Me, My Selfie, and I

selfieOn the banks of Fox Creek
(click any photo to enlarge)

After a combination of circumstances and a good bit of cyber-frustration led me to purchase an iPad early in the course of my recent travels, a friend pointed out what she clearly assumed to be a side benefit. “Just think!” she chirped. “Now you can send us selfies while you travel!”

Having known me for years, she should have known — but clearly didn’t — that it hasn’t been the lack of a camera phone or its obnoxious accessories that’s excluded me from the ranks of selfie enthusiasts. I simply lack the inclination. The thought of photographing myself when there’s so much else of interest in the world to record seems faintly ridiculous.

I’ve held that opinion from the beginning of the craze. In May of 2015, during a conversation about vibrantly-colored clothing, Steve Schwartzman referenced an old story about the origin of Ghanaian kente cloth:

Legend has it that Kente was first made by two Akan friends who went hunting in an Asanteman forest and found a spider making its web. The friends stood and watched the spider for two days. Then, they returned home and implemented what they had seen.

I enjoyed the tale, which I hadn’t heard, but I couldn’t help offering a tongue-in-cheek version of my own:

Two hipsters went into the forest to take selfies to impress their friends. They never saw the spider making its web, because they were fixated on their smartphones. When they walked into the web, they tore it down, saying, “Totes gross!”
They looked around to see if they could find the spider, to take its photo, but after a minute they became bored. They returned home, and told people there was nothing to see in the forest.
Meanwhile, the spider returned, and spent two days rebuilding her resplendent, multi-colored web.

At the edge of the Fox Creek riparian corridor, I remembered that exchange, even as I smiled at the opportunity I’d been presented. Interested in tree shadows hovering over the fallen leaves that covered the water, I’d walked over to sit at the bank’s edge while I decided which view might be best. When my own shadow interjected itself into the scene, there was nothing to do but take the photo you see above: the first, and perhaps only, selfie of my life.

In time, a question occurred to me. If the world were to take selfies, what would they look like? How would our world choose to present its natural beauties, or the marks of our presence within it? 

There never will be a firm or right answer to imagination’s questions, of course. Still, as I’ve sorted through my photos, I’ve found a few that seem particularly suited to serve as “selfies for the world.” All are attached to stories yet to be told, yet each stands perfectly well on its own, and each, in its own way, has become a shadow of a greater reality. I hope you enjoy them.

shadow7A prairie is more than grass


shadow1A midwestern answer to the  painted desert…


shadow2…with unpredictable patterns (do you know what it is?)


shadow9The icy shimmer of silver bluestem


shadow3A hazy sunset sequence from the Ouachita mountains…


shadow4…as evening falls…


shadow5…and the shadows deepen


shadow11A few millennia’s worth of nature’s construction


shadow8A few months’ worth of human construction


shadow6Gulf moisture, condensed on gulf muhly in the Ouachita mountains


shadow10An arrow of a sunrise, flying into the heart of a new day

All photos are mine, and can be clicked to enlarge.  Comments always are welcome.

157 thoughts on “Me, My Selfie, and I

  1. Linda! That tic-tac-toe of the Ouachita mountains is stunning! Wow, it’s like a living O’Keefe painting!

    I could all but feel the calm serene mood of your time with Nature; chatty selfie-taking companions would have ruined that mood.

    1. I was a little disappointed in the rain and fog that followed me around Arkansas, but my first night on Rich Mountain,in the Ouachitas, there was just enough clear sky in the late afternoon to get photos of the fire tower. Even after the fog began developing, I was able to get the photos you like, and a few more. The next morning, there was zero visibility until quite late. That’s when I took photos of the gulf muhly.

      In the Arkansas wildlife management areas where I was wandering, or on the back roads of Kansas, things were pretty quiet. I enjoyed it immensely. Even at places like Fox Creek, I met mostly birders, hikers, or biologists — most from other places. It was great fun.

      1. fog can be beautiful and it can be deadly.. if you were driving in that – ugh!

        It’s nice to cross paths with like-minded people… there’s an undercurrent of respect for one another – I see that in the Mindo area a lot with the birders.

        My sister and her husband are going to Ponca Ark tomorrow to see the elk….

    2. On the trip that we’re coming close to finishing up, we could hardly see the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and some other popular places due to the mobs of people taking pictures of each other and themselves.

        1. Did I ever tell you the story of the night guard at an art museum in Kansas City who began painting after spending all those nights with the art? Eventually, he became quite well known, began making a living from his art, and stopped working at the museum. I’ll have to try and remember his name and find his story online.

          1. how great! the only guard stories i’ve heard first hand were from the guards at the museum in bahia de caraquez (Ecuador).. someone brought a skull in over the weekend – unearthed at a farm, so the guards put it in a box on the director’s desk.. they said all kinds of weird things happened over the weekend, mainly electrical, and when ‘management’ arrived on monday, they pointed and said, ‘get that thing out of here!’

            how great that one person/guard/ was able to benefit from all of those hours while guarding and admiring the art!

      1. That’s the experience I had at Thorncrown Chapel. The chapel itself was nice, though not as impressive as I’d imagined. But it was completely overrun with tourists, include busloads from who-knows-where. Even trying to photograph the front of the chapel without a clutch of people at the door was nearly impossible. I was happier in the woods and on the prairies.

        As for Eureka Springs itself, you might have seen my metaphor for the place: a Disney cruise ship run aground on the Arkansas mountains. I did like the replica of the Flatiron Building, simply because of my affection for the original building, but the town generally was too crowded and too commercial for my taste.

