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Posts tagged ‘lost’

Week 31 // The Barrier

Portrait_Week31

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.

Week 29 // Knowing Unknown

 

Portrait_Week29_KnowingUnknown

It has been a week since I last wrote, in quite a state of turmoil about losing the dress I have shot this series in each week for the past 8 months. It rained that day… all day. Unusual for Texas. And it was chilly out… so the skies had that solemness that only winter can bring. It all seemed to match my mood entirely to well. I spent a few hysterical hours on the phone with a girlfriend of mine. At one point I jokingly said “well… this means that it’s going to either have to be a totally different dress, or NO dress at all.” The moment I said it… I knew. “Dammit” I told her, “This means I’m going to have to go get naked in the woods doesn’t it?” To which she agreed with a sly grin I could hear on the other end of the line. And so there in the midst of the loss – a glimmer of where to go next. A very horrifying glimmer, but a glimmer nonetheless.

Know matter how much I didn’t want to… I knew I had to shoot it. I couldn’t let the raw emotion of the day pass me by. I could not back down from the challenge to go somewhere that felt so vulnerable. So I grabbed my gear and out I went into the cold and rain. There in the quiet of a dry creek bed, with only the sound of the gentle rain tapping on damp fall leaves, I set up my camera with a rain poncho over top… stripped down to nothing, and began shooting. I would like to point out to anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m an extremely modest person not at ALL comfortable with my own nudity being out there… particularly in such a permanent fashion as what I am doing right now. But I discovered something in doing this shoot. It is not in fact the most naked I have ever felt…

The day he died and I was left behind… everything was stripped from me. I was too lost to even move. Waiting, wondering. I could not feed myself for weeks. Or drive. Or do much of anything on my own. For months I did not spend more than a few hours by myself for the paralyzing fear of being alone with my own heart. I was completely broken open. Nothing has ever made me feel so fully exposed as his death. To my surprise, even physical nudity does not compare to how naked I felt then. But it as close as I can articulate it visually I think.

It has not been an easy, this project. There have been many weeks in which I just wanted to walk away from it. Many days it has brought me to tears with frustration. The past few months especially have been a struggle… my motivation dwindling. And so perhaps the loss of the dress came exactly when I needed it to. It has shaken up everything. For the first time in months, I am feeling some excitement about the unknowing of it all. I’m feeling a spark of desire to explore how I will deal with my body for the remaining images… what coverings will I use? Fabric? Nature? None? And what part of my story will this now begin to tell? Perhaps it is about stepping outside the confines of a label like “widowed”. Or exploring beyond who we thought we once were to find that we can in fact be all number of things in this life. Or about stepping more fully into our true selves. Or all of this.

I don’t know where it will go… and that is both scary and exciting. To be right where we are… at an ending in the middle. An ending unplanned. And thusly a sort of new beginning before we wanted to begin again. A new direction when we did not want or ask for one. That is life, is it not? And death. If we so choose to live it as such – which my fiancé very much did. It is one of the most important lessons I learned from him after all… that no matter what direction life takes you, there lies an adventure waiting before you.

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“Still, Life” is a year-long self portrait series exploring the journey of living with loss. If you’re new to this project, you can read more about it in this post. Or to see the full image gallery visit 2014 PROJECT. Please share with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

None who Wander are Lost

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here… I’ve all but retired this blog, but I just happened to pop on over today. As I read my most recent post – way back in March of this year – I couldn’t help but reflect on how much as changed since then. Man, March feels as though it was years ago. I’ve spent the past year and a half pretty much lost since my fiancé died. Understandably so I guess. How could you NOT be lost after losing the most important person in your daily life and future? I’ve done the only thing I knew to do… create. A LOT. Art and writing and exposing myself to the art of others has all but consumed my days and filled them with some deep meaning in the midst of brutal pain. Creativity and the support of the people in my life are the two things that have kept me going. But there’s always been this voice nagging me, I’ve got to begin to move forward. I left my career after all, with NO plan really, so at some point I’ve got to have a new direction and begin to support myself again. I can’t very well live off the support of my family forever. And in the past few weeks, something has begun to click. I see a direction for the first time since he died. And really, I see a direction for the first time in my life that feels like what I was put here to do. With that, I’ve started to have a little hindsight that I figured I would share here.

Be careful about listening to that voice that tells you that you that something is wrong because you haven’t found THE thing you should be doing with your life. If you’re one of those people, then you may just be in a place like I’ve been…. lost. But lost really isn’t a bad place – its an absolutely necessary place. In your search, you have to try on a lot of different shoes and hats and gloves to begin to find something that works. Some find it quicker than others. Some always know it, but a lot of us have to spent years coming back to it. I’ve tried dozens of creative avenues in the past 16 months (and even more before that). Jewelry making, painting, encaustic or wax painting… I took another welding class and of course I’ve continued with my two greatest loves – photography and writing. I’ve done some art shows and considered being a writer and what kind of writer I would be if I were one. And the problem? I seriously love and enjoy ALL of these things but have NO motivation to make any of them my career. Well crap.

What I’m learning now is that there was a reason for this inability to commit. It’s not because I’m lazy. It’s not because I’m not trying hard enough or because something is inherently wrong with me (despite countless times I have convinced myself of all three of those). In fact, just the opposite… as it turns out, I was actually listening to my intuition all along. When it told me that wasn’t the path for me by cutting off my motivation for something, I listened and went to the next thing that excited me instead of trying to force something. After 16 months of following the winding, twisted path that intuition has led me on, I’m beginning to see that this is how we get there. It is never a straight road is it? It’s always a winding path through the forest.

By trying my best to trust my intuition, and taking action to step into whatever excites me, slowly and very quietly, a new direction has emerged. What I really want to be doing – and what I believe and can see that I am meant to be doing – is helping others to express their pain through art. By creating a safe and inspiring environment and guiding them through certain activities that have helped me to get grounded into my own emotions, I can help them to go to a place deep in themselves and use creativity to explore it. And to my surprise, I will indeed be using all of the many myriad of art forms that I have experimented with this past year. ALL of the things I love will come together into one cohesive direction over time, or at least a very good amount of it. I’ve only just begun, so I still don’t know where the rest of this winding path will go, but the fog has cleared a bit and given me room to see.

It’s nearly impossible to see how such things will fit together when we are in the middle of it. Especially if we are juggling grief, trauma, or even just the everyday stresses of life. But that’s the great thing about intuition – its not down there in the thick of it with you. Our intuition, I like to believe, is somewhere above us, able to see our life and our path from a higher vantage point. Eventually, if we listen to it long enough, we get to higher ground ourselves and can begin to see what was going on. We can see that every single twist and turn was an important piece of the way forward. It takes a huge amount of faith though, to continue to wander without knowing your exact course or direction. It takes an incredible amount of trust that forces outside of yourself can and do help you on your journey. It takes letting go, and then letting go again, and then letting go even more. 

I guess that’s why I’m writing this, to say to someone else out there to keep having faith. Keep trusting and keep moving in the directions that excite you, heal you, and fill you with wonder. Even if the fog is so thick you can’t see… remember that your intuition is above all that and it is there to help you if you will let it. Just follow the sound of  it ten more feet. And then listen again, and follow the next sound it gives you (even if it takes you back the direction you just came). It will still feel like you are going in a million directions, but your intuition will know all along exactly where to lead you. Trust that it can see the bigger picture and just listen. 

 

 

 

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