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Thursday
Apr102014

Riff on This: Hide and Seek

All of Cherish Bryck's images are expressive in the extreme, so I knew she would select something evocative for our group of friends to riff on.  Looking at the image above now, it seems playful to me.  When she first sent it, however, I saw someone obscuring herself.  The question of whether there are things I'm not facing is alive for me these days anyway, so it's probably natural that I saw it and ran in that direction.

You might as well answer the door, my child, the truth is furiously knocking.
--Lucille Clifton

 

(To see where my friends went with this, hop on through to Cherish.)

Monday
Mar102014

Riff on This: Spacious

Meghan Davidson presented our little sisterhood with this image as our jumping-off point for this month's riff.  I've been one of the biggest fans of her 365 Impossible Self-Portraits project for the past almost-year, but ohmygod this month's riff made me realize exactly how impossible that project must actually be on a day to day basis.  In addition to having to come up with a different self-portrait idea EVERY SINGLE DAY, she has to contend with the challenges of instant film, one take, very little control over her exposure, no post-processing.  Every.  Single.  Day.

It is inspiring and intimidating and a little bit (a lot?) magic.  When she posted the shot above for us to riff on, I couldn't even get my head around exactly what I was looking at.  I still haven't the foggiest notion of how she did it.  And though I was nervous about taking on any one element (self-portrait, silhouette, double exposure) I finally found myself circling around the idea of what my internal landscape looks like these days.

Here's a hint: it doesn't look like the image below.

But I'd like for it to.

I find myself in a crowded moment, where the to-do lists and the obligations and the to-and-fro join with the multiplying stacks of paper to make me feel... constrained.  I have found myself whispering one word to myself like a little prayer in the past week.

Spacious.

Spacious.

Spacious.

I try to believe that there is enough room in my head, and my heart, and the vast universe for all that my life currently contains.  

I can visualize this on a warm winter day, with the kick and glide of my nordic skis, my breath, hard and rhythmic, and the blistering white of the snow laid out over a Rocky Mountain valley before me.  It erases boundaries and covers the tangled earth in a peaceful and soothing blanket.  That's how I want my interior landscape to look - calm, undulating, expansive.  Spacious.

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To hop on around to see if my other creative muses are less tortured than me swing on by Meghan's blog next.

Monday
Feb102014

The Lucky Ones

Today I am acutely aware of this one thing: life is not fair.

Tomorrow I board a flight to Minnesota as proof for a family member that love still exists, even as she says goodbye to her husband of 14 years.  A viewing.  A church service.  He didn't deserve this.  She doesn't deserve this.  We are too young for this.

It was benign, until it was not.  Which, come to think of it, is the basic nature of time as it does its number on each of us.

I watch Ezra sprout up by the day.  The chubby toddler cherub has receded almost completely, stretched into angular boy before my eyes.  He has been so self-contained for so long that it is a welcome surprise to discover that he suddenly seeks comfort against my body. He slithers right into my arms and I don't know what triggers this, but it is all innocent and intimate and I revel in this benign moment when we are the lucky ones.

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Tara Romasanta inspired this image.  My photographer friends and I decided to shake up the blog circle this month, so Tara took this picture, and we all set out to discover what it sparked in each of us.  To me, her image is about touch, and the sweet power of innocent intimacy so I wanted to try to capture what that looks like in my life right now.  If you follow the link to Tara's blog and onward, you're sure to be surprised and delighted about what my compatriots did with the prompt.

Monday
Jan272014

Windows in the Dark

The darkroom monitor was disapproving when I turned up with Ezra in tow.  You're not supposed to bring children because of the chemicals, she said.  His babysitter fell through, I tried to explain.  She let me in grudgingly.  I had a whole bag of film to develop but I picked three rolls, set Ezra in the corner with the iPad, and disappeared into the dark, dark, darkroom.

There is something so comforting about that space, a little cocoon.  I feel safe there in the quiet and dark.  I know what happens in there is predictable and orderly, but even with the chemistry, with the agitating and the fixing and the rinsing and the watching the seconds tick down on the clock, it feels like magic.

I cursed when I pulled this spool out of the tank.  I rolled this precious document of a day on the Pacific backwards.  Now I gingerly pull the mangled plastic off the reel to reveal a windblown Meghan, mostly obliterated by my clumsy out-of-practice hand.

Still, she's there, in some ethereal form, wispy like my memory of the day.   There, in the dim basement of an old mansion in Capitol Hill, I can smell the salt air of the wet Northwest.

I could hear Ezra's iPad spelling game on the other side of the door, so I ducked out to adjust his earphones.  Plunged back into quiet, I was luckier with subsequent rolls.  I pulled little windows on another world out of the darkness. 

Twelve little squares, stacked on top of one another, transport me to a place where friends like Tara patiently allow me to set and reset, meter and re-meter, before, finally, click.

Debra too, in the melancholy light and shadow.  I remember this weekend as fun, but more than that.  It was a tender balance of deep and delicate shared truth.

In this dim little closet, with the iPad and the disapproving darkroom monitor on the other side of the door, there's a satisfying quiet and rhythm of alchemy.  In the darkroom the rest of the world goes away, and each little frame of celluloid is like a crystal ball vision of a moment far away.  On this day, it was a portal to an accepting sisterhood and love.

Thursday
Jan092014

Ten on Ten: Restart, Home

Looking back at it now, I can see I am a child of deep woods.  I was too little to notice then.  I saw the red clay earth under my fingernails, of course.  Heard the hot percussion of rain falling on the tin roof of the cabin my dad built, the urgent burbling of the creek that ran behind his house after the rain, and the crunching of leaves under my feet in autumn as I beat a path - back and forth through the woods, a million times a week - to my best friend's house.  I saw trees, trees, trees, a dense verticality between me and the world.

I wanted out.  I wanted city, and things to do, and sidewalks, and drywall, and next-door neighbors.

Now when I go back I see the forest.  It takes my breath away.

We were there over the holidays.  When I go home now, I ache for the woods.  I want to walk in them and notice everything.  They feel exactly the same, and also nothing like I remember.  I notice how brutal and delicate they are, how rich.  Life grows over life here, fallen trees slowly eaten by water and moss and vines.  The carpet of leaves shed by innumerable deciduous trees are a wet mulch on winter ground.  I am always surprised at the feelings that rise in me, a tender loving familiarity. 

Ezra loves it there.  Being with his grandparents is a big draw, of course, but he resonates with quiet, and space, and sticks and rocks and running water.

(Twice this week he has told me he wants to live back there, and I have to laugh at the inevitability of running from a place only to have your child long to return.  It is the migrant's tale, no?)

I might be tempted to relegate this all to the closet of sentimentality, but when I was home I ran into a childhood friend named Sampson Starkweather.  He's a poet based in Brooklyn now, but his sharp memory of what seems like every detail of coming-of-age and the deep sense of place in many of his poems confirms for me the power of these woods.  In his brilliant new book he writes:

I know you need the city but we all have our forests.

A place for things to grow or fail... to go unnoticed.

A place for things to fall.  I am speaking of the heart.

Like Ezra, I apparently resonate with sticks and rocks and running water.  But I also resonate with the idea that perspectives change.  That we can restart our relationship with a world, a person, life. 

I love my adopted home of Colorado, the wide horizon, the enormous sky, the dry air, the family I've built.  And I know that no matter where I go, these woods are imprinted on my bones.  I'm not running from that anymore.

My little photography blog circle is examining the idea of "restart" this month in our 10 on 10.  I can't wait to see how the lovely and talented Tara Romasanta is restarting in this new year.  Hop on over here to see what beauty she has in store.