No Words Needed

Sometimes a picture really is worth more than a thousand words.

I have always been a lover of words. As a child, I loved nursery rhymes and limericks, fairy tales and songs, and I lost myself in books. I learned early the power of words, how they could make you feel invincible, or hurt you worse than any other weapon. As I grew older, I loved writing and manipulating words, expressing sorrows, joys, and petty jealousies in long-lost diaries and journals. I went to college and analyzed and argued the classics, and became a teacher to convince children of the power of words.

It’s the unspoken words, however, that are the most powerful and sometimes tell the best stories.

And nothing tells a story better than a great photograph.

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My dog, Shasta, is very high energy. Her looks tell all. After Christmas dinner, while everyone else is hooked up to their gadgets and distractions, and all she wants is a little attention.

Bored Dog

In the summer, we don’t get much rain, but when it does rain it can be dramatic. Even if it spoils your Saturday afternoon plans of sitting on a restaurant patio, tossing back a few cold ones with your buddies, an unexpected rain storm can be a joyous occasion.

Rainy Day in Dallas

On the flip side, nothing says West Texas like a windmill and cattle next to empty railroad tracks on the Llano Estacado. If you follow 287 into Amarillo, this is pretty much what you’ll see, for miles and miles and miles.

West Texas Railroad and Windmill

Remember when you were a kid and you thought if you hid behind something, no matter how small, as long as you couldn’t see the other person they couldn’t see you either? And remember looking at the world through a balloon, and how the world suddenly became wrapped in yellow and you almost stopped breathing because it was so familiarly strange?

Child hiding behind a big balloon

You don’t have to run a marathon to know they’re not easy. In most races the last mile is always the hardest, and at mile 25, with the end in sight, you sometimes need a little help. All you have to do is look at her face to know how many miles she held on, waiting for that hand to give her the strength to finish.

Fatigue at Mile 26 of a Marathon

Photos capture things from the past. We remember the events, but we forget what it felt like to be there. Was it really that beautiful? Did I feel as small and insignificant that day as I look in the photograph? Did I gasp at the grandeur of the vista, or was I too tired to notice? Did I feel joy? Did I appreciate it then as much as I do now looking back at the photograph?

Alkaline Ridge, Wyoming

Words are important, whether spoken or unspoken. Words can paint a scene or an emotion, or they can twist and corrupt with their silence. Be careful what you say–or where you point your camera.

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Here is a great website started by National Geographic photographers who tell stories without words. 

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14 comments

  1. MJ Conner

    Thank you. Lovely photos. I have a photo of me as a small child hiding in a corner looking out toward my mom taking the picture. I say I’m crying, my mom says I was laughing. I don’t see it, but I don’t remember either. I guess I have to take her word for it. She tells me the story about how I got to be there looking like that, with what I consider to be a frowny face and my then-red hair all fluffed up all over my head. I had just ran away from my dad, who had been tickling me. That’s what she says, but I say I was crying. The photo says way more than a thousand words and sparks debates between myself and my mother. It’s just a moment in time, captured for a lifetime of “reading” into it.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Great story. The last photo of hiking with my daughter triggered something in me about how we forget so much during the passage of time. I remember that day so well, especially since I had cracked a few ribs the day before falling on a trail run, and I was in some pain. I was struck by how we forget so many of the feelings and emotions behind the photos. Looking at the photo, I wondered if I truly appreciated the incredible beauty of the scenery around me at that moment, knowing I would soon leave again, or was I more concerned with just staying on the trail and not tripping. Maybe it was a little of both.

  2. westerner54

    Oh…the photo of the girl at the end of the race just choked me up. It reminded me of why I love watching the end of races – the human stories are just right out there for everyone to see. Love this post.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Thanks. I love standing at the finish line and watching the very last people come in, especially those who have been out there for six or seven hours. To me, they are the true heroes of a marathon. Their perseverance is so inspiring. I also love cheering people on at our local marathon at mile 21, at the bottom of a series of long hills.

  3. monica

    the dog photo is priceless (and my personal favorite). in the midst of all this damn technology…don’t we all need just a little bit of real attention?

  4. Jenny Turnage

    Oh, Angela the runner at the end of the race with her sweet, sweet husband made the tears come. The thought that he was there to help so she could finish was the most beautiful act of pure love.
    My son came back to find me after he finished a 5K much before me. He was worried and when he told me there is a 9 year old about to pass you, I dug down deep and pored it on. Felt bad later when I read the list of finishers. I should have let her beat me.
    My son also told me that if I didn’t talk to so many spectators, I would have had a better race time. Maybe, but I did have a fun time when I ran. What fond memories…..

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      She doesn’t hide anything on her face, does she? As for your race, I’ve had many little kids pass me in a race, but if I can pass them–I do! Everyone runs their own race. Sometimes you run them to prove you can do it, or to improve on your time, or just to have fun (except for the last few miles of a marathon, which are almost never fun).

  5. skippingstones

    I love this! Poor Shasta. She’s looking at the camera so sad, like, “Okay, well, will you play with me? What’s wrong with these people?” I love that there’s a cell phone, a tablet, a laptop on the table, a remote control…and your knitting. Haha. The rain one is fabulous – I just love, love candid shots! And I’ve never seen, in real life, a space that big without any trees to speak of. Where I live, there are trees everywhere. Our area is hilly, too, but you don’t really notice it so much because you can’t see the hills for the trees. You stop noticing if your car is going up and down hills, it’s just a road with trees on either side. As for the last photograph, knowing you, I can’t believe you were there without noticing and appreciating…everything.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Yes, poor Shasta. She is so easily bored. Though do I love the mountains and tall trees, I also love treeless, open, empty spaces. South Dakota, Nebraska, Eastern Wyoming and Montana–those are all places I love. I can’t imagine crossing those spaces as a pioneer, coming from the East, or making a home there. After the Rockies and Tetons, that drive home through West Texas seems to last forever.

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