Hippie Heretic.

     Recently I was described with two simple words: hippie, heretic. Other than being a wonderful alliteration, these two titles are often avoided by mainstream culture due to the various implications they have. At first I was surprised with such a succinct, presumed assessment of my values and beliefs but after thinking about how titles define and shape our perspective of others and ourselves, I found it more so enthralling. This post is going to be about titles. The simple words we use to fit people within a context we can make sense of and lends to our survival.

     Whether you’ve been titled something that has made you feel delighted or something that has caused you to do everything you can to withhold tears, we all know the drastic effects simplistic words can on our mentality. Fascinatingly, the crude categories we fit ourselves into have virtually nothing to do with how we exist in reality. Sometimes we work towards putting up a persona that allows people to join us in somewhat of a fantasy ideal that we’ve set for ourselves and when we convince everyone of this idealistic self, it can result in a nearly euphoric ecstasy. This may even lead to feeling like we genuinely accomplished a grand achievement in altering others perspectives of us. However the relief of being able to ignore that old self who took on other names can bring about an identity crisis if not managed with integrity. These new titles we desire to adorn our superficially revitalized public and personal image need to be thoughtful and, more importantly, analyzed by people we trust and love.

     This shared life event of recreating our titles occurs regularly at different time periods for everyone. Probably one of the first times I remember desiring a title to be part of defining me, was in middle school. Not only were there an exorbitant amount of hormones starting to flow through my body, but also it’s a time for many where we start to form narratives of how we want the world to view us.  Personally, I wanted to be known as the athletic, intellectual who was capable of achieving anything. Looking back at how I naively set this delusional expectation for myself it ended up sustaining my insecure ego for the following few years. At the time, aspiring for others to see this as a suitable title for me made it incredibly rewarding whenever I’d receive compliments in either of these categories. Reminiscing on those years is an out of focus blur but I can still relate to people that age who are trying desperately to have the appropriate titles attributed to them. I was one of the fortunate minorities to have a title I enjoyed and I know many who aren’t so fortunate. Remember, they have no standing on how we actually need to function in reality.

     From a young age we learn to conform within the cultural and social structures around us. As useful as this is for early development, it increasingly seems like people yearn to remove any sort of connection to their family of origin, their once foundational ideals, or even the ways of living well in a location. A classic example of this is when someone who grew up in the church abruptly abandons their Christian title in exchange for what the culture anonymously directed them towards. Instead of worshiping God on Sunday, they are often now oblivious to the new form of worship, which point towards whatever their new, self-satisfying, title may be. Just to clarify, I’m not only referring to the stereotypical party scene that lures countless young people away from more positive experiences, but even now in my twenties, the more ‘enlightened’ lifestyles fill young adults with idealistic aspirations. Of course I fall into the trap of idealism from time to time but I think there are healthy ways to work towards idealism without it transforming your title for an illustrious elitist cause. Anyways, it doesn’t matter what alternative is chosen to replace our early life teachings and titles that accompany it but the reason I think this shift occurs is because it’s easier than genuinely learning what our own tradition has to offer on a deeper level than maybe even our parents taught us.

     Immediately some people who have experienced transitions where their titles have significantly changed after rigorous, intentional, and thoughtful analysis may object to the claim that it’s easier. Of course I understand that objection, however, in some situations I’m not sure if an unaffected effort was given without already wanting to change. The thought might even be that by abandoning our original titles to a belief system that allows for perceived growth and a fresh new way people observe the showman we exude could lead to a better life. Again, I know there are genuine reforms in what we believe but in many case I really think it is easier to just entirely move to a new tribe that gives us a fresh title. Even though I’ve observed myself and others change their beliefs in a way that would omit previous titles in exchange for alternative ones, I have to remember our minds will do what they can to survive. If we adopt a new belief system because our older one is not working it might merely be due to the desire to excel in a new community rather than work through the baggage our old one possesses.

     This might be a controversial post and one where you think that I’m beyond under qualified to write on but this blog has always been a platform to process thoughts and share with you my personal photography work. I’m always so thankful for those of you who take time to read it and support my image making. Too often it’s easy to mindlessly take people’s support for granted in a way that we aren’t even aware were doing, which is why I perpetually try to let you know how thankful I am for you. Anyways, I would love to hear your thoughts on the post and what you think of the photos below from Cold Lake Provincial Park, where I lead a nature photography workshop March 3rd. If you’re interested in attending one of my workshops where I partner with LICA, just let me know because I have one coming up on March 24th!


