Category : Refocus
Tired. Legs a bit wobbly. Growing ever hotter as the intense Colorado sun beats down on the national park along with everyone and everything in it, including me. This is how I was feeling as Tony and I were in the homestretch of a 14-mile hike last Friday. I was thinking about filling up our CamelBaks at the nearby natural springs and taking some photos of the many hummingbirds in the area as we came into the last mile. Having already passed Calypso Cascades (a waterfall), the North St. Vrain River was rushing down the mountain next to the trail.
Tony jokingly mentioned dipping his head in the river to cool off as he ventured a bit off the trail to get closer to the water. I followed him a few moments later, thinking I would put my hand in to grab a bit of water to throw on my overheated face. As I began to reach down toward the river, I heard Tony’s voice, not registering what he said. The slimmest edge of my left toe, encased in a heavy hiking boot, dipped ever so slightly into the water. In an instant, I felt the slippery surface of the riverbank, and I was gone.
Thrust into the rapids of the rushing river, my feet and legs slipped out from under me as I tried to fight against what was happening. The river’s bottom was too slick and the water too powerful for my legs to find any success. I frantically looked up to search for Tony on the river’s edge only to find him amongst the rapids coming after me. The river was moving so quickly, my brain couldn’t keep up to assimilate what was truly happening. I crashed into rocks, brushed harshly against fallen trees that I desperately attempted to grab on to with no avail. This is what fear feels like.
Then, I was pulled under the water’s surface. My body was tossed about as I gulped in water with an open mouth, caught off guard by this raging river. It felt like slow-motion when I was underwater. Images of Naomi Watts in The Impossible flashed through my mind. I felt like I was in a movie, being pummeled against boulders and debris as I was kept under by the sheer force of the water. I had the fleeting thought that this might be it. This is how I might die. This is what fear feels like.
I surfaced, facing up-river, wildly searching again for Tony and gasping for air. He was close behind, the current moving him directly to me. He yelled to me, urging me to try and grab the fallen trees that we kept rushing by. Again, I tried getting a hold of anything I could to stop this nightmare from unfurling. It was so hard to hold on. Part of a branch would be in my hand for a moment only for it to slip away from me as the river kept pushing me downstream. We began edging ever more closer to the next set of waterfalls. This is what fear feels like.
Next, I feel Tony grab me. I’m still wearing my backpack and my camera across my shoulders, and thankfully, the river has forced Tony closer and closer to me that he is finally able to get me in his grasp by snatching up part of my pack. I hear him repeating, “I’ve got you. I’ve got you. I’ve got you.” The current pushes us farther from the trail edge of the river but that much closer to a downed tree. With his free arm, Tony manages to wrap it around the tree and stop our forward momentum.
I am gulping in air now. I grab on to the tree. My upper torso has actually slammed into the tree. I look searchingly into Tony’s eyes. He tells me over and over, “I’m not gonna let you go. I’m not gonna let you go. I’m not gonna let you go.” And I believe him. I start to think – to feel – that part of the tree, a stray limb, may in fact be embedded in my side. Although we are in some momentary safety, I am keenly aware that we might not be in this spot for very long. The current is still raging, still pushing, still threatening. This is what fear feels like.
Repeating words of my own begin to spill out of my mouth. “Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay.” I say it over and over. Am I pleading with my mind? With the Universe? Or is this just what shock does to the system? I glance down at my arm holding onto the tree branch and I see my hand and my wrist, noticing how pink and red my skin looks. That’s when something registers in my brain. I’m cold. This water that I am submerged in is very cold. We cannot stay in this river for much longer. This is what fear feels like.
While we are remaining fairly steady in our found bit of safety, we are also being shifted about at the whim of the river. I feel a huge rock under me and I try to wedge one of my legs behind it. I’m doing whatever I can to stay put. Hold on to the tree. Keep my leg plastered to this boulder. Do not go downstream. Do not go over Copeland Falls. Tony and I look at each other, and in that flicker of eye contact, I think we realize that we are not getting out of this river on our own.
