GOTTA WHIP IT OUT - How I Practice Mindfulness With My Phone Camera
Updated: Jun 26
My mom and I joke all the time on our nature walks - "Oooh, gotta whip it out!"
We're referring to our phone cameras, of course. What did YOU think we meant? Ugh. Around here? Okay, fine. That's totally fair. But seriously, we'll both spy the same groovy thing, the above wood texture, and--WHOOSH. Gotta whip it out. Snap-snap-snap! Her phone actually makes a nifty little camera shutter sound.
Mine is stealth. 😎
Totally fitting, as she's the legit photography hobbyist with the real camera and some sweet skillz, whereas I have my iPhone. Period.
Actually, what I have is my iPhone and what has become an obsession. It happened almost overnight.
At first, I asked myself why. Was I being monkey-see-monkey-daughter-do? Kind of. My mom's ever-growing interest in photography definitely inspired mine. It's also in line with my brand, because almost everything I shoot falls into the realm of natural elements.
But in this sudden addiction to snapping shots of flora and fauna and fucking bugs on the concrete--no, not bugs = fuckers. Literally fucking. We'll get to that later--something was happening. Something I couldn't explain. With all the memoir posts that I've been drafting lately, I'm coming to understand that this happens to me a lot. I don't know exactly why I do some of the things I'm called to do, and I certainly can't explain it while it's in development. I just hear the Muse and I obey. Only later does She reveal why this was so crucial.
Yesterday was one of those days.
The preparatory groundwork was laid in 2014 with those dance-in-nature shoots I did right before I left Colorado. (All my photo collections I'll be mentioning can be found HERE, if I've posted about them yet.) One of my dance friends/students and I did those big shoots at the Sand Dunes amidst a windstorm and up at the columns in Denver when I came back to visit. After I moved here, I did other outdoor shoots with Kirk Lanier and with my mom.
She and I did a big indoor/outdoor shoot in preparation for the first attempt to launch my online school. When health and the Universe determined this was not to be, we got a bee up our butts to shoot me in my Persephone costume as a consolation prize. We did another shoot at Compton Gardens, and that one also had video.
I was collecting footage for Earth Dance, you see--not just footage of me dancing barefoot on the earth in a green-and-orange skirt that oh-so perfectly matches the Earth Element of my logo. I also shot a bunch of video of dirt, greenery, stone, trees, the April blossoms that were everywhere...
Remember what happened next?
It thunderstormed, so I didn't go out to the lake and film in the sand. Instead, I set up the backdrop in my studio. I was filming the first official Earth Dance footage when BLAM! I tore my meniscus so badly I couldn't walk for a week. That catapulted me into the retreat in Spain, which rolled straight into a return to Colorado for a friend's 50th birthday, and then my aunt's memorial in Florida. Somewhere in all of that, this obsession with nature photography grabbed me by the throat and refused to let go.
Screenshot of my photo app.
2018: gobs of logo creation, advertising, and dancey photo shoots
2019: Persephone photo shoot, and then BLAM. Nature Happened.
The phenomenon occurred on June 12, 2019, a couple days before I flew to Malaga. Mom and I did one of our classic outings to Crystal Bridges and, for some inexplicable reason--I've never been a big picture taker--whenever she whipped out her camera, so did I. We didn't always shoot the same things, but sometimes we did. I watched the way she lined up angles and adjusted, how she zoomed in or out...and I just started playing.
This experiment continued through that whole trip to Spain, as well as the other trips during that 6 week period. It has never ceased.
At first, I collected photo after video after photo of all my Elements with the intention of using them in the advertising trailers. I was up to my eyeballs in the business plan for Voc. Rehab, and in preparation to once again--finally, can we please--launch.
That fall's riveting season of Adventures With Government Entities resulted in a splattered brain on the verge of seizures, I was just about booted from the agency because I was about to miss my deadline (they supposedly didn't receive my updates and requests for help for six months), and I ultimately had to get Disability Rights Involved.
Well, groovy. In January of 2020, I finally got my new awesome counselor and we got the ball moving forward. I simultaneously knocked my psych eval outta the park and failed it horrifically in a couple disturbing ways (that were no surprise to me), so they finally--can we please, seriously, no seriously--scheduled a new neuropsych test to ascertain the damage that all those additional brain traumas had done.
You remember what happened next, right?
I flew to Colorado for that writers' conference I'd won the scholarship to. Afterwards, as I was licking my wounds from finally having to give up on my lifelong dream of being a published writer in any fashion that exists in the current, non-TBI-friendly marketplaces, the Microscopic Badass sucker-punched Colorado just as I flew home from DIA.