Soul Medicine.

     This post won’t be nearly as extensive as my last two but it’s something that I think is pretty relevant to our current culture. On Saturday I had the privilege of going down to Drumheller for the afternoon. The sole purpose of the trip was to create images that aligned with my desired photographic style. With my only company being my camera and tripod it was an introverts dream day. Just a side note, the images below are from a trip to Two Jack Lake during Fall but nonetheless work well for the point I want to highlight.

     Everyday I’m thankful for having something that I feel so fulfilled doing. If you you’ve been reading my posts for a while you might remember that as I grew up I often had intense anxiety about what I was to do ‘when I got older.’ This anxiety never really left me but more so motivated me to search out that thing that I could never get tired of. Originally I assumed it was sports since that’s all I did with my time. However, after being injured and not capable of performing at the high level I was used to, my plans were redirected. It was probably one of the more difficult things I’ve had to work through but in reality it was like hitting that jackpot. If it weren’t for this blessing in disguise, the new drug called photography wouldn’t have encompassed me. Maybe it’s just that I was enabled to explore a creative outlet and put in countless hours of learning something new that allowed me to take my mind off the disappointing injuries. I’m not too sure exactly but considering I hadn’t viewed myself (and still don’t) as a creative person this was an avenue virtually unexplored.  Almost immediately I knew this was something that I wanted to do for a lifetime. I’m not sure how long I’ll be fortunate enough to do it as a career but having something that rejuvenates my entire being is unbelievably comforting.

     Generally, I don’t think people are aware of the thing that rejuvenates and gives them life. Even for myself I probably wouldn’t have found photography in the context I did if it weren’t for a drastic realigning of my life’s direction. Being self-aware is something that I admire in people and see that people who know themselves tend to exude wisdom. The only problem is that self-awareness isn’t something that can be taught. I’m not even sure if it can be learned over time but I want to encourage everyone reading this to try to dig deep and find that thing that brings you life. Maybe you already have it and if you're so fortunate to have that I’d love to hear what it is and how you found it (seriously I’d really like to hear your stories). As always, thanks for reading and sorry last weeks post wasn’t sent out in the email (things got messed up after the redesign).

Oh and if you were wondering whats with the boots, I'm a brand ambassador for Bluprint Comfort and those are a few product shots I made. Most comfortable shoes I've ever worn!

Fantastical Food Pt. 2.

If you haven’t read last weeks post, I recommend going back and doing so for some context. 

      A trend that I’ve noticed in many peoples’ lives is that if they were brought up with any sort of extremes in their life, almost inevitably, they’d flip the opposite direction as a teenager or young adult. I’d like to think I’m exempt from this paradox but in many regards I’m recognizing it in myself. Fortunately, I was raised in somewhat of a balanced home (yes mom and dad you guys did great, give each other a high-five or something) so the effects are minimal and due to my inquisitive mind I’ve learned from wise people to always question both sides of any story. Essentially, I think that’s how I’m at the point I am now; always questioning and increasingly aligning with the minority within the social circles I’m part of. Maybe I just need to find different circles but even in high school when everyone partied and thought it was ‘cool,’ I thought it was a waste of time and money. There’s a plethora of other examples of this in my life but it seems consistent throughout the years. I’m aware, or more so cautious, of the reality that I could just be a contrarian, always wanting to go against the social norm, but when it comes to forming an opinion on important matters I think it might be an asset.

     As I mature I’ve reflected back on events that have occurred throughout history and more times than not travesty followed right after something that should have been intensely questioned, simply wasn’t. I’m sure you could list a surplus of case studies so I wont get into it but if that’s the reality shouldn’t we oppose the set standards more? With all this said, I want to get back to the topic of food and hope you’ve been reading everything I’ve said so far with our western perspective of food in mind. As Wirzba adamantly opposes in his book, Food and Faith, our western culture has diminished food into nothing more than sustenance that we need as cheaply and quickly as possible. Before this period of rethinking food I would’ve aligned with the default consumerist mind set of food only existing as fuel for our bodies to use up and burn. It was also due to Food and Faith that I made the connection that since food is one of the most intimate things we experience it should be observed with more reverence. Not only do we ingest matter that has been grown from the earth but also for people who eat meat another being is consumed. A creature that inhaled and exhaled, ate, and existed in many of the ways we do. I don’t recall what context I heard this thought, but why do we decide that eating cows, pigs or chickens is entirely fine but then dogs and cats are off limits. Why is it the cows and pigs get the duty of being perpetually killed to be mindlessly consumed? I don’t have the answer, even though I’m sure there might be one, but I’m unsure if ethically we can justify the treatment of millions of animals being grown for us to devour.

