I believe in possibility: the idea that at any moment, something unexpected can unfold and lead to inspiration and new direction. The key is both being open to seeing each opportunity and willing to take the risk. There is magic to be had when you are ready to walk through the open door.
Not surprisingly, one of my most memorable experiences in this regard took place in Sedona, Arizona. It is said that “spiritual vortices” are concentrated in this part of the United States. I am convinced that the way the following events unfolded is a true example of the magic that can occur when one is open to possibility.
In the late 1990s, I took a weeklong trip to Sedona. Red rocks, jeep tours, glass-bottom helicopter flights, and hiking. And, of course, photography. That plays a big part in all my trips but, as you will see, especially in this instance. We had a hot air balloon ride scheduled early in the trip but it was cancelled due to high winds. We decided to spend the day outside of Sedona and drive to the rim of the Grand Canyon. First possibility.
We drove off with no specific plan in mind. Along the way we passed this unusual building that looked like it might be a church. It was a tiny, almost triangular structure that was all roof. A fortress of shingles. There was one large cross soaring above the apex. Without a word, we pulled over. Second possibility.
When I stepped out of the car, I saw a black film canister on the ground. Remember those? I picked it up and opened it. Third possibility. Inside was a roll of undeveloped film. In that instant I knew that I would develop the film and wished there was a way to return it to the photographer. Upon entering the church, I soon forgot all about that. We could barely fit into this little space. Hanging from every nook and cranny were notes that had been left by hundreds of people asking for help and guidance. It was an incredibly moving experience.
We all added our own notes -- fourth possibility -- and quietly drove on to the Grand Canyon.
Upon returning to Sedona, I dropped the film off to be developed. When I picked it up, I excitedly looked through each picture. What I saw were shots of two different events: a birthday party and a group of women quilting. I sensed that one of the women in the pictures was the one who lost the film. In that moment, I knew that the reason I found the film was so that I could return it to her. Thinking she was a local as the photos weren’t typical tourist shots, I went into a quilt shop in town and explained to the owner what had happened. She sorted through the pictures and unbelievably, when she reached the last photograph, let out a gasp. One of the women in the photo was a customer, although she did not know her name or where she lived. I left the stack of pictures along with my name and address in hopes that the customer would return to the shop.
The vacation ended and real life began. Time passed with no word and I had pretty much given up on reuniting film with photographer. Several months later, however, a letter from Sedona arrived. Inside was a note, thanking me for finding the film and taking the time to try to return it. The letter was from the photographer of the lost film: the woman in the picture. She had returned to the shop and was given her photos. She was effusive in her praise. But for me, I had not done anything special. I had just been open to the power of possibility.