Category : Nature
The past few days here in Nebraska have been dreary to say the least. So as this Monday descends cold and a tad bleak, I’m seeking a bit of escape. In my mind, I’m transported back to San Sebastián, Spain. I fell madly, deeply in love with San Sebastián. Come take a peek at this enchanting, gorgeous, food mecca by the sea…
Other than my beloved city of Paris, San Sebastián was my favorite place we visited this past summer. It is such an incredibly relaxed and beautiful place, filled with amazing food. And all of that is topped off by its location next to the ocean. As an East Coast girl living in the landlocked Midwest, any place where I can swim in the big blue makes me incredibly happy. I’m already dreaming of a return trip.
What or where are you dreaming of today?
PS–all photos shot on Portra 160 35mm film with the Canon AE-1.
I’ve been swirling for the past few weeks. Most days have felt like a struggle. Getting out of bed has been difficult. Pushing through the day has required inordinate effort. I’ve been looking forward to the end of the day when I can come home, change into my pajamas, and pour a glass of wine, with far too much gleeful anticipation.
I’m having tumultuous dreams and flashback images of my mother. A dear friend’s wife died, bringing up all of the feelings associated with the knowledge that friends my age shouldn’t be dying and that I, too, will die. My tendencies toward existential crisis lie just below the surface, and needless to say, have been spilling over. My self-efficacy regarding writing a memoir, telling my story and telling it well, has been dangerously circling the drain. Oh, and Mercury was in retrograde. I can’t see the forest for the trees.
I have been stuck. In a fragile, emotional, crying-three-times-a-day funk. For a few weeks. But I’m coming out of it. I’m clawing my way to the surface. I have to. I need to see the big picture. I need to remember that life is short and I will die, and to use that knowledge to embrace the life I have rather than retreat from it. I need to remember that revisiting my past opens old doors, and that dreams and flashbacks are part of the process. I need to remember that I’ve never written a memoir before, that this is all new territory for me, and that my self-efficacy will grow as I keep writing.
Yes, I’m shaking the devil off. Casting off the stuck-ness. Starting to glimpse the forest again.
I have so much to share about summer that does not include near-death experiences and losing photos. Where to begin… June brought our annual Tribe retreat and travel to my favorite place on the planet. This year’s gathering, our fourth, brought with it inevitable life circumstances that kept two of our sisters from joining us. Turns out, you can’t plan around arrivals of babies and new jobs. We held these sisters in spirit during our time together, much like we did the year previous when a death in the family kept another sister away from our sacred time. I imagine that this will be how our years together get marked, with the life events, the ebbs and flows, that etch our memories.
As always, we engaged in deep conversations, catching one another up on the big events and the smaller whispers that had transpired since we last gathered. Although we keep in regular contact throughout the year, many parts of our lives — our longings, the risks we’ve taken, the transitions we’ve weathered — need to be shared with one another in person with more time and space to hold our stories. Connecting and being together in this way on retreat is such a gift. And with that, the documenting of our time in photos and video took a backseat.
The only real photography plans I had for the trip was a photo shoot Melissa and I had been scheming — much more on that later. These plans, however, did encourage me to pack along some black and white film to shoot with my Canon AE-1. I adore the look and feel of black and white photography, but had only really shot true B&W film with my Polaroids cameras.
All images shot using Tri-X 400, scanned by Indie Film Lab. As always, you can click on each image to see a larger format.
When I got the email from Indie Film Lab with the subject line, “Your Scans are Ready,” my heart skipped a beat. A few weeks earlier, I had shipped the lab four rolls of film — three from our trip to Spain and France, and one from our trip to Colorado. You know the one from Colorado…that roll of film that was in my camera as I was pulled into the turbulent rapids of the North St. Vrain River. The roll of film that spent 15 minutes under water inside my now-waterlogged camera. The roll of film for which I had slim hopes of the lab being able to process as I expected the emulsion to have either slipped off or to have dried and stuck to itself in the canister. Yeah, that roll of film.
