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Edition #209  November 1, 2013

An Opportunity for Beauty

Photographer: Bryant Kaden

                                                                      Photo by Bryant Kaden

An Opportunity for Beauty

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s early on a cool August morning.  Not normally a morning person, it takes some effort to get me out the door before sunrise, especially during the long summer months in Minnesota.  This is not a normal morning, however.  Donning what my wife affectionately calls my “pastor costume,” I’m on my way to a room in the ICU of the Saint Cloud Hospital where a family has been waiting and praying for two days to see what would become of their beloved son, friend, uncle, brother.  Admitted after a cardiac arrest that came out of the blue, he has been fighting for his life for 48 hours under a medically induced coma.  Now, slowly but surely, his body temperature is being brought back up.  This is the morning where we will find out if this young man will wake up or...

Climbing in the car, the camera bag on the passenger seat reminds me that being up this early may pay off with a photo opportunity as well.  A text message is sent to a friend to check ATCS and alert me if any trains are moving in the area.  During a quick stop to fill the tank and grab some breakfast, I see his reply, “Nothing.”  Oh well, it was probably somewhat irreverent anyway to think of taking pictures with such weighty matters close at hand.

It’s a shame, though, because this is the most beautiful morning of the summer.  The cool air has allowed fog to form close to the ground.  With the sun rising into the mist, the prairie has been enveloped by a rose colored blanket.  “Maybe that’s a good sign,” I think, “but too bad there isn’t a train.  It would have been perfect.”  Then, as I cross the overpass on the east side of Belgrade, habit forces me to glance to the east, where I see what I didn’t expect: a headlight!  I guess technology isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.  A quick U-turn, a few adjustments on the camera, and the train is near.  I go about the familiar task of composing and exposing the pictures.  Even as the locomotives break the silence and serenity of this misty morning, what lingers is a sense of peace that comes with being in the presence of something beautiful. 

Peace will soon turn back to anxiety, however.  After all, the story of this morning is only half over.  Will it be remembered for peace and beauty or sorrow and grief?  The time when he should have started to wake up has come and gone.  Tense prayers are said.  The nurses and doctors have tried their best, even shaking the bed more violently than anyone expected.  Finally, with no small tinge of desperation, a man’s name is shouted by his best friend and life-partner.  She says the same thing she’s often yelled to get another non-morning person out of bed.  “Darin, it’s time to get up!!!”  An eyebrow raises and a head turns slightly, almost imperceptibly.   Then, moment by moment, day by day, a man comes back to life.  For the second time that morning, I’ve witnessed something almost indescribably beautiful. 

Looking at this picture some months later, a friend says, “That’s beautiful!” then asks the question every railfan faces at some point, “But why do you take pictures of trains?”  Finally, I have my answer: of course I love trains, but in its more sublime moments it’s an excuse to seek peace, to look for something beautiful, to see God’s handwriting in an uncertain world.

Bryant Kaden

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