landscapes

Weathering the Storms.

Before the storm

I have spent an unmeasured amount of my life running away from the approaching devastation of storms. Afraid of the turmoil and unknown elements they would bring, I tended to protect myself from what might be instead of just standing inside of what is.

Over the years, I have found the things we worry about happening rarely – if ever – come to fruition. In other words, I have spent a lot of time fussing about nothing. I attribute this to not listening to myself or trusting my gut and paying far too much attention to what others opinions are.

As I get older, I seem to get more sturdy with trusting my inner voice. It often whispers quietly and gently, and can be drowned out by the many other opinons, thoughts, and voices that surround me. But if I listen, it’s clear, persistent and confident in it’s conviction. I just have to listen and be still enough to hear it.

This ship – MY SHIP – is the one I have to steer through the stormy seas. So I do what’s best for me with each decision I make. I have to trust myself and know that, even if I am wrong, it’s all going to pass over eventually. Each “wrong” decision is just another opportunity to learn. Each storm I stand through, another lesson. And each time I listen to myself, another chance to build that relationship of trust with myself all over again.

The Island

island

I have been isolating myself like a little island drifting slowly form the coast for years now. Once attached and part of the world, trauma, insecurities, and the wear of the daily grind has brought me to my knees, making me withdraw from so many things. After a while, it's hard to see the shoreline. It's hard to feel attached.

Each time I experience something big that I can't explain or solve, I tend to withdraw. I am not sure why, but I usually make a deep dive inward to search for solutions - swimming around in muck and mire of it until it settles and I can see a little more clearly.

Talking things out when I am struggling is painful for me because it brings up the thing I am perhaps trying my hardest to avoid - answering the questions I don't yet have answers to. So I drift...away from the things that ground and attach me until I come out of it on the other side with all the right answers.  In the process, I become an island in a storm - sea pummeling my shores, wind wreaking havoc on my flora.

The thing I have come to find is that nobody has all the right answers. Ever. And you know what? That's okay. I am learning that daily. And practicing it even more frequently.

And until I perfect it, I will be here, building bridges back to that coastline.

My Best Life

 Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Right now, I am living my best life.

Wait...I take that back.

I am living my 95% life.

The reason for the 95%...because I always hope there is room for improvement. I hope there is always space in my life for the phrase, "I can do better." If I think about it, that IS my best life. Always striving for something greater. Otherwise we become complacent, right? We become comfortable. And that is where we stop growing.

I have had an amazing year this past year. I have worked in situations I only thought would exist in my dreams. I have worked with clients who share my vision and style. I have worked with missions that I truly and whole-heartedly believe in. I have photographed things I only fantasized over. I have told stories and taken photos of people, places, and things that make me pinch myself in hopes that I really won't wake up from this incredible dream.

I never thought the possibility was real for me to live my best life. Somewhere along the line, I stopped believing. I believed I wasn't enough - good enough, strong enough, thoughtful enough, skinny enough, pretty enough. But somewhere deep in my soul, I believed there was more waiting for me. There was a little ember of hope burning on my belly, not put out by the wet blanket of self criticism. I believed those dreams could actually happen. I stopped hearing the voice that said "give up...you can't do this." I leaned in to trust. I leaned into the fear. I pushed through. I gave it one more try.

Every day I wake up and am happy to do what I do. Don't get me wrong, this is still a job. It has it's moments. And it has come with it's own set of massive sacrifices (ohhhhh...the sacrifices). But I am happy...at least 95% happy.

It has taken a long time to get here. I have made mistakes. I have lived with crippling anxiety and depression. I have failed miserably...wow, have I failed. But all of that has brought me to this place where I can appreciate the complexity of what makes life feel good.

Will I screw up again? Most definitely. Will I be afraid and paralyzed? Absolutely! Will I know how to get up and dust myself off again? You can count on it!

Today, I am opening myself up to possibility. The possibility of hope, failure, success, despair, highs, lows. All of it. Because without all of that, I am not growing or challenging myself. I am not changing. I am not moving forward, knocking off that last 5%.

But if I have to be honest, I will be happy to settle in where I am... Always pushing. Always dreaming. Never settling.

 

 

Lately

raised beds

I have been more quiet than usual this fall and winter. I have been working on some exciting projects and new ventures. Thankfully quiet = busy right now!

One of the projects I have hit the ground hard on is a book on saving seeds I am wrking on with my good friend Julie of Julie's Garden Delights. I liken this project to a type of step by step for seed saving gardeners which has taken me literally from Spartanburg to Charleston and everywhere in between. I have learned so much on this project - not just about seeds and gardening, but about myself and my work. I love when a project comes along and changes everything, don't you?