Tony yells, “HELP!” Right, we need to call for help. Then I start screaming, “HELP!” My back is turned toward the trail, so it is difficult for me to see anything except the river and Tony. I can tell that someone has heard us, that someone has come toward the river and seen that we are in it. I hear Tony tell this person that we need help.
Then, a man quickly appears on the river bank. I turn my head to see what’s going on. I see this man trying to find his footing, precariously edging toward us. He’s looking for another fallen tree to use to help us get out. A few other men join him. There are four of them now. I realize that me turning back toward the trail is making my position in the water more risky. I look back at Tony and keep my eyes fixed on him. He reassures me we’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.
The men have linked themselves together, formed a human chain. The man in front extends the fallen tree he’s found toward us. Tony somehow manages to keep my pack firmly in his grasp, hold the fallen tree we have been clinging to for safety under his other arm, and then grasp the extended tree under the arm that is holding onto me. The four men slowly pull the extended tree toward them, hand-over-hand, pulling us toward them and toward safety. We get to the riverbank and one of the men pulls me out. I take a step forward away from the river and turn to watch the men pull Tony out of the rapids. We’re on land. Out of the current. “Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay.”
I stand on the river’s edge for a few moments. I think I am in shock. I take off my pack. Remove the camera from around my neck. And I still stand there. I look at the men, and I say to them, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…” I burst into tears. We stumble up onto the trail. A mass of people have assembled to watch the scene. I’m outside of myself now. Is this happening? Did this all just really happen?
Two women from two separate groups of hikers start talking to Tony and me. They are urging us to get out of our clothes. They tell us we are shivering and cold. We reply that we are fine, we’re okay. We have no idea how cold we are. They continue to urge. They insist we have to get warm, now. They each have a warming blanket in their packs – those metallic, aluminum foil-type blankets – and they unwrap the blankets and then wrap each of us up.
The four men who pulled us from the river have gone on their way, nameless to us forever. Another man asks if he can walk us to our car. He offers to carry Tony’s pack for him. The Park Ranger arrives, relieved to see us on the trail and not in the river. He gets some information from us, and asks us repeatedly if we have hit our heads, if we think we have broken any bones, and the like. He tells us we are the fifth and sixth people to get swept into the raging water just this week.
We – the Park Ranger, the man with Tony’s pack, one of the “blanket ladies,” Tony, and myself – walk the last mile of our 14-mile hike. At the car, I finally take off my shirts to see that, in fact, I was not impaled on the tree limb. Tony and I both assess our respective bodies, and despite massive bruises, cuts, and scrapes, we have exited this waterlogged nightmare virtually unharmed, all things considered. Our new friends bid us good luck and goodbye. And with our faith restored in humanity and the sheer kindness of strangers, and my decision to spend my life with Tony reinforced yet again, we pulled away from the trailhead.
If you’re curious about this experience through Tony’s eyes, you can read his account HERE.
It’s that time of year — time to gather with some soul sisters on the coast of Oregon. This marks the fourth year this group of sisters, Tribe, will be communing with one another alongside the majestic Pacific. And I’m ready. I’m ready for the ritual, the comfort, the ease of being with these beautiful women. I’m ready to review the past year, to share the triumphs and the defeats. I’m ready to whisper my greatest longings, to give voice to the big dreams I’ve been cultivating. I’m ready to laugh with my whole body, and I’m equally ready to release the tears that have been welling up.
I’m ready for connection and sisterhood. I’m ready to feel secure in my creative journey and these next big steps I’m taking. I’m ready to allow for and accept the support I so desperately need. I’m ready for the dose of inspiration I get from these kindred spirits, from this community we lovingly call Tribe, to walk steadfastly into the adventure of the creative unknown. I’m ready for the self-care, the refocusing, the re-committing to mySelf and the life I want to live.
