Guest post by Dr. Ginevra Mills (Olive Fertility Victoria)

I had the pleasure of meeting Stephanie a few months ago through a professional acquaintance who believed that her and I would work well together with our mutual passion for fertility care.  She was not wrong, and since meeting, Stephanie and I have been in almost constant collaboration mode.  I was intrigued by Stephanie’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR) for infertility, and I decided to take one of her general MBSR course to learn more about how it could be helpful for my patients (and for myself, of course).  Although I am only a few sessions into the course, I have already realized its effect on my mind and body.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining Stephanie and her family on a day trip out to China Beach for a picnic and a hike on the Juan De Fuca Marine trail. We were serendipitous with our approach to Mystic Beach, approximately 2km from the parking lot trail head.  Some parts of this beach are only accessible during low tide and since this particular hiking adventure was born of spontaneity, we did not consult the tide table before approaching the beach.  As we emerged from between the tall trees behind us and onto the fine sandy beach, I was immediately captivated by the raw beauty that surrounded me.

The early February sun hung low in the sky, casting golden light over the white capped waves rolling onto the beach and crashing against the rocky cliffs only meters in the distance.  The tide was starting its upward ebb, bringing water far up the beach and leaving behind long swaths of glassy, wet sand pocked with smooth ocean rocks. The image, combined with the rolling sounds of the water invited me into a moment of quiet observance, which eventually brought out my often-neglected desire to capture nature’s beauty in the art of photography.

After pulling out my phone and buffing the smudges from the camera lenses, I surveyed the beach laid out before me.  I selected a relatively quiet area with few other people to ensure a pristine capture of only the stunning landscape.  A large boulder stood strong against the crashing waves, and I positioned it in the periphery of my scene to offer perspective to the vastness of the ocean beyond.  I knelt into the soft, damp sand and brought the camera low to the ground to accentuate the tide-kissed sand with its seemingly deliberately placed rocks scattered throughout.  I was almost ready to snap my photo, except for a young girl who was playing near the boulder; she fleeted in and out of my frame, casually frolicking in the swelling waves.  I was confident that at any moment she would pop out of the scene – the one I so carefully staged – so that I could snap a shot of my pristine winter beach scene.

But the girl didn’t leave my scene: Not at all.  Instead, she ran full speed into the fray of the incoming waves, and further into my perfectly staged photo. I was instantly irritated; the calmness and serenity I had moment before drowned out by irritation and frustration as I thought of this girl ruining my plan of a perfect photo. She played in the scene of my photo for a long time, and I was I about to drop my hand, preparing to abandon my ruined photo.  Before I did though, I captured a few quick shots with the girl standing in the water, figuring that I might be able to edit her out of the scene.

Later that evening I went back to edit the photos I had taken earlier that day.  In addition to the beach scene I so carefully staged, I had taken pictures of moss-covered tree trunks, magnificent cliff faces showcasing brilliant layers of rock, and cascading waterfalls crashing from high above and onto the rising waves below.   I was surprised when I found myself inexplicably drawn to the series of photos with the girl standing on the beach, looking out into the vastness beyond. And even with the other perfect natural landscapes I captured, I surprised myself by choosing the girl on the beach as the photo I most wanted to edit.

The girl captivated me.  I remembered that she was standing for only a second – a brief pause amidst her playing and dashing, probably to look out and allow the cool ocean air to envelop her.  Despite my earlier irritation initiated by this girl supposedly ruining my perfect photo, I realized that her presence in the photo captured the scene with a heightened sense of calmness and serenity.  These emotions are what I was trying to capture in my photo by the initial staging of the scene and they were so strongly affected by her presence in the photo that the thought of editing her out disappeared.

As I carefully edited the details, lighting, and exposure of this photo – a girl on a serene winter beach – I experienced a sense of gratitude in my split-second decision to snap the shot I didn’t plan for rather than walking away emptyhanded from the perfect photo opportunity I failed to capture.  I reflected on how much more formidable the photo became by allowing myself to accept rather than resist the unexpected. Each time I look at this photo, I am reminded that splendour does not only come in the form of carefully planned moments in our lives. Rather, it is found all around us.  It exists in the happenings that flutter in the periphery of our orchestrated plots, and it is through opening our hearts and minds to the unexpected that we can embrace the true beauty of our lives.

About the author –  Dr. Ginevra Mills is a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility Specialist based in Victoria, BC.  Dr. Mills recently completed her fellowship training and relocated to Victoria to join Olive Fertility, one of Canada’s leading IVF and fertility centres.  Olive Fertility’s Victoria clinic is now seeing patients by virtual consultation and the clinic location will open in March to provide full fertility services/treatment with exception of egg retrieval and embryo transfer for IVF, which patients will access at their Vancouver clinic.