Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Keep Going

Burrowing Owl
Yeah, I know.  I’ll spare you the details of my existential crisis.  I’ll just say that June was a challenging month, during which I didn’t feel particularly creative.  I neither shot nor traveled much.

This sort of discomfort has a purpose, though.  It urges us to look at the big picture and to consider new perspectives, especially mental ones. After all, when we’re happy, we’re unlikely to be motivated to learn and grow.  We don’t want to change anything.

Paul Andrews proposed the “Analytical Rumination Hypothesis” (I’ll be brief, I promise) which posits that, when we have tough stuff to sort out, we need to focus on these issues while avoiding distracting stimuli and activities.  When we feel lousy we avoid most everything, so everyday slumps have a purpose.  Fascinating stuff, but this perspective doesn’t make these interludes feel more pleasant.

Beer with a view, San Clemente CA
Toward the end of the month, I picked up Austin Kleon’s book, Keep Going. I loved the other two in this sort-of series as well.  They’re a bit like graphic non-fiction and deeply inspirational.  In one of those mind-boggling coincidences, this book is about continuing to be creative when you’re bogged down, with chapter titles like “Every day is groundhog day” (create some daily structure), “When in doubt, tidy up” (procrastinate work with other work), “Build a bliss station” (find places of inspiration and flow), “Forget the noun, do the verb” (don’t waste time on self-labels; just move forward), and my favorite, “Demons hate fresh air” (go outside and move to banish the monsters of self-doubt.)

Looking back, I see that I was doing some of these things instinctively.

Many of you know that my husband and I are enduring the thousand tiny decisions inherent in building a house.  Then there’s the challenge of putting the other house on the market, firing an unprofessional real estate agent, and being unsure whether I’m arriving or departing.  My computer, camera gear, and I now live in Yarnell.  We’re mostly getting mail here and, though we have just 700 square feet, Marco and I are managing to get along. I admire Tiny House People but, in my family, we do better with a bit more space.

So, I’m feeling rather overwhelmed, but there have been precious opportunities to distract myself with other kinds of work.  House d├ęcor decisions are creative.  Sort-of.

I did have a road trip planned mid-month, but instead was laid up with a health issue.  While on involuntary R & R, I started scrolling through my Facebook photo feed and was reminded of the richness and blessings in my life.  I shook myself by my figurative shoulders and felt a bit better; perhaps a bit less sorry for myself. 

San Clemente Pier
Family visits in California are sometimes productive creatively.  Typically, I get up early (while the others sleep) and make photographs.  This year’s Marine Layer (“June Gloom”) was pernicious and there was no sunshine for my entire 5-day visit.  I came home with a few gloomy Black and Whites, but didn’t feel creatively triumphant.  Bike rides and kayaking in Dana Point Harbor were good for my attitude, at least, and the fresh air helped banish the demons.

Dykinga Reception, Etherton Gallery, Tucson
I had a lovely weekend trip to Tucson, spending time with old friends and attending Monsoon Con, which is a day-long event for storm chasers.  I’m not one of those but did enjoy combing through the technical information and learning about weather.  Afterward my friend and I had the pleasure and inspiration of Jack Dykinga’s Grand Canyon Exhibit opening at the Etherton Gallery.  The lovely chat afterward with Jack and Jeff Kida (Photo Editor at Arizona Highways Magazine and my treasured mentor, though he doesn’t much seem to like the designation) was a great inspiration.  The whole weekend seemed like an “Artist Date,” as Julia Cameron encouraged in The Artist’s Way.

Or, perhaps a “bliss station.”

Burrowing Owlets
Last weekend a friend and I had some great fun with a group of burrowing owls in the outskirts of Phoenix.  I’m feeling the first bit of Mojo returning. Wish me luck?

There’s a more (but not much more) in the Summer 2019 Gallery on the website.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Stop and Smell the Cliffroses

Pastels, Marble Canyon Arizona

“Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.”  --Winnie the Pooh

“The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can't save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Three Months.

