Pictures Without Pictures

A post at Rogue Priest’s blog started me thinking about the whole process of picture taking. I’m not fond of taking pictures, but I do it anyway and occasionally enjoy the results. I only take photos for you. Or for family or friends. I take photos specifically to share experiences with others, simply a means to an end, and when I’m done, if I’m lucky, I enjoy them in the same way I’d enjoy any other piece of art. 

I don’t like taking pictures because the action of taking them distracts me from the experience – scenery through a viewfinder or LCD screen never does the real world justice. It’s tiny, and there’s no sense of depth or immersion. Being there, using my own eyes, is what I live for. I don’t know if I’ll remember the scenery perfectly without a picture, but I do know that I will enjoy it more right now if I’m not messing with a camera.

My memories are called up more by feeling and sound than anything else.  I hear that smell is common for this, but my own sense of smell has always been inconsistent and inaccurate. I find taste difficult to recall long-term. Thus, feeling and sound make up my memories and internal photographs. I always share my traditional-style photographs. Today I’ll share my personal-style photographs.

  • Oklahoma’s Potato Hills are the feel of tiny bits of shale sliding away beneath my sneakers; I slide one step backwards for every two steps forward. Tiny pieces of stone tinkle down, down, down the hillside.
  • The Fourche Maline Creek is soggy sneakers slipping over boulders in shallow, cool water.  Tree branches rattle in the wind.
  • Robbers Cave is hearing voices echoing off of boulders and hillsides, knowing they are close even though they sound far away. Feeling that if I were to get lost, I’d probably be found, yet I wouldn’t mind if I stayed “lost”.
  • Standing atop Winding Stair Mountain is arms wide open, sunset wind on my face.
  • The Wichita Mountains feel rough and scratchy – rough rocks, scratchy short-grass prairie.
  • At Blue River, the water trickles a calming sound. I feel peacefully alone in the world.
  • Hiking in the Ouachitas during the summer is the feel of absolute tree-blocked stillness, even though branches whisper overhead. Leaves crunch under foot. Once in a while, a puff of wind breaks through the vegetation to cool me, and I cheer.
  • Alabaster Caverns is cool and moist, a tiny flutter of excitement in my chest.
  • My earliest camping trip memory is a hot breeze through a tent flap with cicadas whirring and my cousin snoring.
  • Road trips from my younger days are windows down, fast wind rushing across my shoulders, my feet, my hands, throat raw from singing into the wind.
  • Christmas is cold cheeks and hot hands when I come in from outside to a hot mug of cocoa or tea.
  • I remember my first date with my husband as laughter, mosquito bites, and falling up into the stars.
  • Costa Rica is spongy moist ground beneath me; Howler monkeys and slurping fungus sound in my ears.
  • Baja California is a sense of slow but constant travel, the brightness of the sun on my eyelids.
  • Ireland is a fine mist and the crash of the Atlantic on rocky cliffs. The most perfect feeling of "a place for everything, and everything in its place" that I've ever had.
  • Alaska is more of a feeling in my chest, an opening, a catching of the breath.
  • New Mexico was also a feeling – a feeling of unending.
  • The Grand Canyon was a feeling of being tiny.
  • Meteor Crater, Arizona? The feeling of being a babe on an ancient earth, spinning through space.

Parting words...
My photograph of Oklahoma itself is the electric, earthy smell of a hard rain (one of my only smell memories), the crack of thunder, the vibration of the thunder in my bones, the sounds of water falling on pavement and pouring out of gutters, cool fat drops of rain plopping onto my skin without chilling me, bare feet in deep warm puddles, a fragrant, wet breeze welcomed through a screen door. I’m sure there are fantastic storms like this in other places, but I’ve only experienced them in my home state, and I love them truly.

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