Our splinter group of Shutter Sisters is continuing our new tradition of sharing 10 photos on the 10th of each month. We started with sharing 10 photos from our time together in Tofino, then followed that up with 10 festive photos enjoying the holiday season. This month, with the new year upon us, we decided to focus on “restart” as a theme.
As I’ve said before here, I do love a fresh start, a clean slate, a new page on the calendar. So, how have I been I been restarting this year? First, the holiday decorations were carefully put away…
Then new words, new sources of daily inspiration have been sought. Although secure is my word for 2014, “ease” was in the running for quite some time. Ease is another one of my core desired feelings and I am inviting it mightily into my year and my daily life. Interestingly, I am seeing how secure embodies and allows for ease.
My ritual of morning pages and journaling continues to sustain me and provides a secure foundation from which to enter the world each day…
That’s what my “restart” to 2014 looks like so far. You might be saying, “What?! Wait! There’s only 5 photos here! Where are the other 5?” My answer — they haven’t unfolded yet. And ordinarily, I would have frantically taken 5 more photos to make sure I had 10 to share — after all, this IS a 10 on 10 post! But, I’m restarting. I’m allowing ease into my life. I’m feeling secure in my work and who I am. And so, I’m staying loose, and letting 5 be okay this time around.
To keep the blog-hop going, click on over to Lindsey’s blog to see her 10 on 10 to restart this new year!
Happy New Year, friends! Hello, 2014!
It’s a brand new year. A clean slate. A fresh start. I love a new beginning and over the past few years, I’ve really sunk into choosing one little word to guide the year ahead. I’ve enjoyed the process of reflection, looking back at the year that is passing, and then dreaming and setting intentions for the year that is upon me. Choosing a word for the year is one of those intentions for me. It is making a deliberate step into the life I want to be living. It is the start of a conversation with the Universe, putting out there what I want to manifest and bring into my experience. It is a mantra, a centering presence in my life that helps me remember my path and stay the course when the swirling and cacophony of life gets too loud.
My word for 2013 was forward. This word served me well in so many ways. Forward beckoned me time and again to put one foot in front of the other, to take my creative journey and professional life day by day, to keep doing the work. This word reminded me that when life felt challenging, when I stumbled, when I contemplated throwing in the towel, that I simply needed to dust myself off and keep going. Yes, forward was a perfect word for this past year, and I realize I will be carrying this word forward into the year ahead as a supporting word given how much it still has to teach me.
As 2014 eeked closer and closer to dawning, I contemplated a number of words to be my beacon for the year ahead. During our Tribe retreat this past summer, we spent time exploring our core desired feelings using the work of Danielle LaPorte. I knew that one of my core desired feelings was likely to be a frontrunner for my 2014 one little word. If these words represented the very essence of how I want to feel every day, how could one of them not be a logical choice? Two words, two of these very core desired feelings, kept whispering to me. They both felt good in their own ways. But…they felt kind of blah, too. I have to admit I get pulled in to wanting my word for the year to be sexy or pretty or flowy. You know, words like “soar,” “thrive,” or “shine.” Many of my dear friends have chosen these very words and they are so lovely. And my words…aren’t. My words seem to be practical, pragmatic, sensible. They aren’t the dreamy and magical, sparkly kind of words. So once I accepted that my words are important to me for their own reasons, and that it doesn’t matter that they aren’t shiny words, the blah concerns moved on. And after sitting a few days with both words rattling around my heart and soul, one took root.
My one little word for 2014 is secure. As one of my core desired feelings, I have come to learn the importance of this word and this feeling for me. Secure means being grounded, rooted. I want to stand tall, firm, true in my creativity, my photography, my professional life, and my relationships. Secure is staying on my own path, trusting my own process, and exiting the “breathless race of comparison” and external validation. Secure reminds me that the Universe is unfolding as it should — that everything I want, all that I’m dreaming and longing for, is already in process. It’s already happening. Secure shows me that I am safe and encourages me to feel ease, free of anxieties and worries. Secure bolsters me in my knowing that I can weather any storm, any challenges, any obstacles that come my way. And last, secure means “to procure, obtain.” I want this year to be the year I secure a publisher and book contract for the work (words and photographs) that is unfolding in 365 Impossible Self-Portraits, and secure solo gallery shows to exhibit the photography. Secure is layered and rich, and I invite this word in all its meanings into my life.