The email didn’t say anything about that roll of film. Despite me contacting the lab ahead of time to tell them what had happened and regardless of my notes on the order itself about the water damage, the message was simply the usual, somewhat automated email from the lab. I held my breath as I downloaded the zip file. Indeed, there were four folders that appeared in the unzipped file, one for each roll of film that I had sent. I quickly determined which folder contained the Colorado roll of film and opened it. And there I discovered 19 scans. Really?! 19 scans? Lest I get too excited just yet, I braced myself for streaky, muddied, images.
To my surprise, as I clicked on each jpeg file, I discovered that Indie Film Lab salvaged these photos! Yes, the images were a bit hazy, a bit “off,” but the photos were there.
I’m so grateful for the work Indie Film Lab did to save this half-shot, damaged roll of film. Not only did they salvage these images, they salvaged my memories from a trip that seemingly got washed away.
Don’t forget that you can click on each image to see a larger version.
Tired. Legs a bit wobbly. Growing ever hotter as the intense Colorado sun beats down on the national park along with everyone and everything in it, including me. This is how I was feeling as Tony and I were in the homestretch of a 14-mile hike last Friday. I was thinking about filling up our CamelBaks at the nearby natural springs and taking some photos of the many hummingbirds in the area as we came into the last mile. Having already passed Calypso Cascades (a waterfall), the North St. Vrain River was rushing down the mountain next to the trail.
Tony jokingly mentioned dipping his head in the river to cool off as he ventured a bit off the trail to get closer to the water. I followed him a few moments later, thinking I would put my hand in to grab a bit of water to throw on my overheated face. As I began to reach down toward the river, I heard Tony’s voice, not registering what he said. The slimmest edge of my left toe, encased in a heavy hiking boot, dipped ever so slightly into the water. In an instant, I felt the slippery surface of the riverbank, and I was gone.
Thrust into the rapids of the rushing river, my feet and legs slipped out from under me as I tried to fight against what was happening. The river’s bottom was too slick and the water too powerful for my legs to find any success. I frantically looked up to search for Tony on the river’s edge only to find him amongst the rapids coming after me. The river was moving so quickly, my brain couldn’t keep up to assimilate what was truly happening. I crashed into rocks, brushed harshly against fallen trees that I desperately attempted to grab on to with no avail. This is what fear feels like.
Then, I was pulled under the water’s surface. My body was tossed about as I gulped in water with an open mouth, caught off guard by this raging river. It felt like slow-motion when I was underwater. Images of Naomi Watts in The Impossible flashed through my mind. I felt like I was in a movie, being pummeled against boulders and debris as I was kept under by the sheer force of the water. I had the fleeting thought that this might be it. This is how I might die. This is what fear feels like.
I surfaced, facing up-river, wildly searching again for Tony and gasping for air. He was close behind, the current moving him directly to me. He yelled to me, urging me to try and grab the fallen trees that we kept rushing by. Again, I tried getting a hold of anything I could to stop this nightmare from unfurling. It was so hard to hold on. Part of a branch would be in my hand for a moment only for it to slip away from me as the river kept pushing me downstream. We began edging ever more closer to the next set of waterfalls. This is what fear feels like.
Next, I feel Tony grab me. I’m still wearing my backpack and my camera across my shoulders, and thankfully, the river has forced Tony closer and closer to me that he is finally able to get me in his grasp by snatching up part of my pack. I hear him repeating, “I’ve got you. I’ve got you. I’ve got you.” The current pushes us farther from the trail edge of the river but that much closer to a downed tree. With his free arm, Tony manages to wrap it around the tree and stop our forward momentum.
I am gulping in air now. I grab on to the tree. My upper torso has actually slammed into the tree. I look searchingly into Tony’s eyes. He tells me over and over, “I’m not gonna let you go. I’m not gonna let you go. I’m not gonna let you go.” And I believe him. I start to think – to feel – that part of the tree, a stray limb, may in fact be embedded in my side. Although we are in some momentary safety, I am keenly aware that we might not be in this spot for very long. The current is still raging, still pushing, still threatening. This is what fear feels like.
