The theme of renewal had a bunch of potential interpretations. I was determined not to use butterflies or flowers, so I looked for an image of something that makes me feel renewed, and ended up with a place where I found renewal.
This photo still tugs at my emotions with the memory of its beauty, but it’s a bittersweet beauty. I loved Kauai, and hiking the Pihea Trail was a special experience.
But I was hypomanic out of my head. I ended up with an awesome tattoo, but wow, was I a little cranked up. In my memory, everything in Kauai is in Technicolor, at every turn more beautiful than any other place, imbued with an extra intensity that I just can’t explain. It was like the euphoric feeling of falling in love all the time. It makes me sad that I can’t experience Hawaii that way again without endangering my stability.
Another week, another weekly photo challenge, this time on the theme “free spirit.” I looked through my digital shots and actually only found 2 candidates. One features my dog, who certainly fits the description of a free spirit, especially when she’s playing “trail puppy.” But I picked the other photo.
Nothing frees my spirit like a hike in the wilderness (and I do mean wilderness.) The longer the trip, the more I feel freed. For days on end, challenges arise in the moment and are left behind as soon as they are resolved; they don’t weigh me down. I’m free to go wherever the trail may lead me, at my own pace, in my own style. No matter how distressing my everyday life, hitting the trail boosts my spirits by freeing me from myself just enough to relax and revive.
This shot was taken during a week-long 60-mile backpack in the Adirondacks. Mud is simply a matter of fact for most Adirondack trails, so we often wear knee-high gaiters to keep water and mud out of the tops of our boots. Without them, I would have lost my boots many times over to boggy mud pits, like the one that sucked me in to mid-thigh last October.
When I’m hypomanic, or even just in the neighborhood, I become very enthusiastic about new projects. I buy supplies to make X, Y, and/or Z. Sometimes I even start making those things. Often they get left unfinished in a heap somewhere for months at a time, waiting for me to get the making-stuff bug again. The piles of abandoned ambitions glare at me when I start to come down from the high. They gather dust and shuffle about the house when I feel poorly. Eventually I do finish many of them. Eventually.
However, I also get these other obsessive ideas when I’m a little amped up. They tend to last throughout at least one episode, if not longer. Because the idea doesn’t fade away so quickly, it makes me believe that perhaps it’s actually a good idea. I get fascinated with whatever it is – I watch movies about it, comb the Internet to learn more, etc. So far I’ve generally managed to hold off on acting on these impulses because it’s usually something that would take a little more work/money to get into, and in the back of my head, I think of those piles of abandoned projects.
I think that’s how the backpacking thing got started. I quickly got really into it, reading about the Appalachian Trail and lightweight backpacking and researching gear from here to kingdom come. I had an excuse to start buying a little gear, and pretty soon, we were thoroughly outfitted, doing overnight hikes, and planning some long-distance backpacking trips.
Part of my persistence with hiking is that it takes nothing special to do it except planning, patience, and gear. And once I’d invested in the backpacking gear (well over $1K for two people) there was no way I was going to let it just gather dust. Spending money on the current obsession makes me considerably more invested in it, so that’s one of the reasons I don’t always go “all the way” with whatever the flavor of the month may be. Yes, dear readers, commitment makes me skittish, because failing to fulfill it makes me feel horribly guilty.
The last two things that have caught my attention and refused to leave the back of my head are roller skates and ukuleles. Roller derby, more precisely – not just the skates. I used to skate back in the day, mostly inline and ice skating, but just for fun. The recent revival of roller derby makes me want to strap on a pair of skates and knock people over.
It looks like so much fun – but I know it’s a lot of work, the skates and other equipment aren’t cheap, and it’s a serious time commitment to join a team. I can’t help wanting to do it anyway, even though it’s obviously at odds with everything else. So I just go to bouts when I can and enjoy the show, all the while wishing I could be a part of it. Really, though, I don’t need to add that to my plate, and it would be folly to further complicate my life that way.
And then there’s the ukuleles. I don’t know what’s up with that. Lately I keep thinking I should get a ukulele and learn to play it. It’s the perfect traveler’s instrument and I loved the Hawaiian music (and everything else that went with it) when I visited Kauai. Again, however, I know that it’s silly to even think about picking up a ukulele.
A decent instrument isn’t all that cheap (though ukes are cheaper than many) and there’s the matter of practicing. I’m horrible about practicing instruments. I picked up and put down both the piano and clarinet when I was younger. I’ve never liked practicing an instrument. Why would a ukulele be any different? So I look at ukes online and see them played in movies and imagine myself strumming a wee instrument. But I don’t act on it. I have just enough sense to prevent myself from diving into yet another obsession.
At least for now…
There are so very many ways I could spin this week’s photo challenge, with the theme of “wrong.” This image comes with literal and metaphoric interpretations of making the wrong judgment and taking the wrong step, in more than one way.
Let’s start with the obvious. This is what happens when you’re cavorting in a boulder field in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and miscalculate the distance across a deep crevasse. Wrong move. Luckily, the gap wasn’t big, so I fell onto the rock I was trying to cross onto. I could have ended up with broken bones, 4000′ feet and 8 miles up a mountain from medical help, if my miscalculation had been just a little more wrong.
Making that one wrong step left me a little shaken. Within two hours, huge purple bruises had fully formed – they looked yucky, but were minor damage for making a wrong move while hiking in rough terrain. It’s also why I never hike alone, particularly in unfamiliar territory. After making a wrong step on Cadillac Mountain while hiking solo I fell head-over-heels to land precariously on my neck. If I hadn’t been using hiking poles or had slid just a bit further – well, I shudder to think of how that could have gone. Fortunately, I got no more than scrapes that time as well, and at least I learned my lesson.
Less obvious to readers not familiar with mental health issues are the wrongs I’ve done to my body, discussed in detail in my post about self-harm. The scars all over my arm came from razor blades and burning, and although I can easily count a half dozen of them in the image above, the worst ones aren’t visible here. It was a coping mechanism during a very bad time in my life, and I knew even then that it was the wrong thing to do. I just didn’t have a better way to handle the pain. I haven’t hurt myself in many years now, but I see reminders of it every day.
Moral of the story: Some wrongs can never be fully righted and leave scars that may fade, but never disappear entirely. Other wrongs are easily fixed; in a few weeks, the bruises are gone, whether on the arm or the heart. We can’t avoid the occasional wrong step or wrong decision, but sometimes we can learn our lessons and be just a bit more careful with our footing in the future.
When I read this week’s photo challenge theme, movement, I thought, “I have nothing that works for this.”
Wrong. I have about a million photos of moving water – lakes, seashores, rivers, ponds, waterfalls, raindrops, etc. I have photos of the bat colony emerging from beneath the Congress Bridge in Austin, TX; I have photos of fish zooming about in aquariums; I have photos of luau fire dancers; and I have photos of kids playing that I’d never post here. All clear examples of movement.
What I wanted, however, was a shot that had both stillness and movement; movement is hard to appreciate without stillness, particularly in photos. And even with the obvious fire-poking movement going on in the photo, there’s no stillness like twilight on an Adirondack lake.