Friday, October 19, 2012

The Walking Home Challenge

by Susan McBeth
Friday, October 19, 2012

Walking Home.  It's a simple phrase that
generally conjures up a physical destination and, as such, it is likely we do not put much thought into any other context. Whether we are walking home from school, walking home from the park, walking home from work, walking home from a friend's house, or walking home after a neighborly visit, we all understand the meaning conveyed by those two words.  Yet, recently, I felt compelled to ponder the significance beyond returning to the dwelling in which I sleep, eat, and live.

First, let me explain why this recently provoked my intrigue and, for those who know me, you won’t be surprised to know there was a book involved.  Lynn Schooler, an award-winning author and photographer, penned his most recent book, Walking Home, after a difficult period in which he lost a close friend and felt his marriage nearing an end. To clear his head and put his life in perspective, he decided to undertake a lengthy “walk” through the Alaskan wilderness, during which time he struggled with multiple physical as well as emotional challenges
Throughout his beautifully written memoir, Lynn shares not only his expertise in Alaskan culture, history, wildlife, and geography, which is extensive given his forty years as an internationally-renowned wilderness tour guide, but he also shares his innermost thoughts and fears of where his life is heading at this crucial crossroads.  And the keen powers of observation he possesses allows him to eventually reconcile his place in the intricate web of life so that he really can begin Walking Home.
As I finished his book and started processing my vision of what Walking Home really represented to me, I was interested in (okay maybe slightly obsessed with) trying to capture that image in a photograph.  Of course it was important to me that the book Walking Home be included in the photo since it was, after all,  the impetus for this challenge.  I recently spent a week in the Alaskan wilderness outside of Juneau with Lynn Schooler, where every day, I looked for an opportunity to capture Lynn’s spirit and my vision of “Walking Home” in the perfect photograph.
I didn’t know what such a photo would look like, only that I would know it when I saw it.  About four days into the trip, we were hiking through a stunning rain forest in which we had to cross a bridge over a creek. We stopped to marvel at some chum salmon spawning at the end of their miraculous journey in the creek bed below.  I confess I was initially traumatized by the sight of their struggling, deformed, end-of-life bodies, until we were distracted by nearby bear tracks in the mud, and it quickly became evident why these salmon were hell-bent on their aquatic version of Walking Home.
Once I understood that these perseverant creatures were merely playing their own small role in the intricate web of life that Lynn set out to understand as he was Walking Home, I felt free to leave them in peace to complete their journey.  It was at that precise moment that I looked over the bridge ahead and saw it, a serpentine path leading into the forest beyond.  In a few minutes, we would head down that path and could speculate, but never know for certain, what was to follow until we ourselves started Walking Home. 
I stopped there to capture the photo that matched the image in my head.  This is what Walking Home means to me, but I am intrigued to know what it means to you, so I challenge you, dear reader to really put some thought into this and let me know what Walking Home means to you. Bonus points if you go out and read a copy of Walking Home by Lynn Schooler, create your own image in your head, and then include the book in a photographic representation and email it to me at 


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