Behind the photo: Feed the birds
When I took this photo, I had just found out that I had gotten to the next stage of several interviews with a casting director for a travel network. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. A part of me was really excited, another part of me was confused, concerned even, to what something like this would mean to my life – if it ever came to be (it is quite possible at this point that it probably, most likely, will not).
As a travel writer there’s something really wonderful about being given the opportunity to share your stories in as many mediums as possible. But I often wonder what freedoms we lose in telling the stories as we see fit, as we want them told, once under the control of advertisers and promoters, ratings and managers. Enduring it from editors at times can be hard enough.
It hit me, this realization, even as I pushed the past few unbelievable hours to the back of my mind.
One of the things that I have loved the most about the changes in my life is the courage I have developed in letting go of those things that we are so often told we need to survive and allowing myself enough freedom to say no to the things I don’t want to do, simply because I don’t want to do them.
That’s a luxury.
One that I have worked so hard for. It has meant resorting to a life of few financial obligations and demands. It has meant accepting that the best of things aren’t in the things I own, because the material things I own really aren’t the best of things. It has been in giving value to the people around me, and the person within, and not so much to the symbols by which your value is usually determined.
A few months ago, when visiting Taos, NM, I met with one of the natives of Taos Pueblo. He told me as we walked through his village,
“People often look at us and feel sorry for us, because to them we are so terribly poor. But our people believe that the riches are not in what we own, but in our spirit, how we live our lives, and our connection to nature and our community. A sad and empty soul, with no community and spiritual purpose is the worst of lives. It is the true poverty that we would never wish on anyone. You look at us, and you see poverty, but our unlimited riches are within.”
I thought of these words as I wondered what it would mean to have the one thing that up to that moment I thought I would want the most. “Be careful what you wish for” were the words on repeat in my mind when I came upon this man.
He walked around, his back hunched, seemingly unable to walk straight. He pulled two carts with him and looked like he lived a very simple life. He reached into his bag and started spreading seeds.
The pigeons flocked to him. I worried that maybe he might get hurt by the feeding frenzy. But he remained calmed, and made sure to circle around them as they circled around him so that no bird was left hungry.
I sat on the street and started to shoot in awe of his peaceful face and calm demeanor as the birds flurried around him, desperately reached for the seeds he fed them.
You could tell this was his everything. His purpose for every day. His wealth.
And I felt that much more rich for having captured it.
I look at this picture, the emotion it evokes in me and I know, without a doubt, that what I’ve needed has been here all along.
“Feed the birds” – Paris, France, 2014
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