September 19, 2012

My Brain Lies To Me

As much as I want to write a happy, fun post about Squam and as much as I know I should, I just can’t.  Since coming back, I’ve been having a hard time. It’s grey and cold and wet and I’m just…really depressed and scared. Depressed due to lack of sleep, lack of sunshine, and just the fact that this time of year is really really hard for me. Despite my successes at Squam, I’m terrified of making the call to Rick, my caseworker, to tell him that I need help with immersion therapy. I know I’m going to make Blake do it and I’m going to make Blake come with me to the appointment and I don’t like the guy and I don’t want to do this. Except that I do. I’m so torn and confused and no one understands because I can’t even put anything into words. I’m just scared. Scared of what I don’t even know. Just scared. :o(

There’s this girl who e-mailed me while I was away, Elizabeth Nervosa, who has a clothing line “geared towards mental health awareness who is also mentally ill and who wants to do a “spotlight” on me for her website, which I agreed to (despite the fact that she called me “hun” twice, I really, truly hate that; I used to say it until I realized how patronizing it sounded). Anyway, she said that agoraphobia isn’t actually the fear of leaving your house, it’s the fear of panic once you’re out there and I think that’s probably true. I don’t go anywhere by myself because I’m scared I’ll have a panic attack and no one will be there to help me or hide me. Or get me out of there. Take care of me. I should be able to take care of myself, I know, but I’m not. That’s why I need immersion therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.

And I guess this is probably a good segue into the beginning of Squam…

So my mom and I get to Squam at around 6pm, which meant that we had to register at the office and not our cabin so we did that and the lady behind the counter handed us a gift bag full of weird magazines and local tourist guides and she said that dinner was underway at the Rockywold Dining Hall (the camp is divided in half; Deephaven and Rockywold, our cabin was in Deephaven and it was a good kilometer on hiking trails to get to food from home base – I lost lbs!). Anyway she said that we were supposed to go to the dining hall and sit with the people in our first day’s class.

I. LOST. MY. SHIT.

I didn’t even hear anything else the girl said, I needed to get back to the car as soon as possible because I couldn’t contain the panic. SO we get back to the car and I am sobbing uncontrollably and my poor mother has no idea what to do with me so I call Blake and I don’t really remember the phone call but I remember saying “I can’t move” because I could not get out of the car. While Blake talked me down (my phone bill is going to be ridiculous next month – PLEASE use the donate button on my site if you want to help!), my mom unloaded the truck of everything but my art supplies because where my 2nd day’s class was, was closer to the parking lot than our cabin.

So finally I get the nerve to move my legs and I go upstairs in our cabin to our room, still talking to Blake and then I realized that he’s a million miles away and can’t really help me so I think I said, “I’ll just talk to my mom about it” and I think I hung up on him.

My mom was just like, “they’re not your mom, they can’t make you sit with people you don’t want to”, and seeing that she had a point and after chowing down like, 6 Ativan, we drove to the parking lot and then we walked to the dining hall where my mom peeked in the door and informed me it was a buffet to which I freaked out a little more because I am terrible with buffets, they freak me right out. I made my mom promise that she’d come to the buffet with me and she did after we found a small table in a corner to ourselves to drop off our purses etc.

The food at Squam was amazing. I’ve e-mailed my mom and Belinda to see if they could remember what all we ate because like I said, my memory is crap, but I do know that first night I had salmon and this gourmet macaroni and cheese that was to DIE FOR.

In the dining hall there were two buffets, one was a salad bar and one was for hot stuff. Then on the end of the hot one there was a table for condiments etc and THEN beside THAT on the wall was a FREEZER with ALL THE FUDGSICLES AND ICE CREAM SANDWICHES YOU COULD EAT!!!!!!!!! I had bacon, sausage and ice cream every single morning for breakfast (and like I said, still did enough hiking that I lost 5lbs.) Beside the freezer was a station set up for something but I never investigated to see what it was. I know one night it was a Caesar salad bar where they put the parm and pepper on your salad for you. Belinda said it wasn’t very good though. I forget why but I remember her saying that.

Then on the wall behind the salad bar was the drink stations. You had your hot water for tea and your coffee (blech) and then there was a machine for both regular milk and all the chocolate milk you could handle (but I didn’t have any because US chocolate milk is gross with its vitamin D and crap added – ours is gross too but only because it has carageenan in it) and then they had this “enhanced water” which was like Crystal Light except with no aspartame aftertaste. I drank a metric fucktonne of the strawberry kiwi kind. I brought a water bottle with me and I just filled it up all the time.

So that was the dining hall.