It had been three months since I’d had actual alone and quiet camping time.

My readers know that I’ve had some photography adventures since then, including the Arizona adventure with our Guatemalan friends, A manic run across southwestern Utah,  a Grand Canyon raft trip,  And the Oregon Coast trek.  I’m not complaining.  I just need a periodic dose of genuine quiet.  A chance to do some “nothing,” as Pooh says.

So, I was off to the north rim of Marble Canyon, which is insulated from crowds by obscurity and sometimes challenging dirt roads.  Many thanks to the Kaibab National Forest for that.  I was ready to practice mindfulness while doing nothing.
California Condor, Navajo Bridge, Arizona
On the way up I stopped at Navajo Bridge.  I’ve had good luck this year seeing California Condors there.  These huge birds are part of a re-introduction and breeding program and once they’re a year or two old, they have number tags on each wing and a radio transmitter.  There was a bird on the bridge and one which passed just a few feet over my head.  This stop was a little different because there was a biologist from The Peregrine Fund there, listening for radio signals.  She was so kind and patient answering questions and holding what amounted to an impromptu interpretive session.  This bit of serendipity set a lovely tone for the trip.  I’ve since made a donation in gratitude.

Deep in the Saddle Mountain Wilderness, in a new favorite spot, I found this while lying on the ground photographing a flower.  Now, I’ve seen old potsherds before in museums and even in more trafficked areas like the Unkar Delta deep in the Grand Canyon.  This was the first time I found one on my own, though.  From the way it was embedded in the soil and tucked under a dead branch I imagine I was the first to touch it in some time.  The thing is, I had a surprisingly strong urge to put the two pieces in my pocket.  Don’t worry; I photographed it and put it back.  Reluctantly.  In addition to the images, I brought away a lovely sense of connection with the woman (because chances are...)  who used it, perhaps to feed her loved ones. When I got back to camp, I posted pictures on Instagram and Facebook.  I learned so much from the feedback of a couple of learned friends, Craig Childs and Larry Lindahl.  This magic piece of history is about 800 years old, Ancestral Puebloan Kayenta Black on White.
There were lots of other thrills, too.  Our wet year here in the southwest continues to give us flowers.  I was at about 6000 feet elevation, so it was a good time for lots of flower species, including cactus, larkspur, yucca, Indian paintbrush, and a proliferation of cliff rose blooms I’ve never seen before.  One of my favorite things about cliffrose is that I smell them before I see them.  So, I stop and smell the Cliffroses.

I find that, traveling alone, wild critters are more comfortable around me. The acrobatic violet-green swallows at the canyon rim buzzed my head and a jackrabbit stopped within a few feet of me and stared.
Backlighted Grass, Marble Canyon Arizona
I’m not so good at identifying grasses, but I will say that I was stirred by their glow with the rising sun behind them.  Another moment.
Watson Lake Sunrise, Prescott Arizona
After a couple of nights at home, and just for the heck of it, I camped at Watson Lake Park, in Prescott shooting and kayaking.  I shoot there a lot, of course, and its less than an hour’s drive from our home in Yarnell.  I thought it might be fun to take lurch out there.  On the way I stopped at AT Overland and brought my questions about Lurch to Martyn there.  I got some good advice, of course.  At one point he asked how aggressive I was off-road.  I told him I thought I was intermediate – I’m not into getting stuck just for the sake of using my recovery gear and skills.  I wrote about this a while back.  I bragged a bit about the Death Valley trip and this one to Marble Canyon.  I had to sheepishly admit, though, that I was on my way to Watson.  Sometimes doing nothing means driving to the campsite on pavement.  Its just as well, I suppose, since my husband had just washed the rig.

Fate had the last word, though, since there was an all-night highway maintenance project going on.  Right next to me.  I did nothing all night long…

More images are on the website, in the Summer 2019 Gallery