Listening to Music
Hiking down a trail the other day, I passed a couple teenagers playing a portable boom box radio. I suppose they really liked music. Long after I went my way and they went theirs, I continued thinking about the event as it seemed to point at something significant.
On long drives, I listen to an mp3 player in the car to pass the time and stay alert, but when I park the car I leave it behind. Once I head out on foot, I have other priorities I guess. It's not that I couldn't carry my tunes with me on the trail; it's just that I don't want to. There are other things to focus on.
I enjoy the sounds of nature. I enjoy being in nature. Indeed, it's one of the things that compel me to do what I do. The sound of water in a nearby creek or flowing over a nearby waterfall, a bird call that I can sometimes locate only by sound without even seeing the source, the wind rustling tree leaves are most welcome.
Many nature photographers I know feel the same way. We wouldn't subject ourselves to so many mosquito bites and so much sleep deprivation otherwise. In a sense, this whole photography thing is a grand excuse to reconnect personally with nature. There's a sound in nature that goes beyond literal sounds, a sound that's more of a feeling than a true sound. It's as if you are listening with your entire body rather than just your ears. It's a meditation of sorts.
But it's more than just that. As an analogy, the idea of listening to the radio caries even greater significance for committed nature photographers.
If you're listening to the radio, you can pick the station, but not the specific song being played. If you want to listen to music but don't like the song, you have only a couple of options. You can either change the station, or wait for the song to end in the hopes that what comes next will be better.
I spent a lot of time last week waiting for the weather to clear. On Tuesday, the Northwest got more rain that we normally do for the entire month of August. Other days, it didn't rain that much, but the clouds hung in over Mt. Rainier obscuring the mountain from view much of the time. Sometimes, the clouds obscured what was directly in front of my face. I was pretty much inside the clouds at that elevation. And that gave me a lot of time to think about those kids and their radio I guess.
At any rate, while passing time amongst the clouds, I really only had a couple of options. I could change the station, or I could wait for the next song. By changing the station, I mean I could try going somewhere else. And by waiting for the next song, I mean that I could stay where I was and hope that the weather cleared soon. I did both.
At Mt. Rainier, Paradise is on the southern side of the mountain, and Sunrise is on the west side. These are the two principal embarkation points for trails leading to alpine wildflowers. Due to the path of most weather systems and the mountain shadow effect, Sunrise is referred to as the "dry side" and gets a tad less rain on average than does Paradise. For the same reason, the flowers tend to peak at Sunrise a couple of weeks sooner than at Paradise which is why I was sitting at Paradise this late in the summer. But since I was also sitting in the rain and clouds, I spent one morning driving all the way around to Sunrise in the hopes that "changing channels" would change my fate. Unfortunately, it was pretty well socked in at Sunrise as well, so I drove back to Paradise. Regardless of any potential differences in clouds and rain, the flowers at Paradise were better.
That left me with waiting for the "song" to end. Most days, the clouds and drizzle where quite persistent indeed, leaving me only an hour or two of reasonably clear weather to work with. I had to do a lot of waiting. Some songs are longer than others I guess. Good thing I like hanging out in nature.