In order to submit my ‘selfie’ to Retreats Resources after the call for their social media post I started setting up my tripod with my phone and used a remote to take a photo so I could do it in better light and not have it look like an extreme close up selfie. I could see my face in the screen of the camera to know if the photo was going to be what I wanted, or if, say, I wanted to ham things up a bit. I could see my posture, my facial expression, if I needed to suck my stomach in, if I needed a better angle for arms, chin, face, if I needed to sit up straighter….all those things you have likely forgotten about as you sat, relaxed and very comfortable on your couch devoid of people this past year. I actually hate having my photo taken but I didn’t mind this, being in control of the process, as well as seeing all those things mentioned above that I might want to be more conscious of. While I love photography and editing photos, my creative endeavors usually involved event design and including special details or setting up a beautiful event to be photo-ready or getting my dog to pose perfectly for a travel photo. I was not used to being the subject of that creativity. Seeing my own face in the photos was all new to me. After taking many photos and finding one I liked I then inserted the photo into an app where I could cut out the background and then lay the cut out over the photo I used as my virtual background on Zoom that day, then I might edit by sharpening or saturating or cropping it, sometimes adding a filter or frame depending on the era, and voila! I had my “selfie”. I had more than a selfie…I had the start of a collection of my quarantine virtual travel photos! More photos of myself than I would take on an actual trip. The funny thing is…I probably had on the same leggings and slippers in every single one of them. One big benefit of virtual travel was no shoes needed!
As winter rolled around, so did the darkness of the short days. It was dark by the time this call ended at 5 pm. When the winter line up was announced I knew I wanted to attend as many as I could to help pass the long, cold, dark, lonely winter, as well as for all the reasons I originally joined the call. At first glance of the line up I kind of knew what I would wear for each. The invite came out 1-2 days ahead of each call confirming the theme and more details on who was presenting and if there was something being given away, like a hotel stay. It wasn’t until that came out could I be sure of what I would do each week.
In fitting with the dark, cold days of winter one of my very favorite presentations was with the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, which sits above the Arctic Circle. As I sat in my living room in Michigan, with my Nordic hat on and gloves, drinking hot chocolate in front of my virtual backdrop of the entrance of the Ice Hotel and the green sky of the Northern Lights, they took us LIVE through the actual hotel. It was a work of (ice) art! And literally the coolest Zoom call you could have imagined. I remember coming off that presentation feeling happy with a sense of satisfaction I hadn’t felt in a long time, like I had been there, almost, or at least felt like I had experienced it.
It was also at this time, right before the holidays, that I suddenly decided to cut my hair off. After months of extreme casual comfort I was having this longing for dressing up and looking nice. “I want to wear something sparkly”, I kept saying to my friends. Not only did I cut it short I also had it thinned from a very thick, heavy mane of hair to a much lighter and more manageable style. Little did I know that (with the right hairspray) this meant it would stay in place much easier if I were to style it! During a pandemic quarantine “if” being the key word. On New Year’s Eve I threw myself a party. Hors d’oeuvres, bubbly punch, music, noisemakers, hats…. for me and the dog. I got to wear something sparkly. I even put on shoes. And I knew I wouldn’t look back on this year and think I had done nothing.
Like so many, there have been times during this quarantine period that I have felt days run together. It feels like you are on a continuous loop. Then I realized I was binge watching the same 21 seasons-long show every day and sitting in the same place on the couch in the same “soft” pants and the same slippers, eating the same leftovers for the fourth night in a row. No wonder the days blend together! At those moments I would start by turning off the binge… and turning on a movie. Then maybe a second movie. Taking a walk one day and a hike the next, listening to music on one and a podcast on another. I started taking tennis lessons and, like many, doing yoga at home. Preparing different meals each day became necessary. Wearing sweatpants one day and leggings the next. (still the same slippers, though) I was becoming incredibly aware that it was up to me to create the variety I was craving. I also knew it was the dead of winter and I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
I needed to create my own variety.
By January I was committed to adding some sparkle into my weeks, beginning with this call. I was starting to watch tutorials on how to do hair, finding photos of make up I wanted to mimic, and trying to make each look for this call different from week to week. Not just for the call….for me! I needed to create my own variety.
As a history buff and someone with a degree in Sociology I would jump down rabbit holes researching themes and destinations and eras and cultures. I might start with the virtual backdrop. Then I might curate a costume based on just that. Or I might start with something I owned that worked and find the accessories that took it to the next level. You quickly realize that to define an era, a culture, a destination can be done with just hair and makeup, a hat, sunglasses or some sort of headpiece. It was more than the outcome for me, though, it was the process. It was the research, it was combing through history and historic photos sometimes, it was watching the hair and make up tutorials and finding photos for inspiration just as I did my event design boards. I remember the nostalgia that came pouring out of my mother when I mentioned the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans inspiration. They were the “it” couple once upon a time, she said, and the darlings of the old western movies. And yes, it was also about nostalgia and transporting myself to another time other than the one we were in.