Refinement by Tula Top

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West Creek, Siouxon Creek Trail, Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Canon 5DII, 24-70mm f/2.8 II @ 57mm, CPL

In attempting to generate a title for this piece as well as a concept that would support it without sounding too hokey (I struggle just as the great David Murphy sometimes does), I was at a loss for quite some time. Something about this intimate little scene appealed to me enough that I obviously felt compelled to capture it, but I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it until now, and I certainly don’t expect it to appeal to too many others at least on a strictly aesthetic basis. After all, it’s just a bunch of rocks in the middle of a stream…what could be more mundane?

But as I sit here, somewhat dissatisfied with my body of work, feeling like a one-trick pony as of late with all my waterfall images (but in my defense, it has been oppressively cloudy here since summer ended last year, and only starting in the past week or two has the weather made inspiring mountain views possible again), I reflect upon the events of recent days. In a very brief time, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of conversing one-on-one (albeit through electronic means) with a few fellow RBers, and I’ve found myself profoundly moved and touched by each encounter. Life in the hospital has also been challenging, with the unfortunate adage of “Bad things happen to good people” being actualized far, far too often as of late. It’s all got me more pensive than usual, so I hope you’ll pardon me if I wax overly poetic, philosophical, or perhaps even a bit preachy from here on out (best to turn back now if you don’t care to ply the inner ramblings of a habitual procrastinator…I really should be studying for my board exam…).

The march of time is relentless (another “water is wet”-type of statement, I realize). I’m poignantly reminded of this every time I go in to work, trying to help patients of all ages as well as their loved ones cope with serious illness. Growth on physical grounds ends by our second or third decade (spare tires and expanding hindquarters notwithstanding), and from that time on we are constantly, sometimes mercilessly, buffeted by the winds of entropy. The slings and arrows (as per Shakespeare’s most famed soliloquy) of societal and natural forces wear us down, bestowing upon us lines that streak our faces and silver hairs that adorn our heads (or perhaps fewer and fewer hairs to turn silver in the first place) far sooner than any of us ever feel prepared for.

We thus often falsely envision ourselves, as time goes on and we suddenly catch a glimpse of our ‘prime’ selves in the rearview mirror, as something less than the persons we once were. Our physical integrity and value to society is a thing of the past, because our knees creak in protest upon rising, our memories are ever-resistant to being jogged, and mass media reminds us of this with every flip of the channel or magazine page showcasing the seemingly limitless exuberance of youth and nubility (and there’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with that, but there’s no semblance of balance when it comes to valuing our more senior citizens, at least here in the States).

But to whatever degree of dilapidation that time manifests in us outwardly, it will always afford us inwardly the opportunity for growth. Not everyone seizes it fully—perhaps by fault of unfortunate genomic substrate or of insurmountably toxic environs (we are human, after all)—but the strength and endurance of the human spirit has the capacity to factor a reciprocal into the time equation such that we can remain one with ourselves throughout our lives, and, in the best of circumstances, even exceed what we once were. I suppose the most succinct word for it would be wisdom.

In the same manner that water weathers stone over time, smoothing away the rough-hewn edges and pockmarked surfaces it possessed when first exposed to the light of day, so too does time refine us, shape us, give us character. And just as the sediment that is begotten is carried downstream to build the foundation of silt and sandbars upon which life can further propagate, so too is wisdom passed on and a legacy left behind.

I think I’ve come to know a fair number of you on a deeper level than electrons and data bits might suggest possible, perhaps through direct conversation in bubblemails or comments or simply through the meaning passionately conveyed in your work. You teach me, inspire me, instill me with the desire to exceed what I’ve done before, what I’ve been before. I know, I know…it’s just a website about visual and written art; why, as the great Joker once posed, so serious? Because for me it’s also a means of sharing our interpretations of the world both around and within us, a sort of affirmation of our sensate, social, and spiritual existences.

With all that said, thank you immensely for still reading if you’ve come this far…and sincere apologies if the sheer effort of it’s somehow left you with an impression of your keyboard across your forehead. Please know that you’ve likewise left an impression on me, but one that is indelibly and undeniably positive and energizing, and I hope in some form or fashion I’m able to reciprocate down the road.

Thank you and warmest regards,



landscape, intimate, rocks, creek, stream, west, stones, flow, water, essay

Physician and passionate nature photographer based out of Portland, Oregon, USA.

For unframed prints and other products, please visit my portfolio and store here.

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  • beeer
    beeerabout 3 years ago

    Beautifull shot love the earth tones

  • Thank you very much, Ton! Appreciate the view and the kind comment. Cheers.

    – Tula Top

    JUSTARTabout 3 years ago

    beautiful shot

  • Thank you, Sylvia. :)

    – Tula Top

  • AngieDavies
    AngieDaviesabout 3 years ago

    Gorgeous subdued lighting and color! Wonderful mood! Relaxing and peaceful image which would be great for meditation!!!

  • It certainly had me contemplative, Angie, that’s for sure. Appreciate your kind words and interpretation. Cheers!

    – Tula Top

  • David Murphy
    David Murphyabout 3 years ago

    a simple image, an excellent title, a wonderful read…well done Tula!!

  • Ha ha, but definitely not a simple read, I’ll admit. Cheers to you for your endurance…and thanks for your guidance and inspiration. :)

    – Tula Top

  • JoeDavisPhoto
    JoeDavisPhotoabout 3 years ago


  • Thank you very much, Mr. Davis! Cheers. :)

    – Tula Top

  • Angela King-Jones
    Angela King-Jonesabout 3 years ago

    I echo your sentiments both about the simplicities of nature and how a scene such as the lovely one you’ve shared here, can stir deep thoughts and emotions. Inspiring us to ponder life complexities and all the “arrows” thrown our way. My friend calls our bodies spacesuits, that with time, fail, and fall apart but how we choose to live within those suits is our own personl intregrity, something no one can take from you. We leave our mark here, whether it be through work, play, or creativity, it is here for those to inherit. Your writing is wonderfully provocative and poignant, well worth the time to savour every word. Thank you for sharing :)

  • Beautifully stated, Ang, thank you so much for your comment and perspective. :)

    – Tula Top

  • isabelleann
    isabelleannabout 3 years ago

    I was drawn to this image because of the luminosity—almost star-like— glowing like a beacon among the dark stones. It is lovely work. I was further rewarded by your philosophical musings which accompany it. Both are beautiful.

  • That is incredibly kind of you, Isabelle Ann, thank you. I just had a quick peek at your gallery and find your work incredibly beautiful and evocative. Glad we crossed paths. :)

    – Tula Top

  • John Morton
    John Mortonabout 3 years ago

    So beautifully photographed and so magnificently worded. I stand as I type this, if only I could type and clap at the same time.

  • If anybody could pull that off, John, it’d be you. ;) My immense gratitude, sir.

    – Tula Top

  • Martina Fagan
    Martina Faganabout 3 years ago

    Gorgeous image & work

  • Thanks so much, Tina. :)

    – Tula Top

  • Ascender Photography
    Ascender Photo...almost 3 years ago

    A fine one, Tula.


  • Tremendously appreciate you visiting my portfolio, Alan. I hope to have time to sit down and do the same soon—even on first glance I know I’m in for a treat!

    – Tula Top

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