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Я – церковь без крестов
Лечу, раскинув руки.
Вдоль сонных берегов
Окаменевшей муки.
Я – вера без причин.
Я – правда без начала.
Ты слышишь, как вскричала
Душа среди осин.

-DDT

motherwell-retreat-22

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of going to an art photography workshop in Colorado. The leader of the workshop (artist Jennifer Thoreson) had held it there, at the Motherwell Ranch, for 4 years in a row. I had gone last year, and was very excited to go again. I had been feeling like the above image – a dry river bed – static, tired. I feel most days as if there’s a hive of disgruntled bees in my head, buzzing around causing a ruckus, making it very hard to do or think or be any one thing. Must do all the things, think all the things, be all the things all at once. It’s exhausting, and I lose myself in it so completely. This workshop, or retreat as I like to call it, is an escape. A way to force myself to slow down, breathe, empty out the angry bees and be left with an echoing silence.

motherwell-retreat-1

Truth time – I love doing what I do. I love documenting life for my clients – be it weddings, families, big and little things. I think it’s important, and I really enjoy getting into someone else’s head, their feelings and experiences, and translating that into images for them. BUT – what about me? Who’s going to do that for me? Well, I guess I need to. I went to art school, and I have a drive, a need, a desire to create. Out of my own heart, my own head, my own experiences, I want to speak. There’s almost never time for that in my real life – between work, family, home, etc, it’s so hard to give yourself time. To allow yourself the gift of space. The privilege to first and foremost – exist. And second, to create out of that existing. So, I have to go away for that. And so I went.

The first day, I felt an extreme anxiety. The bees were creating a deafening roar. I felt I must do, create, be exceptional. “You only have a short time here, so seize the opportunity! Make the most of it! Create something beautiful and different and exquisite right NOW”. Not exactly the rest I had envisioned. Towards the end of the allotted shooting time, I just had to stop. I was putting so much pressure on myself that I couldn’t even hear myself think. I was going through the withdrawal pains – pulling away from my normal “PRODUCE PRODUCE PRODUCE” way of life. This is not the way to make art. So I called it a day.

On my slow walk back to the lodge, I came across this:

motherwell-retreat-35

Something clicked into place. Like God just put his hand on my shoulder and said “wait. stop. listen. “

I can’t even look at this picture without getting chills.

There’s something about this place – the nature, the air, the specifically northern foliage that makes me feel HOME. In big, capital letters, in that cozy, satisfied way you climb into your favorite chair with your favorite person in front of an evening fire. I am pulled there, as if thin, unseen filaments beneath the earth tie me to the aspen trees – as if before I existed on this planet, I was in a place like this. I needed some time to settle in. That night I had a delicious meal, wine around the campfire, time to reconnect with friends from the previous year and make some new ones. I decided to take the weekend to play – just stretch my spiritual muscles, delve back into the art of making art. What do I want to say? How do I want to say it? What will it look like? Why? And focus more on the questions than the answers.

In 4 days, I’m turning 30. This brings with it a whole host of thoughts and questions, and I am compelled to return to the almighty Blank Page to start processing. I’ve been in denial about being an adult for roughly 12 years now, and it’s a hard pill to swallow that at 30, I can no longer deny it. I am an adult. I have a husband, and a house and a dog. My life is pretty swell. Nevertheless, I’ve always worried about being ordinary, and just going with the flow, and I feel like that’s exactly what I end up doing. Every morning, I get up and do essentially the same thing. One of the perks of working from home is that I could, in theory, decide to take a morning and go on an epic hike in some park I’ve never been to. Or go find a new coffee shop. Hell, I could just decide to paint. If I was really craving a break, I could pack an overnight bag and drive out a different state for a couple of days. But do I do any of these things? No. Just because it’s not part of the routine. If our house was carpeted, there would be a path worn in from my bedroom to my computer. I am an odd duck that loves adventure but is tied to routine. I think it’s important to stop, every once in a while, and take stock. Look at your life and ask yourself – is this intentional? Is it on purpose? Or am I (fill in the blank here) just because of habit?

