After about a month in, I realized it was time to get a bit arty and include some documentary lingo in my thinking. Because, you see, it was obvious I was already waist deep in images, and going where none have gone before. At present, I have over 200 images of mailboxes, 700 signs, many series of fields, waterways, gates, roads, vegetation, sky, clouds, abandoned gas stations, buildings, bridges and much more, all Northumberland and only Northumberland. How does one manage and present such a collection? Working on it. Will let you know. I have created not a complete but quite an overview of the County with more than a few images allowing me to claim the record covers 30 years.
Part documentary, part happy snaps, part ironic statement, part photo record, part art project…
The fact is, being out in the sun, the wind, Northumberland’s big sky always over me, surrounded by rolling hills, puttering through forests, staring at rivers, riding fast over hill ‘n’ dale roads, was the perfect antidote to feelings of depression and isolation. Those days of putting my camera shutter finger on “continuous” revived me. The archive of images I have that is choking my computer is over the top. I know what you are thinking: just another senior gone gaa gaa spending too much time alone. Yeah. Whatever.
Allow me to mention just the other day, not to make a point about my photog chutzpah, but to get to the point of this Wellness TED Talk. I was up on Minnetonka Road, north of County Road 18, where you get a 120-degree looksee of the County and Rice Lake. I was there for over two hours as one of my projects is recording the panoramic views of the County in multiple images sandwiched together to give twenty-foot panoramas (I got dozens of ‘em’!). The scene probably took 35 images to record. I repeated the process with a different lens, a different location, at both lower and higher heights. During that time, I really looked at the surroundings. I now have a Preview-quality memory of that lookout view. I noted the boats on the distant water, the birds in the air, the distant gravel pit that wasn’t there several years ago as well as the sounds coming from it, the nighttime passage of a forest animal, the sky, the heat, the road, the vegetation near my feet, the people who passed me and more.
Photography is just an excuse to get off the motorcycle or in your case get out of the car, to stop and smell the roadside, look at the clouds, stare at the fields, listen to the water rushing by, hear the birds.
God is in the details as you know. Which is reward sufficient. If you don’t feel better any time after stopping for longer than a New York minute, I will give you 10% off the cost of your next prescription for mental health (pls. note: conditions apply).
Wellness comes naturally to those who stop, look around and let the elements of the natural world invade their consciousness. Northumberland, my friends, is one calming, rejuvenating piece of this troubled planet. If you are not aware of this, give your head a shake.
My suggestion for wellness also involves looking at what people do. The County’s inhabitants are industrious, quirky and judging by their mail boxes and front yards humorous people who are constantly reaching out to passersby. There is much they do that entertains, instructs and teaches.
In summation, for you to enjoy feelings of wellness, travel Northumberland roads. Get off of the beaten path that leads to home or work. Stop whenever, wherever. Get out of your car. Look around for longer than it takes to grab a cellphone pic. And listen. Sniff the air. Touch something. Stare into the distance just to see what you can see.
You will feel much better for it. I guarantee it or this hasn’t been a TED Talk.
Ted Amsden is a photojournalist and Cobourg Poet Laureate Emeritus. You can see more of his photographs here.