I stood on a hill top yesterday morning, out about 10 miles from town. The land is barren from the winter season, but still yields some pretty amazing photos. There is a pasture just under the top of the hill, in it stands an old barn, the remains of an old house, a dilapidated shed, a windmill and an old water storage system. I find myself there often to take pictures, not just of the pasture but the view from the hilltop is indeed breath-taking. I had never been to the hilltop in the winter until yesterday, I stood in the middle of the road, looking out across the dead and barren land, it was as if I was literally standing on the edge of the world. In the other seasons there are trees around and you feel this sense of protection. As if all the vegetation protects you but with all of them in hibernation, I felt my breath catch, my heart leap.
I drove to the corner and made a u-turn to head back into town. As I did, the view of the windmill caught my eye. Standing majestically in the pasture with the dead grasses blowing around it’s base. The early morning sun giving it, if only for a few moments a new shine. I stepped out of the pick-up to get a better view when a car topped the hill and slowly broke the silence of my thoughts. The crunch of it’s tires on the old pavement, the quiet roar of it’s motor, the shiny, new Cadillac came to rest right in front of me. Always fearing some angry landowner is bothered by me and the camera, I hesitantly said “Good Morning” to the elderly gentleman as he let the window ride down it’s tracks. A soft smile crossed the etched face, the white and thinning hair blowing in the breeze, his voice soft and friendly replied, “Good morning young lady. Are you having car trouble?” I giggled, holding my camera so that he could see, I told him that this pasture always intrigues me and I was out taking pictures, enjoying nature before the cold snap arrives. He put the car in gear and pulled up to the gate, got out of the car and walked back to me standing in the middle of the road. He walked up close and stuck out his hand, “My name is Jake Steward. I own this land you are so fond of. If you like I will tell you about it.” I walked over to the pick-up and let the tailgate down so that we could sit while he told his story…….
He slowly looked out over the pasture, pointing towards the barn under the hillside, “My parents built that with their own hands. I really just don’t have the heart to tear it down so I have left it all these years.” The sun shone down on his wrinkled face and it seemed a sense of pride made his chest bow out just a fraction. The first few years must have been really hard, they had come here to make a place to call their own. You see, my mother was the daughter of a plantation owner in Alabama and her father had not wanted the two to get married because my father was poor. Poor when it came to money, but he was a minister’s son. Not like the bad boy, but a boy that listened in church, that learned the Bible and lived it. He was a man that was gentle and loving. So, knowing that they would never be happy living under the eyes of their families, the moved West. I don’t think this is where they had intended to end up, but when my parents saw the view from the top of the hill, they knew this was where they were meant to be. The built the house that stood down there out of rock. That is what people used back then in this area to build with. I grew up in that tiny little house and loved every minute of it.
He turned to me and smiled. His gentle voice had touched my heart in that early morning light. It had mingled with the quiet sounds of Sunday morning. The far off song of the mourning dove, the gentle rustle of the breeze blowing through what was left of the dead oak leafs. He shook my hand and I noticed the soft wrinkled skin of age and the strength that still lingers of someone that has worked their whole life using those hands.
I watched him as he slowly made his way back to the car and drove off around the corner. Having given me permission to take all the pictures I wanted, whenever I wanted of his land. I went back to taking pictures but I noticed that my feel for this piece of property had changed. I could feel the love deeper than before. It was as if I had been given a little piece of the lives that had lived there. I stood in the ditch next to the fence looking out over the pasture, letting my mind and my own soul linger in the past. The sound of the old man’s voice turning into the laughter of a young boy climbing the old oak tree in the distance on a hot summer day. The sound of a woman calling her family to the dinner table at the end of a day working the land. I could rebuild the house in my mind and see this family sitting at the fireside on a cold winter’s night with the Father’s voice softly reading from the Bible. Mostly, now I could experience the love that this beautiful piece of land had experienced.
As my heart changed I began to really look at the things I was taking photos of, putting into each one the love and care that I felt in my own heart. Looking through the view finder seemed to limit what I was feeling, limit the line of sight to the point of being restrictive. So, I began to focus like most photographers on the thoughts and feelings of my own. Letting my heart be the viewfinder, letting it wander in nature at will. I thought back over the last few weeks, how the weather has kept me in doors, how falling on bended knee more than a few times to ask for guidance and strength seems just another part of a cold, windy winters day. How my meditations have turned focus on new and vibrant places and things and by putting those thoughts and ideas out into the cosmos has brought great amounts to look forward to. But as I was shooting, my lens became focused on a corner fence post. A post, by the looks of how many different pieces of barbed wire wrap tightly around various parts of it, has been there through many seasons.
It was the sight of this corner post that set my mind in motion, my heart to beating faster, and my longing to sit for a spell and ponder the emotions that were in action. Is this post a depiction of someone’s heart? Tied by the barbs of love and responsibility of life? It could be. My thoughts didn’t linger there long though, for what kept coming to mind was the thought that we all know people that are corner posts in our lives and at times we all know that we are the corner post for others. If you think about your own life, standing firm in your beliefs, standing fast against all the storms, all heated days filled with turmoil and how through it all you become a little more weathered with each passing day, but you still stand fast. Each strand of barbed wire being someone that depends on your strength, on your firm foundation to help them through. Even though they are tightly wrapped around your life, your heart, your meditations, you know that they are in your life for a purpose. A chain nailed to your very core, why is it there? What is it’s purpose? Maybe it is to help someone who is only passing by, only there for a season. The spare wire is perhaps something you hold for future need. As the years pass and people come and go from your life for whatever the reason, they leave their mark. They leave a part of themselves wrapped in your very being. Sometimes I wonder just what it is that I see in old fence posts wrapped in barbed wire. Is it the feeling of being captured, being held in someway against our will? Or is it mayhaps the feeling of strength this post portrays standing in line with all the others connected by some small wire? The feeling that each post is beautiful and strong on its own like we are as individuals but that it takes us all and our connection with each other to make a strong fence. Think about people you know, some are strong on their own and need very little connection while others seem to need a great deal.
Through the morning drive, as my viewfinder and heart searched the countryside, I was touched by the sunshine to warm my heart. I was touched by nature to lift my spirit, and I captured beauty in photos and words that wrapped me in strength. So, I stand high on the hilltop, looking out over the land knowing that love and faith are there to support me.