{Click} An Affinity for Mental Pictures

It was twilight in the Amana Colonies. Our little family of three was heading back to our car after a late afternoon of window shopping and enjoying some strudel. Seasonal garlands were hung along every fence post on the main road. The authentic smell of Christmas trees, the dimmed lights flickering above the shops, the residual pastry flakes still clinging to our sweaters…it was magical. Our seven-month-old was close to dozing off in his stroller. As we made a right turn to the parking lot, my husband and I were stunned out of movement.

Just beyond the bevy of cars was one of those sunsets. You know, the kind so gorgeous you stop in your tracks. The glimmering golden hues and orange streaks danced flirtatiously behind a rustic barn and the Amana water tower. It was magnificent, not only because of its beauty, but also for the way it perfectly captured the feelings we were both experiencing about the day. This was the first relaxing day we’d had in weeks. It was the day our son met Santa for the first time (not that it went especially well). This was the day we intentionally missed Black Friday present shopping and decided to just be present.

Instinctively, my husband, Ryan, took out his phone to take a picture.

But here’s the thing about perfect moments: no amount of filter can do them justice. Try as we might, some scenes cannot be adequately captured.

And that’s where the mental picture comes in.

click: an affinity for mental pictures


“What was that?” Ryan asked, looking confused. “I just took a mental picture,” I replied, “that way I’ll always remember this moment. Doesn’t everyone do that?” Apparently not.

 I have decades of mental pictures stored in my memory. Unlike a photograph you can print, these encapsulate all five senses. They’re the artifacts of our most vivid recollections. They’re the big moments, certainly, but more often they’re the beauty of our every day life. Mental pictures are the smell of the salty ocean breeze the night of our first date, the taste of the vanilla latte the night my husband proposed. They’re the eagerly awaited sound of our son’s heartbeat during the first ultrasound.

As a millennial mom who entered my teen years with the birth of social media, I take and share a lot of pictures. Probably too many. It’s important to me to be able to share pictures with my family who all live far away, and I often find myself reflecting back on photos from TimeHop to reminisce what life was like various years ago.

But what I love about mental pictures–why I think it’s crucial to intentionally take them–is they’re reserved only for me. No one will be able to experience or share in these moments quite like I did.

Not all mental pictures are purely happy, but all mental pictures are important. They make up the human experience, and they are unique to the person capturing them. They are the difference between looking back on a memory, and re-living the perfect sunset.

We all take mental pictures, whether purposefully or not, but I encourage you this busy holiday season to intentionally set aside the camera and truly take in the moment. Breathe in the aroma of your grandma’s cookies, really listen to your children as they sing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” for the 11th time and slightly off-key, and let yourself sink into your husband’s arms after a long day.

Slow down in the commotion, look around, and {click}.


Brianna is a California girl loving the Iowa way of life! She and her husband Ryan live in Marion with their four month old son Cal and gigantic Bernese mountain dog Marshall. She is a School Facilitator in Marion, and recently earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership through Drake University. Her husband is a professor at Coe College; they met at a bar seven years ago and have been madly in love since. Brianna is passionate about education and working with at-risk students, she loves getting to work with kids each day! She enjoys gushing over her boys, reading, staying active, and visiting California to see her family every chance she gets.


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