It’s 3.30 pm. “I’m taking Nora for a walk,” I say, and my daughter Sophie replies, “I’ll come with you.”
We slip our feet into our shoes and shrug on our coats before sliding open the outside door. Our dog Nora sees us. She grins before running into the bushes.
The same. Nearly every day, at the same time, we walk down the same tracks which run through the bush close to home. Nora doesn’t seem to mind the sameness. Once we have caught her, she points her nose in the direction of the bush, eager to be on her way. There are all kinds of wonderful scents to follow. Nora’s happy.
Sophie and I are happy too because we have great conversations as Nora drags us over the sandstone and under the gum trees. We don’t really mind where we walk. Unless we’re taking photos.
Yes, sometimes Sophie and I take our cameras with us when we go down to the bush. We point them at everything in sight: trees, rocks, leaves, flowers, tracks…
One day I say, “I’ve got hundreds of photos of the bush. They’re all beginning to look the same. What can I photograph that’s different?”
We walk along the main fire trail. I snap photos of Sophie and Nora from behind, and then I run ahead and photograph them coming towards me. I try full on shots, and then I say, “Turn to the side. Don’t look at me.” Snap! Snap!
After a while, I’ve taken photos of Sophie and Nora from every possible angle. What next?
Rain arrives. Nora sits outside the sliding door that opens into our kitchen. She holds up one paw in a pathetic kind of way. And then she begins to whimper.
“Get in your kennel,” someone shouts. “You’re getting wet.”
But how can a dog beg from a kennel where no one can see her? Soon Nora’s short black coat is soaked through. In no time at all, she’s in the house being rubbed dry with a towel. Then she settles in a chair and grins. We don’t take Nora for a walk that day.
The rain stops. Sophie and I get the leash, the dog, and our cameras and head down to the bush.
“I wonder if there are any puddles on the main trail,” I say. There are. Lots of them. And then all of a sudden, I see something worth photographing.
“Sophie walk past that puddle,” I order. She does. So does Nora. I aim my camera, and I capture the gum trees floating in a huge puddle on the damp track. The light is magnificently golden. I know this photograph is going to be different. Maybe it’ll be spectacular. I haven’t got one like it in the whole of my huge bush photo collection.
Days pass. We walk. We take photos. Lots of photos. They all look rather the same.
Then one day, we notice the golden wattle is in bloom. My eyes light up. “Sophie, I must take some photos of you next to the wattle!” And I do. Hundreds of them. But after a week or so, I’m beginning to think all my wattle photos look the same.
I need something new to photograph. Or perhaps I need to look at the old with new eyes. Find another way to tell the story.
I open my computer to write a blog post. But I can’t think of anything to write about. After 5 years of blogging, what is there left to say? I need to find a new subject, something I haven’t explored yet. Or maybe I need to look at the old with new eyes. Find another way to tell the story. Because I can’t keep repeating myself. I don’t want everything in my huge unschooling collection to look the same. Because that’s not exciting for me. It’s not exciting for anyone.
I think about going off on new adventures. Forget about trying to capture the unschooling story. But I can’t quite do that. Who knows? Perhaps there’s an Australia-shaped puddle or a feathery sunshine wattle just around the next bend of the unschooling track. Perhaps I’ll suddenly be struck by an inspiring golden afternoon sun.
But for now, everything looks the same.
What do you do when you get stuck in a rut? Continue on? Take a break? Decide it’s time to move on?