Monday, March 23, 2015

The Need To Chase

This weekend, I was able to do something that I have wanted to do for a very long time. I took a photography course. Not just any photography course,  but THE photography course I've pretty much been daydreaming about since moving back to Canada and landing in Saskatchewan. Moving back to the prairies meant moving back to the place where tornadoes were a possibility, however remote...but enough to have me watching the sky, yelling at my neighbours (Sorry again, Deb) to get in their basements and generally just twitching at the sight of mammulus clouds forming overhead.  Now, I love a good summer storm with thunder and lightning but the idea of a tornado really does make me want to put on my ruby slippers and hide out in the basement for about a week.

Enter the Tornado Hunter team. Now, seriously, what on earth would I have to gain from watching a team of guys race towards tornadoes, or more specifically, intercepting tornadoes in order to photograph them? And yet...I found their website, the online streaming of their chases and suddenly, I began a fear based love of following their adventures as they chased tornadoes across the prairies and into the southern USA. The team consists of three of the most mismatched yet perfectly suited personalities to climb into an F-150 and follow the Doppler radar wherever it leads. I'm addicted to their adventures, simply because when the three of them get into a truck somewhere, it really is what you could call a dream team. These guys are in their sweet spot - one driving, one capturing video, the other photographing the craziest conditions.

One of the guys in the truck is photographer Greg Johnson. He taught the course on photography this weekend but he taught me much more, whether he meant to or not. He gave up a 10 year career years ago and started chasing storms full time before storm chasing in Canada was even considered a "thing". He's not just a storm chaser, he's a dream chaser. He's one of those guys that was passionate about something and then just started, literally, chasing down the dream. I started following this guy on Twitter and on Facebook and then took his workshop. He's the kind of guy we all need to spend time with. Follow him around. Well, maybe not literally. I'll tell you one thing I learned early - if there are clouds in the sky and I'm driving on the highway and see "Flash" (his truck)...I'm not going to follow him. In fact, if I'm not driving in the opposite direction, I'll be crossing the meridian. Stat.
But in truth, maybe more people should follow his example. I picked up his book, "Blown Away", this weekend and it just fuelled something in me. We need to chase our dreams. Those back-of-our-mind, if-only-I-had-the-time, if-I-ever-win-the-lottery type dreams that come to use in times of frustration as escapism and in quiet moments as inspiration. These aren't throw down everything and run out the door type dreams, these are the dreams that we quietly inch toward even though we doubt they'll ever come to fruition. The book written on napkins and conference handouts. The photographs taken while others are watching football after Thanksgiving dinner. The details of boardroom catering finessed when no one will even notice. Those are the indicators that a dream is worth chasing. If you've caught yourself working towards something with the faintest of hope that the spark you've chapped your fingers striking flint against stone for will fan into a flame.

We all have dreams that we would work hard to chase to fruition if we just have the most minute hope that they will come true. Sometimes chasing one dream leads you to a better one. Chase a small one. Take the course. Learn the language. Book the ticket. Take those first steps. Listen to those who are cheering you on even when you think they're just being polite. The voices saying you should do that. You're so good with this. You should write that. You should start that.

There's a guy in a big orange F150 that drives towards tornadoes when everyone else is fleeing them. There's a girl who drags anyone and everyone she can to see what she has seen in an effort to support those who are caring for some of the world's most vulnerable kids. There's a woman meeting with the Prime Minister of Cambodia's wife simply because she followed the dream planted in her to care for the orphaned children of Cambodia. There's a young man in net in the NHL because he gave up years of teenaged sleeping in for early morning ice times. There's a school in a slum in Kolkata because two amazing coworkers decided to forgo their careers and chase a new one.

Is it costly? You bet. Often it is. If it isn't, is it a really a dream or just a notion? High risk. Huge sacrifice. Sometimes isolation. Single mindedness. Pursuit at the cost of comfort. Weigh the risks. Make the sacrifices. Embrace the loneliness. Persist in the dream. Keep chasing it down. Inch by inch. Step by step. Leap by leap.

There is a small picture that hangs in my bedroom. It says: it costs much to dream but it costs everything not to.

A small girl in Gindo, Ethiopia carrying water for her family (Canadian

The school in Khalpur, a slum in Kolkatta, India (

The kids who are cared for daily by volunteers in Zimbabwe (

Marie Ens, not sure she could have ever dreamt how many children she would save in Cambodia.
Over 500 under her care right now. A hero and a dream chaser. 

Listening to these guys in the locker room - big dreamers. We lose that along the way somewhere. 

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