So as I was saying, we got our food and we sat down to eat it and my mom said something that made me turn around and when I did, I saw two people with flaming red hair and I just KNEW it was Brian and Belinda and that Belinda would probably be freaking out too so I went over to where they were with one of the Squam guide ladies and I put my arm around Belinda, which freaked her out more probably and I told her to come to our table and so we could be freaked out together.  (Bel & I had been texting pretty much the whole time on the road. At 60 cents per text. I wasn’t kidding about that donation button…)

So we had dinner and shot the shit and then, since Brian and Belinda had driven to the dining hall, they gave us a ride back to our cabin where they still had to unpack.

We went back to our room and I started freaking out some more because I was terrified of what to do about my photography class in the morning, like how I would find it and how I would get there by myself and how it would be and that prompted another frantic phone call to Blake to calm me down (he was on his way to bed, poor guy). When I got off the phone with him, my mom promised to walk me to my class and pick me up when it was done because her class was nearby and I was satisfied with that and, exhausted, I think I pretty much took my pills and fell asleep, but not until I found an ACORN in my bed! I can’t find the meaning of an acorn that my mom found but this is what I found, which is similar:

Acorn: During the Norman Conquest, the English carried dried acorns to protect themselves from the brutalities of the day. Considered to be an emblem of luck, prosperity, youthfulness and power, the Acorn is a good luck symbol indeed! It also represents spiritual growth.”

Edit: Here’s the definition my mom found – “Mighty Oaks, from little acorns grow” Symbol of good luck, survival, growth & perseverance.

Anyway, I found an acorn in my bed, set it on the night table and passed the fuck out. Apparently my mom then Googled the meaning of an acorn and e-mailed Blake with it, telling him I’d freaked out, we solved the issue and I fell asleep.

So obviously my first day was “Spirit Session” photography with Thea Coughlin and honest to god, the woman changed my life. You know the saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world” that’s often (incorrectly) attributed to Ghandi? Well that’s her favourite saying and she really lives it, I think. I’ve never met a more genuinely positive, full of light person in my life. And the thing is, her light is infectious and she shares it freely. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First of all, I am SO fucking glad I decided to buy my Rebel for this class. Taking my point & shoot would have been completely pointless because there would have been nothing to teach. I know that purchase was controversial and I totally understand why, but believe me when I say it was essential for this class and as a result of this class, it is essential to my life. Now that I actually know how to use it, it goes with me everywhere, no matter how uncomfortable it is to carry around a giant bag full of comfort stuff (my laptop bag/purse) AND a camera bag.

But I’m still getting ahead of myself.

The first thing she did was a slide show presentation about shutter speed, aperture and ISO. I took TERRIBLE notes so I have to e-mail her and ask for a copy of her presentation. Truthfully, my morning meds make me really tired, especially if I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, which I didn’t the night before and I was barely staying awake through her presentation. Somehow though, I came out of it understanding how to take a perfectly exposed photo.

I can’t remember if it was before the presentation or after but at one point there was a “warm up activity” where you had to put your camera in auto mode (which I’d never done) and figure out what the ISO was, the shutter speed and the aperture, then see the exposure meter, then put your camera into manual and set those things yourself. Despite the fact that I already knew all that I somehow lost my mind and sat on the steps of the playhouse (our classroom, sort of like a pavilion with a wall at the back with a fireplace and a stage at one end) crying so when Thea came to me to see how I was doing I just felt so defeated I let out a stream of my mental health history and how I never leave my house and how this is a huge thing for me etc etc etc so she took me over to the fireplace and hugged me and rubbed my shoulders and told me I was beautoful and talented and creative and strong and that I could do this and that she would help me and it was literally like a fucking Carebear stare of all this light and positivity directed right at my third eye chakra or something and then she sprayed me in the face with these flower essences that were supposed to focus me and calm me down and quiet my mind and I swear on a stack of bibles that these flower essences WORK because I was more or less fine after that. I don’t know if like, aromatherapy has been debunked by Penn & Teller or anyone like that, but I truly, honestly feel like the ones that gave me energy and calmed my mind really, truly worked. I would love to get some of those essences but they’re $35 a bottle. The bottles are big though and would last a long time. As an aside, if any of you do order the essences say that you heard about them from me or Thea and that it was Squam related because Thea’s trying to get them to come to Squam’s art fair if there’s enough interest.

After that, Thea helped me do the next exercise which was called “data gathering” where (for example) you take a picture in auto mode and note where the light is coming from (left or right etc), the quality of the light (shady porch) and what the camera chose for ISO, aperture and shutter speed, what you liked about the image, what you didn’t like about it, what you wish you were able to capture but couldn’t. And then you did this for 3 photographs.

