Rebecca Wilks

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Special Places

Autumn on the Kaibab Plateau

There’s a whole industry in Sedona Arizona around what has come to be called a vortex.  These are said to be places where good energy converges.

I’m not sure what to make of these claims, but I will say that some natural places are inexplicably special to me.  They make me feel relaxed and clear in the head.  These are not necessarily the most beautiful or the places that speak to others.

Santa Cruz Island, ca. 1984
I first noticed the phenomenon in my late teens when I started volunteering on Santa Cruz Island, off Santa Barbara California.  This was before the then owner died and 75% of the island was sold to the Nature Conservancy.  Dr. Stanton allowed the University of California to operate a research station there, and I had the great privilege of doing some science and serving as a jeep driver there during perhaps twenty trips there over as many years.  Later I volunteered a bit for the Conservancy.  In truth, I’d give a lot to get out there again with my camera.  I’m working on it.

Joshua Tree National Park
Since then, there have been other places.  Joshua Tree (then a National Monument) National Park was my playground in Medical School, clearing my head while I exfoliated climbing the rocks there.  I generally photograph when I go there now, but sometimes I just like to soak it in.

Blacktail Canyon
I discovered some really special canyons during my first Grand Canyon raft trip, which I think was 30 or so years ago, and have had the good fortune to return and photograph them recently.  My favorites are Deer Creek and Blacktail canyons.
Buttermilk Creek
 Others include the Kaibab Plateau in autumn and, all the way across the country, a little drainage near my brother’s place in Central New York called Buttermilk Creek.

At the Mine
What brought all of this to mind was a trip last weekend to a friend’s property on a mountaintop in southern Yavapai County.  It’s an old gold mining site.  What a joy to find that there are still vortexes to be discovered.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Stretch

Curves and Reflection, River Mile 213

A raft trip in the Grand Canyon is a particularly intense experience, spawning powerful conversations.  One thought that made the rounds during the trip last week is what my friend and mentor Jerry Dodrill calls Fear vs. Danger.  My take is similar – I think there are two kinds of fear, the kind that we should flee and the kind that we should walk toward. Of course, the one type of fear is useful to help us avoid jumping in front of a moving train and the like.  As for the other kind, it’s the reason that we sometimes say “feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Heleborne Orchid, Matkatamiba Canyon
Everyone comes to the canyon with different skills and experience.  A stretch for me might not be the same as a reach for Jerry, a seasoned rock climber and adventurer.  Likewise, one friend descended into the canyon with essentially no camping experience at all.  For him, simple things like the bathroom arrangements and sleeping out were huge jumps.  That being said he did some genuinely scary stuff down there, much of which was optional.

In WritingDown the River, Linda Ellerbee says, “Our travels are not always the voyages of discovery we say we seek.  Often they are rituals of reassurance.  This was different.  This required one to take physical and emotional chances.”

It seems nearly impossible to be in this place without expanding our boundaries and if we’re paying attention we can generalize the experience to life on the outside.

A different take on sunrise over the Little Colorado River
I broadened my own horizons a bit as well.  Some combination of encouragement and being willing to accept help allowed me to climb on and into things I wouldn’t have attempted otherwise.  Some say that part of aging is a gradual mourning of the loss of physical ability.  It seems that silencing my ego enough to accept help is a big part of doing it gracefully.  I was working on that too.

Unfinished Business; Ancient Granaries at Nankoweap
Photographically I found myself in locations that I’d worked on before.  The challenges for me were finding fresh perspectives on some places while addressing unfinished business in others; another kind of stretch.

More images from the Canyon are on