Happy New Year

Sitting in a friend’s house while she is away in Hawai’i, I looked over by the door and saw this still life sitting there on top of the microwave. A round rock sitting on a dried leaf. It spoke to me in some way. Symbolized something. It reminded me of the self portraits I do for the Self Portrait PhotoClub project – I always seem to make an image of a rock in the middle of something – chaotic grasses, flowing water, and now a leaf. I am the grounded earthiness in the middle of everything. It always feels that way.

So I start out the New Year with a self portrait of sorts, and wonder what this year bring.

And you?

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Selfie Sticks, Unrealistic Expectations, Disruption, And A Baby Bison In A Car

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park

Oh, the crimes against humanity.

I haven’t had the opportunity to travel much lately, but I hear it’s getting rough out there in the world. I don’t even spend enough time over in San Francisco to notice what the tourists are up to these days by way of claiming their space, but I hear that selfie-sticks, and high expectations are a part of the scene.

Another part of the scene seems to be disruption. When I read the news about the Baby Bison that got picked up by the un-named tourists in Yellowstone, I ran a gamut of emotions. Anger at the stupidity of it. Sadness for the needless loss. Feeling remiss in that I haven’t been doing my part in educating my readers about caring for the wonders of the world.

The National Park System has reported that there are more and more people taking extreme chances in nature with their selfie-sticks. Both Mashable and Vice have run multiple reports a few months ago about people actually dying for their extreme selfies.

News has been circulating on social media about people putting a bison calf in their car. The story is true, and its sad conclusion highlights the importance of keeping a safe distance from park wildlife. Here’s the full account:

Last week, visitors were cited for placing a newborn bison calf in their vehicle and transporting it to a park facility because of their misplaced concern for the animal’s welfare. In terms of human safety, this was a dangerous activity because adult animals are very protective of their young and will act aggressively to defend them. In addition, interference by people can cause mothers to reject their offspring. In this case, park rangers tried repeatedly to reunite the newborn bison calf with the herd. These efforts failed. The bison calf was later euthanized because it was abandoned and causing a dangerous situation by continually approaching people and cars along the roadway.

In a recent viral video, a visitor approached within an arm’s length of an adult bison in the Old Faithful area. Another video featured visitors posing for pictures with bison at extremely unsafe and illegal distances. Last year, five visitors were seriously injured when they approached bison too closely. Bison injure more visitors to Yellowstone than any other animal.

Approaching wild animals can drastically affect their well-being and, in this case, their survival. Park regulations require that you stay at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all wildlife (including bison, elk and deer) and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves. Disregarding these regulations can result in fines, injury, and even death. The safety of these animals, as well as human safety, depends on everyone using good judgment and following these simple rules. — National Park Service

I’ve been a photographer for almost forty years. I get selfies. We used to call them self portraits and we made them all the time. It was part of the process of becoming a fine artist. Prior to the development of photography, painters painted self portraits. So, it’s not a new thing – the concept is hundreds of years old. And, it’s an understandable thing that is is becoming more commonplace – as we become a less wordy, more visual world, selfies are our new way of journal keeping.

A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

That may be the case, but a selfie is not worth a life. Expectations and disruption are not worth your footprint on nature. Baby bison, and any baby critters, belong with their mothers, no matter how inclement the weather. Ignorance is not an excuse to disrupt nature. Had that baby bison been left in the wild it would not have been rejected by its herd. Educate yourself before you travel and remember to pack your common sense – especially when out in nature.

Smelling California

Wasn’t somebody working on a scratch and sniff application a while back? This is a post that needs one …

It’s been a long while since I’ve been able to get out of my urban neighborhood. Not for lack of wanting to, or physically being able to, it’s just, you see, I’m rather stuck. The pod needs work. I need bank. All of my friends who go regularly on road trips have agendas. No tagging along … I’m not complaining, I’m just setting the scene.

This week has been a dog sitting week. Not only has it been a dog sitting week, it’s been a high maintenance dog dog sitting week. Luckily, this sit came with a car so I could haul the high maintenance dog to the high maintenance dog park. Then, in a flash, it occurred to me that we could do more than just go to the fenced in dog park.

We haven’t gone incredibly far. But we’ve gotten out of the neighborhood.

Heading for the water …

Low tide has a strong sea smell, even when it’s in the bay. Seaweed on the exposed rocks, sauteeing in the sun. Salt air blowing in through the Golden Gate straight into my face. Thankfully I brought layers – a long sleeved t-shirt, a wool turtleneck sweater, a hoodie, a big scarf. The wind blew with a force that made me look like I had just spent a wad of cash for a blow out at the salon.

The dog and I walked around the marina and when we got to the bay facing side, we stopped, both of us with our faces to the sun, sniffing the wind, eyes closed, my one hand holding the leash, my free hand on my heart. We stood there for quite a long moment, smelling the sea air pounding our faces. I pulled off my sunglasses and let the sun hit my closed eyelids. I felt the light speaking to me, in code. The water, even though the tide is out, felt like it was washing over me, washing away whatever needs to leave my scene.

I am like a sponge, absorbing the energy that the planet has to give.

Heading for the land …

Heading up into the hills was a late afternoon choice. A pre-dinner hike on one of the canyon trails. It’s amazing how quickly, just over the next hill, that the smell of the land changes. Going from either nothing – because I’m so used to it and it doesn’t smell to me anymore – or maybe it smells of cars, sun on concrete and asphalt, and the occasional jasmine bush – to dust and earth and mud and oak trees and those native plants that smell – like the land of California. Minty? Chamomile?

Every step of the hike into the canyon takes me closer to nature, connects me to the land. The air in the trees is cleaner, and the greens, tans, browns, and even the blue of the sky, are intense.

My body calms. I can feel the stress drop away – and I thought I had no real stress to speak of.

Connecting to Nature …

The other day I saw something fly by on the internet , probably something that someone said on twitter … that “We are all connected. We are nature. If you are feeling disconnected from nature, you are really feeling disconnected from yourself.”

At the time I saw that, it gave me pause. In the big scheme of things this is certainly true – we are nature. We are made up of the same stuff. But this week has proven to me that if I take myself out of the trees and off the land, if I disconnect my self from the earth, from the planet, I am withering. It may not seem like it on the surface. But my trips in nature this week rejuvenated me in a way that made me aware of this.

Do you have a smell that you associate with the nature around you, one that when you smell it feels like it is going into every cell of your being, centering you, healing you?