A Pile of Rocks

Bats swirl from under a lamppost in Round Rock, Texas

Earlier this week fire ravaged the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Now, I have never photographed Notre Dame, I’ve not been to Paris or even France for that matter, and I was saddened to hear of the tragic loss. Sadly, Notre Dame has now become a place I will never get to photograph, since the fire caused so much damage. We all have photographic buckets lists and sometimes we get lucky and get to check items off but, alas, sometimes things just don’t work out according to plan. I’ve learned to cope with this over the years, though it does weight heavily on my soul at times.

This week, I did get to photograph something special, although it was not Notre Dame, it was kind of magical in its own right. Interestingly enough, it started out rather ordinary, in fact, I almost didn’t make it to the photo shoot at all. A photo group in town had slated a meetup in nearby Round Rock at, of all places, an auto parts store. This auto parts store used to be a little antique shop called “Cabbages and Kings” (in a nod to O. Henry who is actually associated with this area.) The antique store sounds like it might be interesting and, frankly, it might have been in its time as well, but the evening belonged instead to a local bat colony. You see, as it turns out, the former antique shop turned auto parts store is right across the street from one of the largest colonies of bats in the area. I was given good directions and a time for meeting but, as it turned out, I got a little bit lost along the way and got there a few minutes late. I also got stuck waiting on a passing train which, interestingly enough, is also a good photo opportunity from the same location.

The meeting time was just about sunset. After I had gotten lost and all but given up on finding the spot, I drove along the highway along a route I thought would take me back home. As luck would have it, I wound up driving right past the little auto parts store and managed to get there just in time. It was not quite sunset and the bats had not come out yet, so I parked, got out my trusty tripod, and joined up with the crew. I wasn’t expecting much, as this was more of a social thing for me, but I wanted to check out the nearby bat bridge and also maybe get some early evening/dusk type of shots if I could manage it.

Turns out we had a fantastic evening. I saw a beautiful glistening moon above a pink tinged sky. The sunset was great, the night was pleasant, the colors in the evening sky very lovely. I met some old friends, made a few new ones, watched a train go by, and learned all about bats. All in all, it was a wonderful evening. Honestly, such a lovely night, in hindsight I would not have traded it for a shiny cathedral or a jaunt to some faraway spot.

Some of my favorite quotes are actually about cathedrals. “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral,” Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

“What are you doing?” a man asked of three laborers beside a building under construction. The first man replied, “stone-cutting,” The second smiled, “puttin’ in time until a better job comes along.” The third man waited a moment and then said simply, “I’m building a cathedral!”

You would think that, given my fondness for quotes such as these, by now I would have learned that a cathedral is more than a pile of rocks.

We all build cathedrals in our minds. We can all find beauty in everyday things. We can all appreciate the ordinary. We can learn to craft great images where we stand, honestly, we all have that capability, we just need to foster a creative spirit and encourage ourselves to approach the world with a childlike sense of wonder. Cathedrals are little more than piles of stone. Their greatness lies in our hearts and vision. Sadly, Notre Dame has burnt down and I will never get to photograph it. I can’t let this stop me, as I have a lot to photograph in my own little world. Cathedral of the mind, for sure…”Shoes-and ships-and sealing wax-of cabbages and kings.” It’s all right there before the shutter if you just stop long enough to pay attention I suppose.

Until next time…

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