          1. There have been occasional WP glitches of late. Some of my comments have landed in others’ spam, and a commenter on this post couldn’t get the site to open. Let’s hope it’s server issues that have been resolved, or some such.

            All is well, indeed. I just had a wonderful conversation with a biologist in Missouri about the prevalence of sumac on the mima mounds at Diamond Grove prairie. What’s not to like about a world where you can get your questions answered by someone who knows what she’s talking about?

  2. I wonder if history will record our love of modern media as a reflection of our self-obsession, a modern day Narcissistic reaction. Beautiful photos, Linda, including the spider web. My thoughts are that the person who had destroyed the spider’s home couldn’t find the spider because she was crawling down his neck to bite him. Nature has her ways… –Curt

    1. I don’t know what history will think, Curt, but some contemporary commentators already have drawn their conclusions. I’ll not attempt to persuade anyone to put down the danged phone, already! — but I will make my own decisions about how to relate to the technology.

      I’m curious — did you think the gulf muhly photo is a spiderweb? It’s actually a very fine, very delicate pink grass that’s been weighed down by the fog condensed on it. I have other photos of it I like even more — they’ll come along one day when I post about the grasses.

      Nature does have her ways: no question about that. I was pleased to be mostly free of mosquitos and fire ants, but Arkansas seemed to have raised a bumper crop of chiggers and spiders this year. I tried signing a non-agression pact with them, but it didn’t work any better than most such treaties.

  3. Such beautiful photographs! Especially love the selfie, I had never thought of it like that! I so love to be on the backroads, all alone, just me and Wylie. The midwest painted desert…awesome.

    1. I still can’t get over that we both posted “painted desert” photos. That brings a smile every time I think of it. I really like the selfie, too. It’s another bit of evidence that there’s always a different, creative way to do something — even though I didn’t plan it, and only really saw it that way after the fact.

      The back roads of your state really are something. I grew up used to the iowa grid pattern. There were a couple of days when I finally just turned around and retraced my route, because I wasn’t at all sure where I would end up — or when. But I never was nervous, or really worried, especially since I learned one of the most important lessons on my last trip to Kansas: keep your gas tank full. It can be a long, long way between Co-ops!

      1. Our backroads are amazing. You are right, always have a full tank of gas!! I have a Jeep that’s jacked up and big tires, when I see a sign that says “Minimum maintenance trace at your own risk” it’s hang on Wylie let go!! I also have a topo map of Kansas and that really helps.
        Your painted desert photo really took me back to some precious memories. Thank you so much for that!!!

        1. I was looking at the originals of those “painted rock” photos this morning, and realized I took them right after visiting Pawnee Rock. That suggests we probably photographed the very same “rocks,” not just the same phenomenon.

          I laughed at your mention of those “travel at your own risk” signs. I have a photo of one of those, and plan to put it to good use.

          1. I had seen other piles of “rocks” around the area, but that one had the most beautiful variations. It seems like it was to the east of Spearville.
            I have lots of stories about minimum maintenance roads that will never make it into print!! Good times 😃

            1. I edited your comment to take out the reference to the photos’ true identity — just in case someone who hasn’t yet seen the pics comes along to see them and wants to guess.

              They should have put one of those signs on the road to Teter Rock.

            2. Thanks for the edit!!!! Wasn’t it amazing to stand at Teter Rock and look out over the beautiful Flint Hills. I was there right after a thunderstorm, the main roads were really muddy, it was actually better in the pasture. There is a great place to eat at Cassoday, at the filling station. She serves daily buffet specials, Friday it’s fried catfish!!!
              Have a wonderful day!

  4. Enjoyed your hipster version of the story. I see people that are very skilled at making selfies, I am not. I don’t even try anymore.

    1. I miss a lot of the selfie culture, since I’m not on Facebook or Instagram. I don’t think it’s the end of the civilized world as we know it, but it does seem a little silly to me — and sometimes a little sad. I know people who sometimes take and post multiple selfies in a day. I wonder what kind of response they’re hoping for.

    1. That’s such a great photo, GP. I suppose everyone likes to think their generation is the first to come up with one idea or another, but there are surprises lurking out there. It is fun to explore new technologies, just to see what they can do — I’m rather fond of my digital camera and my computer, for example — but as Humpty-Dumpty said, the question is, who is to be master.

  5. I see several paintings in these photos. They evoke a sense of peacefulness, much as a good nature painting does. I laughed at the spider web tale. We miss a lot while in the process of taking a selfie. I’m glad you steered away from that and got the good stuff.

    1. That’s a high compliment, Kayti — that you should see paintings in some of these. I was astonished by the color changes in the sunset photos. They aren’t retouched, and I can’t figure out why they came out so differently. I suppose the angle of the light and the decreasing ceiling/increasing fog made the difference, but I can’t explain it scientifically. It was enough just to discover them in my files.

      One thing that bemused me on this trip was the number of times people asked me to take photos of them. Apparently there’s still something “better” about having a photo that shows the totality of a person, or people. It was so funny. Couples and whole families would line up in front of the attraction at hand, as solemn and stiff as Victorians. I felt like Solomon Butcher.

    1. That’s a nice photo, isn’t it? While at Matfield Station, my neighbor and I drank coffee and watched the sun come up from the front porch every morning. I took a photo of each sunrise, but on that day I took another one a little later, once the sun was up, and I really liked it. Someone suggested the contrails probably were caused by Air Force jets out of McConnell in Wichita, just to our southwest.

