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Posts tagged ‘fiancé’

Week 32 // Standing on Faith

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The past few weeks have been, for me, some of the most pivotal in the series. Some very drastic changes have occurred. It runs incredibly deep because I don’t plan any of this out… they are merely visual representations of what is happening and where I’m at.

The most crucial event has been losing the dress that I planned to use in the entire series. It has forced me out of a comfort zone I had landed in. And with the loss triggering the feelings of losing him so suddenly – it shook me awake in a way I needed. I was becoming complacent, going for the safe shots, even ignoring some of the best shots because of the time and effort they would require. It was the kick in the gut I needed… the moment that would ask of me, “And now, what are you going to do? Give up? Or push harder, and dream bigger, and find a new way?” It is precisely the question I felt asked of me when he died.

I decided to find a new way.

With the exception of my trip to Hawaii, the entire series has been photographed on the ranch my fiancé’s parents own… the place he grew up. Where my feet have walked, also have his over many years before me. There are often moments when I’ve hiked about just wondering if his feet ever stood in the exact place mine were in at that moment. Other moments still where my feet stand where we both once stood. There has always been something deeply spiritual about it – something that connected me to him in a very real way.

But, as with all journeys, there comes change. There comes a time to move forward. A time not to forget – but to remember from a different vantage point… one in which you can begin to know the new unknowns as you continue to explore the old ones. And I can say with whole-heartedness that – after 7 long months of recording (and living through) some of the most painful parts of the journey of loss – I am ready for a new landscape… for the series, and for my soul.

I am ready for the unknown in a way I haven’t been before. It feels strange to say this when I have no clue how I got here. There will still be healing to be done. My grief will go with me. But it is time to explore someplace new now, too. I feel it in my bones. The beach has proved to be just that. The beach where I grew up, to be exact. We built many beautiful memories in both of these locations – his childhood landscape and mine. It feels like reconnecting to that other half of the world we shared to be shooting at the beach now. It also feels like reconnecting with my own past which came well before him. Both of my parents are buried here in my hometown. And many of my memories. And I wonder how on earth it has taken me so long.

As a result of moving into a new landscape, I am finding myself rejuvenated with creative energy too. New creative challenges… like the expansive white skies – which required me to change from wearing white to black (initially a technical decision, which has yet again become symbolic). And I’m feeling very strongly drawn to more silhouetted versions of my figure – dark against the light, instead of lightness amidst the dark. It displays a shift from innocence, to strength – which is precisely the experience beginning to move through me internally.

I want to close this post with a memory. Five years ago, on the very beach where this week’s photo was taken… a pair of feet stood next to mine. It was a hot, humid summer night in May. He and I were best friends then – just on the edge of a friendship becoming more. We went out to the beach that night to star gaze, and as we walked the beach, we looked out into the blackness of the ocean. It was so ominous… a deep, inky black. We imagined and laughed how there could have literally been a giant squid or a sea monster ten feet in front of us – that water was so black in the night that you’d have never seen the beast.

And then we just stood there for a long time, our feet planted firmly – facing right out into this ominous unknown landscape. Quietly strong together.

In that moment, I remembered thinking that this was the sort of partnership I wanted to have. Someone who would stand beside me, feet planted, ready to take on whatever was out there in the unknowns of the future. I remember knowing in my bones for the first time what a true partner was, and that I had found him.

I always wished back then that I knew as much about photography as I do now. That I could go back to the ghosts of us both on that beach and photograph that moment in time. But it is there in my heart, and always will be. And it has led me to this week’s image… which is part of that story. Another version of it. Not realizing until after I shot this – It feels as if the reflection of my own feet planted in the sand are meant to be him reflecting back at me. And that really, he is never very far away. It is my faith in this and in myself which roots me most strongly for the unknown ahead. No one we love who dies is ever far away I believe…. They are right beneath us and within us, helping to anchor us and guide each step forward we take.

Week 31 // The Barrier

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While I was out shooting on the beach for last week’s image – wandering the grassy, windswept dunes – I came across a peculiar sight. Every plant on the beach was bright green and vibrant with life that day. Rich olive green sea grasses and succulent fat-leaved emerald vines with ripe yellow flowers. There must have been an unseasonable amount of rain recently because everything was really blushing. You could feel it – like all of nature had just taken in a deep breath.

But then, right in the middle of it all, I noticed this one particular type of plant. They were large – towering over me by at least a few feet. And every single one of them, as far as my eyes could see, over each rolling dune down the beach, was dead. All of them. There was such an eerie metaphoric nature to it… these clusters of death pitted right down in the midst of so much life. It seemed almost deliberate. Certainly hard to miss when you are closely observing a landscape as I often am.

With mosquitos biting boldly at my ankles and arms, (I will remember to add insect repellant to my camera bag from now on!) I grabbed my gear and climbed into a thicket of these otherworldly dead plants to explore. The leaves were a silvery blue-green hue – like faded sage. I had no plan. No idea what I even wanted to capture. I just began shooting, trying different ways of interacting with this mesmerizing space.

It is images like this one that make me realize how important it is sometimes to let go of our plan and follow wherever our feelings and intuition guide us. To not be so alarmed if we do not have a plan, and to trust that one will unfold for us.

Out of all the variations I shot for this image, this is the one that spoke to me instantly. It is because of the personal meaning which began to come out of it for me as I sat with it in the days after shooting. Mostly, it is in the eyes. There is a very specific kind of darkness there – a hollow vacancy which takes me right back to the year of my fiance’s death.

It was June when he died. 2012. I recall by the time autumn arrived, there was so little energy left in me. After endless minutes and hours and days and weeks and months of fighting and cryin – of screaming desperate animal sounds into the air – there came a time when there was nothing left in me but to just sit and stare blankly. And so I did, many days, just sit outside on the back porch at the ranch and stare off into space. Broken. Hollow-eyed. Feeling the cavernous wind against my skin – which only to endlessly whisper of how far away spring was. Or that spring, for “us”, was never coming back again.

I don’t know if others saw this expression externally in those early days or not, but I do know that this is what it felt like on the inside. Every moment of every day for a long time. Vacant. Lost. Staring into nothing. Searching. Without words.

And then death – the quiet, dangerous barrier that divided me from everything. From him. From my future. From my past. From myself. From everyone else. On the other side of his death, I couldn’t see any other part of me or life that once existed. I could not see the woman who loved to rock climb and kayak, or the woman who dreamed of being an artist someday. Or the woman who loved animals and old western movies. I couldn’t see anything but the woman who just lost everything.

When people looked at me from the other side of that barrier – it felt like all they could see about me was death too. As if I was nothing more than the remains of his death and a reminder to them of things they didn’t want to know intimately. With the exception of a few individuals, it felt like no one could see me.

Two and a half years later, the spring is beginning to come for me. Life is starting to be vibrant again. I am able to see the other parts of myself again, as are others, it feels. I am starting to actually love life again – which astounds me to even say. There is still a part of me standing in the thicket of his death though. I think there will always be. And I think there should always be a part of me that stands there. To me, it is the place that always serves to remind me of how glorious the rest of the landscape is that surrounds me in this “after” life.

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