NOTE: There is no pattern. I doodled. It’s random.
Our brains don’t like chaos, we want to believe things are connected, not random.
Researching pattern seeking got me thinking about conspiracy theories…of which I am not immune. I went down a rabbit hole after 911, wanting to make sense of the attack on our nation and all of the lives we lost. I really thought I was finding all sorts of insider information. I wasn’t.
Humans are pattern seeking creatures. There’s so much interesting research on this subject. Our brains are capable of gold medal worthy gymnastic moves to confirm our preconceptions. I know I like feeling that confirmation buzz. That heady feeling has a shadow side though.
“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.” —Daniel Kahneman
This quote reminded me of when I hear a song I initially don’t like. If I hear it over and over, it begins to grow on me. Next it becomes familiar…I even begin to like it…hell, maybe even love it, playing it often. With repetition my brain will eagerly override my initial dislike and discernment. This is great when you’re making a conscious choice.
Not so great when the goal is manipulation or brand loyalty.
hate + repetition = acceptance
“The premise of (most) conspiracy theories is inherently unscientific.”
“You should be skeptical of any theory that starts out with the exact same premise every time: Some malevolent and ill-intentioned individual, group, or organization is somehow out to get you.”
“It is not wrong to have a hypothesis. What is suspicious, however, is when that hypothesis never changes.”
“The interesting thing about conspiracy theories is that they start out with the need to confirm a particular premise (i.e., some evil actor must be responsible).
“…psychologists refer to it as a fundamental attribution error—the tendency to overestimate the actions of others as being (intentional) rather than simply the product of (random) situational circumstances.”
Here’s an example of FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR:
My husband started the laundry SO obviously he thinks I’m lazy and not holding up my end of our shared household responsibilities. OR…and far more likely, he needed some clothes washed and is just doing the laundry.
It’s so easy to make this error. I know I need to slow my brain down a lot more often before I jump to conclusions in many aspects of my life.
We inadvertently create mini conspiracy theories when we attribute people’s actions as personal and not situational in their nature.
The trick is to learn when to take a moment to see if our attribution is actually accurate.
When I slow down my pattern-seeking brain, I feel more in control of the chaos around me. When I don’t, and I often don’t I feel far more anxious and uncertain.
a thousand words? Or do the stories we hold onto shape the narrative a lot more? My Mom always told me that as a newborn I possessed a striking resemblance to Winston Churchill. I can’t tell from the photo and I don’t actually really care. I find it funny. However, I’ve always held it to be the absolute gospel truth.
What other stories of greater consequence have I never questioned that I was told as a child?
This morning in my Instagram feed was a post from VIDA and the model was wearing my scarf. It’s one of my favorite South Dakota two-lane images. There may be an algorithm that puts the designer’s image in their feed. I don’t know. It was pretty cool anyway.
This design is titled “finding your way home“. Conceptually this is something I believe we spend a lifetime doing, sometimes literally…often metaphorically…always worth the emotional effort.
What story are you willing to let go of to have a future unlike your past?
July: I worked on my coursework for my positive psychology class. I created a handbag out of a friend’s damaged Audi seat. I was generously given a huge amount of fabric that was just beautiful to work with for the SEABA fashion show coming up. I read a lot about the psychology of geography—the study of how we behave in relation to our environment. I traveled to South Dakota to visit my family and was lucky enough to get to shoot some photographs at the Burke Stampede Rodeo. Oh, cowboys…
August: I sketched, sewed, painted and made handbags…a big blitz of work. Using the company SPOONFLOWER I got photographs printed onto fabric. My daughter, Lucy wore a skirt I made with an abandoned farmhouse photo I shot in South Dakota on it. I used rust prints Elizabeth Bunsen created with Nebraska license plates to create fabric as well. Burlington master goldsmith— Jane Frank designed jewelry worn in the show—the pieces were such a beautiful compliment to the clothes.
September was a blur: The fashion show was entirely consuming the first 10 days of the the month. I love to be in flow and entirely focused on one thing. Deadlines are my jam. However, this year I also needed to create my final project for my Positive Psychology course at the same time . I graduated and got to spend a week at Kripalu in Lenox, Mass with a remarkable bunch of people from all around the world. Later in the month my husband and I went to the Champlain Valley Classic Car show, taking photos and talking to classic car enthusiasts was just great after being so busy.
