Pictures without cameras

You know you’ve said it too. “Nah, I don’t need to bring a camera.” And shortly after, the inevitable sequel: “I should have brought my camera.”


The first night of our California roadtrip I finally got to see what those “Save Mono Lake” bumper stickers have been talking about. We were still an hour away when we took off the snow chains, and with dusk coming on quick we raced through a world turning purple at highway speeds that felt like lightning. In that exuberant suspense my lady grinned and put on music.

Remember Michael Jackson’s “Earthsong”? So corny and overwrought and earnest and awesome! The needle crept right and I let a big dose of snark shrink in my rearview mirror. This was a beautiful place with wonderful people and when the pass opened up over an indigo lake below, the moment of preposterous gorgeous fun was perfect unto itself. Impossible to photograph, essential to cherish.


The night’s solid snowfall was still spittering the next morning, flakes and flurries coming sometimes sideways in a world bleached and bare. Monochrome. Anachrome. The day’s road stretched out to the right while the left echoed with yesterday’s experience, but straight ahead was an okay why not quick walk before we go. Nah, no need to bring a camera.


Stones soaked and spoke in icy streams, wearing crystal caps of stark snow and simple morning light. Hillsides slept under a botanical panoply of modest umber tones held in underbrush as weathered as winter, every hue and scratch evoking the Bob Ross voice within. Textures everywhere, laced and embraced by powder crystals fallen from the sky, enough to keep me worshipping through a lens for hours if I’d had one, and the burbling serenity of ice stalactites made me itch the most for a shutter release. I should have brought my camera.

Mono Lake tree hugging

But it’s a familiar reprimand, to cherish the moment instead of distraction with its documentation. But that’s not how the camera works for me, it doesn’t come between me and the moment, it helps me access it. But the capacity for awe is in all moments, so when my lady stepped up to a beautiful tree and gave it a big hug, yes I wished I had a proper camera in hand, but more-than-yes I was happy to be there seeing it. Enjoying all.


Memories images are an imperfect and expiring way to mark a moment (which in a way is a beautiful thing, since it means the quantity of majesty within and behind is too great to crowd your inner front page). So I let the joy of the moment imprint itself on my cells and knew that was more than enough. And besides, cell phones are handy things, so I tapped on one of those too, just for good measure, grabbing a link to a memory I aim to keep.

Mono Lake ice stream

Yeah, cameras’ll do in a pinch.