As Real as the Here & Now
I have said to many that I would embrace my inner hippie when making the move to Colorado…after all, it just is kind of fitting. There is something about this place, the coolness in the air as the seasons change, the view of Pike’s Peak in the distance, the light switch flip from falling leaves to falling snow and back again. (Yes, my Texas friends, Columbus Day delivered snow in the early morning but it all melted away by 2pm.) Perhaps living a mile up in altitude makes it easier to feel alive…I swear I can feel the vibration of the earth resonate through everything in this place. Including me.
Nature is all around…in full, beautiful, colorful glory and it beckons like a whisper across the room. Sometimes with a gentle breeze making the leaves dance, and at other times, with a swift wind that rattles the windows. I never thought I would feel this way, but I look around and am filled with gratitude that I get to live in such a beautiful place.
So now enter hippie-hood! Tomorrow I embark on a weekend experience attending a workshop with a Reiki Master, and new-found friend. Reiki literally means spiritually guided life source energy and focuses on the notion that we have the ability to heal ourselves. This ability has been available to us the whole time, we’ve just forgotten how to tap into it.
I must admit, this is completely new to me and I suppose one could say I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with religion and spirituality for most of my life. I’m not a fan of labels or institutions or ideas that have the ability to segregate or control. But I believe. I’ve always believed there is something else out there, indescribable and more grand than anything we could possibly conjure. Something that has the ability to unite us, heal us and point us toward our greater purpose. It resides in nature. It is pure and full of love. So with that in mind, I approach this weekend with an open mind, acceptance and with the hope of bringing nature inside.
Inside in every sense of the word.
Behind the Scenes
The first tree to catch the mark of Autumn went up in a blaze of glory right across the street. I’m sure any neighbors witnessing this strange girl walk over with a trash bag and proceed to take the collection of leaves inside the house instead of the garbage can, must have thought me peculiar. But I’m sure this won’t be the last strange occurrence…after all, they haven’t seen my dead bug collection!
Anyhow, Captain Awesome was away for a few days which enabled a full on invasion in the bedroom! In fact, I still found a leaf hiding under the bed the other day. Luckily, he’s used to me rearranging furniture and bringing odd things into the house, much to his initial dismay!
When an idea comes knocking, and a strong one at that, it becomes difficult to ignore. So despite the fact that late at night isn’t always the best lighting scenario, I decided to embark upon this concept with inspiration at the wheel. Quite a challenge it was…getting the settings just right to capture the leaves falling in such soft, low light. But on the other hand, I got to feel like a 5 year old throwing leaves around as if I were tackling a pile out in the front yard! And that’s always fun…until you have to clean it all up!
I head out later today to try and capture the light on the mountains before the sun sets. It’s the perfect day to some magic.
Rippled Waves of Uncertainty
I remember that day, three months ago. We were packing up the truck for one last move cross country. A task, that after numerous occasions had become quite commonplace. But this time would be the last. (For those of you doubters out there, yes, this is IT! I promise!)
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
A very fitting quote at the onset of a long journey ahead. I wished for the power to snap my fingers and transport us all in an instant. As no matter how familiar this process had become over the last several years, it was still quite arduous and exhausting. And like any good journey, the arrival is always more exhilarating than the three day (and change) excursion west. After all, there were no giant balls of string or dinosaur tracks to witness across no man’s land. And we were on a mission; the ultimate tunnel vision toward the final destination, which meant no extra layovers.
But long road trips, just the dog and me, with the view of the U-haul, paving the way ahead, for 3 days forces the mind to wander and play the What If game. You know, the game that makes you second guess all of your decisions. Like, was buying a house sight unseen really the best decision? Or, what if we never make any friends? Or what if some family emergency occurs and we, god forbid, need to move to take care of a loved one? Or all those little mind f*cks that come in and rain on your parade and on a perfectly sunny day. Because really, I mean we’re talking Colorado! Our town sits 6,500 feet at the base of a beautiful “fourteener,” aka Pike’s Peak. We are a mile closer to the sun and a mile closer to the heavens. And when we get lost, all one needs to do is locate the mountains to find one’s true north. Or sit atop a mountain and soak in the messages of the universe. But nonetheless, all of these questions kept running through my mind at a million miles an hour.
