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Posts tagged ‘spirit’

Week 32 // Standing on Faith

Portrait_Week32b

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 22 // Spirit


Portrait_Week22

I’ve been holding on to this image for a while now. It’s one of my favorites. Sometimes when I initially shoot an image the timing to share just doesn’t feel right yet – often times the words aren’t yet ready to come. So I wait. Today it seems, was the day for this one. I am so glad. 

Living with the loss of partner, or any great loss, is one of the most challenging things we will ever face in life. It sends us on a journey through the fire – into a darkness the likes of which we have never experienced before. It brings us to our knees and breaks us. Severely. I certainly remember this feeling well. Before my fiancé died, I knew I could handle anything that life threw at me. Only I didn’t really know that at all…

On the day he died, and the dark days thereafter, I came to find out what it really means to be able to handle anything life throws at you. To lose a soul mate – particularly in a sudden way – takes you to a place more painful and terrifying than I ever knew could exist. It breaks you right down to your bones.

I feared for my life – in a very real sense, for probably the whole first year. I feared for my life because I feared the death of my spirit. I was so badly broken that I honestly did not know if my spirit could ever recover. I was afraid that I would become dark and lose my sense of childlike wonder and hopefulness about the world. That this brokenness would overtake me and I would not be able to come out of the fire with my eyes ablaze anymore.

YET… I can still recall in the midst of it all – in those first hours and days and weeks – something inside me WAS ablaze. Something inside me was saying that this world can throw anything it wants to in my face and I will not stop believing that this life is beautiful. Or in the words of Mr. Tom Petty… “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, and I won’t back down”. (one of my go-songs right after he died, and still today).

I didn’t really know it at the time, but am quite certain now… that this was my spirit. This is the kind of stuff that amazes me about the human spirit. How broken we can be and yet still somehow, inexplicably, that soul part of us stands up for our broken human self. It doesn’t mean we feel any less broken. Or powerless. Or scared. But what I do know is that listening to my spirit was – and still is – something that gave me the ounce of strength I needed each day to get up and keep on trying to figure out what to do with all of this.

Looking back over things two years later is incredible at times. Because it feels like no time has passed at all – and often I still feel like I’m back at square one with my grief. But other days, like today, something lends me some perspective. And on days like this I can actually begin to feel like, yeah, I’ve crawled out of the fire… out of the worst of the darkness. I’ve been battered and bruised and burned and scarred by this long journey, and I will be battered and bruised and burned and scarred much more before my time here is done… but I have not been broken. My eyes are still curious, my heart is still hopeful, and my spirit still burns bright… perhaps, even brighter than before. 

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.

Inspiration: Nurturing Creativity

My brother recently shared with me this wonderful TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert – author of bestselling novel Eat, Pray, Love. I loved her book and was so moved by this talk that I had to share.

This got my mind wandering on the topic of nurturing creativity and what sorts of things get in the way for me from time to time…

I cannot imagine the tremendous and daunting task of continuing to do work after having a bestselling novel out in the world. But I can certainly relate to the frustration of trying to figure out just what to do with that creative energy. I skip around from one thing to the next so often – one day its photography, the next it’s welding, or needle felting or wire art or design or illustration or cooking sumptuous new recipes. It’s very fun and satisfying, but for the past year I’ve been a bit haunted by the notion that I am just flitting about – touching the surfaces of many things but not really diving into any of them deeply. My logical self doesn’t see anything wrong with that. But there seems to be some old messages playing in me that tell me otherwise.

We are taught to go to school to become an expert at something and then do it until we can’t anymore. Sorry, but I don’t love any one thing that much. Sure I have a career as a graphic designer, and yes I am darn good at it and I do enjoy it. But it’s not my life’s work nor my greatest love by any means.

What if I just want to be an expert at experiencing many things?

So, I sometimes find myself building up this impossible ideal in my mind where I MUST succeed at ONE thing.. as an artist and creative person, because of some sort of talent I was born with. I’m sure anyone out there who’s had some kind of talent since they were a child has heard many a times the old line.. “when you’re famous I can say I knew you back when!” Although they mean well, for a child, that can create such an immense weight to be somebody. And such a pressure to find your niche and really dive into it and be an expert at it. I’m not sure how other creatives have dealt with that idea – some seem to embrace the idea of doing many things very openly. Others seem to find their niche and just pour themselves into it.. which is wonderful. But what if you are someone who doesn’t have a niche?

It’s true, I don’t love any one thing enough to totally commit my life to it. And I am slowly becoming more comfortable with that as I explore my creativity. What if – at least for the time being – I don’t want to pick ONE thing? What if the thing that I want to be an expert at is experiencing many things? Well, I’m deciding this is a wonderful thing. We need specialists just like we need generalist in the world, after all.

I think my Muse is a Bimbo

I like the old Greek/Roman philosophy Elizabeth is speaking of in this TED talk. I like it a lot. This idea that our creative spirit comes not from within us, but from some divine precious thing that stops by for tea from time to time. It sure takes the pressure off or trying to force it into existence or bottle it into one area of expertise. Perhaps my divine muse just gets bored quickly. Or maybe she’s a bit of a bimbo (that would explain a lot!) and just likes to flit about and play in many different pools of creativity… and just maybe, its not my job to try and stop her from doing that. Maybe it’s my job to always be open to whatever new creative adventure she would like to take me on. Maybe that is all we are ever really supposed do with that creative energy when it arrives – just open the door and invite it in for tea.

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How do you nurture your creativity?
What things get in your way of opening up to that creative spirit?
How did Elizabeth’s talk resonate with you? I am curious to know what you have to say.

Quickly! I must post this NOW because my ditsy creative muse just got distracted by a flower in Timbuktu and ran off and I can feel the self doubt about this post quietly tiptoeing back into my mind! lol – oh to be human! ;)

Resources:
Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert
)
Refuse to Choose: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything You Love (Barbara Sher)
Creative Generalist – What Exactly Do Generalists Do?

 

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