I grew up in Kentville, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was a charming, peaceful, beautiful place.
In the summer.
I took it for granted that you didn't need to lock your door. I passed the time taking photographs of fields.
Fields of hay.
Fields with rivers cutting across them.
Fields of hay.
When I grew tired of fields, I traveled to rivers, where I photographed trees and rocks.
Trees in water.
I grew up about 10 miles from the Bay of Fundy, home of the world's highest tides. Odd how you don't notice the things around you. We just assumed that tourists who wandered a few miles down the coast during low tide and subsequently drowned when the tide rose 30 feet had just never seen water before.
Life was simple. Until my dad, who I had not seen for several years, invited me to visit him in California. California was very different than Kentville.
He took me flying.
After that I was haunted by a vague feeling that there might be something out there. What was it?
My first career goal was to be a professional photographer. And I was reasonably successful, which meant that I could afford to pay for my film and chemicals at the discount price I got from the store where I worked.
I needed a new plan.
The social-economic structure in Kentville was as follows: you are a farmer, you sell farm equipment to farmers, or you sell milkshakes to farmers. Actually none of these seemed "just right" for me, so after a stint in college, a brief stint trying to sell software to farmers, and a stint at a startup that wrote software for gas stations, who sold gas to farmers, I moved the family to the big city of Toronto to find our place in life.
Our first apartment was directly above a bowling alley.
I don't miss it.
I didn't take any photos in Toronto, because there weren't any trees, rocks, or fields that I could find, the "water" had dead fish floating in it, and it was important to keep your foot near the brake and your eyes on the stoplights of the car in front of you.
I assumed Toronto would be just like Kentville, only with better jobs. I really hadn't thought about the implications of 10 million people all living in the same town.
It was crowded.
But Eva and I both got decent jobs, and we spent most of our time going to rock concerts and shows and restaurants and shopping in the city and the rest of our time wondering where all our money was. Not long afterward, I began to miss the trees.
I remembered that there were trees on the west coast, so I interviewed with Motorola Mobile Data Division in Washington State. I clearly remember flying in, looking at Puget Sound, seeing those huge Douglas Firs, and deciding that I needed to photograph trees here. That was 30 years ago.
And we've been here since.
These days, I work at Microsoft. That's a place where nerds and various other misfits feel completely normal.
This is probably accurate.
I enjoy spending time with my wife and daughter.
And photographing trees.
In retrospect, there was something "out there". Microsoft has rewarded hard work with great opportunity.
But there was something "back there" that I didn't really appreciate until it was gone.
I guess you can't have it all.
We have been lucky to be able to return to Nova Scotia every year.
In the summer.
Thanks for sharing this story with me.
Vice President / Distinguished Engineer - Microsoft,
Licensed Display Fireworks Supervisor,
Very lucky husband and father.
ps Kentville in Winter