Growing up in the Bay Area and eventually living and working in San Francisco, you develop an almost unconscious awareness of the nearly 8 million people that inhabit the region, as well as the frenetic urgency and unbridled industriousness that seems to accompany their every movement and breath. And as a woman there is the necessary reality of feeling as if you must always be slightly on your guard, in some state of heightened awareness – just in case. As someone who suffers from overwhelming feelings of anxiety, it becomes so reflexive that it’s only at those moments when I can consciously collect myself, breathe in deeply, and allow myself to relax that I become aware of the tension I’m carrying, of the unceasing knot in my stomach, and attempt to let go of the worries I drag through the day.
In contemporary culture we accept the nature and demands of life in an urban environment, like San Francisco, as an unavoidable cover charge for access to the riches and opportunities held within. But like those conscious moments when you force yourself to relax and shed your daily cares, once out of the city and into a less populated area, one rural, bucolic, open, and even safe, if you stay long enough all that hyper-vigilance begins to recede and is replaced with a nearly overwhelming sense of relief, and perhaps even a bit of astonishment that the landscape, the place where you live, is of nearly unimaginative beauty, a beauty often accompanied by thrilling silence.
My first year in Lake County was taken up almost entirely by intentionally purposeless wandering about the area, just exploring, remarking to myself how quickly we allow ourselves to become deaf and unfeeling to the wonder of the pastoral landscape. On my long excursions, often all day and into the evening, I so frequently experienced such a wave of freedom, and even truancy, that I found myself entertaining memories of summer vacations and holiday weekends, when I would return home with pockets full of rocks and feathers and shells, mementoes of the natural beauty of Northern California, talismans of a childlike awe of the world. Adventures of this sort are so much a part of childhood, and are so quickly, unthinkingly sacrificed to the ordinarity and dreariness of becoming a grown-up. Of course, I am extraordinarily fortunate to have the time and opportunity to indulge strings of days unencumbered by the burden of adulthood. And realizing my great fortune, I invested each outing with even higher than typical expectations and anxious urgency to get out and have fun.
For me, being a photographer, as a mater of reflex I nearly always carry some sort of camera with me, as I did on all of my North Country adventures. As a consequence, I found myself exposing roll after roll of film, taking pictures of any and every thing that caught my eye, and for no particular purpose other than a kind of play. Avoiding the series driven expectations of the fine-art world, I hadn’t any idea what these pictures might be for, other than I knew that I desired photographs through which I might re-experience, as memories, my many quiet walks and arcadian adventures. From the first days I picked up a camera with the conscious intent to be creative, the entire enterprise was about fun, the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that comes from feeling that you’ve made some manner of contribution to the collective store of beauty in the world. And, just as importantly, it allowed me a method of observing my environment and myself and developing an alternate method of expression where my words so often fail me.
As I began to print the negatives I’ve made over the past two years, I did so only for personal benefit, never thinking that the images were serious or that they conformed to expectations that would allow me to consider them My Work. How foolish we can be, how blind to the opportunities in front of us. Later, looking at the stacks of prints I was producing, I was struck by how accurately the images reflected, for me, anyway, the sense of serenity and joy I experienced on so many of my journeys into the orchards, vineyards, woods, and warm waters of a place I now think of as home. Very quickly, I realized that making these photographs, while out having fun and enjoying each day, whether it be 100° and sunny or in nearly freezing rain with Mount Konocti shrouded in clouds, this is my serious work. It’s my manner of generating something personal, overly narrative, and without contrivance.
As an ever evolving passion, I anticipate adding significantly to my store of negatives and prints for years to come. Simultaneously, every day, the work is completed, the goal realized.
Memory. Every memory a story; every story a life. Linguists suggest that every moment experienced must be transformed into a linear narrative, a story we tell ourselves, before it can actually have meaning. Absent meaning, experiences are merely facts, facts which lack the vitality and exuberance of a moment that might otherwise have deep meaning and value. Like a scrapbook or diary, these photographs serve as reminders of what is important. They are mementos, postcards newly delivered each day. They tell me how I’ve been, and how I hope to continue. Certain that wonder remains possible and that celebrations, rituals, and ceremonies retain the power they’ve enjoyed since the first questions about the land were asked, I am now committed to more Free and Easy Wandering.