Why Is My Phone So Boring?

Everywhere I go, people are gazing fixedly at their phones. It doesn’t matter if they’re out to eat with loved ones or at a summit facing the most beautiful view in the universe or touring an exhibit of priceless, never-before-seen artifacts – phones remain the focus of their attention.

Given most people’s level of interest, I must admit I’m disappointed in my phone. Once in a while I pick it up and command, “Distract me!” but it just sits there, inert. I log onto social media and declare, “Entertain me!” but my interest soon wanes. I consider clicking on news sites, but then I come to my senses. In the end, my phone and I simply stare at one another, both seeming to wonder what all the fuss is about.

Perhaps my phone is mad at me because it knows I’ve never liked phones. Many years ago, in a choking fog of resentment, I finally got my first cell phone, and I would turn it on only to make calls and turn it off as soon as they ended. My voicemail greeting was: “This is my cell phone, and it’s usually off, so please don’t leave a message. If you need to reach me, call my land line at…” But people don’t listen, so I still received voicemails, usually retrieved several days after they were left. The best ones came from my friend Carolina, who said I used my cell phone the same way her octogenarian grandfather used his. All of her voicemails started with: “Hola, Grandpa!”

So maybe that’s the answer: my phone doesn’t like me because I don’t like phones, and therefore it insists on being boring. Or maybe it’s heard me describe it as a not-so-smart phone, and that hurt its phoney little feelings. Whatever the reason, it seems phone fascination is not for me. But that’s okay. Everyone’s different. I don’t understand most people’s attachment to their phones, and most people don’t understand my obsession with mushroom photo shoots.

The Forest Dragon

[Disclaimer: In general, I am not a woo-woo person. However, this is a woo-woo (yet true!) story. If that sort of thing makes you gag, you may want to leave now.]

The first time I saw the forest dragon was on 11/11 in 2012, when I took a visiting friend on my favorite hike in Moran State Park. It was a chilly day, and by the time we reached the summit of Mt. Pickett, it had started to snow.

407661_298845693559735_1354252694_nLibby’s snowy head

Snow falling onto a carpet of green moss is quite lovely, but as we descended the trail towards the Twin Lakes, the snow turned to sleet, then rain. My friend and I hurried along the path, our wool hats and sweaters growing heavy in the downpour. At one point, I noticed an upturned root system that resembled a giant dragon head. I wanted to stop and take its picture, but given the weather, I chose to continue down the trail, knowing I could come back another day when conditions were more favorable (and less likely to ruin my camera).

On November 15th, I returned to Moran in search of the dragon. Soon after I left the summit of Mt. Pickett, I saw a root system that was vaguely dragony. I stopped and stared at it for a long time. Although it wasn’t anywhere near as cool as I’d remembered, I chalked up the discrepancy between my idea of the dragon and its reality to my deplorable visual memory. With a profound feeling of disappointment, I took a picture of the sort-of dragon, then continued down the trail.

About twenty minutes later, I came upon a section of forest that was so ethereal, it brought me to a dead stop. As I scanned the path before me, I noticed my shadow encircled in a rainbow of light.

546995_300074756770162_760503568_nI couldn’t quite capture the rainbow aura, but you get the idea.

I began to fan my arms through the air, which made the light glimmer all around my shadow’s circumference. That looked incredibly cool, so I continued doing it for…I don’t know…ten minutes? (This is what happens when someone like me lives alone for too long.) When I’d finally had enough, I glanced to my right, and there, shrouded in mist, was the forest dragon.


No shit. It was right next to me. If I hadn’t been halted on the trail by rainbow-encircled Shadow Me, I would’ve marched past it, especially since I wasn’t even looking for it anymore, as I’d convinced myself that I’d already found the dragon from the other day.

I was beside myself. I did a happy little dance on the trail (again – too much time alone), then climbed up to the dragon, gave it a hug, clamored around on spongy soil to view it from the other side, and saw this:


I took one shot and knew I didn’t need another. When I sent the photo to my husband later that day, he wrote back: “That should be the cover of Aret.”

Now, almost four years later, it is.


I think about that dragon a lot. I wonder what it looks like now. I hope it’s still there, looming on the side of the trail, perfectly intact, waiting for me to come back and visit.


Special Treat Day


When I went to live on Orcas Island in the fall of 2012, I knew it was time to make some changes. In a recent moment of self-reflection, I’d come to understand that I’d placed myself on a psychological hamster wheel several years before, and it was time to leap off. So the second the ferry docked on the island, I thought, Okay, I’m making two personal commitments. One: I will abandon worry. Two: I will practice self-care. Easy enough. Then I laughed in my head for a really long time.

As a professional, I had focused on self-care for years (to be clear: other people’s self-care. Not my own, silly). I was even invited by a variety of community agencies to conduct trainings on that topic, which I secretly found hilarious since I didn’t practice what I preached AT ALL. During the trainings, I’d hear the words coming out of my mouth and think, This woman makes sense. I should listen to her. But I didn’t.


As it turned out, Orcas was a magical wonderland, so the first step – abandoning worry – was easier than expected. Worry is both uncomfortable and counterproductive, so my rational self kicked it to the curb with relative ease, despite a lifetime of honing the art of fretful self-torture. Whenever I caught myself envisioning a series of potential worst case scenarios (I am extremely skilled at that), I engaged helpful mantras like, “That’s not gonna happen,” or, “Stop it, Kelly. That’s a bad Kelly.”

