Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Dark Horse Region

The Dark Horse Region
A View into the center of the Milky Way

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Well-Dreamt...A Thru the Lens look at life...

Mike McMillan
Spotfire Images
I read something the other day that really made me think hard about a lot of things. It was written by a woman a few years ago when she was in her 60's about her dad who died of a stroke having never fully realized all the things he dreamed of doing. She summed up his life with these words: Well-dreamt...but actively unfulfilled. It was a moment that spurred her even at 60 years old to begin to realize some of the dreams she had always wanted to do, but seemed to never find the time to let them happen.

Well-dreamt...actively unfulfilled...the power of those words carry way beyond the simplicity of their individual meanings. In many ways those words could sum up a large part of my life. Certainly, I do understand that the events of life are more complicated than simply dreaming about doing something hoping they might come true...circumstances often interfere with or circumvent those dreams.

One of my earliest desires as a young lad was to become a smoke jumper (sometimes spelled smokejumper) know...those U.S. Forest Service guys who parachute into the backcountry to fight forest fires. It all stemmed from watching a great classic 1950's movie called 'Red Skies of Montana' starring Richard Widmark and Jeffery Hunter among others. It was a great movie...still of my top 5 favorites of all time. For many years while I was growing up, I dreamed of adventures fighting forest fires with a Hotshot crew and becoming one of the elite as a smoke jumper.

As college grew closer those dreams still influenced my initial attempts at jump starting a college career...In the fall of 1970, I enrolled at Eastern Oklahoma State College with a major in Forestry with the intent to finish the four year degree at Oklahoma State University...and just possibly some time in the future after some experience on one of the Hotshot crews out west, being able to get into the smoke jumper program.

Scene from Red Skies of Montana
Our class consisted of a few more than a dozen kids...mostly guys but there were a couple of young ladies in the program. On the first day of class our adviser and Intro to Forestry instructor said this to us.

"There are about dozen or so of you starting this major. Only about half of you will finish the first two years...and probably only 2 of the 6 or so remaining in the program will finish the 4 year degree...of those will actually get a job in the forestry field."

Mike McMillan
Spotfire Images
The demeanor of the class changed dramatically after the next class several had already dropped out. I stuck it out for the first semester then, realizing the odds of successfully fulfilling that desire to become a smoke jumper were rather slim, I changed my major to else can I say it...less exciting for sure...but safer in the long life long dream having been dashed by discouraging words and circumstances of the times. I never made another attempt at following that path...never spent one day on a Hotshot firefighter crew...

Our adviser must have thought he was doing all of us a favor, apparently there just were not enough jobs with the Forest Service back then to go around . When I think back on it...what really happened was to see my first well-dreamt idea dissolve into my first actively unfulfilled reality. Back then I just didn't have enough information, insight, nor understanding about what all the possible options were (the internet did not exist back then)...nor did I really know what questions to ask to find out. If I ever carry one regret through my life it is that I allowed that circumstantial situation to change the direction of my life.

Over time the disappointment that stemmed from that introduction soften and life events changed and presented other opportunities...some of them proved rather adventurous...most of them rather mundane and pedestrian...none of them fulfilling the desires of my youthful exuberance. Although the events of the last 40 odd years have included a lot of ups and downs...over all I would have to say things worked out pretty well...just rather ordinary in most respects...but even today...when I make time to watch that old movie again those dreams from so long ago tend to resurface and I can only wonder...what if?

Internet photo - Mike McMillan
Spotfire Images
Well-dreamt...actively unfulfilled...I guess those words caused me to think more about all the old dreams that surfaced over the years but never did find an outlet...there are a lot of them actually...In most cases, the fault for them never being fulfilled lies only with myself. Those windows of opportunity stay open for only so long before time, age, finances, in short, life...causes them to close. Even so, it doesn't mean we have to accept opportunities open up all the time...its only when we dwell too long in the past and never look forward do we allow time and circumstance to catch up with us...and too often pass us by. The idea then, is to keep dreaming...and keep looking for open windows.

If we stop looking for new opportunities and we're not careful, before long, we might discover that we've dreamed away too many years...but never did anything to make them come true...and that is  truly sad. Even so, I still would have rather dreamed of grand adventures than never to have dreamed of them at all. Never taking time to do such things...well...just how actively unfulfilled could a life without those dreams really be?

Still dreaming...


Great Smokejumper website by Mike McMillan:

Smokejumper Tribute video

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