  6. Greetings, Linda. I love your photos – and I really don’t think the selfie qualifies as a real one – it’s not properly narcissistic, merely a fleeting shadow!. I share your bemusement at the whole idea.

    1. I saw your own recent shadow photo with the whale’s jawbone, Anne, and just smiled to think that we both were engaged in such creativity. I suppose shadow photos have been around as long as cameras, but being surprised by such an opportunity always is fun.

      And of course the experience made me think of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s poem about the child and its shadow. There’s wisdom there that accords with your recent post — getting separated from our shadow isn’t always the best thing in the world.

        1. I did see it on Twitter. I’m not on Facebook, though, and have no intention of joining, for a variety of reasons. Still, twitter’s helpful for keeping up, and sometimes quite amusing in its own right.

          1. Yes, you are probably quite right to be cautious, as indeed I am …but I have found it invaluable especially for professional networking – and for interesting articles, eg via The NewYorker, which I’d otherwise not see.

  7. I love all of your photos, Linda, and the one above of the first possible selfie shared by one of your readers. That is so cool!

    I do not get the attraction of taking selfies. It’s like people want bragging rights and proof that they were actually at certain places instead of taking the time to actually appreciate the experience.

    I don’t like taking pictures with my iphone. I always manage to get my thumb in too many shots.

    1. I was asked by several people to take photos of them with their iphones, and I had to have tutorials, since I never had done it. Nearly every one of them cautioned me not to get my fingers in the photo. I hope I didn’t.

      It is interesting that just taking the selfie doesn’t seem to be enough. It’s the posting on Facebook or Instagram or whatever that seems to be a necessary part of the ritual. Of course we like to share experiences with others — after all, I have photos right here in this blog — but there’s a qualitative difference between the selfie and other sorts of photo-sharing that I can’t quite put my finger on. There’s something about it that resembles having a photo taken with a celebrity — as though the person having the photo taken gets dusted with magic from the rich, powerful, or famous celeb.

    1. The natural world is so glorious. Even a passing glance can suggest that, but taking the time to truly see what’s in front of us is even better. In a way, the world’s always casting a shadow across our lives. Photos help to preserve those moments, but if we’re deeply enough touched, we don’t even need the photos.

  8. I do admit to having taken selfies, specially when the blogging world arrived. It was part of the contract to feature my face together with a short biography. The horror of the pass-port photo still haunts as does the picture on my driver’s license.

    If one could guess on which nation is most likely to use the selfie, I hazard Japanese, closely followed by Germans. Mind you, even Rembrandt succumbed to the lure.

    I thought your photo of the icy shimmer on bluestem to be something I could look at forever. Beautifully said.

    1. I don’t think you need to “admit” to taking selfies, Gerard. It’s not precisely a crime — certainly not like the dastardly actions of the person who took your plants and pots. I suspect that, one day, the attraction will fade, although it’s going to take longer than it took for PokemonGo to disappear.

      Now that you mention it, one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that driver’s license photos are the worst. Perhaps it’s having to wait in lines that makes everyone grumpy. Passports aren’t such a problem, since we can provide the photos ourselves.

      I thought this listing of the top selfie-taking cities was interesting. Auckland made the top 100, but there’s not an Australian city there. You can mouse over the dots for the various cities and see how places like Sydney stack up. I was amused to see that, in Texas, Austin is far more active than Houston, San Antonio, or Dallas/Ft.Worth. I suppose that makes sense, because it’s a city filled with younger people: not only students, but tech sorts.

      I’m glad you like the bluestem. It’s an interesting grass. Look at it with the sun shining on it, and it’s rather pedestrian. With backlighting, it’s beautiful.

  9. I started the selfie game with everyone else but like you I lost the inclination to continue. I love nature as well and can resonate with this. Lovely pictures. Well done

    1. Social media certainly has increased the speed with which new fads are adopted, as well as the speed with which they can disappear. I suspect most of us have tried and then passed on one or more of the new media opportunities, as I did with Facebook and LinkedIn. The good news, of course, is that we have the power to pick and choose what works best for us.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for commenting. I’m glad you found the photos enjoyable, too.

      1. Yes we do have the power to choose but most of the time we are not aware of this power. I was aware that’s why I choose finally not to be a selfie drunk but how many of us are aware? O well I’m grateful for the post and the opportunity. I’ll definitely keep following posts from here.

    1. I’m not surprised, Tina. You take such obvious pleasure in your garden and its creatures, and are so skilled at sharing them, it seems to me that it would be hard even to find the time for much selfie-ness.

      I was grateful to have one evening with the mountains. I was at either the Queen Wilhemina Lodge or at a B&B in Mena for three nights and four days, and the night I arrived was the only one that allowed any view of the valleys.

      On the other hand, there’s always something. The same evening I took these photos, I was wandering a grassy area near the edge of some woods, and found the strangest plant. It turned out to be cutleaf grapefern, which I’d never heard of. (That’s not surprising, since it’s more common in the north and east. The USDA map shows it in Texas, but in only a few eastern counties.) It was an interesting find, and really added to the sense of being in a “different” place.

  10. Obviously, you made good use of the IPad. Nice. Thanks for all of them. I love those mountains in Oklahoma. In 1962, I first started traveling the road between Kansas and Texas. The mountains were always my favorite, even during the agonizingly slow twisting drive down to Turner Falls (now a side road off the Interstate) and up the twisting other side, usually behind very large trucks. But beautiful. I only have the shots in my head, unfortunately. J.