Here are some images for you to see. I have no idea what's been rejected, but images of vegetables never disappoint! Special shout out the the folks at Charleston Parks Conservancy for my all access pass to their gardens!

sprouts
chopping
carrots
seeding
magnolia garden-137.jpg

My best self

sunset

I resolve to love more and to give more. I resolve to be more gracious at receiving. I resolve to be more aware and mindful each day – to move more and eat healthier. I will work harder at being my best self.

But I also resolve to stop judging myself and others and to know - without a doubt -  we are all generally doing the best we can with what we know. I resolve to stop holding myself to ridiculous standards that don't mean anything to me and to set my own goals that will set me up for successes.

I resolve to remember that just because today is a day on the calendar, that it doesn't mean anything. There are 365 days this year - each one a chance at redemption, love and becoming who I am supposed to be. So if I lapse or falter or trip, I am here, to pick me right back up and set me back on my path... venturing towards my best self.

Back to me.

Owning it

IMG_2384.JPG

Lately, I have been taking on too much.

Too many projects. Too much responsibility. Too much drama that doesn't belong to me. I am like a dry sponge just looking for something to soak up right now. And often, that means I am soaking in the wrong things...because to a dry sponge just wants something. Anything.

When I am in that dried up space, I try to pause for a second. Take a breath. And just be wherever I am. I quickly let go of what is not and hold on to what is – air...water...life...love...family..sunrises... sunset. These are the simple things. But they are the essentials that are as life affirming as they are neccessary.

We are all bombarded daily with stuff that doesn't belong to us, yet somehow tries to own us and take us down. Traffic. Deadlines. Money. And even just the simple, day to day activities like having food to eat, clothes to wear, and keeping a roof over your head are really stressful. But they don't have to own us. We have to learn how to own our own selves within this framework. The first place to start - every day for me is to take a simple breath and pause.

It's as easy and complicated as that.

First the rain...

Sunset.jpg

 

I shot a wedding this weekend. It was on a boat that puttered slowly and gently around the lowcountry waters, shifting ever so gently back and forth with the sway of the boat and the shifting tide.

The skies were clear when we started our day - even with some hot sun piercing down on us. And then suddenly, the rain came in. It was a steady rain with no signs of letting up at all. Grey skies all around and a constant, gentle drizzle as we coasted the waterways.

Then as suddenly as the rain came, the clouds began to part just in time for us to see this remarkable sunset, color-filled and awe inspiring. I hustled the bride and groom to the back of the boat where I could get a good photo of them. It was all she wanted - a beautiful sunset photos of her and her husband, ready to start their lives together.

As I was snapping away at the photos, I heard one of her friends holler to them over my shoulder. "First the rain, then the sun..." It stopped my in my tracks. 

Of course.

Of course the rain has to come first. Of course you have to weather the storm first to appreciate the sunshine and the sunset. The thunder is there to shake us and move us. The water is there to nourish and refresh us. And then...the sunshine. To help us grow and bloom.

I have been here. Standing on stormy ground. Always hoping to find a way out. Maybe you are there now. Maybe you are stuck in a storm.  Just know in your heart that the sun will shine soon. It has to. There is no room for only rain. We need both to survive. So settle in and cover up, because this, too, shall pass.

The Aftermath

hurricane watch

For the past few days, we have been in hurricane preparedness mode around here as Hurricane Irma barrels towards the southeast. Fortunately for us, it's taken a turn. Unfortunately, it looks like Florida is in the cross hairs at the moment.

I would be lying if I said I hadn't shed a tear over this, both for me and for those in the path of this. Let me clarify...

I am well aware that there is nothing I can do about a storm barreling in my direction. You have to be prepared and do the work. Outside of that, it's just time to buckle up and brace yourself for the ride ahead. I know this. But still...reasoning and logic rarely come into play when you are faced with trauma.

You see, for about 3 years (actually more like 10 if I am being real), we had some very sick people in our family. My mother was on dialysis and my father was on chemo...sometimes simultaneously. At the same time, my son was pretty young...around 3 years old. I also had 2 dogs and a cat that I had to worry about.

To say that the preparing for an event like that was stressful would be an understatement. Thinking of all these moving parts completely overwhelmed me. Have you ever tried to find shelter from a storm inland where there was a dialysis center? Hospitals? Hotels/shelters that took pets? Even with resources, help and support, this was monumental. Every moment between August and October felt like I was in panic mode in those days.

To this day, I get amped up over storms. I am one of the people searching for water early. I am calling hotels that take dogs. I am buying batteries and making sure we have coolers stocked with essentials.  I worry and fret and stay glued to the TV, despite not wanting any part of it all.

And then...

Then it happens. It hits. Or it doesn't (because this time, you were lucky.)  And, just like that... it's all over. The aftermath is what you are left with. You are left with the cleaning up and the sorting back out and putting things back where they belong and sorting through all the broken things that you either need to throw away or repair or keep even though it's broken and bruised as a reminder of where you've been and just how much you are capable of all on your own. 