One of my biggest fears has always been that I will “come to”, as if out of a coma, most of the way through my life, only to find that not only do I not know who I am, but I haven’t lived the way I had wanted to, and it’s too late to do anything differently. That I’ll find myself, at 60, with kids I didn’t really want, in a house I can’t afford, with a lifetime of memories of meaningless days spent at a desk. I know, pretty bleak, and of course in reality it’s never that black and white. But the point is, if I’m going to spend the day, say, sitting at my computer in a coffee shop writing blog posts, I want to do it on purpose, intentionally, not just because “that’s what people do”.

30 is still quite young. Unless I meet some unfortunate end, I have the bulk of my life still ahead of me. But it is a milestone, for sure. A division bell, as it were (thanks pink floyd). You have to start asking yourself some serious questions. Where do you want to live? How do you want to spend your days? What makes you feel full and alive, and what makes you feel empty and dead? What can you do to have more of the former and less of the latter? And even straightforward things like – what about kids?

I’ve been thinking over these things off and on for years, but especially, diligently, overwhelmingly, this past month. First, I noticed rather poignantly, that I had a very hard time finding time to even think about it. And boy, that says something about my current life that is just not set up for mental and spiritual health. When, to really take stock of myself and my life, I have to sneak in moments of contemplation between work, housework, visitations, exercises, and all manner of busy-ness. It took most of the month for me to figure out what my questions were, never mind finding out the answers. Here are some thoughts, in as concise a manner as I can manage at the moment.

– Where do I want to live? Well, there are just too many answers. One of the things that makes me sad, thinking about the finite-ness of life, is that I can’t possibly live everywhere. Or even, every type of place. I can’t live in a small town on the mediterranean, in a cabin in maine, in africa and europe and alaska and also san jose and colorado. There aren’t enough years, and I don’t want to spend my life moving around. But what I do think is that I need to be somewhere quiet but friendly. A place where I can breathe deeply of fresh air and be surrounded by trees and fields and flowers and dirt, and yet friends can come visit without too much effort. A home base, from which to bounce out into the world on many adventures, but always to come back to. Maybe the Santa Cruz mountains. Maybe Colorado. Maybe Maine or Alaska, but certainly not all of these places at once. The thought of moving from the Bay Area is terrifying, but I don’t want to stay just because I’m scared to leave.

-How do I want to spend my days? Mainly, not in the same way every day. Diversity is key. I want to take photos, create art, write and read, spend lots of time outdoors, and be active. I want to see new places, meet new people, and have reasonable amounts of time to sit on the porch and drink tea and ponder about things. I don’t mind editing photos or watching movies or chatting online, but I don’t want this to be the bulk, the focus of my life.

– What makes me feel alive? Traveling, being outside, being active, meeting new people, reading books, writing things, creating something beautiful, connecting with friends, communicating. What makes me feel dead? Doing the same thing, day in and day out. Uninterrupted hours in front of a screen, interacting with demanding people, doing things out of obligation, not creating anything new, being busy.

-And the hardest – what can I change to have more of the former and less of the latter? So many things come to mind. Firstly, some things I’ve already been working on – trying to wake up early, and do some healthy tasks before getting to work. Play with the dog, do some gardening, read the Bible, journal, a bit of yoga. Secondly – set aside time for art and exploration. It feels “unproductive” so it’s usually the first thing to go. And man, that can kill my soul over time. Be intentional and set aside the time. Travel. Do random things just because I can. Go to new places. Hike, camp, bike. Watch less TV. Create limits for when I’m on social media or working. Limits for work! Such a crazy idea, but so necessary.

– Finally, kids. The biggest question without an answer. I don’t want them, have no real desire for them. But I’m scared of regretting not having them, or of deciding I want them after it’s too late. I’m scared of being alone in my later years – being disconnected and lonely floating through the world waiting to die. I do worry about that. And the ticking clock – that I have about 5, at most 10 years to change my mind – terrifying. Above all, inevitability terrifies me. Each passing year seems to cross off opportunities for life – things I could have done that are no longer practical to do. I can still learn to dance, but I’ll never be a ballerina. I can travel, but I can’t give summer camp another try. It’s a daily challenge – to focus on all of the options I have instead of the ones that are gone. But even that can sometimes be overwhelming – I put so much pressure on myself to make the right choice all the time, and feel so disappointed in myself when I don’t. A little more peace, a little more grace with myself, while not giving up entirely to laziness – this balance I continually have to seek.