    1. Actually, I used my trusty Canon for the photos, but I certainly appreciated having the iPad for keeping up with email and blog comments. I will admit that it was nice having it when a very serious accident kept me stopped in traffic on highway 50 outside Strong City for two hours. It’s a great tool to have in the toolbox.

      Thanks for mentioning Turner Falls. I had no idea, even though I’ve been to Purcell, Paul’s Valley, and other smaller towns in the area. I usually skirt the eastern side of Oklahoma when I head to KCMO, crossing into the state at Paris, Texas, and taking the Indian Nation Turnpike. I’ve been planning a trip back to Paris “some day,” and when I finally do it, I’ll be sure to include the falls.

      Aren’t we lucky that our minds can record images, as well as our cameras?

  11. All of our seeing, it seems, is mediated by some interest or other. Selfies speak about a particular kind of interest, and worldies of another. I do like your parable, as it illustrates that one kind of seeing precludes other kinds of seeing.

    1. Can it be that we’ve just invented a word? “Worldies” is so perfect — thanks for adding that to the lexicon.

      On one level, it seems to me that the selfie-taker is concerned with the same issue that engages every photographer (or painter, or writer). We decide where the focus will be, and that decision influences the final result. If a flower is growing out of a garbage heap, will we focus on the flower, the heap, or both?

      What makes selfies so generally boring is that the focus always is the same: the self. The context generally is irrelevant, except in a “Look at me — I’m so cool, standing in this important place” sort of way.

      Beyond that, I’ve discovered there are sites devoted to selfie-taking techniques: how to pout, how to toss the hair, how to look distant or approachable. No wonder so many of the images look similar. It reminds me of our junior high obsession with fitting in by dressing just like everyone else.

    1. I’m glad you like them, Robert. I suspect one reason many people think prairies are boring is that they’re “just grass.” When I started prowling around on this trip, I discovered that a single patch of prairie could contain as many as a dozen kinds of grass. I didn’t know most of them, but now I know more than I did. That’s cool, too.

  12. I’m with you about the selfie photos. I don’t want to do it. A few years ago we were on a bus in Ireland. In the seat in front of us was a young woman with her phone in hand. I noticed the screens full of thumbnail photos. They all had her in them as selfies. Then, she proceeded to pose and preen and do many more while we watched. It was so hard not to burst out laughing at her. We still get a good chuckle out that memory.

    Thank you for the great shots of selfie-Earth. Why spoil them by putting humans in the scene?

    1. If the reports on Mashable are to be believed, for only $600 you can get yourself a 16 megapixel drone camera that will hover, follow, record hours of video, and make your selfie stick entirely unnecessary. Just think — soon it won’t just be phones in the hands of people, but fleets of their drones hovering around places like St. Paul’s and the Grand Canyon.

      It might be unfair to suggest that years of raising children who believe they’re the center of the universe has contributed to all this, but the thought does cross my mind from time to time.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. There’s so much to see, and so much of it is of extraordinary beauty. It was great fun to have time to poke around a bit.

      1. With a drone like that, one need not leave the confines of the house. Stay dressed in PJs or whatever. Drones do offer some incredible views of sights that would be impossible otherwise.

        Google Streetview has recorded many places. When we plan a vacation, trip, or hike, we check to see what it looks like via Streetview. That is helpful. It doesn’t take the place of visiting.

  13. Beautiful photos. I can’t say I haven’t taken selfies in the past, but I never liked them, they don’t look like me to me. Much prefer taking photos of family, places I like, and mother nature.

    1. I always laugh at a friend who hates all photos of herself. She says they either don’t look like her, or they do. What a conundrum!

      Like you, I enjoy taking photos of special places, and the natural world. I think it’s quite a challenge to capture the spirit of a place in a photo, but it can be done. I hope to become better at it.

    1. It’s funny about those mountains. At first I was disappointed that conditions weren’t going to allow the sort of travel-brochure photos I’d been hoping for, but in the end, I’m even more fond of these.

      It makes me laugh to remember what was going on around me when I took them — there was a Miata road rally that had stopped at the same overlook, and believe me: there wasn’t much that was serene about that crew. But they were having a good time, and so was I.

  14. Linda, the photos are great- even the selfie. I like the bluestem the best followed by the sunset series. Brilliant and beautiful.

    I have never done a selfie and do not intend to take my pic from a pad or a phone. It is all so boring. I see selfies all the time on FB. I’m on FB but mostly to see the animal stuff which is very good.

    You really did have a great trip. I look forward to your words and the pictures that you glean from your travels.

    1. Actually, I especially like the “selfie.” It’s like a little joke, since all the usual qualities of a selfie are missing.

      Your comment about the boredom that can set in reminded me of people here who’ve taken to calling Facebook “Fishbook.” So many fishermen take multiple photos of their catch and post them to Facebook that people have started saying, “Enough, already.” A photo of a nice, trophy fish is good. Fifty photos of stringers of trout? Not so much.

      Speaking of animals, I saw white squirrels in Eureka Springs. They aren’t albino, but the result of some circus squirrels escaping (c. early 1900s) and mixing with the local population. I saw one pure white one, but only got photos of a mixed one, that was calico-like on its body, with a pure white tail.

  15. Hello, Linda; Loved this post and the photos are just stunning! I bought an iPad during the past year, too, and it had never occurred to me to use it to take a selfie… even after I had been trying to figure out the video mode to catch a short clip of my cat being silly, and as I held the iPad in front of me and heard what sounded like a deck of cards being shuffled, it slowly dawned on me that I had somehow turned on the backwards camera and my thumb was on the shutter and I was now taking about a gazillion identical selfies, that also featured a particularly interesting view of my ceiling.

