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 Bill Bernbeck
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Walkabout Journal

Journey to the Horizon

It is late summer. There is a hint of the oncoming autumn in the air. Skies are becoming more dramatic. Clouds form and gather over the far shore from the rising thermals off the lake. The hazy glaze of summer is lifting to reveal a horizon better defined. Winds come out of the north more and more, only to shift to the prevailing southwest as the day moves along. The nights have been more comfortable sleeping with covers on rather than off.

I first saw the paddle surfer in this late summer scene. The breeze was out of the north, creating a calm surface immediately offshore. He was standing on top of what looked like a windsurfer board. Instead of a sail, he used a paddle. Cruising parallel to the shore, he kept within the wind shadow of the protecting land and trees.

Journey to the Horizon by Bill Bernbeck

I photographed him over several days as the conditions varied. His form clearly outlined against the late summer hues of the water and sky. I found the images offered both drama and tranquility, and eventually selected one to make into a final print. As I worked on the picture, I found myself thinking about what it projected both aesthetically and metaphorically. 

Here is a lone figure outlined by a horizon that is still very distant and somewhat indistinct. He stands up boldly against it. He has nothing but his board and paddle. His only task is to travel to the upcoming horizon. He sees calm water ahead of him, but also realizes that the clouds hovering overhead are between him and that horizon. Who knows what the far water will be like as he makes his way there?

I identified with the paddler. I saw him looking outward on life’s path yet to come.  There is a horizon somewhere in his future, he can almost see it, but there is still enough mystery to keep him from being certain about it. He knows that the path to his life’s horizon will have storms and uncertainty to endure. He does not know how severe they will be, or when they will be on him.

He knows he will face them. He will face them with all that he has, with each patient stroke of the paddle. He is on the journey to his horizon.

Bill Bernbeck
August 2008

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