In 1936, in the midst of an unrelenting workload and the near-demise of his marriage, legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams suffered a nervous breakdown. After a stay in hospital, desperately in need of escape, Adams then returned with his family to the one place where he could find solace: Yosemite, California.
Some months later, as his health returned, he wrote the following beautiful letter to his best friend, Cedric Wright.
(Source: Letters of a Nation; Image: Ansel Adams in Yosemite, California, c.1942, courtesy of ck/ck.)
June 19, 1937
A strange thing happened to me today. I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it made me see many things that were drifting around inside of me; things that related to those who are loved and those who are real friends.
For the first time I know what love is; what friends are; and what art should be.
Love is a seeking for a way of life; the way that cannot be followed alone; the resonance of all spiritual and physical things. Children are not only of flesh and blood — children may be ideas, thoughts, emotions. The person of the one who is loved is a form composed of a myriad mirrors reflecting and illuminating the powers and thoughts and the emotions that are within you, and flashing another kind of light from within. No words or deeds may encompass it.
Friendship is another form of love — more passive perhaps, but full of the transmitting and acceptance of things like thunderclouds and grass and the clean granite of reality.
Art is both love and friendship, and understanding; the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of Things, it is more than kindness which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is the recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the inter-relations of these.
I wish the thundercloud had moved up over Tahoe and let loose on you; I could wish you nothing finer.