The Last Sunset of 2013: A Personal Reverie on the New Year

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 – Well, so here it is, the last day and last sunset of 2013.  At Carlsbad State Beach it’s a quiet, pastel, softly pretty kind of sunset; not breathtaking but not boring either.  but ut was a moment and view to inspire reflection on the day and year now passing into history.

I had hoped for one of the glorious sunsets we’ve been having lately, the kind of skies that even when shot straight people will accuse you of Photoshopping.  But, no, this one did not live up to those expectations, or, more accurately, hopes for a fantastic finish… one to write home about if there were a home to write to.  For me that pretty much describes the year this day brings to a close.

Laced with promises and possibilities, in the end, 2013 just sort of, well, ended.  It was over with a “poof” not a “bang,” neither bad nor good… just over.  A chronological place holder in the story of my life and work.

The Holidays, that I had looked forward to as a chance of celebration and connection, thinking this time they would, for the first time in years, be different and more like the ones I remembered so full of friendships, love, laughter, a sense of closeness and belonging. they instead simply came and went.  They were more noticeable to me for the intolerable traffic jams near my house (I live near one of the big San Diego Malls) than for any of the normal Holiday festivities surrounded by those you care about.

I started this last day of the year appropriately waking up to a major sewer drain back up that left both of my bathrooms looking like an explosion in a septic tank and my front yard near the drain clean-out still slightly clinging to the olfactory ambiance of a campground outhouse. In a way it seemed sort of fitting if disappointing.

I did have a pleasant late afternoon heading out to see the sunset at the beach and have a nice dinner.  It was a very nice interlude indeed.  But now I am ending the last day of the year here, at the computer, thinking about, of all things, school and some workshops I will be putting together for Spring and Summer offerings.   Somewhere people are revelling in the spirit of the time, kissing in the new year, eyes aglow with anticipation or perhaps a little too much to drink…

I’m not complaining, mind you.  The year had some incredible high points.  I met a new friend whose interests are so wide ranging in the arts and sciences as to be, thus far, endlessly fascinating: an artist, engineer, scientist, world cup sailboat racer… wow.  And I’ve been fortunate enough to have found a professional shooting partner that redefines ethics and integrity and whose “partnership” has allowed me to ease back into some fun commercial work.  I was also privileged to attend two terrific workshops at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, and am now in the final stages of planning several serious workshops myself.  So it has certainly not been a failure of a year.  Just another year.

It did have some low spots as I discovered “friends” on Facebook seemed incapable of anything approximating serious research into some of the most outlandish assertions and accusations they levied or shared as if they were gospel.  I also had a student refuse to pay their share of a ride on a field trip – after the field trip was over and they were safely returned.  That was a really low point in my appraisal of the entitled generation.  Oh well, Karma might be a real bitch this coming year.  I just hope I can give it a hand…

However on par it was more positive than negative; like the sunset.

As the sun quietly, and with little fanfare, dipped below the horizon, there was a paddler heading back into shore, alone on a relatively quiet sea, floating between the heavens and their reflections in the water.  Is he headed to shore or is he headed for that cloud reflection that might be a portal into another dimension, another place?  Watching the shot set itself up, the view seemed almost like a metaphorical self portrait.

A lone paddler heads in on the last day of 2013.  Canon 5D MkII w/ Canon 17-40 f4L.

A lone paddler heads in on the last day of 2013. Canon 5D MkII w/ Canon 17-40 f4L.  You can click on the image to see it enlarged.

Wednesday, January 1, 2013 —  Today is the first day of 2014.  Once again it opens the gates to a year full of hope and possibilities, once again it remains totally up to me to bring those to fruition of not.  Not the government, not the village, certainly not the President, but me.  Just me.  I confess I sort of coasted through 2013 on virtually every level.  I wasn’t willing to risk what I had by fighting for what I wanted which seemed unattainable anyway.

The idiocy of the State’s budget mess had so crippled the photo program’s offerings and beaten Dave and I back at every chance, it too sort of coasted along. It was like last night’s sunset… pretty, calm, peaceful, but with no real fire in it, only a soft glow to remind one of what it might have been or what might still be.

But I have learned a few important things this year about what I want from life as well as what I want in my life.  I have learned that without question in my own spirit, I may have the title, “Professor of Photography” but in actuality I am a photographer, an imagemaker first, last, and always.  I have learned too that I am no longer willing to accept or be resigned to some circumstances in my life; I have learned about just how short my tolerance fuse is for another year, and especially another holiday season, like this one.

Long ago I learned that life does not come with guarantees.  There is no warrantee of fairness or success that comes attached to our birth certificates.  Not a single item in our Constitution guarantees happiness; only the freedom to pursue it but with no insight into how best that might be done.  The year started with me OK with my circumstances; not thrilled, of course, but OK.  It ended with me decidedly NOT OK with it.  But no one is going to change it for me… only me.

We still have the one freedom no one talks about any more (and, it is evident, a whole new generation is trying to make go away) though it is the one freedom capable of motivating success… and that is the Freedom to Fail — and pay the consequences.

There is only one guarantee.  It is, as they say in sports, that you are absolutely guaranteed to miss 100% of the goals you do not attempt.  Of course there is always the likelihood of missing quite a few that you DO attempt but c’est la vie.

If I have any resolutions for his new year it will be that I’ll try very hard not to fail to attempt more goal shots in 2014.  Some may miss the basket entirely but at least the ball was in the air and not sitting at my feet.  And who knows, perhaps some important ones may actually score… but only if I try.

P.S.  I’m preparing for a photo trek back to Colorado then down through New Mexico.  I plan on going up through Arizona and Utah, the reverse of a trip in 2012.  I leave Monday and will try to keep this up to date depending on the time and availability of internet connections.  See you down the track.


About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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2 Responses to The Last Sunset of 2013: A Personal Reverie on the New Year

  1. Carole Massey says:

    Happy New Year David…i wish you safe journeys in 2014 and hope you make your “baskets”. Life, for me, is somewhat a mirror of your posted image….I have come to accept each day and try to be thankful for all things received. Even the stuff I really didn’t and don’t want. BUT YOU, my friend, have so very much to offer to both your students and your art!! Hope your dreams come true…you have the energy,talent and connections…to do what you love….JUST DO IT!!

    • David King says:

      Thank you Carole, I deeply appreciate it. I know well that, as the song says, “Some of God’s greatest gifts is unanswered prayer.” But it would be REALLY helpful sometimes if He would at least manage an explanation. I also appreciate the encouragement. Sometimes a student comes along however that makes you question the value of what you try so hard to teach them. Making images is my mission, but whether with brush,, pen, or camera, it is the values and ethics of one’s heart that paints the ultimate art work, your life. Encountering people, especially students, that utterly reject that notion and appear virtually sociopathic in their interactions with others is like a heavy body blow to the spirit. Perhaps being back in the Rockies, if only for a few days, will provide a much needed recharge. And, it may even provide some fodder for the next post(s) here.

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