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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


My reentry into my real world is going slowly and easily. Work demands aren't any more than I can handle and I'm behaving like a toad at home. Translation: my duffel bag remains where I placed it when I came home and my jacket still smells beautifully of the campfire smoke. We decided I must be a smoke magnet, for wherever I placed my camp chair, the slight breeze would shift to ensure I got a face full of the gray wispy stuff.

I'm not a photographer, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes this makes me feel a little anxious, as I follow people who are photographers and I'm not anywhere near their standards. I have a little leaning toward competition and I have a strong leaning toward doing things well, so I want to present pictures that are decent. But here's where I've landed: I do some things quite well and some things adequately and some things poorly. And I'm beginning to be OK with that. That is a new attitude for me. The voices in my head (my own is the loudest) scream, "You must do things perfectly!" But I don't have to. The world won't stop if I'm a hack at certain things. My reality won't slam into a block wall if I take on something without needing to grind out every molecule of its essence.

I grew up in a photographer's home. My father is quite accomplished and owned a photography studio for years. I've had a camera pointed at me for all of my life. I know about lenses and filters, f stops and cable releases. I recognize a Rolleiflex when I see one from a distance and I like the smell of chemicals used for developing film (a thing of the past, for the young reader). During my marriage, Ex always handled the camera. He bought me a beautiful Nikon set up that I used a time or two and then it fell to him. There are entire trips to Europe that yielded up not one picture of Ex. He was always behind the camera. And in my most recent years, I have shared life with a fine, truly talented photographer. I've been allowed to be lazy. "Hey, can you capture that over there for me?" I have a good curious mind and I never hesitate to take on new things, so one can only conclude that photography just doesn't grab me in the sense that I yearn to do it. Then there's my attachment to language ~ I prefer to make pictures with my words.

In that spirit, as I work on the side at a longer writing, I will present some "pitchers" I love from my holiday outing. If you want the photographs, and I believe you will, visit Digital Existence.

From our camp, looking toward the dunes, two miles off. There is something I love about that mountain range. My camera equipment and the distance prevent me from capturing it, but those mountains are made from layers of different colors. A small rock was found and presented to me that shows everything going on in those mountains ~ blue, green, magenta and purple.

I do not use the words "I can't." Virtually never. If those words pop out of my face, I immediately say, "That's not what I meant. I meant that I haven't been able to yet." We'd hiked the two easy miles out to the edge of the dunes. We'd traversed several of the individual dunes and circled the base for a mile or two. They undulate and as one hikes on them, one can end up in tricky spots, or challenged by a nearly vertical wall going up or down. He wanted to shoot pictures from the top. We chugged upward and upward. I began to lag. It is one of only a handful of occasions where I have failed to simply follow in his footsteps and arrive at the destination. He hollered over his shoulder, "It's OK, just wait for me there." I did. When he arrived at the peak, I heard "Whoa! Razor's edge here, Les. No place to balance. Sheer drop off." He got his pictures, though his perch was precarious. Yonder comes the Badger, slip sliding away down that last 100 yards I didn't make. Yet.

I am good at puzzles. I had not been a camper long before I was able to identify animal tracks. I am proud to say it was I who figured out that the round paw prints in the sand were cat prints. I was pleased when he exclaimed, "Hey, you're right!" It wasn't so hard, readers. I've been kept by about 50 cats in my life. The big ones have paws similar to the domestic ones. In the photo, you see the cat prints and the bird tracks. They appeared to have been made at the same time. I imagine quite a little drama was played out here in the dunes.

In my ears right now: It's still The Mountain. I recommend it.

Something that charmed me: Cats are scarce in the desert. In all our years in the outdoors, we've only seen their tracks in a handful of locations. We spotted one on the hoof once - only the flanks and back end of it as it loped away from the Jeep trail we rode on. We both tried to make out what we were seeing, because something wasn't right. It wasn't a coyote. Minutes later, the Badger said, "Hey, that has to have been a cat." He was right. It moved that way. This time on the dunes, there were cat tracks in abundance. We followed some of their trails for miles up and down the mounds of sand. There was some evidence that there was at least a pair of them, and possibly a family of three. It made me feel good to think of them and their life in the sun on the dunes. I'm a cat person and a desert person. That's beauty to me.