October: I turned 50 on the 12th. I was taken to Martha’s Vineyard by friends. My husband surprised me by getting my folks, my sister and my brother-in-law to Vermont for a long weekend to celebrate with me. That was remarkable AND he threw a party complete with my friends putting on a musical review, poetry, singing songs and making me feel so unbelievably grateful for my life. I took a few of my favorite images ever and layered more photos. Jeff and I dressed as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo for Halloween.
November: I traveled to Burke, South Dakota. I took photos of Herrick that made current and former Herrick residents very happy and remarkably nostalgic. I got to hang out with my great nephew, Liam (oh, and the rest of my clan). I created digital images of my own planet based on a conversation with my son. The planet New Vagus is based on the vagus nerve—the power center of our nervous system. I wrote. I cried when Leonard Cohen died.
December: I made leather pendants for gifts. I kept playing with the image of a South Dakota two-lane road, layering the photo and playing with the visuals of memory. I created a line of scarves with my images on them. I will post the link soon if you are interested in ordering one.
January 2017 is off to an interesting start. I’m cleaning out the basement—sorting through letters, photos, the kids clothes I’ve saved, toys, books and all of the things I can’t believe I now have to deal with. I’m learning a lot about myself and why things seemed so very important to me.
Turning 50 is an interesting age to take a look back, look ahead, try to stay in the moment and not get too stuck in any one place.
Every year I have such grand intentions of how I’m going to show my love to my family and friends and every year I fall a short of my intentions and beat myself up a bit. I’m no longer going to miss out on the little moments of the season because of things I DIDN’T GET DONE. That’s bullshit.
This year, I’m forgiving, no celebrating myself for all of the great ideas I’ve had and didn’t accomplish. It’s those little moments with our loved ones, people in line at the coffee shop, grocery store or our bartenders for that matter that make the holiday special anyway. I’m going to be jolly and generous like Santa out in the world, that just sounds fun, right?
So now it’s December 19th and I’m putting one package in the mail for a very special little girl who will more thrilled than anyone on my list to receive a package. I will tell the people in my life I love them and not think twice about what I didn’t get done. Tonight, a Christmas lights drive with my family and spaghetti at our favorite family joint.
Have a very Merry Christmas and be ridiculously kind to yourself this year.
I’m heading back out to South Dakota next week. My longing for the prairie now is unprecedented in my adult life. Artist Elizabeth Bunsen and I have been talking a lot about the nature of how much the landscape of our childhoods affects our adult lives. This pull is now greatly affecting my need for spaciousness, quiet, connection, being available to aging parents and looking at a few years down the road with children in college and an empty nest.
I’ve layered my photos of South Dakota with some of my paintings. These images serve as a bridge between my 26 year creative life in Vermont and my South Dakota roots. You can take the girl out of West River, but you can’t take the West River out of the girl.
I would love to hear how the landscape of your childhood has had an affect on your life. I’m really curious about this concept and hope to be doing some interviews and writing on the topic.
P.S. For you Burke area residents. I would love to shoot some abandoned farmhouses while I’m home the 20th-22nd. If you have some locations please email me or let my family know locations. Thank you. Maybe I’ll see you around town or in Stella’s.
My family and I are heading to Burke, South Dakota to see my clan this week for our April break. My days will be filled with my family, the Ponca Creek Bull Sale, hopefully a new baby, old friends and some meandering drives on the prairie roads I adore.
My camera is being cleaned so this trip will be all heart and memory. It feels a little weird to me but there’s nothing I can do. I will have my phone however. I may need to borrow a camera at the bull sale and if my niece’s baby does arrive while we are home. I’m really trying to be “in the moment” and not as concerned with getting the shot. It’s a tough habit to break though.
Here are a couple of old photos I layered this morning while my daughter Lucy was packing.
The first image is main street in Burke layered with a prairie sunrise image from my parent’s back porch. Having coffee on the porch with my Mom is always one of my favorite parts of my time at home.
The second image is a country road layered with a sign I saw in the Las Vegas airport years ago. I’m not sure what “burke in the box” is, but I thought it was interesting.
I hope you find yourself “at home” within yourself whatever your life demands of you this week.