I was recently elated with excitement of having just bought my camera. My living room was filled with boxes of camera equipment, and the blaring sound of a video tutorial. I absorbed as much as I could that day and found myself on the road with the gear the next day.
It was about 1 AM and I was at an exit ramp about 15 miles from home. Darkness was the destination. I took two turns and realized I was on the wrong side of the double yellow lines. My face panicked, but I readjusted as calmly appearing to the car 50 yards back. I was alone again as it disappeared and I was arriving seemingly closer to the destination.
The park I was encircling and trying to enter was apparently closed as each entrance was gated shut. Thoughts of turning around and returning crossed my mind, but I kept my eyes peeled for any opening. I was wandering ahead as I lost my bearing. I made a U-turn and soon found an area before a nondescript gate that was just large enough to setup. I walked slowly onto the dark dew-covered grass and set up my tripod and camera. Being my first time taking photos of the night sky, I started snapping away and experimenting with different settings.
I was pointing and clicking in every direction of darkness as the over-exposed shots on my camera’s display soon became my eyes and cognizance of what was surrounding me. After one shot looking straight up, I pointed east, hit the shutter, and waited for the 15-second exposure. What I saw in the display astonished me. The area beyond the gate wasn’t a meadow, but a giant valley blanketed by dense fog slowly expanding. “Valley Forge was the site of the military camp of the American Army over the winter of 1777–78 during the American Revolutionary War… Starvation, disease, and exposure killed nearly 2,500 American soldiers.”
As a car passed behind me and an owl hooting nearby, I couldn’t help being bewildered by conflicting desires to leave immediately or to take more pictures. The uneasiness wasn’t helping, so I slowed my thoughts and became comfortable with being slightly astray. I can’t say much for the quality of the pictures that I took, but staying longer was completely worth it.
Looking back, that experience is a perfect example that helps build the case for getting lost. It’s moments where you move beyond your comfort zone that can bring the most excitement. You start to become comfortable with uncertainty, eventually to the point where it’s embraced. That state of feeling lost for me has become an unsuspected fulfillment.
But why? In that exact moment, you feel that different forms of unknowns could lurk around the corner. And, the only way to quell the anxiety is to make it known by moving forward and turning that corner. In these situations, one of two things usually happen:
Either you find something laughably trivial compared to its previously perceived ominousness; Or you discover something sublime. Both outcomes bring joy to my wonder. But it’s the latter that I look forward to the most. With self-pride pushed aside, it is the one means by which I’ve found unbounding, momentarily unsettling, truly raw beauty.