I would equate it to nothing more than cold feet. It’s human nature to have a small existential crisis while standing (or driving) at the precipice of a life-altering migration, to believe that it is possible to have everything you want, at the same time, and that you are deserving of such majesty.
So despite the looming unknown and uncertainty sitting almost 1,500 miles ahead. Knowing the future is what we make it and that not only do we have everything we need, but we have each other…and that’s all that really matters.
We set off on a Tuesday and haven’t looked back since…
If only to say why didn’t we do this sooner?
My apologies for being away for so long. I’ve been working on the back end, creating pieces that are not quite ready to breach the outer banks of my computer just yet. But rest assured, now that I have landed and have my feet firmly on the ground, the inspiration from this magical place will flow freely.
In them meantime, Captain Awesome, Shelby (seen frolicking at the world’s greatest dog park) and I are admiring the view, making friends and breathing in the fresh air.
Side Note: Thank you, Laura, for taking us all to the water that hot and sticky day in Alabama. And of course, for encouraging this little one to play along with me and my camera!
I introduce to you, Trey the Magician! :-)
Some of these outtakes were just as fun as the intended concept.
Once again, Captain Awesome and I have set out on another journey together. I had no idea when I married him the adventure I was in for…oh, not in the slightest. We left home, our family and took a four year waltz across the East coast traveling North to South in search of some mythical unicorn. And while there have been some great experiences; my first snow, my Fromagis, reconnecting with my long lost love – my art, and creating new friendships (my other favorite kind of creation), there has also been struggle. (Awesome would say that I’ve become resilient. And sometimes those words make me want to punch him in the face!) But through those struggles, I have learned some surprising things about myself; like how I can have the entire house packed up in less than 2 weeks and put back together in 2 days. There should be a game show for that kind of talent. I’ve also learned, with the departure into unchartered waters, we find we lean more on each other, making our marriage and friendship stronger.
And through all this discovery, each action further defines the notion that everything does indeed happen for a reason. Perhaps all of this moving around was to bring us to this very spot. The spot where we just put an offer on a house in a new state…once again. But this time with PURPOSE and INTENT. It was time to gravitate toward a place that fits who we are at this stage in our lives instead of following that carrot around to unglamourous places. Why does the AF always find the most uninteresting places to set up shop?
The goal is simplicity. For life. For enjoyment. For happiness. For a LONG time. And while the sellers unfortunately passed up our offer on the house, we have to hope that another better and more suited place lies around the corner waiting to jump out and surprise us.
Ultimately the journey is not about the destination. Each moment of disappointment is an opportunity for character building. Each rejection either strengthens our resolve or forces us to question our needs versus our wants. The entire experiences challenges us to better communicate, listen, trust each other, and compromise for the good of the whole. And it’s these little moments that make it all worthwhile.
For this life isn’t waiting for us, it’s happening now.
Behind the Scenes of Trust Fall
As with most ideas that sit brewing in my head, eventually they find a way to burst out. But this one in particular created a bit of a conundrum, for this piece required very specific timing and one that I was not capable of doing myself with my remote control or my timer. I needed to call in a friend. Or in this case, Captain Awesome…then a friend.
For those not intimately acquainted with the delicate features of the camera, merely hitting the shutter can be an exercise in futility – for Awesome manhandled my poor camera. The camera, on a tripod, placed near the water’s edge in soft and squishy sand created the perfect storm for a blurry image. And it happened again and again before I realized, after the fourth plunge backwards into the water that I needed to employ a softer hand.
In comes Brittany, visiting after a wedding in Pensacola. She majored in photography, at the same school only 8 years later. And after her amazing help with The Other Side, I knew I could count on her gentle touch to provide the sharper image my mind required.
So that particular day, with storm clouds looming in the distance, we set out for the bay armed with swimsuits, the usual camera gear, towels, a trash bag or “raincoat” for my camera, and my trusty stepladder named Rosie. The water in this part of the bay is roughly only 3 feet deep, complete with wandering hermit crabs. So after wading out, setting up the ladder in the appropriate spot and clearing the sand of any crustaceans, we were ready to give this a good college try. Take Two!
