A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free. -Arthur Schopenhauer

I feel as if I am missing the Summer of 2019. I’m not sure what it is other than slight anxiety that I should be accomplishing more than I have to this point. I have had this feeling for a couple of months now. Then a few weeks ago I noticed something. Something I felt was profound.

I had been exploring some back roads throughout the flint hills and prairies. As I so often do. Nothing really new about that. I had ventured many miles mainly north to south and now making my way back north again. I was slowly making my way back towards home, heading north driving a paved county road. It came to a stop sign and intersected with an east / west highway. East was back towards home but I really wasn’t ready to jump on they highway since there was at least an hours worth of daylight left. Straight the road continued as a gravel road. It dawned on my I had never driven this section of road before. Before I could debate whether or not to take it I found myself heading north on it. I seem to do this at times. Somewhat subconsciously, I find myself heading somewhere that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. I always take this as an omen of sorts. I trust my subconscious implicitly. 

It was a wonderful drive for the next few miles. Up and over the rolling summer hills. Down to the creek bottom where the sun was skimming across the shallow creek. On up the road a family of raccoons skedaddled out of a corn field and back into the woods. Probably preparing for the night after they had gotten their bellies full of field corn. I made my way up to the next crossroad and decided I should turn around and drive this back the other way (south) and watch the sun slowly set in the western horizon. It was a nice evening. Pleasant temperatures in the mid 70’s, light winds and beautiful light filling the lands and sky.

It was during this slow meandering back through this land I noticed it. Or more accurately I noticed the lack of it. I no longer felt as if I was missing something. As if the summer was passing me by. There were no signs of anxiety, worry’s, impatience, or most any other negative feeling. I realized I had been this way for some time. At least since my subconscious put me to this road an hour or so before. I thought about this for a bit. I still was not accomplishing or even working on the things that seemingly have caused my anxious feelings over the last couple months. I wasn’t creating some masterful photograph, or writing some wonderful blog post, or producing anything creative or artful at all. All I was doing was slowly driving down a lonely back road in the middle of nowhere watching the sun slowly begin to touch the western horizon. It was wonderful. It was then I also realized what everyone who was not there with me at that very moment was missing.

Overthinking is the biggest cause of unhappiness

I have mentioned before about things like this. The reasons I pursue this path of nature photography. I have said that it is never about creating photographs, though I purposefully do so. If I am so fortunate to capture a meaningful scene it never seems to be act of capturing it that inspires me, but rather all the experiences that lead up to it. The times of solitude, quietness, peaceful tranquility. These are the things that stick with me. A photograph, any photograph seems to be more a reliving of those experiences than any type of momentary success.

As days, weeks, months, even years continue to accumulate in my life I find myself slowly but surely letting go. Letting go of many things that I once felt important. Many things that I once thought were the “key” to happiness. Many things that I spent large amounts of time on only to discover it was meaningless time spent. I know I am not alone in this though I have no way of knowing for certain. I believe this may be the case for nearly everyone. I am not complaining about this. Sure I wish it were not the case, at least to the extent I make it out to be in my own thoughts, but nonetheless my life experiences are what they are. Some good, some bad, some extremely painful, and some extremely happy. Acceptance of the truth is neither good nor bad, it simply is acceptance.

It is a difficult task, to remain true to yourself. Humans seem to fall in to a wide ranging spectrum on this. To live with a thankfulness of the present is easy to say, easy to pretend, and most difficult to live. A thankfulness not for the possessions you have accumulated from financial wealth. Not from notoriety you have accumulated due to false companionship that exists in social circles. And not from accolades that have been bestowed from those who do not know you. But to truly be thankful for the breath you able to take in and the emotions you are able to feel.

After your death you will be what you were before your birth. -Arthur Schopenhauer

Down The Road FHSU_2249 | ©Brad Mangas

The gentle passing of time exploring views of nature becomes nourishment for the soul. As was the case during this drive down an unknown road through the prairies and flint hills of Kansas.