I don't have many prized possessions. After all, I value experiences far more than anything material. Among the higher echelons of these possessions is my camera. It's the kind of item I would make sure I grabbed before running out of my house as it was burning down. Yet, in a brief moment, it was gone. However, this story has a happy ending.
After months of working in Thailand, I was flying from Tokyo to Toronto for an extended vacation. I hadn't seen my family since leaving almost a year prior. I was quietly excited. As I flew over central Canada, I spent hours watching the landscape move slowly past and snapping the occasional photo of towns, oil fields and beautiful geographic features covered in a blanket of radiantly white snow. I was eager to show my family these photos along with the many I've taken during my adventures in tigerland (still to be uploaded, if anyone is interested).
A few hours later, plane on the tarmac of Pearson International, I took stock of my belongings: passport, laptop, portable hard drive, headphones, and my camera. After packing my backpack, I joined the queue of fellow passengers, shuffled off the airport and braced my body for the cold Canadian winter.
My mother picked me up from the airport, taking to a home which seemed to change very little since I left, gleaming with Christmas decorations and warm. I spent the first few days in Canada acclimatizing to the cold weather and running pre-Christmas errands.
One evening, I decided to find my camera so that I could retrieve my in-flight photography. Entering my room, I noticed it wasn't with the belongings I had unpacked. I looked in my backpack. After noticing it was empty, I paused, blankly staring into a void that seemed much larger than the backpack could contain.
The wheels began turning, inner monologue sputtering…
"It had to have been in my bag"
"I couldn't have forgotten it"
"It must be here somewhere"
I politely tore my room apart in methodical desperation. All likely places scoured, my brain decided to treat me to a vivid, unsettling memory. During landing, I stowed my camera at my feet to make sure I didn't forget it. However, snuggled in a black case, it would have blended into the floor perfectly in the low light of the cabin. I forgot it.
I would have laughed at the irony, if my heart wasn't sinking.
Of course, I filled in the proper "missing item" forms, called the airline with relevant information. However, it was likely long gone. The tool of my trade that I used on all my adventures, which photographed tigers in India and was almost chomped by them in the zoo, could have been anywhere in the world or (cynically, I thought) in a dishonest airline employee's possession. It took over 5 years of abuse and was starting to malfunction, but it was a good camera. Most recently, I was using it to photograph FREELAND's activities for reports and brochures. Without it, I felt as though my stock would go down as a useful employee.
My thoughts wandered to what was next. I was a photographer without a camera. Most people would start thinking immediately of buying a new one (which I had entertained when struggling with some of the problems I was experiencing), but it wasn't that simple. After months of working unpaid, I was only just beginning to make money. My hopes were buoyed by generous cash gifts during Christmas, but with my return flight and student loans as heavy financial burdens, I felt I had already spent what was reasonable.
In the new "Life of Pi" movie (VERY highly recommended), the main character philosophizes that life "is an act of letting go". If there was a small chance I could recover the camera myself, my nerves would drive me to seek out every option, losing sleep and spoiling my holiday. I'm a worrier. However, the futility of my situation truncated my sadness and guilt (made easier by being with family on a wonderful vacation). Just when I had let go, things changed.
One of my things on "to-do" list in Canada was meet a friend from DeviantArt whom I had not seen in a few years.: the wonderfully talented *MoonsongWolf
, her husband, and myself got together at a Toronto pub, the Fox & Fiddle. We enjoyed sharing stories over greasy pub fare and lovely Canadian beer. I eagerly shared with them stories from Thailand. They, after all, had a significant part in making my work in Thailand happen, promoting my fundraising campaign on DeviantArt, offering incentives to donors, and making a kind donation themselves.
I had the displeasure of telling them my shameful tale of empty-headedness. However, it was easily remedied by great company and great beer. We parted ways at the end of the night and bid farewell.
A got a call a few days later from *MoonsongWolf
asking to share an idea with me. I returned the call and she shared with me an intriguing proposition (to say the least). She was looking to upgrade her used DSLR to something more modern and asked me if I was interested in taking it off her hands. Eyebrows raised, I thought that buying second-hand might be a viable option, but I would have to see.
She corrected me. She wanted to give
me the camera. I sputtered a few awkward sentences of surprise and asked if she was sure. A few days later, I was picking up my first DSLR (Canon Rebel XT/EOS 350D) with all the kit I could hope for. She was my photography savior.
I cannot fathom why I am so fortunate (and if I even deserve) to know so many extraordinarily kind, talented, and generous people. The camera is something I am continuing to work with (being my first SLR), but I hope to have some great shots for all of you soon. Having a camera to take photos I can share with the world is something I value dearly; it allows me to show my audience the amazing animals I've worked with and the work I am doing to try and protect them. It means a lot to have such a tool. A good friend and a kind gesture can mean so much more. *MoonsongWolf
reminds me of how fortunate I am.
I encourage anyone who has enjoyed any of my photos to pay *MoonsongWolf
a visit and get to know her wonderful talent and personality; I also encourage you to snap up the opportunity for a commission if one should appear. Kind, selfless gestures seem rare these days… this wonderful deviant cannot get enough positive attention for her work on DeviantArt and beyond.
. You are a hero.