Humboldt County, California
During a global pandemic, one might sometimes feel a bit low and disinclined to search for silver linings. And yet at unexpected turns, one stumbles upon them anyway.
There has been a lot of time for reflection. I’m prone to embrace opportunities to reflect anyway, but it’s not so for everyone. While for some, solitude may be difficult, it’s also the best time to delve deeper into your own thoughts.
You can choose any thoughts you’ve ever had, and explore them. You have your entire catalog. Ignore old thoughts you don’t want to rerun. You may yet learn or discover things from exploring your own previous and partially-examined musings, for in scrutinizing them more closely you may find that some of them link in previously unseen ways. Or maybe as your mind wanders you’ll find your creative self writing you a story or taking you on a fantastic voyage as your mind plays. My nighttime photography often gives my mind time to wander the thought trails of discovery.
And sometimes it yields a more tangible learning experience.
For instance: Bear spray is HOT.
I can now tell you with perfect assurance that bear spray is HOT. One of those silver linings. Not that this insight arose from all that thinking; this was a physical lesson from the night I photographed this image. Still, let’s embrace it.
When photographing at night I usually have some bear spray with me — you know, in case it actually works and some critter gets the idea I’m a snack. I was fortunate to have my wife join me on this midnight outing to capture the accompanying photograph, for she was a big help when the evening ended with some surprise first-hand insights into the effectiveness of bear spray.
It was late, after 1:00 a.m. when we got home. A tall can of bear spray sat in my pack’s outer side compartment where it sat on the floor behind my seat. As I pulled my pack out of the car, the bear spray rubbed across the seat, which dislodged its trigger guard, and, in the same motion, depressed the thumb trigger briefly. TSHHHHHT!
The blast and sharp hiss struck the side of my face almost simultaneously, but I had the presence of mind to close my eyes at the first sound and stop breathing. Fortunately I had a partial breath, and as I backed quickly away from the cloud I exhaled steadily to clear out any that I’d breathed in. I knew some had gotten in as I could smell it. Most of it had passed over my shoulder, but the edge of the blast got the corner of my eye, cheek, and hair.
Ok, I thought after a moment. It’s not so bad. By the next moment I was reconsidering. It was HOT!
If from one moment to the next the difference was that steep, I knew I needed to get inside quickly and rinse it out. But by the next moment I couldn’t see very well, for it hurt too much to keep that eye open, and it turned out the other eye was irritated as well and beginning to be painful to keep open. I dropped my stuff in the driveway and stumbled inside as quickly as I could, explaining to my wife as I shed my shirt and headed to the sink.
Imagine torturing your mouth with a great glob of the hottest habanero paste ever, burning your tongue to a tortured crisp and consuming your mouth in pain — and then take that sensation of mangled, burned tongue and smear the searing feeling into your eye and onto your cheek and neck and hair. I love hot food, but as I experienced this in my eye, on my skin, the burnt-hot smell of it in my sinuses, I thought about it in the back of my mind, and I could not find in the experience any but the most distant relation to the spicy peppers I love to eat. This, I decided, could never be food.
Lots of rinsing at the sink followed by a late night shower fixed it all up, though it still burned like a bad sun burn, or a recently eaten hot pepper. Afterward, at the urging of my wife, I called the Poison Control number on the canister and the helpful guy told me I’d already done everything right. Today my eye is ok, but my cheek and neck feel as if they’d seen too much sun yesterday. And the residue is still dangerous. After handling my clothes to wash them this morning, a nice welt and some itchy spots developed on my hands where I touched some of the stuff. It’s strong stuff.
Serious Recommendation: If you go into the field with bear spray, bring enough water to wash it out of your eyes. If this had happened out in the field, my canteen would not have sufficed. You will want a lot of water. It would be hard to have too much water; I think I used more than a gallon at the sink, then I showered.
It is amazing sometimes what revelations a photographic outing can bring. Silver linings!