February 16, 2011

Walking my walk

On the surface, everything about my process is wrong. I appear to be a walking, living example of what you shouldn’t do and yet somehow things seem to miraculously go right in my life – over and over and over again. The Christians among my friends attribute it to God, my Buddhist friends say it is the net effect of the causes that I’ve made in my life, I don’t need to tell you what the Atheists think and my Agnostics don’t have an opinion one way or the other. No, I have not ever put all of them in a room together – it is enough that they comingle peacefully within the virtual space that we call Facebook but that is definitely a post for another day. There is a reason I steer very clear from religion, sex and politics in any public forum – I’m a walking lightning rod. But I digress, which by now should surprise you little if you are one of my Twitter friends.

I have experienced some pockets of great success in my life but none of it has happened in the ‘traditional’ sense. I live my life very intuitively. I attribute this largely to my parents – specifically my father, Dennis, the hippie. The truth is, you are not going to listen to Malcolm X’s “The Ballot of the Bullet”, have the choice of calling your dad by his first name or anything else you like AND be able to call a ‘family meeting’ anytime and not come out of the experience a little … intuitive. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Truth is, I thought everybody’s family was like mine until I was a teenager, for real.

My entire childhood was absolutely not mood rings, bell bottoms, peace, love and Soul Train, trust me. I experienced some real trauma as a teen that also rounded out my intuitive way of approaching the world (also another post for another time). It has taken me years to fully understand, trust, and yes, even embrace MY process. Over a period of fifteen years I read voraciously most of the “modern masters”: Deepak Chopra, Dr. Wayne Dwyer, Marianne Williamson, Iyanla Van Zant, Eckhart Tolle, Dr. Steven Covey, Don Miguel Ruiz, Paul Coelho to name but a few. As theories began to comingle and one name replaced another, I began to understand that the real master of my life is ME and the only process that works for my life is my own.

I travelled far away from my original destination to get back to my starting point. Isnt' that always the way?

What has turned out to be most ‘right’ for me, in all things in my life, has been what felt most right to begin with. Every single time I’ve followed my instinct I have made my highest and best decision and that is the truth. Make no mistake about it, this ‘follow your instinct thing’ is not a tremendously respected modality of going about the business of operating one’s life. In fact, it is regarded as reckless, chaotic and even irresponsible by many. My response is that an intuition-based existence has worked tremendously well in MY life.

So what I am teaching my teenaged daughter? Do what in your core – that space midway between your heart and your gut – feels most right and authentic to you. I know some of you reading this just took a deep breath and wondered if I just said what you think I said. Let me clarify that I did and I am. Am I giving my daughter tacit approval to *whisper low* HAVE SEX? … I suppose I am. Let me be clear that this is certainly not what I am encouraging or hoping she will run out and do next Friday night (or any other night of the week for that matter) until she is fully ready to accept all the responsibilities of this behavior but I do understand what I am saying to her and all of its complicated implications. I accept the responsibility of my behavior all of it, I always have. 

Can I hear the din of the crickets now even before I publish this? – YES.
Am I still going to publish it? – YES.
Why? - because intuitively I know that it is the right thing for me to do.

Why? - because I have to be honest, my kind of honest and that admittedly might not be your kind of honest (but come on, admit it, that is why you’re reading this blog isn’t it? I’m a different kind of train wreck!). I am not going to make up a lie to be the mother people want to think I am. I have to be the authentic mother that I am to honor my relationship with my daughter and there is no shame in my game. Period.

Walking my walk means that if it feels right to run, I run. If it feels right to love, I love. If it feels right to say no, I say no. If it feels right to say yes, I say … yes. And so it is.

Some of my friends say I've been ‘blessed’, others compare me to the proverbial cat with nine lives (I’m not sure which one I’m on), still others feel I’ve been the gifted with extraordinary luck.

On an intuitive level – I have a feeling they are all correct and it’s ALL good.

February 11, 2011

“It wasn’t messy, it was f*@%d up.”

When I stumbled on that line in the movie ‘The Kids Are All Right” it struck a chord deep within – very deep. How could one line in a movie capture so perfectly all of the craziness of my last romantic relationship? I’ve been wondering for months just why it is that my one post about how my heart was broken when I got dumped via text message continues to be the most frequently read post on this blog. A very wise friend of mine posits that people like this post because it is an experience many people can identify and connect with but are loathe to talk about or share.

I continue to be amazed at the clarity that comes with distance and time.

What looked like love was not. What I thought was a connection that defied any I’d ever had with another person was chemistry mixed with a shared passion for jazz and Impressionist art. We see what we want to see and we hear what we want (and need) to hear. It isn’t love if it isn’t reciprocated. It isn’t love if you’re not really both in it – all the way in it. We weren’t equally invested. I knew this from the beginning. He was hesitant to even start the relationship but would rather have tried than to have lost me completely. The irony of course is that he did end up losing me and I lost the him that I never really had to begin with.

