Branches, Roots, and Me

For the month of January I’m holding a contest based around trees. To enter all you need to do is link a photo you’ve taken that fits the theme to my Facebook page and on the last day of the month, I’ll be putting together a little parcel with all sorts of tree goodies and mailing it off to one lucky winner!

I’m a bit late on explaining why I chose trees as my contest theme (of which I plan to do more) but better late than never right!?

I grew up and still live in a rather small town, built in a valley between two mountain ranges that seemingly go on forever, I never noticed growing up how much I valued all of the nature that surrounded me, I just took it for granted and kept doing my homework and watching cartoons. Then once I hit my late teens and early 20’s something changed. I started to look at the endless expanse of green in a new light. I travelled to bigger cities and saw them in a new light too, I saw all the grey….all the glass and concrete and cars and all I wanted to see was green again. Once while on a cross-country road trip, I remember looking out the window to see the prairie fields and the endless sky and not a tree in sight…for hours it seemed I didn’t see anything that even resembled a tree, that was the first time I felt homesick.


I remember the exact day that I realized that the forest would be a place of solitude, reflection, and inspiration for me. I was jobless and had found myself feeling depressed and frustrated and getting sucked in to watching horrible daytime television in the comfort of my air conditioned basement suite. Then all of a sudden, I felt a sudden urge to just be out in nature, anywhere…just out. I grabbed my journal, a granola bar and apple and hopped on my mountain bike and within a few minutes I was away from everything manmade and surrounded entirely by nature. I sat in the warm summer grass and wrote. I wrote about how mad I was that I couldn’t find my passion, how disconnected I felt from the rest of the world, and how I just wished I could feel alive again. I went back the next day and rode a little longer, and then the day after that I tried some new trails and pretty soon I was spending hours every evening exploring every inch of the 9,000 acre community forest adjecent to my town. I found my place to be free.

A few years later when I started training for my first marathon I was looking for long stretches of running routes to carry me through the 20km runs I was doing every weekend. I remembered the community forest and the old logging road that winds it’s way from one end to the other and pretty soon it became once again, my nightly ritual. I’d run from one end to the other and back and when I turned my music off all I could hear was the crunch of my feet on the dirt, smell the wildflowers blooming in the fields and feel the warmth of the sun hitting my arms and neck through the breaks in the trees. Again I found myself thinking about my future, planning what I wanted to do with my life and feeling my body changing physically and mentally. The forest became yet another place for me to be free.

When I started to become interested in photography I would venture out into the forest, which is now about a 50metre walk from my door. When I step off the pavement and into the trails I feel like I’m leaving the outside world and entering into a space that I’m supposed to be in. It’s hard for me to explain but I look out at the trees and grass and birds (and sometimes bears) and I feel more inspiriation in that simple glance than I do spending days at home thinking. I feel that my thoughts are linked to the leaves and pinecones and that when I’m in the midst of all that organic goodness I’m recharging my brain and soul.


So yes….that’s why I chose trees. Because they make me feel alive and they make me feel like I’ve taken a deep breath of inspiration.

What do you consider to be your place of inspiration?


3 thoughts on “Branches, Roots, and Me

  1. Wonderful post!!! It’s interesting hearing you write about a time in your life when you were finding yourself. You are so self assured now. It’s like reading the middle book of a series and having someone tell you about the first books. : )

    Before I start rambling – here is my link for your entry on trees –

    Now – on to rambling! hehe I would have to say my inspiration is the night time. I know that sounds so broad but it’s true. As a teen I would often sneak out of the house at night and go running on the streets in the dark. It felt so peaceful and quiet – usually a light mist.

    These days my favorite moments are at night at home working on a picture. We have a large sectional and I’ll have Harold and all 4 cats sleeping on it as I’m creating. It’s quiet, peaceful, homey.

    I know this is long but I’d like to share a poem I wrote about running at night. Since you’re a running I hope you like it : )

    Lover of the night

    At first the body is stiff
    The knees ache
    The muscles complain
    The feet jar against the pavement
    The breath comes in shallow gasps
    The body fights against itself
    Every part moving at it’s own pace
    Tearing against each other
    Not a run of beauty
    But a stumbling scarecrow

    Suddenly the breathing deepens
    Establishing a rhythm where none was before
    The heart joins in
    Pounding out a beat for all to hear
    The knees become like pistons
    The muscles like rubber
    The feet like Teflon
    Gliding across the pavement
    At last a body in harmony
    At last a run of beauty

    The beauty is not unnoticed
    The night stops her stately procession
    Who is this creature of beauty
    Who is this runner of the night
    She must find out
    She must know

    She hides herself in shadows
    She hides herself in mystery
    And slips a little closer
    To the runner of beauty in the night
    She drinks him in
    The silence broken only by the breathing
    And the pounding of his heart

    At last she reveals herself
    What was once familiar
    Is now unknown
    What was once a road
    Is now a river
    What was once a land
    Is now a dream

    She stands in darkness before him
    He smiles at her
    She smiles back
    and reaches out to make love to his senses
    The wind caresses his body
    Lingering on every muscle
    Flowing with every ripple
    Hiding in every crevice
    Drinking his sweat
    Making it her own

    She fills his lungs with freshness
    She fills his eyes with a vision
    She fills his ears with silence
    She fills his nose with her scent
    And her taste is on his tongue.

    His heart fills to overflowing
    His mind reels at her majesty
    He becomes more than a runner
    He becomes a dancer
    Dancing with his mate

    He throws his head back
    His breathing deepens
    His heart beats stronger
    His feet fly faster – faster – faster

    They touch the ground one last time
    And then he is airborne
    Arms flung wide
    A scream torn from his throat
    And the stars bear witness
    As the beauty becomes more than a dancer
    He is a lover of the night

  2. Amazing post, and wonderfully interesting to get some more background on you! I completely, 100% understand where you are coming from.

    I grew up in inner London, surrounded by concrete and traffic and pollution. At the same time, my mother is from a small town in Finland, and so, during the summer and winter I was surrounded by nature – beautiful lakes, endless forests filled with (free!) berries, the wonderful clean sky. These two extremes became so kind of normal that I ignored them, neither impressed by a metropolis nor the beauty nature offered.

    After living in several big cities (London, Beijing, Tokyo) I realised: I want nature. And I want it to be in my life, accessible, on my doorstep. Now I’m living in Lhasa, and in 10 minutes I’m at the foot of a majestic mountain, waiting to be climbed (every weekend nowadays…) And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    It’s always interesting to see how one’s views change as one gets older. When I was younger I was adamant I always wanted to stay in a big city, but it’s so different now…

    Love all of your work!

    🙂 Matt

  3. Joel I have just discovered you thanks to a facebook friend who made a wonderful photograph using one of your tutorials and I just have to say– I am inspired!! As a young adult just now embarking on the big bad world (I start my freshman year of college in a month or so) it’s nice to find inspiration in someone who is so successful and yet still connected to the earth, art, and learning. Congrats to you on finding yourself and always pursuing what makes you happy and passionate. I hope to find and maintain that kind of peace and tranquility in my life.

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