    A few days later, I suddenly had an epiphany: “Hey! That must be how people take pictures of themselves!” Yup. That’s how clueless I was about the whole fad. I hope all is well with you. ~ Beth

    1. I learned exactly the same lesson, Beth. Every time I get a new bit of technology, I feel like a cave woman who’s just seen fire for the first time. I always wonder, “How do I make this thing ‘go’?” I managed to get a couple of photos of myself with the iPad before I figured out I was taking pictures. One of these days, I’ll spend some time with the thing and figure out how to get them off.

      Your ceiling photos remind me of all the photos of sidewalks and dirt I got with my new camera before I sorted out what all those buttons were for. That’s all right. I remember the days of film, and I don’t have any desire to go back.

      Now that we’re through yet another hurricane season, life’s good. I was surprised to see how many migratory birds were here when I got home. With luck, some cold weather will follow them — eventually.

    1. Earth’s selfies: isn’t that great? It didn’t occur to me until I had the post nearly finished. it made a great hook.

      I did have a good time, and I learned a lot. It was fun to find a few plants I’d never imagined, let alone seen (cutleaf grapefern comes to mind), and adding a little geology into the mix was great, too. As a matter of fact, a last-minute decision to head to far west Kansas was one of the best I made.

    1. Thanks, Deb. I’m glad you liked the photos, and the off-handed comments about the selfies. I’m not about to get all exercised about the practice, but I can’t find a single good reason to participate, either.

  16. Another way of saying it was done by Ed Abbey in Desert Solitaire:

    “In the first place you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll see something, maybe.”


    1. That’s just perfect, and it’s going to find its way into another post I have planned. Substitute limestone for sandstone, add a faceplant to the crawling and some bruises to the blood, and you’ve got it. Even at the time, it was fairly amusing, but it would have been nice to have Abbey’s words to contemplate in recovery.

      I didn’t know “Desert Solitaire,” but I just read this review, and ordered the book. Thanks for bringing by the quotation.

      1. Now that I think of it, I believe I have met Abbey elsewhere, through some other quotations. At the time, I dismissed him as judgmental and cantankerous. I suspect that’s on target, but after this trip I’m more intrigued by his views and more willing to explore them. Cantankerous curmudgeons can be fun.

    1. That’s exactly what it is. There’s a section of Kansas where stone fences and buildings abound: all that rock taken out of the fields had to go somewhere. There has been a movement to restore many of the historical rock fences. There will be photos.

  17. I’ve done a selfie or two , such as this one (not done with a phone…actually years before phones) which yours remind me of, basically for my blog “About” page or for profile shots on Facebook. OTOH, it just amazes me the number of them some folks do…often on an hourly or even minute by minute basis. We’ve become a very self-absorbed society (of course not all of us, but collectively).

    Despite your protestations elsewhere, and we have only seen a small sampling so far, I think you are capturing some very nice images, Linda. I especially enjoyed your Ouachita sunset series and the colorful abstracts which I would guess to be some sort of sandstone but they seem too bright and saturated for that.

    1. That’s a great shadow-photo. I suppose they’re more common than I’ve realized, but sometimes it’s more fun to discover something than to set out to achieve it.

      I just mentioned to Steve S., up above, that one of the amazements and frustrations of being at Thorncrown Chapel was the number of people there. Most of them under the age of 60 or so were engaged in serial selfie-taking, and it was amazing to see. I watched one young woman for nearly ten minutes. She must have taken a hundred selfies, and maybe more. I thought about asking her what she was trying to achieve, but decided against it.

      When I got home, my suspicion about the inadequacy of my laptop screen for photo viewing was confirmed. I have more acceptable photos than I’d thought: always good. I also have some that are worse than I’d realized: also good, since it helps to accelerate the learning process.

      As for those colorful abstracts: not sandstone. If I’d posted fuller views, they would have been easier to guess, but not necessarily. When I saw the reality from the road, my own first guess was wrong. It took stopping and asking, and even after I knew, it nearly was unbelievable. Some of my favorite (and best) photos are of that “stuff”!

      1. This is what I originally wanted to share with you for a remark about selfies. It took a bit of searching through my Facebook posts to find it. I am posting the image so others can see it, but I know you often change it to a linked phrase and go ahead if you’d rather have it that way.

        1. That’s funny. When I first saw it, I had two thoughts simultaneously: “That’s funny,” and “If only.” I suppose the second isn’t very charitable, but it amused me, too.

            1. Of course, most people don’t go over the edge quite so literally, but it did occur to me that such a focus on self can cut people off from life just as completely.

    1. Thanks so much, Sol. Plenty of people think the American midwest is boring, but I can’t imagine any place in the world is boring, if only we take the time to explore it. For example: how about a gallery of potholes?

            1. Oh, fiddlesticks (as Grandma would say). The media needs to fill time and get clicks, while the adrenalin junkies need to find ways to get their next fix. I’ll check in tonight, after the polls start closing. I’m more interested in the vote count than the polling numbers.

              Now — off to find those potholes!

    1. Thanks, Rethy. Sometimes art and life do blur their boundaries, don’t they? I’ve heard photography described as “painting with light.” It certainly seems to apply with those mountain photos.

    1. Just a tiny quibble, here. As far as I know, Mother Earth has one satellite, and it’s not taking any photos (that we know of.) We’re the vain ones, and those other, photo-taking satellites are all our doing. For all we know, Earth may be flat tired of trying to look good for our photos. If arranging hair is a pain, just think of trying to rearrange all those rivers, or untangle the jungle!