Do You Want To Be Well?

…it seems like almost a silly question. Who doesn’t want to be well? But if you think about it, a lot of us don’t. We continue self-destructive behaviors that feed our addictions. We don’t do the things we know will be good for us. Sometimes, there’s a deep self-loathing that makes us feel we aren’t worth the effort. Most of the time, though, it isn’t as complicated as all that. It’s just simply that being “well” – spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally healthy – takes real work. Hard, painful, awkward, uncomfortable work. It’s almost always three steps forward and two steps back, then sitting on the stoop feeling like a failure for a while.

More and more lately I’ve been asking myself this question. Sometimes, it’s honestly hard to tell the answer until you ask follow-ups. What are the things that make you feel well, and what are some steps you could be taking to get there? Are you doing those things? Are you taking those steps?….And almost always followed by “why not?”

As Paul said so succinctly all those years ago, ” the things I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do”.

On a simple level, it goes like this: What makes me feel well in the morning? Drinking tea. Going for a hike. Doing some reading. Washing dishes. Journaling. So naturally, that’s what I do every  morning, right? Of course not, that would be too easy! Instead I roll out of bed, walk directly to the computer, putter around for half an hour before grabbing a hap-hazard breakfast and eating it at my desk while I put a tv show on and continue puttering around on the internet. And that’s where I stay for the next 6-8 hours. Sometimes working, sometimes not, but generally not making time for the things which are important for wellness. It’s not like I’m saving the world by being on the computer, I can make the time. I just don’t. Because it’s easier not to. It’s easier to be distracted and entertained than it is to think and process, to be quiet, to be aware. Being aware, my friends, is scary. But I’m trying. With itty bitty baby steps, I’m trying.

 

 

Two Years

I can’t believe it’s been nearly two years since I’ve written. The whole layout of this website has changed. And my life has changed a fair bit, too. It’s something about this time of year that always gets me thinking. I start to feel nostalgic, i think abut the past and future…dreams and regrets. I could go on for a while about everything that’s happened on the past two years, but that doesn’t seem necessary. I looked at my list of things I’d like to accomplish in my 28th year, and I felt better knowing that I had accomplished a fair number of them. Still no trip to Russia, though…and my art is still at a standstill. It’s like this wall I just can’t break through.

It makes me a little sad to look at this blog and see all the awesome stuff we did before, because I feel so stagnant now. Immobile. I injured my knee this past May running a marathon, and while it’s very slowly gotten better, it still aches a little most days and I feel unmotivated to get back to exercise. It’s become an incessant voice of worry in my head – what if it never fully heals? What if I can never really run again? What if it’ll ache every time i go hiking or biking for the REST OF MY LIFE. So I’m scared to even try, thinking that the longer I wait, the longer it has to heal. And meanwhile, my inactivity is having a negative impact on my life. Feeling tired and restless at the same time, bored and stressed. My outdoor time, my running time, was my spirit-filling time, and I miss it so much. I have to break through that wall, too. So many walls that I built up myself.

So I’m thinking about goals, dreams. For my life in general, for the rest of the year, for next year. But I preface everything with “if God wills”….because more than ever I am aware of how fickle, how flimsy our control over our own lives is.

Stay tuned.

