Thirty-five years ago, I was a young girl living in Hendersonville, TN. We moved there at the absolute worst time for me - right in the middle of my high school years. I had to start all over, make new friends, and was thrown into a world so far from where I'd been, it's amazing I came through it with any form of sanity.
Only a year and a half before, I'd been moved from my long time home in Manchester, MO to White Bear Lake, MN. I was thrown into a public school of over 2,000 kids, where I felt like a total outsider. That lasted all of two weeks, before my parents decided a private school might be better, and I was enrolled into a small Catholic high school in St. Paul. It was a good school. I wasn't Catholic, but I actually appreciated the discipline, the smaller classrooms, and the friends I made. I had great plans of graduating from there, and building a life in Minnesota. A year and a half into that journey, it was shattered when my parents moved us to Tennessee.
I was now one of those "northerners", with that strange accent, transplanted into the south in the middle of my junior year, just before Christmas. I didn't fit in. I was made fun of and picked on. Once again, I ended up in public school and I hated it -- at first. Within six months, I'd acquired the southern accent. I began to make some friends, and even had a boyfriend or two. But my days were chaotic. Every day when I got off the noisy school bus, I had a headache. Then I had to listen to my parents argue constantly. And my mom nagged me about everything. Nagging, noise, criticism, and headaches. All I wanted was PEACE.
As the weather warmed up and winter turned into spring, I started taking my bike and exploring the neighborhood. Down at the end of Bayshore Drive where I lived, there was a dead end street. At the end of that street were woods, with an enticing path to follow, which emerged onto the edge of the lake. Right beside the water was a large fallen tree, which made the perfect place to sit and relax. I found serenity, finally. Every day I could, I'd escape to this secret spot and relish in the peace and quiet, which was absent in my real world. I'd spend hours there, writing, drawing, and dreaming.
When I acquired my new Kodak Disc camera (remember these???), I'd take it with me and take photos of the lake, the trees, and birds and wildlife. This was my first camera which totally belonged to me. Even though I'd been taking photos since I was around 12-13 and loved it immensely, I was using other cameras owned by other family members. Now I finally had my own camera, and I was overjoyed!
It was at my special place by the lake I began to capture the peaceful things in life on film. I filled up so many discs with photos, every penny I had was being spent on film and developing. But I was trying to harness the serenity I'd found, so I could keep it forever! So I kept on taking photos.
Several months later, it was time to leave and go away to college. I only returned home a couple times a year, but when I did, I'd go right to my spot at the lake and enjoy every last ounce of serenity I could. Until one day I returned home only to find all of the trees at my secret lakeside haven were cut down. In between the dead end road and the water, it looked like a bomb had erupted. All I saw were broken branches, dirt and bulldozers. I cried. Man was destroying my special place. A sign by the road indicated a new apartment/condo facility was being built. Here's an overhead view of what used to be my favorite place:
I stopped coming home. I even put my desires and dreams aside for 20 years, because I was told I'd never succeed as an artist or photographer and I needed to "get a real job". As a young person, I just couldn't fight that battle with the adults in my life. So I spent almost 20 years miserable and unhappy doing what everyone else thought I should do with my life. And it was anything but peaceful.
Eventually, I started delving into my creativity again. See, when you're truly a creative soul, you just can't turn that off. It's a part of who you are. It never leaves, though you might suppress it for years. It's always, always there. Slowly, I began to tap into it again. I started with the photography I'd loved since I was a child. As soon as people who should support me but didn't found out what I was doing, the criticism and nay-saying began again. So I went into writing. I experienced more criticism and a total lack of support, despite the fact I'd published a novel, several articles, and short stories. I then moved into jewelry design, with bit of painting here and there. I actually was quite successful in this area, but when the bottom fell out of the economy and people stopped spending money on luxury items and original paintings, it reached a point where I couldn't even buy my supplies to continue. The world was in turmoil, my finances were in turmoil, and at that point in time, my family life was in turmoil.
It was then I picked up my camera (digital now, thank goodness), and I started looking for serenity again. Road by road, path by path, and step by step, I found it. Slowly but surely, I removed myself from the corporate world I worked in, quieted the turmoil of a dysfunctional family life, and began to find myself again. I stepped out of the busy-ness of the world, removed myself from the liars, users, nay-sayers and drama queens I had become entangled with, and walked out into the woods in the middle of nowhere. After I caught my breath from the whirlwind of living a non-authentic, overworked, and stressful life, I started taking pictures again.
I found serenity in beautiful scenes in front of me, the sweet sounds of songbirds, the fragrant scent of a rose in spring, and the whoosh of an eagle's wings above. I found serenity by the river, just listening to the water lap against the rocks on the shoreline. I found serenity down a quiet gravel road in the country. I found serenity as I stood in front of forgotten old barns, overgrown with weeds. I found it beside ponds, in cotton fields, and in swamplands and in so many other places, most people don't even know exist.
I've been told and told over and over again, the only way I'll be successful is if I can give something of value to the world. The peace and serenity I find is the most valuable thing I have to give. I will walk as many forgotten paths filled with brush and undergrowth I have to in order to capture it, then bring it to others. I will spend as many hours as necessary to take that picture I've made, and create a masterpiece of art out of it in order to bring that serene moment... that special, peaceful little something... into the environments of those who need it. Because experiencing one serene moment may be all that's needed to turn a dark moment into one filled with light. Because escaping into serenity can take an anxious heart and calm it in an instant. Because immersing oneself into serenity can breathe life into a tired soul again.
As I look back at where I started on this journey, the events I went through in my life, the relationships, the jobs, the moments I'd just rather forget, I decided something. I decided there is nothing I'd rather spend my time doing, than to capture and bring serenity into a world so desperately in need of its presence. See, I don't just think the world needs it -- I know firsthand it does. And I'm thrilled to be a creator of illusive, peaceful, serene moments featuring nature and wildlife -- and to be able to bring them to you.
P.S. Does your world lack serenity? You can bring it into your home or office today - start here to pick your favorite photograph to add to your space, and experience tranquility any time you wish.