COLWOOD -- This is not how Susan planned to spend her retirement, walking along Esquimalt Lagoon searching for something. But then, she never expected to have to retire early either.

“I was sick and very depressed,” Susan says, describing how she was feeling last year. “I thought, ‘What am I going to do with the rest of my life?’”

Susan says systemic lupus and fibromyalgia was causing her to feel perpetual pain.

“I had to find something to do with my time,” she explains. “Instead of dwell on the pain that comes from auto-immune disease.”

A friend suggested that Susan buy a camera, even though she’d never focused on photography before.

“So I just went around town looking for things!”

She took pictures of anything she found positive, from moments of peace — like two ducks sleeping on still water — to displays of affection, like an owl grooming another owl.

“I like all the little animals that are being born now,” Susan smiles.

She shows me her pictures of a baby duckling looking at its reflections in a pond, of baby hummingbirds being fed by a doting parent and of a baby swan embraced by a caring mother.

Susan says this is not a cure for her pain — but after eight months of focusing her lens on positive things — it’s proving to be a way to manage it.

“Photography eases my mind and makes me feel like I still have a purpose,” Susan explains. “I am free and floating in those moments.”

Even on the worst days, when her brain feels foggy and she can barely get out of bed, she tells herself she has to go take a picture of something.

“And there’s always something,” she laughs. “I’ll take a picture of a slug if I have to!”

You should see her slug picture. Slimy never looked so beautiful.

But what about those days when the combination of feeling pain in your body, enduring the length of the pandemic and witnessing the conflict in the world feels overwhelming? What can you possibly find to focus on then?

“Is this for real?” Susan remembers thinking when she found it.

“It” was the discover of two ducklings resting on top of a turtle. And it couldn’t have felt more perfect for Susan.

“When I saw this it just brought so much peace to mind,” Susan says, “Because there’s so much upheaval now.”

Despite the pandemic, the picture showed togetherness. Despite the conflict, there was inclusiveness. Despite so much fear, there was hope.

“How wonderful is it?” Susan smiles. “It’s not human bonding, but it is just being friends.”