So what is next? I really don’t know. We are getting ready to do our strange dance again – this time purely as friends, which is where it all began so many years ago for us. I don’t know if you can ever really reset a relationship with someone with whom you have been deeply intimate. We shall see. I’ve decided to start dating again as a sort of counterbalance to this awkweird situation that we now find ourselves trying to create. (Yes, I just made up a word: awkward + weird = awkweird). The backdrop of our first meeting will be an art gallery in D.C., of course.

What will be different this third go round? ... everything and nothing.

February 1, 2011

Into the woods

Words have always been my refuge. I started reading when I was 3-years-old and that was long before “Hooked on Phonics” or “My Baby Can Read”. I can not remember a time when the heft of a book didn’t make me want to curl up in a corner and do nothing but read from the first page to the last. Writing has come as naturally to me as reading. I will write on anything, anywhere, anytime. So imagine my surprise when I realized last year that there is another way that I can frame my world and give it meaning, depth and dimension. I discovered my 'inner photographer' and my life is forever changed.

One of my dearest friends, Rachel, is my own personal superhero (yes, I really call her that). There is practically nothing that Rachel can’t do but her eye behind the viewfinder of a camera is truly something to behold. Rachel, my daughter Bryton, and I have taken a number of photo safaris around the DC metro area over the past couple of years and it amazes me to watch Rachel frame a shot and to observe what captures her attention. I coveted her camera for several safaris, haunted my local Best Buy every weekend playing with the DSLRs and finally, when I was practically dreaming about it – purchased my Nikon.

The day I bought that camera something clicked in me.

Let me just disclose for good or for bad that I don’t read manuals. I keep them but it can take months (sometimes years) for me to actually read a manual for something I've purchased. I prefer to just jump in so I began snapping pictures the minute I took that camera out the box. I don’t know one technical thing about any of the photos that I take – not one. I know what I’m framing in my mind’s eye and I know which lens will capture it best but that is about it. I've managed to capture some amazing shots that I can’t begin to talk intelligently about as a photographer, what I can tell you is how I feel about each and every photo I shoot and what was happening when I took it. I like to think that if I've taken a really good picture I don't have to say anything because the picture speaks for itself.

I often seek refuge in my “Thinking Place” - Great Falls Park in Great Falls, Virginia. I rarely take anyone with me because I go there to mull things over, to find answers and enjoy the quiet of the paths juxtaposed with the chaos of the ever changing and turbulent falls in the background.  I never, however, go there without my Nikon because the camera has become my third eye.

This photo was taken  on a snowy trail that hadn’t many footprints on it in Great Falls Park. I sensed a presence before I knew what it was and turned my head to the left. There only a few feet away in a sparse clearing of trees stood this beautiful young doe. We spotted one another at the exact same moment and because I’d been shooting a bald eagle in a nearby tree, I had my long lens which made this shot possible. If I’d had to fiddle with switching out lenses I might have lost her. There we stood in a silent faceoff, the doe in the woods - me on the path. Slowly I raised the camera,  framed the shot (all the while hoping that the whirring and clicking wouldn’t spook her) and held my breath. Her brown eyes locked on mine, I began to shoot. Click, click, click. Neither of us moved. Whirr, click, click. She bowed her head deeply and slowly looked back up at me holding my gaze again. Click, whirr, click. I whispered “thank you” and walked away. I turned back for a last look to find her still standing behind the tree watching me. I smiled. She ran. At that moment a couple stepped out from behind a clump of trees to my right and I nearly jumped out of my skin. We all laughed and they told me that they’d been standing watching me with the doe. They were afraid that she would run if they continued on the path so they stood and watched us instead. The man (with a ridiculously awesome Canon around his neck) explained to me that he’d been trying for months to get close enough to a deer in Great Falls to get a photo and it has never happened. I have to admit, in all the visits and all the hours I’ve spent there, I have never seen one either. This was my lucky day.

I didn’t bother looking at what I’d captured – I knew there would be no second chance to get the shots and if I’d gotten nothing I frankly didn’t want to know until I was finished. When I got home and began uploading the photos I was shocked. Looking into the doe's eyes in this photo takes me back to the moment and our connection as if I were back on that snow-filled path, holding my breath, finger poised above the shutter. Click ... click ...click. Breathe.

THIS is why I love taking pictures. When I’m shooting all I am focused on is what I see through that tiny viewfinder. The constant din of thoughts, narrative, melodies, and lyrics that usually create my internal soundtrack go quiet, everything slows down and I becomes one with my camera and what I am shooting. I rarely experienced anything like it. Photography is a new language for me.
Am I ready to say that I’m a REAL photographer? No. I'm someone who bears witness to and captures amazing and beautiful moments, people, animals, and things.

Now if only I could remember where I stored that manual.

**I shoot with a Nikon D3000 using either my Nikon 18-55mm or 70-300mm lens and Nikon Speedlight SB-600 flash.**