Tag Archives: friendship

In the Presence of Old Friends

 

Places are some of my very best friends.

When I return to a beautiful location that I’ve connected with in the past, it feels like showing up at a dear friend’s front porch who swings open wide the door of warm hospitality, eagerly welcoming me in with genuine laughter, refreshing food and drink, palpable love.

One of these treasured friends is Mount Rainier.

 

 

I first met The Mountain as a five-year-old boy, glimpsing its snowy white broad-shouldered girth from a distance as my mom held me up to see out the kitchen window of our rental house in Washington state.

It would be decades later that I finally encountered 14,409-ft Rainier face to face, in all its shocking glory. It did not take but a single visit to form a bond, and this friendship resulted in years of wide-eyed wonder and the making of many cherished photographic portraits.

 

A summer sunset casts spectacular light on clouds above Mount Rainier at Reflection Lake

A summer sunset casts spectacular light on clouds above Mount Rainier at Reflection Lake

 

Pink and yellow monkeyflowers decorate a tributary of the Paradise River

Pink and yellow monkeyflowers decorate a tributary of the Paradise River

 

In the presence of this majestic mountain 15 years ago I met another friend. I was exploring a forest service road just west of the National Park boundary and somehow managed to navigate a Ford Taurus sedan up a sketchy dirt road and onto a platform overlooking Mount Rainier. As I set up the tripod and camera for a sunset shot, a 4WD truck clambered up this hill and pulled in next to me. The blue-eyed, blonde-haired young man with a slight Polish accent exclaimed, “How did you make it up here in that car!?”

And so began a most amazing connection with a guy who became one of my best friends ever, fellow landscape photographer Slavomir Dzieciatkowski. For a decade and a half we have journeyed together in this life, through many joys and a fair share of sorrows. We’ve grown close in the way I always imagined real brothers would.

When I moved clear across the country two years ago our friendship remained strong thanks to regular emailing, but hanging out in person has become a rare once-a-year treat. This summer we coordinated a camping and photography retreat for the two of us, joined by our very special companion, Rainier.

Driving toward our rendezvous this week, my first glimpse of The Mountain elicited a loud gasp as my heart leaped for joy to be back in the presence of this old friend. And so too when I arrived at camp, my heart leaped for joy as I embraced my old friend Slavomir.

 

 

Summer glacial melt creates a lush grotto in a rugged boulder-strewn ravine on Rainier's slopes

Summer glacial melt creates a lush grotto in a rugged boulder-strewn ravine on Rainier’s slopes

 

I spent three grand days getting reacquainted with my comrade Rainier, hiking high up on his flanks above treeline, discovering sublime compositions along the glacier-fed Paradise River he births, witnessing the spectacle of pink sunset clouds highlighting his noble presence at Reflection Lakes. All the while soaking up great conversation and photographic craft with my sidekick Slav.

One is a very special place. The other a beloved man. Both, I’m quite certain, will remain loyal companions the rest of my days on earth.

 

Swirling water and granite rock are nature's art on the Paradise River

Swirling water and granite rock are nature’s art on the Paradise River


The God of Facebook

 

[Today I feature images that have been shared only on my Facebook page]

One year ago I began to consider leaving the dark ages and joining the modern world of social media.

For the longest time I had been mystified at the apparent love folks had for Facebook. I didn’t understand the point – after all, we already had email 😉 As an introverted personality, the thought of being more connected with potentially large numbers of people on the internet had about as much appeal as scheduling a root canal with my dentist.

But things were changing in me at a fundamental level. I was planning a major 5-month work trip across America to reignite my vocation as a photographer of the landscape, returning to a calling I had tried to walk away from due to many years of negative baggage in my head. And a desire was welling up to find a medium where I could share with others images of the beauty and glory I would be blessed to photograph in those approaching months. So the idea of joining Facebook entered my radar screen.

As I began researching tutorials targeted to photographers using social media, I happened to come across a particular blog where the author was highly critical of Facebook, having apparently decided for everyone that it was only used to make oneself look good in front of others, that it did not present the real person, that it should be called “fakebook.” What startled me was that the author was a pastor. I wondered to myself why he would choose only a negative set of goggles from which to view this social media tool, why he would be only critical and judgemental while simultaneously missing the potential graces God could be bringing through relational interaction on Facebook. I felt sad for the people he was supposed to be shepherding, that he would automatically assume the worst in them, as if he could discern all heart motives.

And I wondered, isn’t this pastor’s god big enough to be the God of Facebook too, just as He is God of all creation, always at work to magnify His glory through an endless variety of means of grace?

 

An October sunrise brings glorious life to the Towers of the Virgin in Zion National Park

An October sunrise brings glorious life to the Towers of the Virgin in Zion National Park

 

A few months would pass with social media simmering on my mind’s back burner. The final catalyst needed to launch me into online interaction was learning at the last moment of my 30-year high school reunion being held just a couple hours from where I was currently photographing in Oregon in early summer of 2014.

And so with some trepidation I created a Facebook account. And what followed amazed me.

Within a few weeks this quiet, often reclusive introvert was on his way to a couple hundred friends. Right from the outset there were very meaningful conversations happening via Facebook’s messaging. Old friendships that had died off years ago were beautifully reborn even better than before, such as reuniting with my best friend from high school, David Carson, whose love and loyalty I will never again take for granted.

I unexpectedly reconnected with a middle school neighbor on a deeply profound level and was privileged to share hearts, stories of our brokenness, and spiritual encouragement before she was suddenly taken from this life a month later. Marni is missed by all who knew her.

A new friend I’ve never met in person (hi Kelly!) has come into my life and became a partner in the daily walk of faith. I was moved to tears when she messaged a powerful and beautifully written prayer for me to help me through a difficult struggle.

Friends have shared the joys of becoming parents, of celebrating an anniversary with a cherished spouse, of rejoicing in the growth and accomplishments of their children, or simply shared fun pics of their much-needed weekend getaway or family vacation.

There have been posts from friends about moments of feeling depressed, or asking for needed financial support, or requesting prayer for their fight against cancer, or prayer for their friends experiencing tragedy and suffering.

I’ve seen the heart of a friend who champions the cause of the poor and disenfranchised and has thus helped me become more aware and compassionate (thank you Angel!). I have acquired friends from all walks of life, many who are very different from me – some who are Christian and some who are atheist or agnostic, some who are straight and some who are gay, some who are staunchly conservative and some who are liberal and progressive – and all of them help me stretch and grow in some way.

 

Mount Rushmore inspires the huge variety of folks that compose our American melting pot

Mount Rushmore inspires the huge variety of folks that compose our American melting pot

 

As I examine this fruit that has come from Facebook engagement, I have two thoughts: first, I sincerely thank all of my FB friends for opening your lives up to me, for your grace in reconnecting even after you may have heard nothing from me the past 30 or more years. Thank you for letting me express who I am, and for all your encouragement from the photography and writing I have shared.

Second, I cannot help recalling the discouraging words of that pastor’s blog, and to see just how much he may have missed in his negative perspective – that our sovereign God is indeed the God of Facebook, just as he is God over all of life. And He clearly delights in using social media as a means for the expression of much beauty and joy and encouragement among people, if that is indeed what a person chooses to seek in it.

Thank you God that your glory and grace can shine wherever you please, including in our relationships via the internet!

 

Clouds at sunset create a compelling reflection in a pond at Yellowstone National Park

Clouds at sunset create a compelling reflection in a pond at Yellowstone National Park


%d bloggers like this: