I’ve been waiting to write a reflective entry in the Ashland Outdoor Store blog for a while. I haven’t, until now, found the impetus.
My personal sense of the Outdoor Store as a cohesive unit was altered irreversibly with Steve’s passing. He was a mentor to me, and a dear friend. The shop is a rigorous and professional workplace, and I always appreciated Steve’s energy and his frankness. He was also an incredibly caring individual, and this showed through in every way. It feels very different in the shop without his daily presence. Even on a Saturday, when he used to take his weekend and relinquish control of the morning meeting, can I feel his absence. It is undeniable, though; he is all around. His personal touch and his spirit thrives and lives on in this small Ashland shop. The excellence of service and the homely energy of our staff is a direct reflection of Steve’s commitment to the people he worked with — because of Steve, we are a family.
He was understanding and supportive when I came to him earlier this year and explained that I needed to involve myself less with the shop. He had always been supportive of me pursuing my English degree, but this time he encouraged me to travel. He pushed me on, and I began a new part of my life, split between Oregon and Arizona.
Steve had always drilled me relentlessly about my photography, and was willing to give me critique that was sincere and precise — something that I appreciated greatly, and that has shaped the way I think about the craft. I wonder what he would say about the following selection of photographs? One of them, I suppose, sums up this summer’s outdoor adventures, and thus I feel less of a need to include more. It was taken in the brief lull before the afternoon thunder came our way, while Sophia cleaned a route. This sweeping, expansive view that descends from the Santa Catalinas into the Sonoran desert reminds me of the joy and wonder that I felt in that place.
My traveling companions and I roamed through the mountains and the deserts of the southwestern states, pursued, it seemed, almost relentlessly by summer storms. We somehow spent three days in the backcountry of Arches National Park without drenching rain and lightning, and this seemed miraculous. Once we had finally gone our separate ways, and Sophia and I had arrived at our little casita in Tucson, this wildness permeated our house. It has stayed with us since. It seemed that the sadness we found at our brief parting was entirely diminished by the feeling of energy with which our summer sojourn had left us.
Steve, I think, was alive with a similar energy. His was found in different places than mine, and in different manners entirely, but as I think on it now, I understand how he could have been so vital and relentless. That energy he had found long ago pushed him to excel, to love fiercely, and to believe that everyone he lived and worked with was just as capable of this boundless vitality that characterized his life.
And so these photographs from the summer are dedicated to his memory. Without Steve’s push out the door, I never would have found them.