Adventures in life and photography out West

Look for joy

Walt Hester | Trail Gazette
Sore, tired and elated to finish, the author celebrates with 2,000 other riders at the end of Ride the Rockies at the O’Dell Brewery in Fort Collins. In cycling, the rainbow stripes signify the world champion, and that is how a rider feels upon completing the six-day, 400-plus-mile ride across the Colorado Rockies.

I didn’t write a column for my paper this week. We ran out of time. I was looking for something to write, just to make sure I had a post this week when I got a little bad news.

A young woman I met when I first moved to Estes Park seemed to have lost all hope and ended her own life. She was only 28.

I met Meghan when she was still in high school. I had worked for my paper for about a year and a half when I photographed her and her teammates setting their school’s record in the 400 yard freestyle relay at the Colorado State Girls swim meet. She even earned a swimming scholarship, but had to give it up after opting not to have surgery on her shoulders. I was not too close with the girl, but things seemed to go a bit south from that point.

She and her mother lived down the street from my family. When she started studying massage, I was happy to offer my beat-up muscles for the betterment of her education.

She married pretty young, after a bit of a scandal, but remained married and had several beautiful children. Though she always had a bit of melancholy about her. I don’t know if this eventually led to her ending her own life, but it certainly makes me think.

First thing I did when I found out was hug my own daughter, make sure she knew she can talk to her parents at any time, no matter what. Then, like anyone, I tried to make sense of it. I suppose it’s nothing I am supposed to figure out.

I can make sure I look for my joy. I have to make sure my daughter and wife do the same. What makes us most happy? My bike, my family and photography do this for me. I have to make sure I talk to the people I love. Never loose hope.

That’s huge for me. I don’t know what led Meghan. I don’t know why she lost hope. I just have to make sure that I and those I love don’t head that way. Life is not always easy, doesn’t always turn out the way we planned or hoped, but what can we make of it? That is what will keep me going.

I may not have hoped and planned to be a small-town photographer, but there is joy in this. My child’s classmates light up when I walk into her school. People occasionally come out of shops to compliment my work. People ask about my family. There is a great deal of happiness in it.

Never give up. Never loose hope. Talk to someone. Find something that brings you joy.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

My riding buddies and I at the Trail Ridge Store this summer. I’m second in from the left.

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