Life is beautiful. But, life can also be ugly. My life story is also beautiful but ugly too. But, I won’t be getting into all manner of details. No. All I wish to say about my past right now, is that along the way, I truly lost myself. It’s a lot easier to lose yourself than you might think. And, finding yourself, can be a lot harder than you’d imagine.
I was married once. 27 years. That marriage was also beautiful, and yet ugly. Yet, we did have two children. And, my children turned out to be some of my greatest guides in finding my way back to myself. None of it was intentional. Little things. Silly things. Funny things. Playful things. Doing horrendous foreign accents and creating goofy characters to go along with some of their stuffed animals. Those characters became mainstays in our lives over the last year. Basically, my children simply helped me remember how to smile again.
About a year ago, we were living in Redding, in Shasta County, California. Truth be told, I have always hated being in Redding—such a strange place to end up after living in the Northern Bay Area of California. Yet, I tried to find beauty. And, I tried to share natural beauty with my kids.
However, it wasn’t until I took my children to Lake Tahoe for father’s day that I saw wonder in their eyes. It was a bit ironic. We actually stayed in Carson City, Nevada, and drove over an hour every day to get to the lake. But, the first time we came over the summit, and dropped down into the Tahoe Basin, as the lake became visible, my children were in awe. And, I was almost in tears because Tahoe used to be my “heaven” on earth. Yet, it had probably been over 20 years since I had seen that brilliant blue water surrounded by such incredible alpine beauty.
That was the beginning. Over the rest of the summer, and even into fall and winter, bit by bit we traveled to places I had almost forgotten. And, together, we discovered places I had no idea even existed in Northern California. And, we even went camping for the first time together. It had been over 25 years since I used my tent.
The strange thing that happened over time, was that I had my iPhone, and I would take a few photos in order to remember our trips. However, I had once studied photography for a couple of years in college. And, I also took two years worth of college classes on Photoshop. And, as I used my phone, the photographer in me started coming back.
I could include far more. However, the year ended with a beautiful trip to Lake Tahoe once more for a white Christmas, the likes of which I had not experienced since being a child, and that my children had never experienced before.
There is more to me the artist. I didn’t mention that I am a painter. However, I’ll leave that for another time. But, this snowman was so wonderful to me. The three of us did it together. And, while I did indeed rediscover myself as a photographer, and artist, over the last year, what was most important for me, was a return to “me” as I once was, and realizing I had tried to be the best father I could be for my kids.
The year was both beautiful and ugly. I did wonderful things, yet I made horrible mistakes. That’s the problem with being human. So, there was joy and pain. However, while there was also stress, anxiety, and fear, the most important of all was the discovery of peace in Northern California’s wild natural beauty, and sharing it with my children. And now, sharing it with you.
My adventure has indeed gone on, as I continue traveling in search of beauty. And yes, sadly ugliness is out there, but that is why I try to search for and focus on the beauty.
This post is dedicated to the memory of my wonderful brother Mark Ashworth who taught me the joy and adventure of wandering.