Early October 2023| Practical Self Reliance
Fall Foliage, The Big Picture and YouTube
Early October is leaf pepper season here in Vermont, and most years, the locals barely notice. Seems odd, I know, when this week will see an estimated 3.5 million people flock to Vermont to see the show. (Not bad, when the state’s resident population is around 600,000.)
I ran into a whole family from Hawaii this week, smiles ear to ear, literally blown away by…leaves.
I think there’s something that happens when you live in a place for long enough, and you stop seeing the magic. All the little things just become everyday, and that’s true no matter where you live.
Sometimes, it really pays to watch the tourist buses. When you see them pull over to take a picture…stop and look. There’s something there. Something that’s right next door to you most of the year, but that people flew halfway around the world to see.
One particular view that I pass every time I drive home often has half a dozen cars parked, gawking, and taking pictures. Teenagers go there to take senior portraits, and whole cars of girls made up to the gills will pull up before prom (or just on a random Tuesday) to film Instagram stories.
And for me, it’s where I pick wild cherries and play soccer with my kids in the afternoons, but most of the time, it’s just someplace I drive by on my way from A to B.
I happened to be on my way home at sunset, and the teens were at it again, so I stopped, too. This they came out to find for their social media feeds…
Even though we’re out in nature every single day, somehow, I’m always looking down at my feet. Harvesting mushrooms, mucking stalls, chopping wood, or just trying not to trip on a rocky trail.
Y’all have probably seen hundreds of pictures of my hands…holding something or other. Looking down…at something interesting, perhaps, but still…focused on finding small things in the big picture.
Seeing all the tourists this week reminded me to look up, and I thought I’d take you along with me.
We take a walk just about every day, almost always starting from our home and going no more than 2-3 miles, and as a forager…I’m looking for details.
New fungi, fruit set on my favorite wild edibles, or just scanning for new exciting weeds.
All looking down, focusing on details….but here’s the big picture:
I started down this big-picture track years ago, but honestly, the last few years have been all about focusing our attention on small details at the expense of the bigger picture. New things to worry about, new ever smaller threats to focus on and obsess over.
When small things dive deep and overwhelm, it’s hard to allow space for the big picture. But you realize that sometimes stepping back and broadening your perspective.
For me, this narrowing had its impact on my camera, literally the lens through which I see the world (and share it with y’all).
I’d focus my shots every tighter, cropping out tiny imperfections and framing it just right to remove all the messy real-world details that bring such things together.
Writing online, or even just being online these days, is strange like that.
It’s all produced and curated. Things that look like candid shots or real-life reactions are carefully choreographed and produced…or at least those that our feeds feed to us are…because those are the ones that get the best engagement.
I don’t have a producer; I’m just one person.
As a result, I’ve stuck with mediums that allowed me time to slowly get my thoughts out on paper. Slowly frame a still-life picture until all the elements are just right.
Writing is forgiving like that.
If you don’t like what you’ve said, hit the backspace button and start over. Remove a little slip of the tongue and ooops, it’s like it never happened.
As of today, there are literally 800 articles on Practical Self Reliance that are carefully put together in just that way, and edited for correctness when someone is kind enough to call out my mistakes in the comments (which is frequent, and I appreciate it).
Video is less forgiving, at least unedited video without a production team. These days, even casual YouTube channels have editors and production teams, as it’s hard to get things that smooth in real-time on your own.
But real life is like that.
It’s like a video that we’re all watching, live in real-time, with no takebacks and no delete button. We talk to each other, share things with each other, and there’s no post-processing to make the events all pretty and neat.
So I’ve decided I’d like to have a medium that is just that. Just real snippets of life. Unedited and not carefully cropped.
I’ve tried to dip my toe into this a few times in the past few years, but I always pull back. Real pieces of a life just aren’t out there anymore, and even the goofy dance videos dominating our feeds aren’t spontaneous or improvised, at least not anymore.
The video below is something I made in June 2020. It’s a casual tour around my garden and the immediate few acres around my house. I’m just walking with you, showing you things, and talking through it.
No cuts, no editing, and no fancy song and dance intro.
I’m hoping to use YouTube to share more of that.
Little scenes from real life as there’s time for it, messy piles of kids’ toys and all.
I made this quick video (below) identifying wild lettuce on a walk in town, again, about 3 years ago…and I never shared it. It’s not pretty nor perfectly worded, but it does show you what you need to know, and that’s what matters.
And sometimes, it’s nice to just share a little piece of my real world and this life out here. Little things that aren’t necessarily a lesson or a how-to, but just are…
Wild beauty that just exists to be found.
In a photo, it looks like this new friend my daughter found (below).
(Before y’all freak out, there are no poisonous or hazardous snakes in this particular corner of the world, and this little guy doesn’t even eat mice…they’re too much for him. He sticks to slugs and snails, as they’re more his speed. Sometimes nature is, in fact, profoundly benign.)
In video, without time to get everything framed and cut just right, this is what that same new friend looks like:
There’s a place for both in this world, the carefully arranged and the casual real…cut and choppy as I hold the camera while holding onto the real world at the same time.
The blog is still going to have my photos, as it always has, because that’s honestly some of my favorite art. I love taking real life and catching that perfect moment where the world stands still in perfect light…and the dishes are carefully cropped out of the frame to the left.
It is an art, and as such, it’s a reflection of life…and it’s awfully nice to hold onto those moments…but it’s not the whole picture.
So now I have both.
You’re welcome to pick and choose which version you want to see on any given day.
Still life in a single moment…or something messier.
In case you missed it…this is my long-winded way of saying I’ve started a completely casual YouTube channel because, quite frankly, anything more structured or edited just scares the heck out of me.
Who has time for that?
I hope to share some real-life bits of our world and what we’re up to, interspersed with seasonal projects in the works and hopefully lots of plant and mushroom ID videos.
You can find my new Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/@AshleyAdamant
If there’s something in particular you’d like to see on my new channel, let me know!
Leave me a note in the comments…
(Comments only, please. Emails tend to get lost in my inbox, and as much as I’d love to get back to each and every one, my screen time is very limited…and things fall through the cracks, and emails get buried in my inbox. If you comment here, they’re all in one place, and it’s much easier to get back to every single one.)
Until Next Time,
Ashley at Practical Self Reliance
Ps. If you’re new to the newsletter, you can see monthly updates in my archives. Here’s what we’ve been up to thus far this year: