Go stand at the finish line of a marathon. Many runners throw their arms up in triumph, but most cross the line focussed on finding a place to rest. Yesterday I finished my photo marathon, a five-year project to photograph Whidbey Island’s nature.
I picked five places, visited each for twelve months, and photographed the everyday beauty that the postcards and snapshots overlook. When I got home after handing the files over to the printer I just wanted to sit and sip and consider what I’d done. It is true for the financial marathon I am in now. I suspect it is true for marathons of all types, including the longest marathon any of us run – a life. The trick is remembering that celebrations celebrate more than crossing the finish line, and there are many finish lines.
My writing and my photography tend towards marathon projects. Bicycling across America, walking across Scotland, and particularly my twelve month series about Washington’s Cascades. My twelve month studies started there. I was tired of trying to find a new place to hike every weekend. Guidebooks became checklists instead of enticements. One day I wanted to hike and didn’t want to dive into research and maps, so I went back to the place I’d hiked a month earlier. Life was busy, and I did it again, and again. The place was the same but changing. I decided to do that for a year. After a year I realized that visiting a place once was like a one-night stand. Visiting it for twelve months was like a long term relationship. I witnessed moods that weren’t apparent at a first glance or on a Saturday afternoon in August. What started as a convenience became a revelation.
After writing my first book, Just Keep Pedaling, I knew that I could write well and write better. Washington’s Cascades should be well documented with epic tales chronicled by such an active adventure community that includes so many excellent authors, yet no one had taken the simple step of visiting a place for twelve months in a row and describing the nature that embodies a place even when it isn’t the height of hiking or skiing season. The Cascades are broad and high enough to produce every micro-climate from temperate rain forest to alpine to forests dry enough to burn. One book wouldn’t suffice. I wrote three: Twelve Months at Barclay Lake (the wet west side), Twelve Months at Lake Valhalla (high and on the divide), and Twelve Months at Merritt Lake (the dry east side). They are all along Highway 2 and are a rough 40 mile slice of the mountains.
Whidbey is bigger. From my house near the southern tip to Deception Pass is basically 50 miles. I moved to Whidbey seven years ago to finish the book about Merritt Lake, was complimented on my photos, so decided to court another slice of nature. Whidbey is bigger. Three places wouldn’t do. I chose five: Cultus Bay (my neighborhood and catch basin for local tsunamis), Double Bluff (big sandy, public beaches, and a dynamic escarpment), Admiralty Head (the gateway to Puget Sound paired with Port Townsend), Penn Cove (quiet and alive with mussels and tourists), and Deception Pass (the most dramatic and visited because of its iconic tides, cliffs, and bridge).
I tackle big tasks.
There are a lot of finish lines to come. All of the photos are at the printer (Fine Balance Imaging), then they must be titled, printed, matted, signed, framed, exhibited as Twelve Months at Double Bluff (thank you Windy and MaryJo at Raven Rocks Gallery), and then exhibited as a five year group (come on by for the Open Studio Tour in October – unless I sell my house, which is an unfortunately prudent step.) There are enough finish lines to justify a case of champagne. I’m more frugal than that. I celebrated with a martini made from homemade spiced vodka, neither shaken or stirred. Stay tuned because I’ll report on the finish lines as I cross them. (And please visit the online gallery and buy the photos that you like the best.)
My financial marathon seems to match our country’s economic marathon. There are a bunch of us running for longer than we’d like, without enough relief stations along the way, but our best course is to pace ourselves and continue. When I ran marathons, I’d cross the halfway point about the time the winners finished the course, yet I’d cheer my accomplishment. I can hear friends and news reports of hands being thrown up in the air as people get jobs or corporations report record profits. I’m back in the pack, moving my feet, wondering how I signed up for this. I actually thought I was within sight of the finish line long ago, but incredible, coincidental, bad luck put me back into the race. At least I am amongst interesting company.
When I’ve run marathons, or taken on voyages like crossing countries, or dove into multi-year artistic essays, I never took it for granted that I’d complete the task and succeed – and yet I have. And I didn’t wait until the end to celebrate. Little goals along the way help maintain momentum. I feel that way financially now, not taking any of it for granted and not stopping either.
I suspect that is what investors must do despite the recent portfolio upsets. I suspect that is what the country must do despite the recent turmoil, though the country, the government that is us, must also recognize that a lot of it was self-induced. I am optimistic because I see enough people who recognize the need for a prolonged effort to move towards a common goal. There are those that are more interested in retreating to where we started as if that is possible; but for most of my marathons, the start and finish lines were in different places. I only made progress by moving forward and I was always different by the time I crossed the line.
I wasn’t planning on going here, but MicroVision (MVIS) comes to mind. Long Term Buy and Hold (LTBH) is an investing style that I follow, and have exercised to a tedious degree with MVIS. While there are no guarantees that they’ll cross the finish line, that they’ll succeed with their technology, business, and products, they and we shareholders are undoubtedly in a marathon. Considering some of the options they have for succeeding, I might find myself offered a quick ride to the finish if I can hold onto the stock.
Quick solutions are seductive. I’ve rarely taken them, and I’ve accomplished a lot. Slow and steady can work at every level from personal to global. And if you want a bit of the natural, cruise through my books and photos that are more than snapshots, that show a different perspective that arises from calmly, consistently, progressing towards a goal while celebrating every day.
I think I’ll celebrate completing this rather long post with a cup of tea. The champagne comes later, maybe after one of these posts goes positively viral.