I was similarly structured about the self-care commitment, in that I scheduled it in on a weekly basis. Every Thursday was designated as Special Treat Day, and I allotted myself $20 to do with as I wished. For the remainder of the week, I spent money only on groceries and gasoline. My stomping grounds were the woods, the waterfront, my house, the local animal shelter where I volunteered, and the library.

527506_284064841704487_1019327406_nLibby & Shadow Me on the Eastsound waterfront

But on Special Treat Day, I explored non-free ventures. The San Juan Islands are touristy and expensive, so the $20 didn’t go too far, but I still had opportunities to eat food I hadn’t prepared myself and sip fancy coffee drinks, and it felt downright luxurious. Sometimes I didn’t even spend the $20. I’d just grab a cookie at Teezer’s and travel to parts of the island that were outside of my normal routine.

390112_298845763559728_98026084_nLike the lovely Olga Pier, for example

When I found out that walk-on passengers could ferry from island to island for free, I began to plan Special Treat Days off Orcas. The best one took place on Lopez Island, a sweet little place where everyone waves from their cars (you can find this information in every article ever written about Lopez Island). It was 4 miles from the ferry landing to town, so I had plenty of opportunities to exchange waves with passing motorists as I walked along the beautiful, bucolic terrain.

223208_284065208371117_1843583133_nPracticing the Lopez Wave upon arrival

When I finally got to town, I discovered that both of the places I’d planned to go (a cafe and a vineyard) were only open on weekends, but I didn’t care because it was Special Treat Day, and being disappointed on a day with that name is unacceptable. Instead of having sad feelings, I changed course and decided to take a different route back to the ferry. While I tried (and failed) to find a trail to the beach, I came upon a herd of adorable, horned fuzzballs.

149614_284065528371085_2089998726_nWho needs a beach when you’ve got wooly cows?

I also found a cool park and a really nice mushroom.


So it turned out to be a good day, anyhow, and since then I’ve dreamed of returning to Lopez Island, ideally for a few months, to wander around, wave at strangers, go to that vineyard, and write the third book of Aret.

546995_300074756770162_760503568_nShadow Me (bottom left) on a Special Treat Day in Moran State Park

If it’s at all possible, I highly recommend incorporating a regular self-treating experience into your life. If you can’t manage every week, try for once a month, or however often is feasible. Looking forward to something – even if it’s just a cookie – can have a marvelous effect on one’s mental health. (I now say that from experience, not just as a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do trainer.)

However, if you should happen to name your self-treating venture “Special Treat Day,” I do not recommend ever abbreviating it. I did that once in my journal, and…that didn’t happen again. The day really loses its magic when you see the words: I’m so excited for my STD.

Dragons & Shrooms


Over the years, many quotable people have made statements along these lines:  if you strive for something, it will remain hidden from you. When you’re ready, it will reveal itself. And while this lesson may prove true time and time again, it’s a hard one to learn.

Wrapped up in the “striving won’t serve you” idea is a healthy nod to the virtue of patience, and patience can be a doozy. A chronically restless friend once asked me, “What good is patience? If you have to be patient, it just means you’re waiting. Waiting sucks.” I told her, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “Patience is its own reward,” to which she replied, “Ew. I hate that. Did you just make that up?”


When the story of Aret was being developed, lots of questions needed answering, from big ones like Who are the main characters? to little ones like How do you say blue in Aretian? During this time, I was living alone, and the only creatures I had to bounce ideas off of were Libby the Dog and Sid the Cat. Their reactions were predictable. Libby thought everything I said was amazing, and Sid thought I should be quiet and let him sleep.

After one particularly frustrating morning of pacing back and forth in my little cottage, striving for answers and finding nothing, I went outside to escape the computer and found this adorable little mushroom cluster on the front lawn.


I went back inside, grabbed my camera, and commenced a mushroom family photo shoot. (Mushrooms may not offer much in terms of an emotional range, but they are quite good at staying still.) At some point during the process, the answers I’d been searching for all morning popped into my head. Poof! And my brain, which loves to draw lines between obvious points of connection, told me this:  When searching for answers about dragons, look to the ‘shrooms.

So I did. I’m good at listening to my brain.


For the remainder of my time on Orcas, I spent each morning working on the book until a mountain of unanswered questions pushed me out the door and into the woods, where I searched for mushrooms, took pictures of them, and told them how lovely they were. (They really are.) By the time I returned home, I had answers to all of the morning’s questions, and I spent the rest of each evening writing. It was the perfect formula for ongoing creativity.

The meditative state resulting from my daily mushroom hunts opened the door to all kinds of answers, and not just about dragons. One night, I wrote in my journal:  Today, while I scanned the forest for mushrooms, I figured out some things for my book and also about my life. Mushrooms are magical like that. They offer a lot without asking for a thing in return.


As my three months of extreme solitude wound to an end, I started to panic a bit, although I knew it was time to reintegrate into society and speak with humans again. During my last week on Orcas, I wrote:  When you get teary at an 80s movie’s super cheeseball Christmas-themed ending, you have officially been alone for too long.

But I was worried. Without the cozy set-up I had on Orcas, I feared that I wouldn’t be able to find my answers anymore, as if my imagination would cease to function the moment I hit the mainland. The idea was horrifying, especially since I had two more books to write. And those are just the books about Aret.

But you know what?


As it turns out, mushrooms are pretty much everywhere. And it’s a good thing, too. My dragons and I have come to depend on them.