      Still, that’s a great extension of the metaphor. I’d never thought of just how many images per day we’re collecting. That’s a little breathtaking all on its own.

        1. Nope. I’m not going to accept that. Humanity isn’t an infestation — we’re part of the world, too. We just need to learn to play our part with more grace and responsibility.

          1. I was thinking of some of the photographs I’d seen that were sent back from the International Space Station… It’s just so very frustrating when you are trying your utmost to do the right thing – as you’ve been taught since birth – when so many others… Are NOT! The tide may be turning but, especially right now; I am sore afraid that we have been too ignorant, too slow, too egregious for too long…

            1. I think that part of the problem is irrational fear-mongering that’s too easily dismissed. It’s the old straw man fallacy, writ large. I heard a millenial say the other day, with great bitterness, that he resented knowing that the earth would be destroyed before he turned sixty. When pressed, he said that the computer models proved it.

              Anyone who’s tried depending on models during hurricane season knows where the fallacies lie there. We need to find better ways to communicate with people, particularly since people paralyzed with fear often are incapable of any action.

    1. And they are moments in time. Nature is such a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t sort of reality. The light changes, the dew dries, the wind shifts — and what was there, suddenly isn’t. Learning to live with that, to be ready for it, may be nearly as important as technical skill. At least, it surely is important.

      Thanks for those kind words about the photos. I’m glad you like them.

          1. As I said earlier, selfies are not my thing, and I still can’t catch everything satisfactorily with my iPhone, but it is so wonderful to not have to say, “Gee, I WISH I’d had my camera with me!”

  18. Linda, these are spectacular, and I do hope you’ll come back with the story behind each of them. I got quite a kick out of your story about the spider and the selfies — you’re absolutely right, of course, and your stellar photos are proof!

    It doesn’t seem to matter where I go these days — there’s always somebody taking a selfie. I can’t help but pity them. Sure, they’re recording for posterity that they lived, but did they actually SEE anything or DO anything? And the couples who go out to dinner yet never speak, favoring to check their phones instead — well, they just puzzle me. Our world has so much beauty all around — pity it’s not more appreciated!

    1. The sociologists and psychologists have had enough to say about some of our modern phenomena that I don’t really need to add anything. But I will say that the disconnectedness I see among the texters, selfie-takers, and garden-variety phone-starers seems to be increasing. I’ve witnessed those couples and families in restaurants, with not a word to say to one another, and it’s just sad.

      Of course the fuller stories will come for each of the photos. Think of them as teases. I’m surprised you didn’t jump all over the two abstracts of the so-called “painted desert.” I was sure you’d know what those are. Take another look!

        1. No, not Nebraska. I’d pondered heading up there, since my maternal grandfather and his family lived in western Nebraska for a time, but time was what I lacked. You’d think that three weeks would be enough, but it certainly wasn’t. It was a long enough period to travel, but not long enough to explore everything I wanted to explore. Time to go back to work, and save more money to do it again.

          As for identifying the photos — you’re going to laugh and laugh when the truth comes out, since what they represent is part of your world, too. (Now, there’s a clue! If you figure it out, send me a DM on Twitter, so others who come along can keep guessing.)

          1. I can totally see where three weeks wouldn’t be enough. Now you’ve got me puzzled completely — I have no idea what these photos represent. Don’t leave me hanging in the dark, ok? DM me on Twitter and put me out of my confusion!!

    1. Of course it is. Every good story touches reality at some point, and that reality is all around us. We might as well laugh at it, because it’s not going away any time soon.

  19. Lovely; one good thing about switching on my computer again is coming here and finding a set of wonderful photos and your take on a selection of subjects.
    As always.

    I have taken a grand total of two selfies for particular reasons, taking them indiscriminately is just silly. Hardly worth getting irritated over. I don’t actually see them when people post them. But shadow selfies is another matter altogether. I was taking some shots of Millie in bright sunshine and I appeared in every picture, until I shot her from behind a tree trunk. Your shadow in a river, or across a sward of grass can add to the intimacy of a shot.

    I did not know the ‘painted desert’ until I read some of the comments where it is mentioned. Spectacular! The dry stone wall put me in mind of many field walls in this country, my own county of Shropshire included. I even have some meters of it as part of my own garden fence.

    1. Ah, ha! Another one fooled by the “painted desert.” There’s no geology involved with those two colorful photos, Friko, but the full view photos are just as impressive as a painted desert. I may have to bump that post up a bit, just because I was amazed to witness the full reality. Besides, the photos are pretty good.

      The historic stone walls in Kansas are being restored, and many of the historic stone buildings are being preserved. I visited one gravesite that I found three years ago, and discovered they’re in the process of surrounding it with a traditional wall, too. I stopped and watched some workers at one wall, and it was fascinating to watch them judging and placing the stones without any need for measuring.

      I like your comment about shadows adding intimacy to a photo. I hadn’t thought about it, but there’s a sense in which the trees and I are equals in that top photo: something that doesn’t always happen. With a shadow, the human form doesn’t seem intrusive.

      1. Ah, I did just find my comment and your reply. I have recently found that several of my favourite blogs stubbornly remain closed to my attempts at connecting with them. I am glad to see that that is no longer true for you and your marvellous postings.

        1. It’s interesting that two blogs where I regularly comment have been finding my comments in spam: and both are in England. I can’t imagine that’s a real issue (a clogged trans-Atlantic cable, perhaps?)
          but it is true that the Blogger/WordPress connection sometimes is a problem. In any case, you found your comment and my reply, and that’s what counts.

