A story of sadness and caution this week out of Sacramento, where 52-year-old photographer and high school visual arts teacher Kathy Carlisle was taking pictures in a rail yard, when she was struck from behind by a train. Her students at St. Francis High, the faculty, and the surrounding community are still reeling from this sad and shocking news. It is believed that due to the noise of the oncoming train she couldn’t distinguish the warnings of the train approaching from behind:
Despite the awfulness of this incident, we can still learn much from Mrs. Carlisle, who inspired so many young people to see the beauty in their everyday lives. Her dedication to her craft is inspirational and cautionary at the same time. We can take comfort knowing that she died doing what she loved, which seems like as much as any of us can hope for in our time. On the other hand, it reminds us of our own mortality, and of the danger we undergo so often in our work, sometimes without realizing it.
This unfortunate woman, in her final moment, gives us a lesson we all need, no matter what our age: to embrace the craft we love, despite fear, but to always keep our eyes and ears open, to always watch our backs for danger approaching, and to take the utmost care for ourselves and our well-being. The work is important, but dispensable; our life is the only thing we have which is truly sacred, and it must not be taken for granted.
This is a thing to keep in mind throughout all of our lives. If we get too focused on one thing, we put blinders on ourselves. It’s only by constantly looking around us that we can see the world in its wholeness. This may save our life, but it may also present us simply with an opportunity—showing us a new person, a new place, and a new image to enrich our experience.
Our hearts go out to Mrs. Carlisle’s husband and three children, who have a very tough journey ahead of them. We hope that their mother’s teachings and her lifelong quest for beauty, and for finding one’s voice through art, will help them through this impossible time.
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