Through all of this, my whippin' it out obsession did not wane. In fact, it only grew. Then it mutated like microscopic nasties in a warm petrie dish.
We don't get much in the way of pretty winter out here. We get lots of grey, snow sports are non-existent, and it's too cold for my wussy tastes. Even so, I found myself called outside to shoot photos of the same stuff I'd shot in the summer and through the fall. I'd decided that I required seasonal transitions, dontcha know?
Then the art photography happened. Inside Crystal Bridges Museum and our brandy-spankin' new art-nature-architecture extravaganza, The Momentary (which had to close 2 weeks after its grand opening), there were all sorts of examples of Elemental wonders that couldn't be found outdoors, particularly in the realm of Metal. Snap-snap-snap!
I had super awesome plans of posting these museum outings all over my brandy-spankin' new Instagram. Eh. I shared some. But only a tiny sliver of what I shot.
I kept shooting. I did not understand why.
Now, normally I go to museums and natural places and it's my eyes that are devouring everything--I would say to store in my mind's eye but...well...we know about me and memory. It's all in there. Somewhere. But this was only a slight consideration for why I kept shooting.
I was actually rather appalled at myself at first. I mourn the sea of blue rectangles at live concerts. I am devastated by the sight of people sitting at a table, each/all with their noses buried in their screens. I am heartbroken for the people who would rather film their family trips rather than actively experience it with their family.
But somehow, I had surreptitiously become one of them.
It wasn't a subconscious distancing measure from the person I was with--in fact, mom and I have discovered another mutual passion to bring us closer when we do these things. It wasn't a social media sharing addiction--I was barely sharing, and then I obliterated my Facebook, leaving only my minuscule following on Instagram. I wasn't scrambling to hold onto memories for the future--although this has become an unexpected bonus for my problems in remembering my life.
So what the bleep IS this?! Why do I crave this so badly? I mean, c'mon. How many photos of the redbuds do I really need? Especially when nothing has come close to topping the ones I shot in 2019? That was a bomb explosion of pink-snowball heaven all over those branches.
And the darn dogwoods. Do I reeeeeally need another series of dogwood photos? Mom and I even joked about it this year as we whipped it out to snap-snap-snap!
Granted, this year did bring me an extraordinarily special dogwood shoot: we got a freak snowstorm at the height of Blossomtime. I was on the way home, the snow had stopped, the sun was starting to peek out, and the Muse jabbed me between the eyes.
So I did. Those will be shared when we get to Persephone. Many are on my Insta already if you don't want to wait. @theHartebeastie
It happened again yesterday. I needed some vitamin D and breeze. I needed some green, so I was called to the park as I left the hospital from my latest attempt to finally find a Primary Care Physician who will stop diagnosing me with Hysterical Female Syndrome. (Yeahhhhh, that tooth implant WAS still infected for a year-and-a-half, wasn't it? An oral surgeon, a dentist, a nurse, and two MDs later...) So after my visit to the hospital to establish new primary care--again--I needed some woobie.
I walked. I sighed in relief. I purred. I basked. I halted in my tracks to take super-sniffer inhalations every time I caught a whiff of something yummy. Yesterday there was so much in bloom, emanating SCENT. Green scent. Earthy scent. Floral scent from blossoms I could not see through the mini-jungle around me.
As we discussed in our last photo shoot post, I am the Hummin'bird, nose in every flower. Well, I couldn't get at them while on the trail, but that didn't matter. SNIFFFFFFFFF! Ahhhhhhh... Wave after wave of yum: devoured. Slab after slab of stress: gone.
I got to the river. The black-eyed-susans covered the hillside. BING! That might make a cool shot! Because really? How many bloody photos do I need of this awesome spot in the river? But I'd never viewed it from behind a sea of little golden heads--oooh, and little white heads. Snap-snap!
In case you also need some of the sounds I was craving so desperately but can't get to your own river...this soundtrack is from Bulgaria, from The Silent Watcher:
I spent quite a bit of time at the river yesterday. The sandals came off, the pants got rolled up, and the feet went in. We'd just had another big storm after a particularly lonnnnnng season of storms, so the crews were out with the bulldozers and the concrete blocks in the constant quest to battle back the floods. The uprooted trees were out as well, and that river was freezing! I kept dunking my tootsies in until I got used to it. Then the shirt needed to go. Fortuitously, I happened to be wearing an obnoxious sports bra.