          It’s always good when at least one of life’s little complexities resolves itself!

    1. I did ponder whether selfies might have been a good solution when my mother still was alive and spent most of her time wondering if I still were alive when I was traveling. Unfortunately, selfie-sharing is (almost entirely?) a cyber-activity, so even if I took a selfie for Mom, there would have been no way for her to receive it.

      Better to take photos like these, and share them later. I’m glad you enjoyed them.

  20. I love, love, love your question — if the world were to take selfies, what would they be? Well, I think they would look an awful lot like these beautiful images. I especially love the various versions of the mountains. How do they do that, looking like a wonderful stratified blanket? And the rock. You captured them exquisitely. Bravo!

    1. I thought the rocks rocked, too. I’m glad you like them. You’ll be amazed when you see the really big rocks that the abstract of nature’s construction represents. I had no idea that such things exist in Kansas. Of course, I saw a lot on this trip that surprised me — which always adds to the pleasure of travel.

      Remember when I asked if I could use your photos of the padlocks in Paris? I still have them, and I haven’t forgotten. Now that it’s suspicions confirmed time, I’ll be writing the post that includes them — and some Kansas padlocks, too.

      1. Sure. I have to admit that after all the brouhaha about bridges falling down and what a bad thing this is to do, that I did it. Sort of. It seemed to be the thing to do at the time and our friend who lives in Paris actually bought the lock and told us to do it! But I do understand the controversy. Feel free — looking forward to your locks, too!

  21. A superb gallery of images, Linda. I had to laugh at the hipsters – what a clever re-working of the original. I’ve taken the occasional selfie shadow – but how can you can hold a camera and take a selfie without looking as if you are ‘one-armed’ or have an arm at a ridiculous angle. They are not for me either.

    1. That one-armed awkwardness is exactly what I was able to avoid here by hiding the camera within my own shadow. I think that’s why I never thought of the image as a selfie, in the traditional sense. I just thought it was a neat way to capture a beautiful time at the prairie bottoms.

      As for the selfie story, that’s one good reason to listen to the conversations going on around us. We can draw on them for parody when the need arises!

  22. Welcome to the world of selfies now that you have submitted to this most bizarre trend. Well, I don’t necessarily think that selfies are bad, but it’s just the amount of them that strikes me as out of place. When I taught my workshop in Prague last month, all the thousands of tourists roaming the city’s street—in particular those from China—did nothing but taking selfies, in front of every monument and sight. Really bizarre.

    I do like your take on the spider-story. It’s a great illustration of today’s self obsessiveness in which we lose contact with anything else. Finally, your photos are gorgeous. There is a flair and a beauty about them that transcends that inherent greatness of Mother Nature.

    1. I could just as easily have titled this “The Accidental Selfie.” But I’ve loved the title I chose since I thought of it so long ago, and it seemed a shame to waste it.

      I, too, think there are times and places where selfies are just fine — just as camera phone photos are perfectly fine when carrying a different sort of camera isn’t convenient, or a little experimentation sounds like fun. It’s the obsessive selfie-taking that’s so mysterious to me and, depending on my mood, a possible sign of impending cultural doom.

      “Flair” is a wonderful, wonderful word to find in a compliment. Thank you. Interestingly, the one of the raindrops on the gulf muhly grass is an example of that “going small” I mentioned. That morning, there was zero visibility, and no chance even for mysterious-tree-in-fog sorts of photos. So, I decided to get out the macro lens, and see what I could do with subjects that were only a foot away. I was pleased with the result.

    1. Thank you so much. When I look at the photos I took in Kansas three years ago and compare them to these, I can see the improvement, and that makes me happy. It’s always nice to be able to present a place to people in a way that helps them appreciate it — as you know!

      Many thanks for visiting, and for your comment. You’re always welcome here. ~ Linda

  23. Your photos of the earth and its wonders are beautiful, Linda. Selfies; I have had a few (regretfully), too few to mention. I don’t care to impose my features on the world, as mine are nothing to write home about. But, and I have said this before either here or on another blog, I think humans have imposed images of themselves on many surfaces since they figured out how to leave their mark on cave walls etc. The only thing which has changed is the technology they use to make their mark. And some people are very much better at selfies than others~ fortunately.

    1. I was going to wonder if Old Blue Eyes ever took a selfie, and then I realized that he was gone long before the selfie culture gained ascendancy. Of course, as your clever link makes clear, there are selfies, and then there are selfies. That one has real class.

      The urge to leave our mark is strong, isn’t it? Painted cave walls, names incised into sandstone, carved school desks or tree trunks: sometimes, it seems as if we just can’t help ourselves. And yet, there seems to be a difference. Selfies are, by their very nature, ephemeral. There even are programs like Snapchat that are designed to make them disappear, and the speed with which social media timelines move means that nothing is around for long.

      That’s one advantage blogs have. Any content that’s posted is searchable, and, as my initial Leonard Cohen post proved, even years after the fact people can find it. It can be an amazing phenomenon.

  24. Textures and depths too many to describe!
    (Always loved that spider story as a kid – there’s multiple versions – one Native American. Once again, before the continent drifts, was there a original civilization that spread sturdy threads?)

    HA! Looks like the sand paintings I watched being made as a kid (but I won’t tell – fabulous indeed!)…now back to my own red threads

    1. Even the dreamcatchers associated with Native Americans had their genesis in the weaving of a spider woman. It was a myth of the Ojibwe (aka Chippewa) who were common enough in the midwest that we learned about them even when I was in grade school. Stories like that certainly helped to make spider webs more acceptable — if not the spiders.

