Category : Refocus
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!
“Be taught now, among the trees and rocks,
how the discarded is woven into shelter,
learn the way things hidden and unspoken
slowly proclaim their voice in the world.
Find that far inward symmetry
to all outward appearances, apprentice
yourself to yourself, begin to welcome back
all you sent away, be a new annunciation,
make yourself a door through which
to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.”
– Excerpt from “Coleman’s Bed” in River Flow by David Whyte
I’m over at Mortal Muses today announcing our November theme. I hope you click HERE and come and join us this month.
As I was traveling last week, sitting at the airport and ending a phone call with a friend, I looked up to see a life-sized blur of pink walk by. I did a double-take to fully realize what I had seen. There, in the middle of the airport on a busy Thursday, stood a grown man wearing a pink body-suit, pink bike shorts, pink VANS, and a pink feathered boa around his neck. It being October, I had a sneaking suspicion that his attire was all about Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I felt so inspired by his strength in wearing full-blown pink, TO TRAVEL, that I had to go say hello. And ask him if I could take his photo.
This is Andrew. His mother is a breast cancer survivor of 8 years. He shared with me that for the past few years, he’s been dressing up in pink as many days in October as he can to show his support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Andrew said this year marks his first as having enough in his wardrobe to wear pink EVERY DAY in October. We chatted a bit about his mom, my own cancer story, and the importance of prevention and early detection. I told Andrew that I admired his courage and passion to so publicly embrace his own awareness campaign of wearing pink every day for 31 days. I asked if I could take his portrait and he graciously obliged. And then, we were off on our separate paths.
However, Andrew and his story stuck with me throughout the day. His groundedness in who he is and what he believes in was, IS, striking. I truly admire how comfortable Andrew is in his body, his identity, his beliefs, to go against the grain and the norms of masculinity to wear bright pink everywhere he goes for a month. He sincerely inspired me and I know he inspires most everyone he encounters. Meeting Andrew reminded me that life is short. He reminded me that THIS, right now, THIS is IT. He reminded me to take my life by the horns and ride it for all it’s worth. He reminded me to embrace every moment. To live bold.
Oh, friends. I know I’ve been a bit quiet here of late, but I’ve been engaging in some serious self-care and re-charging. Some of that has looked like this…
Tony and I took our annual trip to Colorado this summer to spend a week hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. This year marked our sixth of this tradition, an upside to having moved to Nebraska and being a day’s drive away from the mountains. Unlike our previous five years, though, our dear friends who introduced us to RMNP and with whom we typically spend this sacred time couldn’t join us. The dates just wouldn’t gel to allow all four of us to be together. Bummer! But, not wanting to miss out on this important week of re-charging right before our respective school years commenced, Tony and I decided to head to Colorado, just us.
And this week in Colorado together…I have to say that it was one of the best weeks we’ve ever spent with one another. I know that the two of us live together, and that it’s “just us” all of the time. But not in this way. We rarely have a full week with one another that isn’t also filled with work tasks, responsibilities, and other commitments tugging at us. I travel and escapade quite a bit, yes, but WE hardly take a trip TOGETHER that doesn’t involve visiting family or friends. It’s actually very rarely “just us.” So this week together in the mountains felt…quite magical.
We hiked, made dinner, played Scrabble. We laughed, a TON. And we talked, like really talked about all kinds of things. I felt so connected, so relaxed, so grateful. After all these years together, I fell head-over-heels in love with Tony all over again. Pretty great, “just us.”
Summer is over. The school year has begun in earnest. Already, the fullness of each day (aka, the to-dos of each day) is acutely apparent to me. My good intentions to take care of myself have resurfaced. I’m “back on the mat” as they say, practicing to limber my body, my mind, my soul.
I’m wanting to dwell in a space of ease.
To be in this life,
moment to moment.
In practicing and moving forward with this intention, I’m reminded how nature, the very sights and sounds around me each and every day, can help me with this awareness. And, I’m reminded of poetry and its rhythms to call forth both a groundedness and a flow through life. So for today, this spider web, these words…
Invitation by Mary Oliver
Oh do you have time
for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude—
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.
My Tribe sisters and I gathered on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in our beloved, sleepy, Oregon coastal town last month. It was a delicious few days together. This year, our third, was awash with traditions and rituals from our previous gatherings as well as new evolutions. Although our time together was deeply connecting, we felt a hole in our hearts as one of our sisters had to miss our retreat due to a significant loss. It strikes me that this is likely the first of many such losses our group will share with one another, the first of life circumstances that keep us apart, the first of holding space for each other while we physically can’t be with one another. And that’s just what a group of kindred sisters is for, right? To cheer us in good times and in celebration, and hold us in despair and loss…
Our talented Tribe sister, Melissa, filmmaker extraordinaire, gifted us again with a short film of our time together. Melissa had a vision and story she wanted to tell this year, and I love what she created for us, blending our traditions and our evolution.
Thank you, Melissa. YOU are such a gift. xoxo