It’s amazing how easy it is to miss something, even when it is right under your nose. Life seems so busy and it is easy to rush from home to work, to activities and events, squeezing in chores and cramming as much as possible in to our waking hours. And whilst our lives are fulfilled and happy, I know there are times when I stop, lift my head out from my little world and wonder how on earth I got from A to B without even noticing the things that I passed.
Two and a half years ago, my husband took up a Headship in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was an amazing opportunity, one not to be missed, both in terms of the role and the beautiful location. However, we knew we would only be able to see one another every few months, during the main school holidays, and that this would be a challenge. One unique complication was the power shortages that Nepalis face on a daily basis, resulting in electricity being delivered to houses on a timetabled basis.
For a few hours a day, each region would receive electricity and for the remainder of the day they would be without. Evidently, timing our use of things like Skype or FaceTime was vital, but with the time difference and busy working hours we found that it was not feasible to talk during the working week.
In trying to find another way to keep in regular contact and share with my husband our daily events, I stumbled across a website that enabled me to upload a photograph a day. I tentatively began and every day I would take my little camera everywhere with me. When something of interest occurred I took a quick snap, uploaded my photo and added a comment or explanation. This was a superb way of enabling my husband to receive a snippet of my daily life in Lincoln.
At the beginning, I must admit that my photographs were not very inspiring — typically of our dogs or anything else close to hand, though I have been known to photograph my dinner! As time passed I found that my photographs changed significantly, both in quality and choice of subject.
Not only did I become so interested in photography techniques that I started a part-time degree course, more importantly I began to really notice my surroundings. I found myself noticing things around me that had previously been invisible and I took the time to look with eyes wide open: seeing the details of the flowers in the garden, the colours in the rising sun and actually noticing the expressions and details of the people around me. I began to truly appreciate the beauty of things that I would have previously believed to be simple, normal or perhaps not even noticed at all.
Through my photographs I was able to celebrate a daily “highlight”, the part of my day that was special enough to share. This reminded me of all that had been good, however challenging a day may have been, and I began to appreciate my life and all that I encountered, enjoyed and achieved each day.
My husband returned to the UK this summer to take up a new post but I have continued to take my daily photograph. Looking through the lens really captures the beauty of the moment and now, nearly 1000 days since I started, I have a series of wonderful memories to look back on.
The other day I was privileged to be at the Lincolnshire County Council Masterplan Conference. There were many discussions, considering the future of Lincoln and I learnt a great deal of which I had not previously been aware. For example, 95% of companies in Lincolnshire employ less than 50 employees; Lincoln has the same population as Sheffield but the residents are dispersed over an area as large as Northern Ireland. One outcome of the conference was an agreement that we should celebrate the beauty of Lincoln and to raise awareness of the pleasures of working and living here.
Lincoln is a beautiful city but it is too easy to overlook its icons, detail and spectacular setting as we rush from one appointment to the next, head down against the mizzle or focused on our ever-present mobile device.
Last weekend my parents-in-law visited the proposed site of the new Lincoln UTC and returned waxing lyrical about its outlook and the Greestone steps after which it is named. This week I discovered another unfamiliar jewel, the Chad Varah building. I wonder how many other wonders of architecture are hidden from view or overlooked?
Lincoln is a beautiful vibrant city, full of wonderful sights and buildings as well as fantastic people. It is a marvelous place in which to work and I hope I will never lose the camerman’s eye that has taught me to be more observant and to appreciate the inspiration present in every detail of the things around me.
As a new Head I am committed to taking the time to look at the detail, the nuance of everything, to help my team of staff to stay grounded whilst dealing with the bigger picture. Despite my love for “lists”, I believe it is important to not overlook the simple pleasures in life in the rush to complete the bucket list!
Dr. Rona Mackenzie is Principal of Lincoln University Technical College (UTC). She has a strong background in education, having worked in six local authorities during her career, and is passionate about providing an education that meet the needs of young people and their community industries. She is a keen sportswoman and mountaineer, recently trekking to Everest Base Camp, and has an interest in photography.