Life since my release from prison seven months ago has been anything but a walk in the park. Even so, one constant through home confinement is my one-hour walk — which I often take to one of the three parks near my home in Minnetonka.
What’s hard about home confinement? Shouldn’t I be happy and content that I’m not incarcerated, sitting in a unit that is locked down due to a COVID outbreak? The answer is, I should, but I’m not.
I still struggle with the inability to surrender and accept things for the way they are. I’m still disappointed when someone from the system lets me down and my day is thrown off.
Luckily I have people in my life to offer support. “It’s progress, not perfection, Noah,” says neighbor Joe. I tell him I know and try to take it easy on myself. Joe also likes to remind me that the only perfect person he knew of ended up nailed to a cross. “Noah, do you want to be nailed to a cross?” I tell him I don’t and smile.
The walks in the park when I first got out were the greatest thing in the world. For the five years before that, I was at a prison camp in South Dakota, which is smack dab in the middle of a town. I would spend countless hours on the prison yard walking circles on a 1/4 mile track, or sitting on a bench with my friends, watching the world walk by, waiting to rejoin them.
That day finally came in May and even though I was released to my mom’s house and unable to work, go to the store, or workout at the gym, I was happy to simply go for a walk one hour each day.
For the first couple of months, these walks were shared with my daughter. Once early on, she came home and told grandma, “I can already tell this is going to be the best summers ever.” Not sure if it quite lived up to the hype, but it felt special to me.
Eventually, the novelty wore off and the one-hour walks or bike rides with my daughter turned to solo trips. At first, my feelings were hurt and I felt like she didn’t want to spend time with me. Now, I realize kids think walks are boring, and only an adult would argue otherwise.
As the months went by, I learned the neighborhoods, I found walking and jogging paths, I found other nearby parks and recreational areas. I have an ankle monitor and I have to call in before and after I go out to check-in, so I figured out how far I can make it from the house walking, running, and biking, and still make it back in time.
I needed those walks. I needed the time alone in nature to reflect on my situation and my attitude towards it. I needed to be reminded of how much more I have than so many others in the same situation.
Eventually, the novelty of the walks wore off for me, too. I found myself taking them less often. When I started working, I forgot about them, and even on my days off, I wouldn’t get out of the house. My mood started to turn, my situation started to frustrate me more often, and my recovery started to fall apart.
My life fell out of balance, around month five. I was working too much and writing too little. I needed something, a spark, something to pull me back. I needed help.
That’s when one of my daughter’s friends’ parents, Alana, gave me a free photo session with her photographer sister, Stephanie. On the day of the session, Alana came with and acted as the choreographer with a head full of ideas of shots to get. I told her we have a one-hour walk we can use, too!
We did the session in the “Golden Hour,” just before sunset when the lighting is perfect. That day I learned that Stephanie Bloom is an amazing photographer and she has a sister with a heart of gold. We hit all my favorite spots that I’d discovered over the time since my release: my favorite park, my favorite crick, the places I went when things weren’t feeling quite right.
These pictures pulled me out and focused my attention on what I have, instead of what I don’t. Now here I am in month seven with a new perspective and a new year full of possibilities.
I’m about to go for a walk and guess who’s going to join me…
I’m Out of Prison! Now What? | Noah Bergland
The photos are unbelievably beautiful! They brought tears to my eyes, probably knowing everything you have been going through. Hand in there Noah! You have lots good people pulling for you and the most awesome family to have your back!
Thank you so much, I know how lucky I am to have all the support I have. Just got to get through 2020, plenty of good years to come I’m sure.
Noah – thanks for sharing. What some great photos along with great reflections on what we take for-granted. I think that you gave me a new view on taking a walk and enjoying our blessings. Thanks!