Earthshine

I wrote a post last October that was featured on Dear Susan, about my visit to Antelope Canyon in June 2019. Today, that visit feels like it happened 5 lifetimes ago. But I just submitted a few of the images to an art call, so now seems like a good time to share that experience on my own site. Anyway, call me lazy. Call me uninspiring. Call me whatever. I’m copying and pasting my little heart out and dishing up that exact same post to you today. Let the plurality commence!

Colour beguiles you and can be a sly mistress that easily conceals or misleads. In the words of famed street photographer Daidō Moriyama, I find colour obscene. It carries such strong emotions and in most cases, does all the work for you.

A black and white image, has to stand on its own merits and it takes all the principles and elements of design to make a shot work. You are not relying on colour to do the work for you and therefore, there is, strangely enough, more passion for me in a black and white photograph than in a colour saturated one.

“What I saw was that the colour image had more information in it, simple as that! There was so much more to see and consider, whereas black and white reduced the world to shades of grey.” Joel Meyerowitz

Even though I was quite happy with how the initial images turned out in black and white, it was only once I started processing them in colour, that I was audibly blown away by what I captured during a frenetic rush through the canyons. Yes, I admit. Some of these made me whimper just a little bit.

And then I visited Antelope Canyon in Arizona. How quickly did I take a tumble off my monochromatic/black and white/desaturated high horse? The shapes and play of light on those rock formations absolutely begged me to slide that saturation slider all the way to the right.

I had to however (because I’m hard headed) go through the motions of first processing the first few images in black and white to answer my own questions: “Would it be a successful shot if there was no colour? Does it have the same emotional impact?”

It was then that I realized to my dismay that I have become a black and white photography snob. I had unconsciously believed for years, that there was only artistic merit to be found in black and white images.

If you’ve ever visited and were, like me, too cheap to fork over the gazillion dollah they asked for the photography tour, you’ll know that they herd the groups through at an alarming rate. There is no time to setup a shot or to linger and expect the light to change, or wait for fellow tourists to skedaddle out of your frame.

The unfavourable and unforeseen circumstance forced me to change my plan on what to shoot and how to capture the sensual beauty of those rocks and for that, I am pretty thankful. It would have been just another predictable set of slot canyon images as shot by countless other people, if I wasn’t forced out of my comfort zone.

Adverse conditions combined with me embracing colour, has hopefully changed these images from salient to poetic.

A Fist-full of Firsts

I definitely cannot complain of complacency or tedium currently.

So many firsts happening in my little world.

Last year this time I was basking in the balmy glow of a Cape Town summer, quaffing cold sauvignon blanc out of a glass with diamond-drop condensation, all the while with toes scrabbling into warm, sun-kissed sand. Surrounded by mountains, an ocean and the people that I love, the places that are familiar. Nothing new and something that I’ve been able to enjoy for most of my adult life. It would have been frowned on having a glass of wine at the age of nine….sigh.

Thanks to The Rona, I find myself stranded this year in the middle of a landlocked state, enduring grey days, anaesthetising cold and the wonder of snow.

I am relishing this white world every minute while the fluffy stuff is tumbling from above and am transfixed by the falling flakes. They really are all different shapes and the magic of this leaves me giddy with awe. A child-like-wonder-first that is high on my list of most enjoyable moments ever.

As much as it’s pretty, it tends to stick around when the temperature never reaches above 0º Celsius which proves challenging when you have to walk to the mailbox. Shovelling snow is a full body workout and makes up for all those inactive days hiding inside the house. And boy is it loud. I cringe every time that shovel scrapes the ground and disrupts the snow-hush.

Last year just before winter started, I invested in snow-chains for my shoes after I went slipping and sliding on the ice. This morning I had the opportunity to wear them for the first time. I made a promise this winter to feed everything that crosses the yard and that meant that every morning and afternoon I bundle up and venture outside to fill the feeders and make sure there are apples for the deer, seed for the birds and nuts for everything else. The timber deck outside was like an ice rink but with my snazzy crampons I was more sure footed than a mountain goat foraging.

The firsts keep on coming and I say yes to them all especially if the payoff is eye-candy that brings delight and keep the awe alive.