  1. It sounds like your Solstice celebration was wonderful. So glad for you! I am not a photographer either--I am a picture-taker, and that's ok. I know people who take lovely photographs, but never do anything with them. I prefer to have my imperfect pictures out where I can share and enjoy them. Happy New Year to you! I hope 2010 is full of adventure and learning new things about yourself. :-)

  2. Happy 2010, Doozyanner! So good to see you here today. Yes, it was a most beautiful holiday and I'm still in the reverie, as you can tell. Thank you for your words about picture-taking. I'm truly OK with that. I'm baffled when I observe some bloggers following each other around singing the praises of the "photography" where none exists in my opinion. I vote for "Let's just call it what it is." Care to join me in booting 2009 in the butt? It's been a painful one and I'm truly eager to let another one begin. It's got to be better!

  3. Les - you know how much I love picture-taking. And I'm not very good. I just LOVE it, blurry shots and all. I would love to see more of how you view your world through a literal lens as well as your wonderful writing. 2010 is going to be good, if for no other reason than the numbers seem so even and fair.

  4. Well, I thank you, Kass! Taking pics is a prickly thing for me. I'm a little intimidated by those who have surrounded me, not terribly rabid to chase down photo ops, a little bit lazy and feeling entitled. However, you shall be seeing some more of my very amateur efforts. I'm WITH you re: 2010! Those numbers seem rich and plummy to me ~ heavy velvet draperies with a paisley pattern, a Dutch Masters painting, a Rubenesque nude . . .

    I'm glad I met you in 2009!

  5. les-i understand the photographic intimidation factor! it's tough hanging out with the pros. for me, it has come down to this: shoot what draws you, when you feel drawn. don't judge it, don't force it. fwiw, i can tell you that if photography is a medium for you, it will grow roots. if not, then not.

  6. Again your words - so fattening! "Rich and plummy, heavy velvet draperies with paisley pattern, Rubenesque nude" - this has poetry possibilities written all over it. More. More. I'm glad as well, for all of it!

  7. @ SOMH ~ I'm seriously doubting that I will do anything with it. I've been exposed to it for a lifetime and it hasn't pulled me yet. I have to work VERY hard not to feel derivative, which is something I detest ~ I want to be original, so I'm a little weirded out if anyone else has ever photographed what I'm about to snap at. Puts me at a distinct disadvantage! I believe I will, however, use the camera to quickly capture things that piss me off or make me laugh out loud. I like funny traffic signs and things I see in the streets.

  8. @ Kass ~ OH! Not fattening! Please. The theme of life! Funny, I consider myself VERY poetry challenged, but you just said "poetry possibilities". Hmmm . . . I need to muse on that. Anyway, 2010, even just the look of it, makes me think of something or someone lush, rounded, elegant, a little overstuffed (speaking of fattening).

  9. Man, I wouldn't even know how to use a digital camera. There's on on my cell phone, and I can get a little image on the screen, then I'm not sure what to do. And how do you get the film out? If it's digital, does it even have film? Should I pull out dots?

    I suppose I could always read the manual that came with the phone, but the writing is sooo tiny. I think it has digital print.

  10. @ Kirk ~ Chuckling out loud at you! Although I'm frequently kind of lame about certain kinds of technology, I've been lucky to be surrounded by young men who show me how to do things. Last spring while we watched the Badger riding in a criterium, one of the home dudes taught me how to take video on my BlackBerry. It's pretty funny - one can hear the cyclists approach for awhile, then a split-second blur, then the sound of their leave-taking. Criterium riding is too fast for shitty video devices. Nevertheless, I know how it is done.

    Kirk, one wonders how you'd transport those dots to the developing lab.

    Here's a plug for manuals. I like manuals. I'm old. I want to read about what I've bought and am trying to use. I detest stuff that doesn't come with a manual and requires me to learn its operation in some other way. And did I fail to say, "I'm old."

  11. Oh, I like manuals, too. I just wish the ones that come with cell phones weren't so damn small. Are they small because cell phones are small? In that case, a car manual should need it's own parking space.

  12. @ Kirk ~ For that matter, how about the KEYS on cell phones? I am a small woman with little spider monkey hands, but I feel ham-fisted when I try to use that keyboard. The BlackBerry keyboard is only slightly better.