I’d like to think this happened on the first shot, but that’s never quite the case. Each respective jump took precision in timing; most importantly the first click at the top of the jump to (hopefully) catch the moment before impact. I believe the final image resulted from the fourth jump. But some of these behind the scenes shots are just as amusing as the final piece.
Thank you, Brittany, for once again, coming to my rescue. :-)
I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. I’m not one for diets either. To some degree, both those words fall too often into the temporary camp of let’s give it our best go before our natural tendencies win the battle and the world settles back into status quo. Easier is the path of least resistance. Besides, there is always tomorrow.
Our holiday season was riddled with unexpected news. The kind that places a mirror squarely at eye level and forced us to take an honest assessment of our lives, evaluate the truth, what is crucial and that which is highly inconsequential. Unfortunately, we swim in the deep end of the latter. Perhaps most of us do. But, after the visual come to Jesus talk, the dawning realization was quite obvious. We’ve been living for the later and not for the now.
I saw something posted online that said, “one day or day one.” What if there is no day two? And what if we spend all of these days uttering one day realizing we never put ourselves into a position to actually begin day one? Then it’s too late. What a scary reflection to witness in a blink of internal observation. Then comes the question…
Why aren’t we living the life we want to live today? Of course, a thousand and one reasons explain this path and I promise you, they were all completely justified in thought and action. But perhaps blindly they failed to focus on the true importance of our existence. Which brings us to our next question…
What is truly important?
That answers rings different for everyone. For us, it was a wake-up call. Time to make some changes, permanent ones. Ones that do not merely part the grass to allow our passage, but forge paths in our wake. Not the path of least resistance, but rather the path to a more meaningful and purpose driven life.
A life where tomorrow is marked with day two, day three…
Behind the Scenes of Wake-Up Call
This particular piece was created quite awhile ago for a series stuck in my head like a rerun for some time now. I’m not even sure it belongs in said series any longer, so perhaps it’s now time to introduce it to the world…or at least the web. For it has made its presence into a gallery recently.
It’s one of my favorites. I think I like the simplicity of it the most. And before you ask, this is anything but a reference to Leda and the Swan. Truth be told, I never actually read that piece of Greek Mythology but some pesky critic dismissed this piece as an obvious representation. A little bitter – yes, but I recognize the viewer is 50% of this equation and people will see and experience as they like.
But I digress, this particular concept came together perfectly one weekend. I took over the bedroom for a bit of furniture rearranging and to eliminate the scene of distracting elements. Actually, that took longer than anything else. I set the timer and shot three rounds before declaring victory and moving into post processing.
Luckily I have a library of swan images from my visit to Fire Island back in 2014, a fun adventure with the Bayerdorffers which feels like a lifetime ago. My apologies for the incessant photographing that naturally occurred once these two beauties made their way over, obviously with the intent of begging for food. They hovered for at least a good 20 minutes before departing to find some friendly stranger willing to toss some scraps. Nonetheless, these swans have come in handy many times, for the first time in Oddly Even and the second in Northern Migration. I’m sure they will swim their way into some future piece as well.
Swans have a way of doing that.
The Dance of the Sanguine
There is one very special person in my life who I can always count on when the earth feels like it’s about to fall out of orbit. The pressure in the atmosphere hangs heavy and my perspective shifts sideways as I struggle to determine which way is my true North. Much with the flow of all things in nature, my life is not without this natural cycle of highs and lows. Highs that push through the forces of gravity where one can hear the angels sing and lows heavy and dark enough to sink my own personal Titanic. Yes, this is my life. Perhaps the struggle of most everyone and certainly that of those who are more creatively inclined.
But on those days that are particularly dark, I march right into her office and explain my plight; for she always has the perfect response. Perfect in the sense of taking one sharp inhale of spearmint and eucalyptus and instantly you feel invigorated and alive from the inside out…reawakening your senses and providing a certainty of place in this world. If even just for a second. And in that moment, the realization hits that life isn’t really that bad. One inconvenience merely suggests there is an opportunity for something even greater.