Repeating words of my own begin to spill out of my mouth. “Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay.” I say it over and over. Am I pleading with my mind? With the Universe? Or is this just what shock does to the system? I glance down at my arm holding onto the tree branch and I see my hand and my wrist, noticing how pink and red my skin looks. That’s when something registers in my brain. I’m cold. This water that I am submerged in is very cold. We cannot stay in this river for much longer. This is what fear feels like.
While we are remaining fairly steady in our found bit of safety, we are also being shifted about at the whim of the river. I feel a huge rock under me and I try to wedge one of my legs behind it. I’m doing whatever I can to stay put. Hold on to the tree. Keep my leg plastered to this boulder. Do not go downstream. Do not go over Copeland Falls. Tony and I look at each other, and in that flicker of eye contact, I think we realize that we are not getting out of this river on our own.
Tony yells, “HELP!” Right, we need to call for help. Then I start screaming, “HELP!” My back is turned toward the trail, so it is difficult for me to see anything except the river and Tony. I can tell that someone has heard us, that someone has come toward the river and seen that we are in it. I hear Tony tell this person that we need help.
Then, a man quickly appears on the river bank. I turn my head to see what’s going on. I see this man trying to find his footing, precariously edging toward us. He’s looking for another fallen tree to use to help us get out. A few other men join him. There are four of them now. I realize that me turning back toward the trail is making my position in the water more risky. I look back at Tony and keep my eyes fixed on him. He reassures me we’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.
The men have linked themselves together, formed a human chain. The man in front extends the fallen tree he’s found toward us. Tony somehow manages to keep my pack firmly in his grasp, hold the fallen tree we have been clinging to for safety under his other arm, and then grasp the extended tree under the arm that is holding onto me. The four men slowly pull the extended tree toward them, hand-over-hand, pulling us toward them and toward safety. We get to the riverbank and one of the men pulls me out. I take a step forward away from the river and turn to watch the men pull Tony out of the rapids. We’re on land. Out of the current. “Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay.”
I stand on the river’s edge for a few moments. I think I am in shock. I take off my pack. Remove the camera from around my neck. And I still stand there. I look at the men, and I say to them, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…” I burst into tears. We stumble up onto the trail. A mass of people have assembled to watch the scene. I’m outside of myself now. Is this happening? Did this all just really happen?
Two women from two separate groups of hikers start talking to Tony and me. They are urging us to get out of our clothes. They tell us we are shivering and cold. We reply that we are fine, we’re okay. We have no idea how cold we are. They continue to urge. They insist we have to get warm, now. They each have a warming blanket in their packs – those metallic, aluminum foil-type blankets – and they unwrap the blankets and then wrap each of us up.
The four men who pulled us from the river have gone on their way, nameless to us forever. Another man asks if he can walk us to our car. He offers to carry Tony’s pack for him. The Park Ranger arrives, relieved to see us on the trail and not in the river. He gets some information from us, and asks us repeatedly if we have hit our heads, if we think we have broken any bones, and the like. He tells us we are the fifth and sixth people to get swept into the raging water just this week.
We – the Park Ranger, the man with Tony’s pack, one of the “blanket ladies,” Tony, and myself – walk the last mile of our 14-mile hike. At the car, I finally take off my shirts to see that, in fact, I was not impaled on the tree limb. Tony and I both assess our respective bodies, and despite massive bruises, cuts, and scrapes, we have exited this waterlogged nightmare virtually unharmed, all things considered. Our new friends bid us good luck and goodbye. And with our faith restored in humanity and the sheer kindness of strangers, and my decision to spend my life with Tony reinforced yet again, we pulled away from the trailhead.
If you’re curious about this experience through Tony’s eyes, you can read his account HERE.