Many years ago, in my life before parks, I worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Working in one of the world’s most prestigious art museums was an amazing experience.
Sky Meadows State Park on January 13.
For the first couple of years I worked there, I would spend most of my lunch hours exploring the galleries, looking at all the artwork. Every day I delighted in discovering some new treasure from the museum’s collection.
Then a strange thing happened.
Unless a special exhibit opened or a new acquisition was unveiled, I started staying out of the galleries, finding the shortest distance from my office to the employee cafeteria or the Fifth Avenue exit. I began to think of the priceless works of art as merely “stuff hanging on the walls.” As crazy as it sounds, that’s the truth.
At the end of 2013, I spent some time reflecting on my life and my frame of mind. After ten years working in parks, seven of them with Virginia State Parks, I found that I was in a similar place mentally as I was while working for the museum.
For my first few years working in parks, I would go out on the trails every day, exploring my surroundings. I would marvel at all the trees and flowers, the birds, insects and animals, and the stunning vistas of my park (Sky Meadows State Park). But as the years went by, I found that many of the things that used to fill me with awe were now part of my everyday landscape. In short, the beauty around me every day had become “stuff hanging on the wall.”
Sure, I was inspired by the unique occurrences. Last March, when a perfect double rainbow appeared over the valley, I stopped and stared – even took a few pictures. In December, I watched with glee as a pair of Bald Eagles circled over Turner Pond in search of a fish for lunch. But I had become immune to the day-to-day beauty.
The New Year began, and I vowed to make some changes in my life. Realizing that I needed a new outlook, I decided to take full advantage of getting to work in a beautiful park.
Taking a cue from Mark Hirsh and his “That Tree” project (if you don’t know about this, I urge you to click here and read about this remarkable man and his life-changing photo project!) I decided to get out and explore the park each day I work and photograph the beauty I see every day. Unlike Mr. Hirsh, I am not photographing the same thing every day, but rather seeking out different places in the park and experiencing the natural and cultural treasures in all weather, all seasons, all times of day.
Snow on January 24 at Sky Meadows State Park.
I will be posting my photos on the Virginia State Parks Flickr stream. You can look for them there, using “Sky Meadows State Park” as a search term. I am naming each picture with the date I took it. I will also be doing a weekly blog article, using one of my pictures as the starting point to talk about the beauty I found that week.
I invite you to make your own journey to Sky Meadows and take in the beauty that is here on this farm every day. As you explore our trails, meadows and historic buildings, look for me, I’ll be the lady in the Park Ranger uniform rediscovering her park and, just maybe, herself.