.
We researched neighborhoods, schools, churches, amenities, organized sports, the library, and volunteer opportunities too.

My wife and I spent countless hours late at night... scouring properties on the ipad.  It’s where we came to realize what was possible and what wasn’t.  Several trips to Bozeman helped whittle down our choices - and we sealed the deal shortly after the New Year.

The following five months were an emotional roller coaster that will stay with me forever.
About every imaginable high and low were a part of my life.  I found that important relationships gained strength while the weaker ones dwindled further – which was reaffirming.

The concept of finishing well became a big part of my life - it's something that I attribute to one of my closest friends.  He’s a man with more wisdom than perhaps any other person that I have known (and an example of an important relationship in my life gaining strength prior to us moving).

He had sent me an email during this past spring and I’d like to share it with you as I found his words invaluable.

“Hi Eric,
A thought struck me after I left. It was the idea of "finishing well."  Sometimes, it's easy to get so far ahead of ourselves that we forget to attend to or appreciate the things that are right in front of us.  You obviously have many things to do before you go.  But know that those things aren't just a means to an end (such as getting you to your next destination), they are part of the journey in your life.  And if you do them well, you will take pride in a thing well done.  Perhaps enjoying something each day, in part, means keeping in mind the idea of "finishing well."  Not like it's an exam or a test… but as an organic part of your life. Because if you are occupied with the idea of finishing each thing you are doing well, you won't have as much time for other things such as worry.  Worry can keep us from feeling genuine emotions such as sadness, which is something we need to feel.  And, when it's time to go, you will be proud of what you have left behind for others and what you have prepared for yourself and your family too.  The losses you are feeling are normal: leaving places with memories of your parents, your family and friends, and your neighborhood too.  But wouldn't it be interesting if one of the things you "enjoyed" were giving yourself permission to feel loss, sadness or even cry.

So how's that for a paradox:  you could enjoy, or at least feel OK about feeling sad... if you needed to feel sad. Because after all, feeling these emotions help us grow, particularly when they're where we are right now.

They're part of being authentic…” 

I’m all for being authentic - and for surrounding myself with authentic people too.
So thank you for that email Pat - I will always appreciate your friendship.

And so what does “Serendipity” have to do with all of this…?

It happened last June 19th to be exact - as I was headed to bed one last time as a California resident.
We would be rolling for Montana in the morning.  Our goodbyes had been said, logistics handled and in short, we had finished well.

I was getting ready to shut down for the night, when an email came into my phone.  It was from a photo editor out of New York who happened to work for a well-known publication.  She expressed some nice comments about my work and wanted to know if I’d be interested in photographing an assignment the following week…
in White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

Serendipitous?  Perhaps to many.

But in my heart and by having a strong faith, I knew it was bigger than that.

It was a nice start for things to come.

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