A Serendipitous Walk and The Importance of Teachers

Today I took a walk that was long overdue. It’s not so much that it was overdue from a physical fitness point of view but from a creative standpoint.

Since moving to Pennsylvania, one of my favorite past-times has been to go for long walks or bike rides along the Delaware Towpath and take pictures of things that catch my eye. I post them on Facebook, use them in blog posts, and I’ve even framed a few.

In fact I was so excited about the images I’d captured and shared that I registered for a photographic essay class this summer. I looked forward to it with great anticipation. The class description invited beginners to learn about photography, it even said something that I interpreted as ‘no experience necessary.’ As a writer and a person who loves to take pictures it seemed like a perfect fit.

Within the first few minutes of the first session I suspected I might not be in the right place. The instructor started off the class with a pseudo lecture about how smart phones and cheap digital cameras have degraded people’s appreciation of truly good photography. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and introduced myself as a writer, the owner of a cheap digital camera, and eager to learn about photography.

The second class was devoted to evaluating each students photos in front of the rest of the class. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew I was nervous. The evaluation went something like this:

“This photograph is a mess, it has no focus”


I imagine he’s correct from a technical point of view, but it was meant to be messy – women and summer are messy, not organized or neat. It was a slice of life and an un-staged moment that represented summer to me.

“You really should have moved the twig out of the way.”


Really? I’m not sure how I would have done that and still captured the butterfly.

I won’t bore you with more, but it went downhill from there.

I stayed after class with a couple of other students while he did a final critique. This woman’s work was absolutely phenomenal. Clearly the work of a photographer and not someone who ‘just likes to take pictures.’

I didn’t return to the class and my camera has been more or less in the drawer ever since, along with my pencils and charcoal. As an adult, perhaps I should have known better – but as a fledgling artist, I let him knock the wind out of my creative sails.

Today, I decided to change that and I’m glad I did. I live in a breathtaking part of the country and my pictures are a way for me to share my world through the lens of a camera.

I love capturing and soaking in the vibrant reds.


I also love sharing my observations. This fall has been strange.

It’s October 27th and many of the leaves are still green. The contrast between the trees who have fully engaged with fall and those that are still holding onto summer is striking.

fall trees next to trees with green leaves

I spotted this small pink daisy (at least I think it’s a daisy) clinging onto summer and refusing to lose it’s last petals onto the crunchy layer of leaves below.


I have no idea what this purple flower is but I thought it was stunning and it didn’t seem like it fit into a walk on a chilly fall day.

purple flower in fall

The towpath was alive with bikers and runners today. I laughed out loud when two young boys raced by me clad in boxers, sweatshirts, and neon sneakers. I had to wonder if it was a dare or a fashion statement. I hope it was a dare :).

boys on a bike

Normally I walk about four miles, today I decided to go further. Now comes the serendipitous part of my walk. I ran into one of the first people I met after moving here and I stopped to chat. We met through a local running group’s winter race series.

I’d been thinking about participating in the series again, but hadn’t decided because I’m SLOW and the majority of the people in the running club are FAST (and I mean fast). Turns out she’d been thinking about the same thing – so we’re both going to sign up and it’s looking like I’ll have someone to go running with.

I grinned the whole way home and managed to catch this spectacular picture of a heron.


I don’t know what the teacher from my photographic essay class would have to say about it, but I think it’s pretty darn cool.

Even as adults, we rely on teachers to encourage and teach and challenge, not to criticize without being constructive.

I’m deeply thankful for my drawing instructor who guided me into the artistic world with kindness, encouragement, and constructive feedback. The right teacher makes a world of difference.

I’m not sure what the most serendipitous part of my walk was – but it’s been a good day all around.

4 thoughts on “A Serendipitous Walk and The Importance of Teachers

  1. Your photographs are so pleasing to the eye and that’s what matters, isn’t it? They remind me of how much I love to walk the canal too. As soon as allergy season is past, I must go back to it. In life we have many teachers, some good….some not-so-good. I think you learned, on your walk, to let nature be your teacher that day and to guide you through the beauty of the season. We do live in a very scenic area and I know that you don’t take it for granted. Enjoy this glorious and colorful season.
    {{{HUGS}}} Mary

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