Then we did “Spirit Journaling”. At one point in her presentation she asked us to think of 2 photographs that we really loved and I chose the sepia ones I did of Madison when she was three because they were so moody and to me, they showed the darker side of childhood. The 2nd one I chose were these pics I saw once by a photographer in Iceland of long exposure pics of rivers full of ice and stuff and how the water looked smoky and smooth. So the first question for Spirit Journaling was “Looking back at what you wrote about your 2 favourite photos can you think of one or two guiding words or a quote that ties in to your spiritual connection to photography?” and I wrote “moods, tones, feelings”. (Feel free to disagree with me if you don’t think my photos convey that.)

The next question was “How does photography nourish you?” to which I had no answer and the last was “Are there any poems or songs that inspire you or tie in with your guiding words?” and I left that blank too.

Then we went to have lunch and my mom came to get me and we went and had lunch, which I can’t remember what it was but I remember looking at the menu and saying to my mom that I couldn’t eat any of that because it was all gross and she took me aside and said that negative remarks like that would affect her trip and she asked if I would please stop it. So I did. Mostly. And all that gross stuff on the menu that day I bypassed and I had cheese flatbread pizza and ice cream, if I recall correctly. And it was good.

I think I walked back to my class by myself from the dining hall but maybe I’m not remembering correctly. It’s entirely possible that I made my mom walk me back. In fact it’s highly probable. And actually now that I think of it I’m pretty sure I walked to the dining hall by myself for lunch because I took this picture of fungus on the way there:

I actually think I met my mom on the benches outside the dining hall. I’m sure she’ll correct me if I’m wrong. Then once we were in the dining hall, we met up with Brian and Belinda and we all had lunch together.

After lunch Thea showed us how to use a bounce and these are the pictures I took during that part.
These rocks without a bounce:

With a bounce:

 For those who don’t know, a “bounce” is a piece of SOMETHING white or silver (foamcore, styrofoam, cardboard etc) that you place  on the side of the object that’s not getting enough light and the light bounces off the bounce and illuminates the side of your object that wasn’t getting light before. The bounce I was using was two pieces of styrofoam with silver stuff on it that were taped together to make a < shape. The effect is subtle in my examples because we were outside but it’s there.

Here’s another picture I took during photography class. These pom poms were everywhere:

This stuff was everywhere too:

After taking all those pics, I told her I was done. Because I did the assignment, I knew how a bounce worked and I didn’t need 32 million pictures of rocks. I played with depth of field with the pom pom as was asked (although really, I should have used 5.0 rather than 5.7) and I thought I took a pretty good picture of the twinkle lights, which was our next assignment (to adjust ISO & aperture) so I was done!

Other people still needed help though so she said to me that since she thought my talent was to find the moodiness of things, that she wanted to see dark Hansel and Gretel and light Hansel and Gretel, so challenge accepted, I went out into the woods and took these two pictures:

This was supposed to be my “dark” Hansel and Gretel.

This was supposed to be my “light” Hansel and Gretel.
I realize there’s not a fairy in that story but the sun reminded me of a fairy in the woods.

Then on the way back to the playhouse, I took this picture for no apparent reason:

Then I went back to the playhouse and took pictures of my shoes because again, I was “done”. I did what she asked me to do so I thought I’d just sit there quietly until the next instructions.

During this time, most of the rest of the class had paired up to try doing “Spirit Sessions” which is Thea’s way of doing portraits. I have a whole sheet on how to do it, but I’ll just show you the first little bit:

“*It is a dance. In a way a sort of heart spirit courting ritual.
* Start with a hug.
* Sit as close as you are comfortable looking into each other’s faces and eyes.
* Remain open to move closer while talking if it feels natural.
*In your heart keep your intention…connecting…seeing…sending love.
*Ask them what they are stepping into in their lives…”

Like I said, there’s a whole sheet on her process and it’s actually pretty cool and it totally works for her. I’m not sure I could pull it off but I’m going to practice with Madison and Wes as soon as it’s not so cold & rainy. We’ll probably start with geocaching pictures in the fall leaves, I figure.

So after she’d checked on everyone else and she saw me taking pictures of my shoe, she asked to see my Hansel and Gretel pictures and she asked if I was happy with them. I said I was not because they weren’t moody either way at all. Well, the “fairy” one kind of was but I was trying to get a lens flare and I didn’t know how to do that.

So Thea took me back into the woods, put her lens on my camera and she asked me to take a picture of this weird macrame wreath hanging in the forest which was actually what I’d been trying to get a picture of (with the sun coming through it) but was unsuccessful, so here’s the picture I took:

Then she showed me how to over expose and this was the result:

The aperture was 1.4 on this pic, where it should have been much higher, but it was over exposing that she was showing me so we had the ISO at 800 with a shutter speed of 1/127 sec. (You can see all that info in my gallery if you actually go to the gallery page of each pic. Like this. It’s VERY useful, I find, especially when you’re experimenting.)