      Aren’t sand paintings fabulous? From Diwali decorations to the more active, artistic sort, they really are compelling — probably are compelling as more homespun art to a child, especially if some sequins are thrown in.

  25. Will you walk into my parlour? I think not. As for me I am far too aware of spiders when I am out in nature. I eye them very suspiciously and will photograph them as long as they don’t look like they might jump off their web at me because if one did, my camera would be a gonner!! But, other than that, point well taken that we miss so much….the small restorative sights and sounds which being in nature gives us….when we are too much in our hurried technological world. I suppose the paradox is that devices that can bring us the world, can also blind us to it.

    1. That dual nature of tools has been with us since the first ancestor picked up a rock, I suspect. Creation and destruction walk hand and hand — a truth that Eastern thought seems to convey more elegantly than some of our Western philosophies and religions.

      For myself, I’ve found that photography has made me regard spiders more kindly. From what I can tell, they really don’t want to cozy up to us any more than we want them to. Even the sight of a huge garden spider doesn’t freak me out the way it used to, and some of the little ones are flat cute.

      One of these days, I’m going to write about a little experience I had out at our local nature center. Suffice it to say it involved a couple of women who’d come out for a nature walk, and what they missed in the process because of their phones.

  26. I thought I left a comment, but I don’t see it now. Don’t remember what I said, either, although I feel certain it was something pithy about the selfie culture. Your other photographs would make excellent pieces of abstract art.

    1. Of course it was pithy. I’m sure it also was on point, humorous with just the right touch of “edge,” and memorable. I can count on you!

      I love that you saw the other photos as candidates for abstract art, since that’s what I intended — at least, in the case of the “painted desert.” I hadn’t intended to create mountain photos that were so delightfully abstract, but sometimes luck is better than skill.

  27. Very nice images Linda, I’m glad you had a nice time, and I really like the image of the silver bluestem, I really like the way you caught the light, and grasses are not easy to photograph at all.

    1. Thanks, Maria. I have a few other grass photos I’ll be sharing, and some I like rather more than these. I was having to cope with a pretty good wind, too, so I was learning a lot, but I was happy with the way the photos came out, and I’m glad you like them.

  28. This comment certainly will not enthuse the selfie crowd but they are so tiresome particularly as a Canadian with the “King of Selfiies” as our Prime Minister”- self-absorbed little twit!

    1. Honestly? The most enthusiastic selfie-ists may not take any offense at all. They’ll be too busy taking selfies to read your comment. And while I generally don’t like name-calling, I do have a fondness for “twit.” It’s a fun, useful little word.

  29. I’m not a fan of selfies either, or of having my photo taken. I’ve submitted to it recently for business reasons and was galvanized by the horror of it to finally start wearing makeup! Remarkable, the effect. I even got asked out for a date!!! Giggle.
    Your photos here are so stunning I’m just floored. I’ve often wondered the same thing about the world’s idea of beauty. It is all around us, but the tendency I think is to assume that it is somewhere else. The mountains, or the sea. Surely not right where a person finds themselves. And yet, from the world’s perspective, aren’t all places inherently beautiful? At least, until mankind gets its hands on them.

    1. Your comment about your dislike of having your photo taken brought a smile. I didn’t mind having photos taken at all, in my early years. Then, somewhere around sixth grade, I figured out that people were taking pictures of me, and that was the end of that. It still happened, but I hated it. I’m still not fond of it, but I don’t fuss.

      As for finding beauty, my new post called “The Beauty of Harvest” is all about finding joy and beauty in the ordinary. I’ve never come across any Chamber of Commerce or Tourist Board info that uses lines like “Come to Kansas! See Our Piles of Grain!” but that’s what I did, and it was amazing. The next step, of course, is to take a look at what’s around us, and see it with new eyes, too.

      As for human interaction with the world: sometimes, the results are wholly positive. Of course there are people who don’t care, or who are in thrall to destructive tendencies, but there also are people who honor the world, and see to preserve or restore its beauty. (A certain painter comes to mind. Let’s see… who could that be?)

  30. I’m with you on not taking selfies, occasionally my shadow has been captured but that’s about it. I think most people take them to somehow prove they are where they say they are….utter madness. I did ponder on what selfies the earth may take…..struth.

    I just loved your pictures, stunning! Especially those mountains, I bet those memories will last a lifetime!xxx

    1. Well, Dina, I think those mountain memories will last at least as long as my memory does. Then, I’ll look at the photos and say, “Such pretty pictures! Who took those?”

      The more I think about selfies, the less I understand them. I can understand an occasional one taken when traveling, or to keep in touch with family and friends. But that’s quite different from the obsessive photo-taking that seems so prevalent. Somehow, obsessive self-taking seems akin to the obsessive texting or phone reading that sends people walking into walls or other people. It’s just beyond me.

      The good news is, we can make our own choices about how best to use our technology. That’s actually a very cheering thought.

    1. Well, here’s the redeeming feature of Eureka Springs. Isn’t he cute? My host at the B&B told me they certainly aren’t albino, but mutant. His tale was that a circus brought them to town around 1900, for a performance at the big white hotel at the top of the hill, and some of the little darlings escaped. Now, their descendents roam the town: some purer white than others, but all cute. I saw a pure white one, but it was gone before I could get to my camera.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. The thought of the world taking selfies delighted me, too. I was glad to help out.

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