After the lulling soundwaves of river-ripples and my infusion of sunlight, I finally was inspired to walk. As many times as I've been down to that river, I have never actually strolled its banks. I usually come with mom, and her balance is not such that she'd enjoy walking along those rocks, so I took the solo Artist Date opportunity to go exploring.
I was gifted with 1) a little butterfly who seemed as enamored with me as I was with it, 2) a dance show put on by an entire troupe of dragonflies--black wings with electric green bodies, 3) a skating show put on by another troupe--water skimmers, this time, and 4) this little gem.
Now...is this blockhead someone's purposeful idea of snarky art? (If so, I wholeheartedly approve. Hat-tip to Tina for the punniness.) Did someone forget their glasses at the riverside, and someone else generously left them in a conspicuous and entertaining place so they could be more easily found? (If so, I also approve.) Time may tell, if I go back and they have disappeared. Then again, will they migrate, to be found somewhere else along the banks or trails like the painted rocks and other abandoned art my mother and I enjoy transplanting?
I'll get back to you on that one.
So after I had fully glutted myself on the river, I traded spots with a family of four just coming down the path. I hit the main concrete trail that I had taken on the way out because this was a spontaneous trek and I had no knee brace. I haven't been on the mid-height dirt trail with all the fancy bike jumps since I re-tore my meniscus, and I keep meaning to go there purposely with the brace on. I certainly haven't climbed up to the cliffside trail, mostly because I know my knee can't handle coming back down it without a brace, very dry soil, and many prayers.
But as I was about to veer on the concrete trail that would lead me back to the parking lot, a strangely wafting frond caught my eye. BING? It rippled vertically above the rest of the greenery like one of those air-balloon tube-figures that businesses erect to gain the attention of passersby.
Let me assure you, that shit works. I normally ignore them for the car lots and other advertising gimmicks, but when nature waves at me like, "Hey. Hey. Hey. Come check out our tawdry wares. Best on the block, baybeeeee!" I tend to listen.
Me to the Knee: Well? Whatcha think?
Knee to Me: Hmmm...hold please. Scanning. Scanning. Fuck yeah. It's only the mid-grade trail and that grader cleared the ground very nicely on the down-slope. Let's do this shit!
And so we did.
When I rounded the bend in the trail and remembered what's up there, I had to laugh. Nice one, Muse. Nice one.
Happy Pride Month, y'all!!!!
So off I skipped like the FaeCatUniMaid that I am when I'm not in acid-fanged, fire-breathing 'Beastie Mode.
I may have mentioned a few times that Persephone is my patron Goddess...maybe? You know, the Bringer of Blossomtime who is also...THE DESTROYAHHHH.
So natur-ally, along the way back, I got called off into the toolie bushes by the sound of trickling water. BOING?! There's a water feature up here? The Fire Sign is a sucker for a water feature, man. Hey, in Chinese astrology I'm a Water Sign, so I just cannot resist. It's a siren call. Gotta tie me upside down to the mast, otherwise I'll be flitting off on another side path. Why? Because. I am Sag and the Muse Happens.
Cliff overhang. Teensy waterfall. Glorious curtain of green. Awesome pool. Totally worth the deviation. So was the groovy wall with the teensy faerie portal door down near the ground.
So down I head, now fully certain that I have pushed my lack of knee brace as far as I'm willing to go. I had to hop-skip-scramble over a huge fallen log that I wasn't willing to crawl under on the way to the waterfall. It was easier to go over, but that was my limit for pushing the knee. Thanks to the bulldozers and the grader, I had an easy way down to the concrete trail, where I pranced my way back to the parking--
WHOA! Is that wild pea? I actually just wrote about wild pea blossoms in my Persephone novel that I've been sharing over in the Speakeasy. Shweeeeeet. Synchronicity still loves me. Snap-snap-snap!
And then it hit me.
That's what all this obsessive photo-snapping has been about. Because in these adventures of reading three decades of journals so I can write about it, in unearthing half a century of memories, in fitting it all together like a puzzle, in rewiring my brain in EMDR and retrieving even more lost memories...
Especially with what it emotionally, neurologically, and physiologically takes to go back in time like this and paint these memories into scenes...especially-especially the time periods I've been drafting over the past few months...
Meditation is really difficult for me right now. Keeping my mind focused on my breath or on the present moment or on some vision of what I want to manifest for my almighty future or honing in on an injury or health condition and working to heal it with the phenomenal cosmic powaaaah of my mind or...or...or...
