God is in the details – Part 1

by Steve Brock on October 8, 2010

At this fair, one of the most memorable aspects are these wonderful scones. This simple image says more to us than a photo of the actual booth where they sold the scones.

Our visit to the fair last week also reminded me that meaningful travel and photography both benefit from a focus on the details.

The big vistas and group shots are helpful and essential. They provide context and reveal how things fit together.

But often, the meaningful traveler will find that the moments that stood out most on the trip or later in our memories come not from the big picture scenes but lie within the smaller vignettes and close-up images. 

This photo not only reminds us of our day there, but of the movie, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" and the bandit hats. Thus, it makes us laugh whenever we see it. Meaningful? It is to us.

Here are some examples from our time at the fair. Are they the best photos from the day or do they tell the whole story? No. But they serve as icons, if you will, to remind us  of what made the day meaningful.

Remember: Sometimes you take photos or pick up souvenirs along the way that will only mean something to you alone. That’s part of the joy of travel and a reminder of how much God cares for each of us individually, as well as collectively.

Here's a typical overview shot. It helps those who weren't there to appreciate what this part of the fair looked like.

Details of the types of prizes you can win at the Whack-a-Mole booth add meaning and interest.

A detailed view of other toys and prizes at the fair.

Another view of the same toy trumpets. Which works best?

This image gives you the big picture view of some pigs...

But this detailed shot captures better the moment in a more personal way.

Finally, here's an image that captures both the big picture and detail. Note the guy with folded arms in the center right. His posture alone tells a story. (Click on the image to increase its size if you can't see the figure well)

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Mutton Bustin' and Meaningful Travel

by Steve Brock on October 6, 2010

In my last entry, we looked at how my trip to the fair demonstrated that you don’t always have to go a long distance to find meaning.

Just for fun, let me provide you with a brief photo essay on how meaningful travel relates to one of the unique activities we witnessed on that day at the fair, Mutton Bustin’.

In that “sport,” kids six and under try to stay on their sheep for as long as possible. We just might learn a thing or two about risk-taking and meaningful travel from these tough little thrill seekers.

Saddle up, ’cause here we go:

How Mutton Bustin' relates to meaningful travel - Step One: Learn, despite difficult travel conditions, to enjoy the journey itself.

Step Two: Realize that all journeys, no matter how thrilling, must eventually come to an end.

Step 3: Rest and reflect at the end of your trip.

And don’t worry. Despite the apparent smirk on that sheep’s face, the little boy in the photo got up smiling just a second after the last picture was taken.

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You don’t have to travel far to travel well

by Steve Brock on October 4, 2010

You don't always have to travel far to find wonder and meaning

Last week, my family and I drove less than thirty minutes to spend half a day at the Western Washington Fair.  

If you’d asked me ahead of time how a visit to the fair could be considered meaningful travel, I would probably have given you the same blank stare I got from several of the sheep there. But that mini-trip mattered because it shared three characteristics common to all meaningful travel.  

First, we encountered the novelty of the unfamiliar. I’ve never before witnessed a curly feathered goose, a six-year-old trying to bronco-bust a sheep (they call it Mutton Bustin’ there), a goat with four horns or a three-hundred-pound man flung skyward on a bungee cord ride.  

I could die happy without ever seeing the latter again.  

But the pumpkins the size of a Smart Car had their appeal as did the 47 breeds of chickens, the creatively-themed foot massage machines and all those cool gadgets (who could possibly live without a tool that can open a can of beans, remove seven layers of paint and double as a midwife in a pinch?). And did I mention the Hobby Hall? If you could have seen the variety of objects covered in either beading or tole paint (or both), you would know that ingenuity still lives on in this proud country of ours.  

Second, we gained an appreciation for a different culture. I barely set foot outside my own area code but had a distinctly cross-cultural experience. In fascinating conversations with the people who raise the pigs, cows, horses, sheep and others there, I realized that:  

a)  I am a pathetic city-slicker with no real sense of where my food comes from (though watching the documentary Food, Inc. a few months ago did open my eyes considerably).  

b)  The people who raise these animals take a deep pride in their work that is admirable and, in some cases, even moving.  

 Yes, I recognize I may be romanticizing the agrarian lifestyle, but the dedication evidenced even by young children as they handled, prepped and preened their animals was inspiring. The sacrifice and commitment they demonstrated in caring for these farm animals made me realize how rare it is that I dedicate myself to anything that doesn’t provide some form of immediate gratification or affirmation.  

Third, the experience was meaningful because our family shared it together. And because we were out of our normal modes, we noticed small moments more. Our 13- and 16-year-old sons, for example, both chose to stay with their mom and me rather than joining groups of friends we encountered at the fair. Not a big deal perhaps to others, but my wife and I are becoming increasingly aware of how little time we have left with our children at home.  

I may forget how many varieties of pygmy goats I saw that day, but I won’t forget that our teenage boys still like being with us.  

It doesn’t take much for something to be meaningful. And sometimes, you don’t have to go far to find it.

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