Do you ever get the feeling that you can’t describe something with words? Try three times.

Tegan poses with one foot still planted on the rock she has been standing on and the other leg thrown up onto the miniature boulder she’s transferring to. Her face is full of the joyful brio she seems to possess in endless supply. Behind her, Half Dome rises like a piece of rock candy awaiting the pleasure of her consumption. She has a cowboy hat on. I am in love with the idea of her.

Hoisting herself up onto a rock, Tegan pauses to smile at the camera. A straw cowboy hat can’t obscure the luminous smile she flashes, no less incandescent for being uncovered at midday, like a candle whose heat does not discriminate between brilliant noon and moonless night. Tegan’s approach to happiness reminds me of the brothers in the film “Gattaca” who compete to see who can swim farthest from shore. After a protracted battle, the one who has always won in the past turns to his theretofore weaker brother and demands to know how he is defeating him. The answer? “I didn’t save anything for the swim back.” Tegan does not keep a reserve of happiness or wait for an excuse to throw the lever on her joy machine. Rather, she seems to run the thing with its throttle perpetually wide open. She’s energy inefficient. I want to waste resources like that.

In the fall of 2007 Tegan Mickle accompanied Lydia Fernbach and several other friends to the Yosemite Valley for a weekend of hiking and camping. At one point they traversed a boulder-strewn slope. Halfway up Lydia made a photograph of Tegan scrambling through the scree. The valley recedes in a field of green behind her, ending in the wall of Half-Dome. Something about the picture takes me away, not just to the valley although it does in some sense do that too. It takes me outside myself and far away.


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