Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. In contrast to some other national holidays, Thanksgiving offers us the opportunity to focus on our selves and our place in the world as something more than just passive consumers. Amid the frenzy of food preparation, cooking, and table setting, I choose instead to take the opportunity to consider the place that the food has in my life, and my place in the food chain. Whether you eat animals or not, Thanksgiving, with its focus on sharing a central meal, offers an opportunity to reflect on the roles of hunting, agriculture, and human interdependence.
Our modern food supply chain bears more resemblance to the idealized "simpler times" than you'd think - even in the 17th century, there was specialization of roles. I reflect during this meal on the ways we rely on our local farmers, our own gardens, and for some of us, the hunters, fishermen, and foragers in our families. I like to give thanks for the people who care both for and about food year round, and who make sure we have access to healthy meals. It’s also worth reflecting that there are many people in our own communities that don’t always have the same access.
The fresh foods and garden veggies are not the only opportunity to increase and share healthy habits with our loved ones. Thanksgiving gets its name from the giving of thanks for our bounties, and recent studies have confirmed that just the act of giving thanks has myriad health benefits for our selves and our communities, increasing pro-social interaction, physical health, and sleep, while reducing the aggression that is in so many ways encouraged and fostered the very next day - the capitalistic feeding frenzy known as Black Friday.
The outdoors provides us with so much, it's hard to pick just a few things to feel grateful for. The opportunity to connect with history by growing and stewarding lesser-known heirloom varieties of crops; places to explore, both large and small; an escape from constant electronic stimulations and distractions; (hopefully) safe interactions with, and observations of wildlife; and inspiration. Our photographers, and the outdoors, are the pillars of Aurora — without open, wild spaces, the quiet refuge of the woods, the mystery of the sea, or even a space for recreation in their backyard, they'd be unable to work or play. Here are some of the things our photographers are grateful to the outdoors for.
- Nate Adams and Larry Westler, Aurora Photos
"I’m thankful for the ability to enjoy the public lands that surround us. From paddling out to surf at 7am in the Pacific Ocean, to skiing endless powder in the backcountry of the Wasatch Mountains, to hiking around the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’m grateful for these places that have had immense impact on my life and business."
"My job takes me around the globe to some of the world's most beautiful and interesting places. I climb mountains and ride bikes and go for runs for a living! I'm always meeting new people and being challenged by friends I know in the industry. While hours in airports and security lines can be annoying, all I have to do is sit back and think about how I'm not in a cubicle 40 hours a week. For this I am thankful!"
(EDITORS NOTE: Chris is ALSO thankful for the staff at Aurora Photos who do have to spend some of their time in an office, albeit not a cubicle)
“I am thankful for the mountains that surround my home, and for the cold storms that bring in moisture off the Pacific and dump meters of snow. I love to explore the mountains in all conditions, but am extremely thankful to be able to explore them in the winter season, snowboarding powder with my camera, capturing everyone's excitement. Snowboarding keeps you young at heart and it shows, when you see full-grown men with a child-like grin shining through snow-filled beards."
"When I was 26 years old, my body started attacking itself, and I was told by doctors that I needed to accept that, learn to manage it, and find a new normal. I decided to fight back instead, for five excruciating years. Every year, the anniversaries of the onset of the symptoms, the final treatments, the loss of my law enforcement career pass, and I am grateful. I’m grateful for health restored completely, and grateful for an experience that made me focus on making life more of what I love and less of what I though it “should” be. I’m grateful to be able to see and document places that I can only access under human power, when that human power was almost lost to me 14 years ago. I guess I found a new normal. . . a life of adventure and beauty and gratitude. . . because even the roughest experiences can hold within them the greatest lessons and outcomes."
"I’m thankful for the sea which has inspired and amazed me since I was a toddler. It is the sea that has allowed me to have such a long career as a photographer. From living in Australia to living in Hawaii and traveling around to so many other places in the world, the ocean has always been the one constant that I could always rely on. I add to my photographic archive from the sea on a usually every other day basis. It’s my daily exercise routine as well as my spiritual place. I am one with the sea."
"I am thankful for the seasons in Hawaii. Folks who don't know any better assume that because the weather is nice all year, we don't have seasons. Incorrect. My two favorite seasons here are Mango Season and Big Wave Season. I often crave sweets after coming out of salt water, and it is really hard to top wrapping up a fun surf or free-dive session by picking and cutting into a fresh, sweet mango. The feeling of being in massive, powerful surf (or even being on shore witnessing it) is one of the most humbling, awesome (and at times unsettling) experiences I know. And the fact that these cycles only come around for a short time each year make them even more precious."
"I am currently on a one year trip around the globe, and it’s hard to express how amazing and diverse our world is, when limited to words. So far, I have explored mountains, oceans, forests, and savannas, and all of them have inspired me and made my heart beat faster. I am grateful for the ability to see this beauty, to feel the wind on my skin, and to smell the fresh air. Thanks, the world! You are fantastic!"
"I am thankful for the extreme diversity of natural ecosystems that create a stunning mosaic-like landscape in the tiny corner of SW British Columbia that I call home. I am well-travelled, yet every time I step off the plane at Vancouver International Airport I am thankful to be back; back to a culturally rich, melting pot of humanity, that has more outdoor adventure opportunities than your brain can handle. Where else can you indulge in world-class skiing, mountain biking, fishing, scuba diving, climbing, camping, canoeing and kayaking in one day...if you could fit it all in? The landscapes that surround me inspire exploration, creation, adventure, and a passion for conservation. They instill in us a greater responsibility to care for the place we all call home."
"I am thankful for my local farmers, especially at Thanksgiving time. I appreciate those who toil to bring us sustenance, who turn the soil, pick the produce and milk the cows, so that we can nourish our bodies. The farmers I know – who don’t just work the land but work WITH the land, whose livelihoods depend on the cycle of the seasons, whose lives are intertwined with those of their plants and animals – have a different connection with the earth, with life and death, and with the sacred than the rest of us. There is a part of me that thinks we all should be farmers, at least for some part of our lives, and that might help us transform our relationship with the earth from one of dominion to one of stewardship."
"I'm thankful for the personal connections that grow through working as a photographer. It might be slogging into the backcountry with a crew, hanging out by the campfire with an art director or shivering in the cold while sharing a belay with an athlete; these are the moments that grow into long-lasting friendships. Exploring and appreciating the outdoors brings us all together. So I send out a huge thank you to all the amazing people that I get to work, play and hang around with. Have an extra slice of pie on me!"
Robert van Waarden
'Today, looking out the window, my 1 year old son says to me, "I can see the larch." The rest of the trees have lost their leaves and the yellowing larches stand out like a child's sore, but beautiful, thumb. He reminds me of the importance of little things and the small details of changing seasons. Of details that I embrace and capture through my lens that remind us this planet, our only home, is worth fighting for.'