I pulled over by some railroad tracks to shoot today’s self-portraits, which was a slightly scary experience because I tend to get dangerously single-minded when shooting. (One would hope that I would notice a shrieking train whistle and rattling tracks, but…you never quite know.) I was on my belly trying for a ground-level shot when I noticed an old man walking toward me. (That is the moment captured in the above photo.)
My initial one was of fear. Oh no, I’m in trouble. I quickly jumped to my feet, ready to explain, rationalize, justify. Like Adam and Eve in the garden. But the first words out of the old man’s mouth were, “Are you okay?”
Concern. Not condemnation. Not control. Concern. Of late, I’ve found myself cringing pre-emptively from the next slap in the face. Because of all the people who drove by without a second glance. Or wolf-whistled from their cars. The people and places and parts of me that I’ve lost or had taken from me. To be perfectly honest, I don’t quite trust the universe right now. Or myself.
But this perfect stranger cared enough to pull over and risk his own safety walking along the side of the road and the railroad tracks to see if I was all right. He even offered to help me after I explained my project. I had no intention of self-harm, of course, but if I had, his intervention would have saved my life. As it was, it was a living, and rather badly needed, reminder that I matter.
True confession lest anyone run away with the delusion that I just walk through life having mystical encounters with the divine: my second thought after, “Oh shoot, I’m in trouble,” was “Dangit, you ruined my shot!” (Priorities, priorities, I know.) But once I realized that he was truly worried about me, I decided that perfection could easily take a backseat to gratitude.
Shantih, namaste, and amen.