      I want to continue with these food posts while I’m thinking through a lot of the things I’m writing about but they take a lot of time due to the amount of thought I have to exert. If you have any comments, questions or insight I’d love to hear them. I should also mention that I’m currently trying out vegetarianism to see what that would look like and possibly understand things a little better so if you have any advice or personal experiences send me a message. The images below are from a fun day hike I did with Paul in the beginning of winter at Elbow Lake and wedge pond. I don’t think I mentioned it but last weeks photos were from Crescent Falls. Thanks for reading and I truly appreciate your time of sharing these thoughts and ideas I’m working through.

The Necessity of Nature.

     It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get out of the city, which has resulted in feeling quite torpid. Not only physically stagnant but also in an emotional, career, life, motivation, aspiration, and inspiration sort of way. At first I was confused as to why I was feeling this way but after a short amount of time introspectively speculating the truth revealed itself while watching Ben Brown in Iceland exploring a glacier. The wonderful irony of this is that I was sitting inside watching YouTube videos and not doing anything about it. However, in my defense, that’s the problem with living in a massive city in a different culture. It makes finding a way to escape the concrete jungle nearly impossible. By no means am I ungrateful for the opportunities I’ve had thus far but all my life I grew up on an acreage that allowed me, anytime I wanted, to walk out my door and go for a walk amongst nature. Even when at college I was able to organize trips to the mountains or look out over the prairies and watch the wondrous sunsets whenever I wanted.

     Some of my favorite memories are from when I was younger and built various forts on our five-acre property or trudging through knee-deep snow just for the sake of being outside. When I first started photography I would escape by going into the forest to search for my prized subject; mushrooms. I’m not sure what it is but every time I photograph these funguses it brings be a calm I cant define. What sort of things feed your soul and rejuvenates your mind?

     To conclude, I’ve come to the full realization that nature feeds my soul and makes the necessity of connecting with my creator more accessible. Since this isn’t always possible I decided to challenge myself creatively to produce a time lapse everyday this month. I have no idea what they are going to consist of at the moment but stay tuned. Once again thanks Chase Jarvis for your 28 to Make challenge and the endless inspiration you provide. You’ll be able to watch these videos by subscribing to my YouTube channel at Mason Unrau

My Street Pup & Mental Health.

     Well as the title suggests I now have a puppy that was generously given to me by my host family! I think I named her Chai but for these sorts of things I am extremely indecisive. There are multiple reasons why I chose the name Chai and a few of them are because it means tea, I love tea, it is one syllable, she is kind of the colour of Chai and Chai remind me of a lot of people I love.  Overall pretty simple and straight forward but at the moment the landlord doesn’t allow pets so that’s a problem that will hopefully be changed soon so I can train her properly. Any advice is welcome. With getting a puppy I know it will help my mental health, which is extremely important while I’m living abroad and should give me more motivation like I had prior to traveling.

     On the topic of mental health, in my home province, Alberta, the suicide rate went up 30% this past year, which is likely due to the disruption in the prosperous economy. Needless to say, I think intervention and awareness of mental health is really important. In a affluent, free, and yet largely apathetic society like North America it doesn’t seem like the urgency or importance of the matter really reaches people. Even in my life various forms of mental illness have been something I have had to work through and is a daily reality for multiple people close to me. The prominence of dealing with it didn’t strike me until a close friend of mine committed suicide; it hit me so unexpectedly it was like getting packed in the face by a volleyball. It shook me. I’m not sure if I’ve processed it completely. It has taught me a lot, forced me to grow up, and mature to become more aware of people reaching into my life. When I realized people reaching in a paradigm shift had to occur where I had to start reaching back. I probably fail to do this consistently but it’s a growing process. I try not to merely reach back but to hold on tight and reciprocate so I’m not taking that relationship for granted; especially for the people I care about.

     That’s probably enough seriousness for a blog that’s generally about travel but I like to get real sometimes and having a puppy is somewhat an adventure. Below are a few quick shots of Chai to bring you back up from the low you might be feeling. Since writing this post she has been given permission to come inside and I hope to be able to get some good quality photos of her once I train her a bit better. If anyone reading this wants to further discuss mental health or really anything feel free to contact me and I will do my best to quickly reply!