Amid a sea of prairie gold, a female redwing blackbird brings a plump lunchtime spider to her second-brood offspring waiting ensconced in the nearby vegetation.
Yesterday I spent several hours rambling around a couple of local prairies looking for hummingbird moths to photograph for an article I'm doing. As is so often the case when you set out with a specific notion in mind, I didn't see a single moth. However, I found plenty of other stuff to keep me busy—including the female redwing above.
A bit later I spent an hour or so skulking around the edge of a small pond, hoping to capture images of inscrutable bullfrogs lurking in tangles of watery weed-growth, and turtles sunning themselves atop various logs. Alas, both types of amphibians proved conspicuously absent. I made dragonfly and damselfly shots instead.
Later, the question came to mind…had I been working or playing? Since I didn't manage images of the things I intended, how should I look upon the photos I did shoot—business or pleasure?
To further muddle the issue, let it be said that either way, I would have enjoyed myself and my time afield. How could you not? And though I didn't manage my goal, I did succeed in making some nice images. To me, photography is almost always fun. As is, frankly, the hours spent stringing words together at the writing desk that counterpoints those images. And it's the same for the field time I've spent fishing or camping or doing whatever outdoor recreation I've "had" to do on countless occasions, because I was working on a feature article about such a place, thing, or activity. Simply a necessary part of the job.
I like what I do for a living, for the most part, and the line between where work stops and play starts has always been—at best—exceedingly blurry. Yet there's also a vexing little corner of my ego that regularly tries to nag in suppressed puritanical guilt about how work should not be so much fun—expostulating how I'm being irresponsible and cheating the proletarian sweat-and-toil ethic by regularly having a good time.
Luckily such dispiriting thoughts are fleeting and easily ignored. I barely hear them ranting back there in my pleasure-besotted mind.
Still, friends occasionally call wondering what I have planned for the day. And often, when I tell them, they whine and sigh and try to make me feel miserable. That's the tactic ol' buddy Walt tried a minute ago.
"Jeeze," he said, "when you gonna quit playing all day and get a real job like the rest of us?"
To which I breezily replied: "Hey, you're the one decided to become an accountant. I thought you liked chaining yourself to a desk in that high-rise office. Doesn't it thrill you to eyeball spreadsheets and crunch numbers?"
A derisive snort came from the other end of the line. "Don't rub it in."
"Oh, I said, "I won't. And I'll sure be thinking of you and sympathizing about your plight later this morning when I'm up the road taking pictures of ironweed and butterflies. Come afternoon, too, if I get around to checking out a couple of good smallmouth bass pools on the upper river."
"You can be downright insufferable, you know?" Walt muttered, sounding a wee bit contrite.
"Tisk, tisk," I said. "Jealousy is a bitter pill. Hang in there. Providing you live a couple more years, you'll be able to retire—and if you're not too feeble, we can play outside together."
Yup, a man has to defend his work…even if it is play.