We drove for a few hours. It was one of our favorite drives. Our destination selected and technology leading the way. I was so excited to finally visit a new location I’ve long awaited to explore. As we drew closer, we had a feeling that our GPS wasn’t actually taking us where we wanted to go, but we followed it anyway.
We made a left turn off the main road, knowing again, this wasn’t right. We pulled over, went over our options, and decided to keep on going. This could be good. So on we went. Alongside a beautiful river, thick with trees and only a smattering of houses near the entrance, we kept on until there were no more homes, until we couldn’t see the river anymore, few other people, and on up the mountainside.
Our first stop was a lookout over the river. It was breathtakingly beautiful. There was once a dam, but it had long since been blown out, no more resorts to attract tourists, no more fish swimming in the river. But the view remained. I looked over to my husband and said, “I would still stay here if there was a resort. Look at this!” Thick evergreens surrounded the now mostly empty lake that led to the canyon and river below. The view went for miles and was thick with fog, I couldn’t stop gawking. How could I? We get out to stretch our legs, read the information board, then continue on up the mountain.
We hit thick fog. I love fog, and I love taking photos in the fog. It’s weather, an element that can’t truly be replicated and that offers a uniqueness to photos. The forest was like the rainforest further on in Forks, the Hoh rainforest. Very reminiscent of the place we know well. When I was deployed, I read that the Hoh rainforest was one of the top ten quietest places on earth. I set in my mind that I would go here. This was before I knew what Twilight was and that’s why people actually visit Forks. You’re missing out if that’s your actual goal. It feels like home now. It’s familiar, welcoming, and comfortable.
The trees are moss covered, rain soaked, shimmering, and there they were – deer. Two does and a buck paused and watched us. We stopped too. They were beautiful and in their element. I love that. So we watched, and when I realized they weren’t going to run off, I grabbed my camera and started shooting. Of course I did. We slowly crept on, still admiring the scene.
As the roads twisted and turned, I finally decided “Ok, let’s just stop here.” I’m never sure what I’m looking for, I just wait until it feels right. It felt right. As silly as it is, I get anxious taking pictures of my family with me in them. It’s not easy to take your own photos, but I love the challenge, the adventure, and the intimacy. I wanted this time to be better, as if I was taking pictures of other people. I can do this. But I started psyching myself out, the whole time I kept thinking, ‘I’m not going to take our pictures, we just might not do Christmas cards this year, it’s ok.’
Bless my husband’s heart, because he knows I really do want this. I want beautiful photos of our family, but he also knows how hard I am on myself. I’m determined not to get a bad attitude and ruin the fun we could have, because I lose my confidence so badly. I want this to be fun, I want our kids to enjoy what we’re doing, most importantly, I want this to still be a great adventure. It can be and I can do this. So we stopped and got out. The kids ran for the puddles. I loved watching their joy. So precious and real, I hope they never lose that.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t like the way I look in most of the pictures I took. I usually don’t. But that’s ok, because we’re together and this is us. I love the pictures. I love that I’m able to capture my family so beautifully, the joy in my kids, the love of my husband, and the beauty of our state. Washington is home. I’m grateful for that.
Don’t forget to take family pictures this year, even if you don’t send out Christmas cards. It’s important to document your family and your life, and you there with the ones you love even if you don’t like the way you look right now. Your kids don’t see that, your husband probably doesn’t either. So embrace the moment and remember what’s important. These moments, these are what matter.