I am happy.

Participation

In the last few week of self-isolation, I’ve started to think about what participation means for/to me. I’m on an average day, a confirmed and proud introvert and relish in the silence and isolation of my own world and have always jokingly said that if given half a chance, I’ll be a very content hermit.

But.

And it’s a big but.

If I so should choose, I could always contact a friend or family member, climb out of my self-imposed isolation womb and meet up in person, exchange a hug and watch their faces while we are having a natter, show happiness, discontent, anger and pleasure. Soak up their vibes, give more energy if they need more, take whatever they are willing to part with, and fill that part of myself that is void from avoiding interaction. Cause, although I can benefit from that level of connection, I am depleted afterwards. The bane of an introverted empath.

I have always avoided crowds or any large gathering of people – my membrane is just too thin and I bathe in their emotion like a wrung out sea sponge craving moisture. The barrier that protects me from feeling whatever they are feeling is gone and whether it is extreme happiness or extreme sadness, baby, I take it all on. Worst thing you can ask me to do is go to a concert or go shopping on a Saturday morning at the end of the month. Just don’t. Please.

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Where my participation have always been peppered with conditions, how short sighted does that way of life seem right about now? I miss touching people and hugging them and exchanging that non-verbal communication thing that I thrive on. When we talk to each other not using words or gestures but “talk” to one another on that other level, you know the one? Call it intuition. Call it higher self. Call it energetically. I don’t care. Call it whatever you want, I miss THAT.

Yes I can video call you. Yes I can message you. Yes I can phone you. Yes I can text my little heart out to you. But fuck it. Nothing comes to actually seeing you, touching you, smelling you (yeah…I do have a smidge of hyperosmia and some of my favourite people do smell delightful to me), looking at you and the way your eyes talk back to me. I miss my tribe dammit.

So where does that leave my current participation involvement? Facebook. Messenger. Instagram. Texting. Video calling. A tad impersonal, not so?

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Participation is directly related to the society we are accustomed to and that society has changed in tremendous ways. Is this remote way of communication the new normal? Since Plato’s days, when the whole concept of participation has been part of philosophical discussions, to me, the whole idea is still quite obscure and an ideal level of engagement is an unknown, more now than ever before.

The principle remains the same though, whether we are meeting face to face or via Zoom. There is no ideal level it seems and what I always thought is the most effective form, has dramatically changed in the last few months.

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My perception-musing has taken me down the garden path a bit but through this I have come to realize that participation is a dynamic process. It takes varying forms and the life cycle of whatever method of participation you choose, does evolve, and is centered on need.

As long as I’m present, I am participating.

“In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia.” – Milan Kundera

Liminality

A few years ago I started a personal project called Alienation, where I wanted to explore how we distance ourselves from various matters. Our health, our work, other people, ourselves and nature.

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Since then the project has evolved into a more personal journey, brought about by the upheaval of moving from one continent to another and trying to find my feet and my ‘murican tribe.  The challenges are on a visceral level and is just a smidge more than what I anticipated.

I am compelled to go scratch in places that I didn’t even know I had and to confront latent feelings with a raw honesty that scares the bejeesus out of me. All the time, trying not to judge myself too harshly.

Alienation_Lost 8x10Yup. I’m climbing that Mount Everest without oxygen. In fact, most days I feel that I forgot to put on the damn parka and that my Sherpa is lying drunk in his tent back at base camp.

Slowly but surely and with a healthy dose of courage, I’ve stopped teeter-tottering and found my footing.  My designated social position started changing and I managed to jump the liminal stage and went straight to acceptance status. In Monopoly terms, I vroomed pass go and absolutely collected those friendship-dollars.

And then BAM! Hello Corona.

Fuck.

Whether you are tsk-tsk-ing at the extreme measures being taken across the world or whether you are laying in the fetal position reading the book Panic 101, we all have the same thing in common at the moment: Our lives are in a holding pattern.

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I feel that my modest personal project is very apt at this stage and I do find comfort in that. Will it progress into something else yet again? Or is this a culmination of the two evolutions?

