It's a tree that I see almost every day, that I have noticed since before I could drive. Alone on one side of the road but not lonely. Another tree, older but smaller, was a short distance off, on the other side of the road. The road had changed course more than a decade ago and the older tree perished, fell and became nothing more than a hollow trunk, but the one tall tree endured and is now alone in a vast farm field.
And so I see it almost every day, under every weather condition, in every season. The years go on, the sun rises and sets, the light plays on the branches, dances through the leaves. I drive by, wordlessly passing my greetings onto it as I move past. I admire it in the various light, in the fog, in the driving wind, as autumn takes the leaves on a flight away from it.
I want to capture it every time, but of course, I don't. I'm on my way somewhere, and don't have the time to spare. Traffic is heavy, and there is little room on the side of the road, the moving cars too dangerous for me to be outside of my own.
Of course, on the days when I can stop, when the lighting is perfect, when the conditions for photography are just right, I find myself without my camera. I spend the next 10 or 15 minutes, berating myself for being too lazy to remember my equipment.
On days when my camera is at my side, in the passenger seat, the lighting isn't quite right. The rain is coming down too hard. The tree is willing but I'm not inspired.
And then, the day comes. I see the light in the sky before I can see the tree. I envisage the scene as I start that long approach on the straight, flat road. There are other cars, but not too many. A few drops of rain fall but both me and my camera can handle it.
I pull over and put my hazard lights on, leave the engine running so that both headlights and taillights glow. I get right to the edge of the road, where the shoulder begins to slant into the ditch. I'm not willing to take any chances with a distracted driver.
I know what the frame in the viewfinder will look like before I bring the camera to my eye. I fire off a dozen shots, changing the exposure with each one, moving to a slightly different angle. As the sun drops a little lower from under the rain-soaked cloud, the rays extend further. I shoot some more.
Satisfied with what I see in the display, I return to my car and merge back into traffic.
As soon as I get home, I excitedly pull the images from the camera and onto my smartphone. I choose one of the best pictures and send it into social media, sharing it on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
And from that moment on, my pleasure wanes. I look at the photo again: it's not that great, I tell myself.
For days, I sulk. The sky was perfect. The light was dramatic. For years, I've wanted to come across such a sky with that lone tree, and capture it. Now that I had it, the wanting was more uplifting. The desire was stronger than the fulfillment.
Four days later, I look at the photos again; this time, on a larger screen. I choose a slightly different photo, perform some edits. I look and I think, I love that tree. I love that light. It's what I wanted. It's what I have. That day will never come again. Those conditions will never be recreated exactly the same way. I'm thankful for what I have.
I continue to keep my camera at my side, as I drive by, waiting for the next perfect conditions. And I'll pull over again.