I used to do these things so easily in meditation.
But all this Past-Work has given me massive difficulty channeling neurons in the direction of the future and the present. Since Covid, I don't have a packed schedule outside the house, interacting with people, doing activities, driving here and there and everywhere to keep me anchored in the moment. I officially obliterated all my big Dreams & Goals on New Years 2020, so I've been rowing in circles like an asshat, clueless where I truly want to go. At least that keeps me rooted in the present of constantly asking myself how I'd like to be a good Joseph Campbell devotee today. ("Follow your bliss.)
But overall, the past year-and-a-half has only intensified the shedding of both future desires and present connections.
It's good. Some of those connections really needed to be snipped. These journeys into my past have all been very necessary. It's all part of this latest life reboot I've been doing since I moved to Arksanas.
One of my friends described it as cleaning out the closet. "It's always a huge mess before it gets better." YES. Right now I'm in a messy part, for sure. Drafting the stories from that missing nine months in 1992, and the aftermath of it? Messy. Anytime I go back through my journals that were written in the initial recovery after my 2000 car wreck like I did over the holidays? Messy.
But in doing these things, I've recently realized that it's giving me my memories back--AND ALLOWING THEM TO STICK. I've read various chapters of my journals multiple times. Many episodes have notoriously flitted off back into the aether overnight.
For example, I've discovered that I kept a sporadic journal in 1992 multiple times, along with the horrifying realization of important things I'd forgotten. Every time I "rediscover" this tiny journal, I can feel the layer of deja vu like any other memory that has taken multiple rounds to not forget the moment I go to sleep. Huh...I get the distinct feeling that this is not the first time I've read this.
But every time I write one of these posts, and especially after I've edited them enough to publish, something happens. It's no surprise. The information comes into my brain in a completely different format, so it sticks.
This is both good and...genuinely enraging, because there are reasons why my brain decided I didn't need to remember some of this stuff until now.
So in the depths of this Beastly project, my obsessive photo-snapping has become imperative to my sanity.
It keeps me present in the moment.
It brings me to a halt and focuses my attention on something right in front of me, right now.
It encourages me to look at it more closely.
And more closely still.
It keeps me peering into shadows, in search of the beautiful and intriguing.
It encourages me to shift the angle of my perspective.
It whispers to me to look at something from all sides possible.
It delights me when I realize that the initial perspective I had is not the best one for this particular object of intrigue.
Sometimes I can see things more clearly against the shadow than when it was faced into the blinding light.
Other times, I need to gravitate toward the things that are bathed in light rather than covered in the murk.
Sometimes direct sunlight is too much.
Sometimes just a flash of it through the trees offers the most glorious special effects.
It reminds me how to chase what I desire--because I'm a sucker for a sun-flare, too.
It forces me to make micro-adjustments in my attempt to capture the perfect sun-flare between these two balls that are hurtling through space.
It slows me down when everything moves too quickly.
It encourages me to back up...farther...farther still, because I need a wider vantage point to clearly see the full scope.
It keeps me asking questions.
It keeps me curious.
What's behind this thing?
What's inside that hole?
What's over the next ridge?
What is beautiful and interesting about it?
How can I capture this thing that is often considered ugly or scary and find the beauty in it?
How has this thing I've seen so many times changed this season?
It teaches me to enjoy and even seek out the signs of constant change with the passage of time.
It teaches me that, if I don't like this season, wait. It'll change.
It teaches me to let go of what I find beautiful...over and over and over.
It teaches me to capture it right now while it's here.
Most importantly, it teaches me to do the exact same things when I've put the camera down and I'm simply experiencing life.
On the way back, I spied a flash of electric green again, this time against the concrete. I love the shiny beetles we get out here, so naturally I had to peer closer. At first I thought--Huh. That doesn't look right. Dead and partly mangled? We all know how Persephone's Grrrr is about shooting the dead and partly mangled. So I looked closer still.
Then I realized. OH! Do pardon me.
(Didn't stop the voyeur from snapping bug porn.)
Finally, the Muse poked me one last time with another water feature siren call. This is the fountain inside the Veterans' Wall of Honor. ✨🙏✨
All in all, a glorious day of being here. NOW.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE:
--UP NEXT: AN EXPRESSION...A SPEAKING OUT - Mary Wigman & Expressionist Dance
--OR: If you dig these delves into nature, photography & life, you might like THE DAY I STALKED DEATH - With My Camera
--THE NAVIGATION TABLE OF CONTENTS - If You Want To Go Deeper