So today, this year, secure will be my guide.
Do you have one little word for 2014? I’d love to hear what you chose (or what chose you) and why that word resonates for you. I truly believe in the power of our intentions.
With 2014 quickly upon us, I’m dreaming. I’m reflecting back on 2013 and looking toward the year ahead. I’m mulling over my one little word to guide me during these next 365 days. And as I do, I’m holding Mary Oliver’s wisdom close, hoping to be like the crows with each new ethereal dawn in the coming year.
Landscape by Mary Oliver
Isn’t it plain the sheets of moss, except that
they have no tongues, could lecture
all day if they wanted about
spiritual patience? Isn’t it clear
the black oaks along the path are standing
as though they were the most fragile of flowers?
Every morning I walk like this around
the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart
ever close, I am as good as dead.
Every morning, so far, I’m alive. And now
the crows break off from the rest of the darkness
and burst up into the sky—as though
all night they had thought of what they would like
their lives to be, and imagined
their strong, thick wings.
During this overly busy time of the year (for many of us), it may feel unthinkable that you could do something for yourself. But today, I want to remind you that we can only be our best selves when we are in a good place — emotionally, physically, spiritually (broadly defined). I want to whisper in your ear that it’s okay if you take a break. You can sit for a moment in that patch of sun and catch your breath amidst the swirling of the season.
Last month on the 10th, I shared 10 photos on sisterhood taken during my retreat with a group of fabulous photographer friends. That post marked my first of our group’s launch into 10 on 10. On the 10th of each month, the group of us are doing a blog-hop, sharing 10 photos on a theme or taken on one day or event. This month’s 10 on 10 has us working on the theme of “festive.” With Tony and I headed to the tree farm, selecting our holiday tree, and trimming it this past weekend, I thought of no better opportunity than to shoot our weekend shenanigans for my 10 on 10.
It was freezing, quite literally, this past weekend with temperatures hovering around 1 degree Fahrenheit (-17 Celsius). While I had hoped to take some Polaroid photos during our adventure to the tree farm, I knew there was no way that was going to happen as instant film does NOT like the cold. So I picked up my long-neglected digital camera, and off we went. (As always, you can click on each photo to see them larger!)
Yonkey Pine Tree Farm is a sweet, family-run operation in a small Nebraska town a bit south of us. On the years when we aren’t traveling back “home” to the East Coast, Yonkey Pine is where we get our tree, selecting it from the rows and rows of scotches and firs, having it cut fresh right before our eyes.
To our dismay, the farm had been pretty well picked over. With Thanksgiving falling much later in the calendar this year, and with beautifully mild temperatures two weekends ago, it seemed like all of Lincoln (if not all of Nebraska!) had already beaten us to tree hunting. In looking over the few trees that remained amidst all of the stumps, we chose a lovely fir. And, a fresh wreath for our front door.
We awoke to snow coming down, made coffee, and got a fire going. After some reading of the Sunday New York Times, we got down to business.
Tony strung the lights, and then we sorted through our collection of ornaments. Coming across Ripken’s dog bone ornament from his first Christmas with us brought a pang to my heart. We still miss him every day.
To keep the festivities going, blog-hop on over to Lindsey’s blog to see her festive 10 on 10!