————-

Day 2 we planned to be one of our longer days – about 65 miles from Pismo State Beach to Gaviota State Park:

pismo-gaviota

Day 2 ride – Pismo Beach to Gaviota State Park

We figured that with how nice and easy our warm up day was, and how we’re in much better shape now than during our last trip, a 65 mile day should be a picnic. Well….we were mildly mistaken. We got started quite late – in spite of waking up at roughly 6:30, we didn’t actually hit the road until 9:45. Don’t ask me what we were dillydallying with for three hours, but that’s just how long it took that day. We had a good start, easily making the first 20 or so miles into Guadalupe. We got lunch there, and after again dillydallying for over an hour, we headed back on the road. Biking after a heavy delicious lunch is SO DANG HARD. I’m one of those people that apparently requires all of my body’s attention to digest food, so after a meal I always feel incredibly lethargic and sleepy. Nevertheless, on we went. It was a beautiful day in beautiful countryside.

day2-1

fields outside Guadalupe

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california fields

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full and content

One of my favorite things about day 2 was when we stopped by a fruit stand and bought 2lbs of strawberries. We enjoyed those suckers for days.

day2-4

getting strawberries

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strawberries strapped to the front of my bike :0)

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grapes ripening on the vine – fall in California

About halfway through the day we started getting into some hills. Now, mind you, these were not exceptionally big hills – less than 1000 feet, for sure. Still, they were the only real hills we had during this trip, and they happened to fall on our long day. It was beautiful up in the hills, and we figured we were only a couple of hours away from being done for the day. Based on our elevation map, it looked like just two slow and easy hills, and we’d be hitting camp by 6pm.

day2-7

seany’s silly face

day2-8

going down!

day2-9

you can’t tell, but I’m actually somewhat terrified of going down this hill

….well, we went up. And up, and up. And then down a little…..and then back up. The fog rolled in and the landscape took on a quiet, mystical air. The sun started to set. And still, there was no sign of civilization, campsite or park.

day2-10

fog sets in

day2-11

fog sets in

The supposed short hill turned into miles of slow uphill peddling. It got dark and cold, and the thing just kept going and going. I have to say, that it wasn’t a particularly steep hill. Once it got dark, I could barely even tell I was going uphill at all. All things considered, it wasn’t a difficult ride. But this taught me a real lesson about the importance of your state of mind. I was languishing – getting anxious and tired and overwhelmed. And most of this wasn’t due to the physical strain on my body (though, certainly, physical exhaustion was also setting in) but emotional strain on my morale. That feeling of “we must almost be there” and “I bet that’s the downhill right over that ridge”, and having that expectation shattered again and again is so disheartening. Additionally, the growing dark, the isolation, the chill of the fog seeping in – it all adds up to a feeling of extreme desolation. We started too late, we took too many breaks, and by this point it felt like we would never get there.

But, of course, we did. After biking up and up and a little down and more up up up that infernal hill for 3 hours, we finally hit the top. This was particularly exciting not only because the top of the hill meant we were a mere couple of miles from camp, but because it meant a steep downhill. I had taken my glasses off because the mist made them useless, and by this point it was completely pitch black. My bike light was partially blocked by the sleeping bag strapped to my front rack. The cherry on the sundae of this insane descent was that it was at this precise moment that the bike lane disappeared and the road we were on joined up with highway 101. So picture this – you’re on a bike weighing roughly 80 lbs. You’re partially blind because it’s dark and you can’t wear your glasses. You’re on the shoulder of a freeway speeding downhill at roughly 30mph, while your husband rides next to you so his bike light can illuminate your path.

What can I say, it was an adventure.
We arrived at camp at about 8:30, after what turned into 72 miles of biking, completely drained both physically and emotionally. Thankfully, there were hot showers and quick meals to be had. We made an instant freeze-dried dinner (which, incidentally, was delicious) which included a Shepard’s stew and chocolate cheesecake. A quick game of cards later, and we passed out at about 9:30.

day2-12

Sean, planing the next day’s route

A few weeks ago (yes, I’m quite behind on blogging about it…) Sean and I completed another section of the West Coast on bike: San Luis Obispo to the Mexican border.