Where there was an almost unconscious acceptance in distancing ourselves from so many issues pre-virus, we are now forced to do so. I think it is a fantastic opportunity to (again…..) reassess the way I live my life and the impact I have on everything around me.

Alienation_Perception Deception 8x10It will be tough going for a while, nonetheless, I am dusting off my big girl panties (even though they are fucking uncomfortable) and attempt to address everything that is off-kilter in my little world.

No, I didn’t try and make the virus thing about me at all. But it does give one pause for a bit of self-reflection, not so?

Stay safe and practice that social distance like a mofo.

Road Trip June 2019: Kansas

While I did hope for just a teeny-tiny funnel cloud waayyyyyy off in the distance (cause I’ll most definitely soil my undergarments if one pops up within touching distance), I was rewarded with dramatic clouds instead. Much more civilized.

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Kansas is flat. Superduper flat-flat. It felt like it took us weeks to cross from east to west. One day was all it took. But it was one of the longest travel-days I’ve experienced.

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Who said corn fields are not romantic, huh?

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Above is probably my favourite Kansas-shot. Although I was sucked dry by the mozzies while leopard-crawling on the ground…..woke up the next morning and resembled a Klingon….

Stayed the night in a charming little town called Oakley and yes, we did the proper thing and slept in the Annie Oakley Motel after having a burger and beer at Buffalo Bill’s Bar and Grill.

Assimilation is a work in progress 😉

Killin’ Time

It was not ever on my bucket list to be awaken at 12 in the morning by The Husband with a wild look in his eyes. Mmmmm.
Actually, that sounds like it could be fun and a girl can live in hope….but this was not quite the scenario last night. What I should add is that while he was shaking me awake, he was serenaded by tornado sirens. That sort of dampens any lascivious thoughts.

A piece of advice I don’t mind parting with, is that if there is a prediction of tornados in your immediate vicinity, maybe consider sleeping without earplugs and with clothes that night. You’ll be able to save precious minutes before climbing into the bathtub (safest place if you don’t have a basement) not looking for something situation-appropriate to wear when the sirens start bleating. Or you could be like me and say fuck-it, roll over, secure the earplugs and fall asleep again. At least I had The Husband on duty and I’m sure he would have woken me up again if the roof blew off.

Coming from deep dark Africa (cough, cough) I have somehow survived all these years without being nibbled on by lions, licked by a snake, hit by lighting or contracting a deadly disease from vicious insects. In the almost 3 months that I’m calling the US home, apart from the extreme weather, I’ve had to dodge mosquitos that apparently carries the Nile virus and had to be on the lookout for crazed honey bees. Both of which come from my continent of origin. You see the pattern here, right?

The biggest threat I can recall ever facing from animals/insects/nature was having to avoid malaria on one or two occasions. Now all of a sudden, I have to evade a swarm of bees while dodging tornados and falling debris caused by strong winds because the houses are build out of twigs, all the while trying to not be sucked dry by a virus carrying mozzie that survived golf-ball-hail.

The long weekend extreme weather excitement started on Saturday for me. We took a trip through Pennsylvania to West Virginia and on the way back, my phone vibrated like a forgotten sex-toy with a tornado alert in the area which we were driving through. TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY is not really something you want to consider while driving hell for leather on the interstate. I was hoping that I could see something in the distance but apart from dark ominous sky to the right and impressive cumulonimbus clouds in front, no funnel. Just rain. And lots of it. Oh and a rainbow! And Tilly The Tank kept us safe from killer bees and other deadly insects.

I would love to see a tornado and be able to capture the staggering cloud formations and the incredible almost other-worldly light.  But from a safe distance pretty please. And preferably during day-light hours. Although at night, I’ll be safe from the bees.

Exciting times.

 

Baby Steps

Right.
Note to self: Stop asking people stuff.

Question: What is that bird?
Answer: It’s a black bird.

Question: What is that tree?
Answer: It’s a purple tree.

Yup. Information in the Northern hemisphere is on a need to know basis obviously! I should really invest in a book or three on the plants, birds and wildlife in Ohio….or possibly make friends with people who are interested in the same things I am. What a novel thought!

At least I know a sinister, abandoned barn when I see one!