Thursday, July 23, 2009

I finally snuggled a koala and other ill-recorded memories

Koala snuggling (or, basically, "holding") is forbidden in Victoria, unless you're a park ranger, or, at minimum, highly qualified koala reserve volunteer, you're limited to, dare I say, "first base"? I have been all acquirer to have a koala cuddle puddle in the more animal-rights-liberal state of Queensland. We headed up there for our combined scuba trip/modelling conference.

Tom's mom didn't know Tom had already committed to the conference when she bought her ticket to come out and visit us for three weeks, but it worked out well. She got to do some great snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef and I got some variety in venues to show her around in.

One thing we have occasionally noticed is a psychic clash that can easily ensue between either 1) enjoying an experience or 2) adequately capturing it on film. Rarely do we find we are able to do both. For example, one bed and breakfast we stayed at in Mission Beach (just south of Cairns) is famous for its local Cassowary birds. When Mick and Sue, the hosts of the lodge, called us up from our rubber lobster search (a miniature treasure hunt through the rain forest, just behind their lodge), we had the treat of a lifetime to hand feed a female Cassowary, while her man-o-the-season was back sitting on the eggs. Male Cassowaries are smaller and less colorful, by the way, so we lucked out by meeting her. Of course my response was, "Honey, you are so much better at getting good shots with the camera, HERE!" (toss).

Later, when we were talking over highlights of the trip, Tom didn't remember much about the Cassowary...."I was kind of preoccupied trying to get pictures of it and it didn't really make much of an impression on me". This, a bird with a bright blue head which has a giant elephant toenail sticking out of it, not memorable?

Another phenomenon: when I reviewed images from the trip, including those his mom took, many of them smacked vaguely of the expressions I've seen Tom where through history, particularly between ages 9 and 23, where he only seemed to be able to muster the "I don't want a picture taken" look. It all kinda reminds me of one of my favorite websites, "Awkward Family Photos"...

For example, check out this gorgeous, yet camera avoidant teen:

Ruth and I visited an animal sanctuary while Tom was at his conference one day. For the low, low price of $20, I got to hold a koala and have a professional 8.5" x 11" photo taken. It all happened quite quickly and felt awkward. None of the intimacy I'd dreamt of for my first time. You know, in holding a koala. The ranger arranged me in a position, placed the marsupial and I was told to smile. My hair was in my face in an awkward way ("It looks like she has a giant birthmark on her face - her husband isn't going to like that photo at all!" - Ruth). The animal had a horrible musky smell that I adopted myself for the remainder of the day. We paid to have the photo retaken as Ruth dressed them down for the poor photography skills, but I was a bit traumatized by the whole encounter by that point.

It's funny, often photos don't do justice to what a glorious experience we actually had. Sometimes the act of recording the experience, or being the subject of someone else's desire to record it, changes the experience for the worse or even steals it altogether.

Sometimes it's the crappy memories that resonate the loudest some time later. At some point they stop being crappy memories and morph into good memories of crappish stuff that happened.

There's a lot of that in sailing as I remember...relatively few recollections of serene 73 degree days with easy jibes and calm waters...lots more running aground. Yet now it's easy to laugh when talking about it. As much as I treasure photographs as a valid record, in a way they aren't as objective as they seem. Maybe it's better to sometimes only capture the memories in our own minds and let our perceptions of events evolve over time?

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