UNBOUND: Nature Heals

by Carolyn Bick

In this special photography series, Emerald writer and photographer Carolyn Bick shares some of the challenges of being a breaking news reporter and investigative journalist and how they find release, healing, and resilience in nature.

I am bad at being vulnerable.

I am equally bad at asking for help, asking to take a break, saying no — you know, those classic perfectionist traits. These traits are really good at getting a person through the sprint … but what about the marathon?

This year, Reader, I nearly burned out. I think it took longer than anyone who was concerned about me expected, but it was quite a shock for me to find myself crying on the floor of my closet and unable to figure out why. I’d been doing the requisite therapy sessions (that’s what you’re supposed to do in a pandemic, right?), signed up for a Calm membership, kept up with my regular morning exercise, and (grudgingly) agreed to take time off when my publisher and managing editor said I needed to.

But the truth is, my mind would keep going on my breaks. I figured all these measures — therapy, Calm, exercise — were enough, that they were sufficient to hold back anything disastrous, until, at some point in the future, we’d have a vaccine.

Unfortunately, these plasters didn’t hold as long as I thought they would, and everything came pouring forth, including my main fear: What if I fail the Emerald’s readers?

Looking back, I now realise that’s a ludicrous statement. There is no way one writer taking a break would lead to people being uninformed about the deadly virus going around or that incidents of police brutality would go uncovered. But that’s how I felt at the time. I’d been in the role of COVID reporter since March and police accountability reporter since May, after all, and, as a sprinter, I could only see the different finish lines that were metres in front of me, not the end of the marathon miles ahead.

I am still grappling with this feeling, but I am doing much, much better. I am enjoying my time off and haven’t really done much work (okay, I made up ONE set of questions for someone I am interviewing in the new year, but that’s it!).

But I need to stay in this mindset. This can’t be temporary. To that end, my managing editor and I decided that I should start regularly sharing a secret passion of mine that has helped to mitigate the effects of this year: nature photography.

Even before this hell of year, I had been making nature photos. I love the textures of bark and veins of petals, the slopes of light through clouds and the geometric perfection of a leaf. Beauty in nature is unbounded, fearless, and challenging, and I find myself totally at peace under a canopy of trees or at the ocean’s edge. Nature is healing in a way no Calm meditation or therapy session can match.

While not all of these photos are from places in South King County, I hope in the new year to share with you some of the spots I find in our shared home down here. It is my wish that you consider visiting these spots when you cannot find the silver in the clouds.

And, as always: Wear a mask. Don’t gather. Stay safe. 

See you in 2021.

Carolyn Bick is a journalist and photographer based in South Seattle. You can reach them on Twitter, and check out their other work here and here.

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