The days in November seem to quicken as they go by, probably since they do. And this is made worse by the coming of Standard Time (the fall-back time change). People seem to love the extra hour of sleep, while I bemoan the shortened days. The sun sets around 4:45 p.m., and I can’t get anything done. I do revel in the changing light, though. Everything starts to become tilted and surreal. Dali-esque shadows stretch lengthily across streets and sidewalks.
I’ve been busy with client work since the world as started to reopen again (thank you, vaccines). I’m grateful for the work, and it reminds me to get back to shooting personal work again. I’ve been creatively depressed during the various lockdowns and, while I can’t stand the crowds back out again, I’ve been taking the few extra moments to go on photo walks with whatever camera I have on hand.
It’s mid-March and I’m reading one piece after another about being a year into this pandemic, at least in the US. Much of these sound familiar. The brain fog, the struggling with meaninglessness. Me, I often feel like I want to be a go-with-the-flow guy–to take these prolonged months as they come and try to make the most of them–except the flow often doesn’t really want to go with me.
Small moments of chaos break out. Our elderly dogs eliminate on the floor. Water leaks under the sink. I’ve become excellent at clearing decades of clutter Marie Kondo-style into donation boxes, only to have to drive all over town looking for a thrift store that’ll actually take them. (Note: thrift stores are overwhelmed with donations and are usually full by noon.) As a freelancer, any sort of work or creative project usually ends in a false start.
My complaints are little. I’m navigating much of this with enough privilege to usually keep these things to myself. So when small chaos seems to reign, there goes my flow. Any kind of flow.
A walk per day keeps the fog at bay. Just like our usual March here in SoCal, the rain has been off and on. A small break in the rain makes for a lovely iPhone shot. And maybe some hope that as more of us get vaccinated, this storm might actually break.
A few weeks ago I made my way up to a special place, a place I’ve thought of as home since I was 14. A place where I still return to every summer to work with a small arts non-profit (www.campbravo.org). A place that was nearly burned down by a massive wildfire.
Camp de Benneville Pines is a small UU camp located near Angelus Oaks, CA. The El Dorado Fire started in far away Yucaipa and was allegedly started by careless people setting off an explosion as part of a so-called gender reveal stunt–in a dry grassy field, during a record heat wave.
The wildfire raged into the hillside directly above camp, but the camp itself was spared. Thanks to many hardworking firefighters who skillfully fought the blaze even as it entered camp in some spots. The very thought of this special place burning down due to such carelessness was enough to have me spiraling.
Reading that they were seeking local volunteers, I drove up there to donate some photography hopefully to help illustrate just how bad the damage is, and how badly this tiny camp needs extra support in order to stay afloat during such impossible times. The camp executive director took me up the hillside to the fire damage is. Where once was a beautiful, lush forest hillside now stands an ashen waste land.
Thankfully, there are some trees still standing. But the destruction this fire wreaked spans tens of thousands of acres.
Growing up in SoCal, I knew about earthquakes of course. I knew about fire season. It’s only been in the last 10 or 15 years that fire season has become something else entirely. Months on end of endlessly destructive wildfires, apocalyptic skies, and terrible air quality.
My hope is that a few of the snapshots show just how badly we need to address our current climate crisis and its effects. In the meantime, if you would consider visiting the website for Camp de Benneville Pines and supporting them with a small donation. On top of being a small business having to navigate being shut down all year, they are now having to manage soil erosion and mudslide risk.
All images are Copyrighted by Matt Lara (Matt Lara Photography) and may not be reproduced without permission.
I realize my posts are pretty heavy on the black and white images, when normally I enjoy vibrancy, bright colors, lots of contrast. The truth is the last few weeks have been a doozy for me personally. Much of where I’m feeling mentally has been marked by a sense of melancholy. The bleak skies of Southern California during fire season. The tilt of the earth as seasons change and shadows lengthen. On a fairly decent day, one that was still blazing hot, I took my camera out near my old hometown of Ontario and snapped this vintage bowling alley, Bowlium. Only to realize of course that the Bobcat Fire had sent up a new plum of smoke and seemed to be heading toward my home.
All is well at the moment. My main objective in a very chaotic time is still a lot of self care.
The calls are coming from inside the house. The weight of anxiety around person problems. Lack of sleep. Worry over lack of direction in a pandemic world.
And the calls have been coming from outside the house, too. Raging wildfires destroying the west coast. Friends, family, and myself out of work. Teacher friends struggling just to do their job. Anything on the news.
Not to mention I can’t be outside doing what normally calms me–exercise, hiking, and gardening. It all makes me realize that you can’t whip yourself out of this space.
Reading this piece on why I’m feeling so awful right now hit all the right points for me. The ambiguous loss, the unproductive feelings, the lack of normal self-care activities.
Today has been all about the pause. Hitting pause to allow myself to re-adjust, and realizing it’s a privilege that I can even do just that. Pause, and lots of rest, and keeping stimulation low.