Then she showed me how to under expose and how to get “moody” when Hansel and Gretel’s trail is just a bit too sunny (this was still with her lens):

Same path, just a little more ominous. ISO was 100, aperture was 1.4, shutter speed was 1/197 and my hand was verrrrry steady. I think it turned out rather well and now I want a lens like hers (but I don’t know what kind it is. I can ask her though.)

On our way back from the woods, Thea asked if she could take my Spirit Portrait and I honestly wasn’t sure. I’d e-mailed her before Squam to tell her how nervous about that I was and she reassured me and what I really learned from her class, aside from how to actually use my camera, was that taking a person’s portrait is all about trust. I trusted her not to show me the ugly ones, not to keep them and not to show them to anyone else. And she only sent me the 3 best ones. Here are the other two:

The rest of the class was spent taking pictures of “something that is special to you” and that, for me, is a whole post in and of itself, which I’ll probably write after this one if my drugs haven’t kicked in and put me to sleep. For now, here’s a playhouse chipmunk that I took a pic of while I waited for my mom; these little guys were EVERYWHERE and they were not afraid of people in the slightest.

After class, it was SO hot, especially after my mom picked me up from class and we walked “home” on the trails so when we got back to the cabin, I made it my mission to convince Belinda to go swimming in the lake with me. It didn’t take much convincing! I put on my aqua bikini and Belinda put on her suit and we grabbed towels and we got about tits deep, decided it was way too clod and got out. We shot the shit on the dock with the 4 of us until it was time for dinner.

This is a pic I took of my mom on the dock that day (with my phone – if you follow me on Twitter, you’d get pics like these as they happen!):

After we were done at the dock – oh yeah, we were drinking Mike’s Hard on the dock too, we only had one each though – Belinda went to shower and my mom and I went up to our room so I could change and so my mom could do internetting or whatever she was doing (I forget) and then it was time for dinner so we got a ride with Brian and Belinda who drove to dinner and classes most of the time because Bel has bad hips and hiking through the woods on trails really really hurts her. :o(

Dinner that night was fucking amazing! It was roast beef, medium-well, hand-carved right on your plate! There was also a mushroom risotto of some sort that I didn’t have…all of us are drawing a blank. I know there were roasted red potatoes, of which I had like, 4 because I LOVE potatoes. And I’m pretty sure all I had was meat and potatoes. And probably ice cream.

After dinner, we all drove back to the cabin and I know I internetted for a little while, just trying to catch up on e-mail and then somehow Cards Against Humanity got brought up, which Belinda had brought with her, and we had 7 or 8 of us playing it by the end of the night and it was a goddamn RIOT. We even had a real live OPERA singer named Ramona in our cabin who wanted to play and a fellow Whovian named Kat who was wearing Dalek socks! I told Blake we had to buy it and get the special Canadian deck of cards once we’re not so far in debt. My mom didn’t play but she sat with us by the fire and at one point the grumpier of the two rich, drunk ladies who were criticizing us the whole time said something like, “do you condone this garbage?” and my mom said, “It’s just good to hear them laugh.” I heard that and almost started crying because I knew exactly what she meant. 14 months ago, we didn’t know if I’d ever have the chance to laugh with my friends again and I know those kinds of thoughts shook both my mom and Blake to their very cores.

The game was over at about 11pm when Belinda had to go to work (she won because she’s a truly terrible person) and then my mom and I went upstairs to bed. I think I checked my e-mail again and just passed out.

Oh yeah, after dinner, we transferred my art supplies from my mom’s truck to Belinda’s car so Brian could drive us to our first class/breakfast and drop it off because our class the next day was right across the path from the dining hall. Then when he got back from Fun Spot, this super old arcade, he’d pick it back up from the cabin and all would be good.

The next day would be Pages and Paint with Sarah Ahearn Bellemare, whose book I have and had brought with me to have both her and Thea sign (Thea did the pictures). Thea signed it: “Dearest Sunny, You are brave, beautiful, and full of light. Much love, Thea“. That class I also shared with Belinda so I was less nervous about it than my first day’s classes. But I’m going to save that story for tomorrow because it wasn’t a very positive experience – well, in some ways it was, I learned some things after the fact – and I don’t want to bring this post down.

The next day my mom’s class was going to be “Story Scarves”, which ended up pretty cool, so keep an eye out for tomorrow’s post where I’ll show it to you!

And now I’ll go work on my other photography post where I had to take pictures of something that was special to me.

PS. The new Mother Mother album “The Sticks” came out yesterday and it is pretty damn good! Check it out!  I think “Dread in my Heart” is going to be like, my new anthem.

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