If you are somewhat like me, you might think – not everything is rainbows and unicorns! How can one continuously live on a cloud, surveying the horizon above the storms?
The answer, I can only assume, is in the power of positivity.
For example: I might say – Ugh! I am SO sick of the rain! When will the sun return?! (Never mind that we’ve been experiencing the lovely Seattle weather here in Virginia for the last three weeks!) To which she might immediately respond with (and has), Oh no, but we needed the rain. Look at the trees and how they sway and glisten. Look at how green the grass is…the Earth was thirsty.
I might say – My car died. My beloved MINI Cooper, (whom I affectionately named Fergie), died this weekend. Her clutch gave out on one final hurrah on Interstate 395. Her pick up and go got up and left! And sadly, it costs more to replace it than the car is currently worth. (Face palm). Her response to my dejected dilemma – This is fantastic! Now you can pick out the car you want. You’ll have something reliable. And with the interest rates these days, you can walk out of there with hardly any money down and a decent monthly payment…no problem!
Even though that last example was a little tough to swallow, I have to step back and respect her ability to turn any frown upside down no matter how ridiculous I thought the comment was at the moment or how flustered and defeated I felt on the inside. Her abilities also apply to those beyond the scope of what one might consider trivial. My ever-changing landscapes and emotional roller coasters also elicit similar responses from her; all laced with an ounce of wisdom and warm blanket to comfort the cold recesses of my unsettled mind.
There does reside inside a part of me that wishes I could harness this super power. Yes, I did just refer to optimism as a super power. It’s so easy to jump on the negative bandwagon. Once one person starts down that path, everyone hops on to the tunes of woe is me and it’s all downhill to Pity Town. There must be some genetic disposition inside most of us to paint the world black instead of recognizing there are two sides to every coin and turning towards the light. We do have the power inside ourselves to make a choice. Really it’s an attitude adjustment; accept and adapt or brood and sulk. (Yes, I can see my 16 year old self rolling her eyes right now.) Perhaps like any good habit, consistency, especially in the face of adversity, is necessary for continued practice. Easier said than done.
I wonder if optimism has the ability to foster and cultivate in the same way that pessimism does. Can paying it forward perpetually exist? Or does it take one naysayer, one apple to ruin the barrel as they say, to watch the walls tumble down?
And while I let you ponder on that last question, I will leave you with this quote. Perhaps, since I aspire to harness a level of positivity, but know deep down it’s not in my genetic coding, I do feel a certain pull towards this line of thinking…
“I’m not interested in blind optimism, but I am very interested in optimism that is hard-won, that takes on darkness and then says, This is not enough!” ~Colum McCann
Thank you, my dear friend, for always being that beam of light that shines proudly through the dark clouds with purpose and intent.
Behind the Scenes of a Conceptual Photograph
The Dance of the Sanguine culminated from the same trip up to Watkins Glen, NY with other talented photographers. It was very early that morning when the alarm sounded out and woke our room of four sleeping girls – containing even two, yes I said TWO, Maris(s)a’s! Factor in the time of the month, November, and the early hour, it was just a bit nippy with temperatures below freezing. But there are those times when I recognize that sleeping in means I miss out on opportunities…like photographing the incredibly talented Shelby Robinson at sunrise while she blows bubbles into the breeze over the lake. The light slow rising on the hills in the distance. She was a sweetheart, willingly modeling in a paper thin dress, despite the freezing temperatures, despite the fact that she flew from Georgia where they rarely experience that kind of cold so early in the season.
I honestly wasn’t quite sure what I would attempt that morning, but I headed out with my camera and a bottle of bubbles, as I had this idea floating in my head for quite some time now. Once I surveyed the landscape, it was a no brainer.
Perhaps the early bird does know what he’s doing after all.
Here are just a few behind the scenes images…never mind the ridiculous number of frames I shot trying to catch the elusive bubbles over the water!
Thanks, Shelby, for being such a rock star! It was a pleasure meeting you.