We started on Thursday October 18th. Early in the morning we backed all of our bikes and camping gear into our car and drove from San Jose to San Luis Obispo (a 3 hour trip). Sean’s sister Mariah studies there, so we planned the beginning of the trip in such a way that we would be able to hang out with her for a few hours that first day.  When she headed to class in the afternoon, we attached all of our gear to our bikes, slathered on sun screen, and headed out.

us in slo

Sean and I, about to head out of San Luis Obispo

That first day we had only planned for a brief ride, knowing we wouldn’t hit the road until 3pm. The ride was from the Cal Poly campus to Pismo Beach – roughly 16 miles. We figured it would be nice to start the trip with a warm up day to make sure everything on the bikes was fine and we were set to go.

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riding route – day 1

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lovely spot near first camp at pismo beach

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the bikes, fully-laden

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lovely spot near first camp at pismo beach

The ride out of SLO was great – beautiful, easy and short. A perfect warm up. We arrived at our camp for the night at about 5pm – with plenty of time to set up camp, make dinner, and even wash our clothes. These sorts of trips we usually bring two sets of biking clothes (shorts+top) and dry the previous day’s washed clothes on our bikes as we ride. That’s why in a lot of our pictures our bikes are covered in socks and shorts and shirts – it’s an effective way to air-dry laundry, especially if it’s warm out.

In the evening, Mariah drove out to the camp to join us for dinner and hang out with us some more (we left our car with her for the week).  We had a great time just relaxing and eating copious amounts of roasted marshmallows. Camping as it should be :0).

Yesterday was my birthday – I am 27.  I figured it would be a good time to ponder a bit both about this past year as well as the one ahead of me.

This past year has been pretty incredible.

Sean and I have done some amazing stuff.

 

-We went to Hawaii with friends on the vacation of a lifetime – it’s not uncommon for us to turn to each other and say “man, we need to go to Hawaii”. I was always resistant to Hawaii vacations, as I am to anything that seems even vaguely cliche…but man, what a time it was.

hawaii

 

-We completed our first Olympic-length triathlon.

It hurt, but was totally worth it.

santa cruz tri

 

-We went to Ethiopia on a medical missions trip. This trip was my first foray into Africa and way out of my comfort zone. It has brought up a lot of questions about who I am and what I want to do with my life. Questions I’m still wrestling with, and probably will be for many years to come.

ethiopia

 

-My sister Anya and I traveled to Chicago and St. Louis to visit friends over Thanksgiving – an intense weekend of much needed sister and friend time. My love for the midwest has not waned.

st. louis

 

-December and January found Sean and I in San Diego for Christmas and Las Vegas for New Years. The Las Vegas strip New Years experience was decidedly more pleasant than I was anticipating.

vegas

 

-Sean and I moved yet again, into an adorable duplex with lots of storage space. We’re still working on home-ifying it, but it’s slowly coming together.

 

-We visited Denver – a city I’d never been to before. Plus, we got to explore an abandoned mining town, which was a super cool experience.

denver013

 

-Spring marked the start of wedding season – I booked 10 weddings this year. A decent amount for only my second year of being a professional photographer.

wedding

 

-We made another dent in our plan to bike the entire west coast by biking from Monterey to San Luis Obispo. 140 miles over 4 days – best bike trip to date!

slo-trip028

 

-In May Sean and I kicked butt at a sprint tri in Moragn Hill – I beat my previous time by a full half hour!

MHST

 

-Sean and I traveled to Houston to visit Anya and co., and even made a trip to New Orleans. I LOVED NOLA and hope to return there again some day.

hou-nola078

 

-July found us gathering with my whole family in San Diego for my grandpa’s 87th birthday. It just now dawns on me that he’s almost exactly 60 years older than me.

family

 

WHAT A YEAR!

Man, we did a lot of traveling –

I didn’t even realize how much it was until I wrote it out!



…So now what?

Well, here’s a bit of what I’m hoping for / planning on for this next year:



-Another full length tri: I want to beat my time on the Santa Cruz tri!

-Complete a half-marathon

-Visit Tahoe

-Visit Boise

-Book more weddings! (I’d love 20…)

-Bike San Luis Obispo to Mexico! 400 miles of glorious California coast :0)

-Complete a full-size stained glass window

-Start painting again!

-FINALLY visit Russia with my hubby :0)

-I really want to start volunteering in some capacity

….and I guess we’ll just see what lies in store!

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