Messenger by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
Thank you, friends. Thank you for coming to my corner of the world. Thank you for sharing in my creative journey. Thank you for reading my words. Thank you for being interested in my photography. Thank you for cheering me on. Thank you for your kindness and generosity of spirit. Thank you for really seeing me. Thank you. I am so grateful for you, this community, here at Life Refocused. xoxo
Sometimes it is difficult to step back and take a look at the big picture. It’s especially hard when the flu catches us by surprise and knocks us off our ass for a few days like it did to me this past week. When work deadlines loom, family obligations and other to-dos pile up, or you aren’t in love with your new haircut, yeah, it can be hard to embrace gratitude. But having a nudge, a gentle reminder to go wide with our view of ourselves and our lives can be a game changer in the way we feel.
We might see that love is all around us if we just look for it. We might be reminded of the fullness in our lives and so much more. I’m over at Mortal Muses sharing a bit more gratitude through my lens. I hope you click HERE to check it out.
I’ve written before about my longing for connection, for kindred spirits, for sisterhood. I’ve shared with you my loneliness of living in an unfamiliar place, of having a small circle of local friends. These longings and loneliness have propelled me to go outside of my comfort zone and outside of my own town. These feelings have given me the push I needed to create communities of connection, to seek out kindreds and sisters. This began by attending retreats and gatherings, and doing so helped me begin to meet “my people.” From there, smaller groups of sisterhood were born.
One of these groups evolved from attending two photography retreats hosted by Shutter Sisters. While attending the second retreat with about 80 women last October, a small circle of us found ourselves at dinner enjoying margaritas, raucous laughter, and each other. As we ate and drank and carried on together, we birthed the idea of splintering off and creating a smaller creative community for ourselves. Within the evening, the Canadians in the bunch decided we would descend on British Columbia for our inaugural gathering. Over the past year, we stayed connected, made plans, rented a house, and bought plane tickets. And a few weeks ago, our idea manifested itself.
Many dreams and projects were shared during our time with one another. One of those ideas was that the group of us would dive into the 10 on 10 project, sharing 10 images shot on one day or in one experience on the 10th of the month. As our first post for 10 on 10, we decided we would each share photos from our time together in BC. Without further ado, here are my 10 on 10 from British Columbia and this magical retreat that was born of kindred spirits coming together for sisterhood, photography, and self-care. (BTW, you can click on each photo to view them larger!)
It didn’t take long for this group of photographers to whip out our cameras and start shooting. I think we looked like a group of paparazzi the entire time we were together. After taking the ferry from Vancouver to make our way to Tofino, we stopped at Cathedral Grove, an old growth forest with trees older than 800 years. The massive trees were amazing and the light among these old beauties was nothing short of magical.
On our second day, we ventured to some natural hot springs, a journey requiring another boat ride to get there. Being out on the open ocean, we were surrounded with beauty in every direction. The mountains, the ocean, the fog…breathtaking.
The small cove that houses the hot springs gave us more opportunities to capture the natural beauty that is British Columbia. I had considered not bringing any cameras with me that day as rain was in the forecast, but fortunately I brought one. I would have been so saddened to have missed this reflection shot.
Although we had an epic storm come through, and I do mean EPIC, we were blessed with many moments of sun and gorgeous weather. And this crew of women did not disappoint with the COLOR that they packed to wear.
Amidst the shooting, the relaxing in the hot springs, and the indulging in yummy food and deep rest, we deepened our friendships with one another. We shared our work, told each other our secret (and not-so-secret) creative dreams, and opened up about our struggles. Indeed, a new sisterhood was born in British Columbia.
Although we’ve been home for only a few short weeks, I’m already missing these sisters. I’m grateful for our ongoing connection and I’m so excited about the new adventures we have in the works. Thank you Cherish, Corinna, Debra, Lindsey, Tamar, and Tara — stay loose. xoxo
All of my photos in this post were shot on 35mm film with my Canon AE-1 using either Fuji 160 or Portra 400 film. The film was processed and scanned by Indie Film Lab. I have Polaroid photos to share with you from the trip and a few more 35mm pics, too. In the meantime, head on over to Lindsey’s blog to see her 10 (or maybe more) on 10 of our BC adventures!