The big storms come through our lives for a reason. They are hard. They are harrowing. They are horrific. But they are their to teach you...to be prepared, to always have a plan, to know where to ask for help, and to always ALWAYS have some tools on hand to do the dirty work of the aftermath.

 

Sending love and light to everyone in the path of this storm.

You can donate now to the American Red Cross.

Summer Storms

summer storm

When the storms roll around, what do you do? Do you hide in the corner shaking like a scared puppy? Do you retreat as far away as possible so you can get out of the path of destruction? Or are you a "wait it out and see what happens" kind of person?

The other day, when this storm rolled in, I was ready to retreat. I was done with storms (it's been a long, rainy summer) both literally and figuratively. But watching this spectacle change by the second was compelling me to stay. These quick storms that move through are firey and fast, but they can be some of the most beautiful things to witness with their continuously morphing clouds and their intense colors and shapes shifting right before you.

As the storm came through, we waited it out an watched the mesmerizing clouds. I could have watched all day until the threat of lightening became more real than imagined and we all packed up and headed for home - wet chicken packed tightly back into our coolers. I was happy to be in the car, headed safely home with all my people in check.

I learned something though as I watched this storm and the people around me navigate it's perceived threat. I am quick to flee any crisis. Maybe I have had enough of tempting fate in my life or maybe I am just a chicken, but this storm looked ominous and imposing, and frankly I have had enough of that to last a lifetime - emotionally speaking. Honestly, I have never liked storms. Thunder scared me as a little girl and the rain always makes me feel like something is going to need repairing (hazard of living in the south in the summer and through hurricane season).

But maybe the storms are really just what I need. A big, fat reminder. Something to shake me up...challenge me to think and stop running away from problems that will be there with or without the storm. Or maybe the storms are there to remind me that sometimes things blow through quicker and easier than we think. That it isn't always about destruction. That sometimes facing it all is really what we need, so we can be present and be witness to all of it.

Whatever the case, I am glad I watched this morph, shift and change my view. Because honestly, a little storm might be all I need to face the reality of life.

Below my feet

  Taken on the magical trail to Rainbow Falls in North Carolina.

Taken on the magical trail to Rainbow Falls in North Carolina.

I have always been magnetically pulled to the forest and the mountains, drawn in to their mystery, their intrigue, their strength, their magic.

I have forever been comforted by the trees, standing tall and holding out their arms, protecting me from the harsh realities of life.

As I walk down the forest paths, I hear the familiar sound of my feet hitting the ground, crunching leaves, kicking rocks and snapping twigs. It reminds me once again to be present and grounded – heart beating, lungs breathing, moving forward.

The further I get from myself, the more I need the forest to hold me up. I need it to ground me. But mostly, I need it to remind me that I am equally as overwhelmingly important and humbly insignificant as each tree, each leaf, each twig on the ground below my feet.

The adventure of being alive...

  One of my most favorite photos ever. I dream of this day every day.

One of my most favorite photos ever. I dream of this day every day.

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for – and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing. It' doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool – for love – for your dreams – for the adventure of being alive.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

The summit

 Raven Rock Falls. Lake Toxaway, NC

Raven Rock Falls. Lake Toxaway, NC

I just got back from a three week escape to the mountains of North Carolina, just off of Lake Toxaway in a cabin in the woods. While that may sound like a luxury to many people, I think it was completely necessary for me at this point in my life/career/year. I had reached the pinnacle of burnout. I was tired, cynical, doubtful and hurt. Being a photographer isn't for the faint of heart - especially in a market like Charleston where you can't swing a cat without hitting someone who carries the moniker around with them. It was time for a break. 

While I did break a little, I also did a lot of work. Not in the traditional sense of the word, but I did a lot of work on me...goals, dreams, values, and overall wellness. I meditated. I wrote. I thought. I slept...boy, did I sleep. And I challenged myself...physically, mentally and spiritually.

One of the most memorable moments on the trip for me was this hike to Raven Rock Falls on theToxaway River Trail. It's a special hike that takes you back and forth over the river to ultimately end up at this spectacular site - a towering 60+ foot waterfall that cascades and ends in a frigid pool by your feet. It wasn't my first time hiking this trail, but let's just say after 20 years, it felt like my first time hiking anything.

I expected to be challenged physically, but what I wasn't expecting is the emotional ways in which the hike would challenge me. I struggled, always last in line in the group. My footing was unsure. My body was cumbersome. I was sweaty and hot and hungry and nothing felt right. And to be honest, I felt downright mad about it all. I wanted to turn around and go home. I wanted to stop...to just sit there, like a stubborn mule on the rock, refusing to move forward. I felt as frustrated as a little child in my skin.  But the group pushed me to forge ahead to the final summit.

During the second half of our hike, I noticed something shifting. With each step forward, I saw us working together as a group. We looked out for each other. We took our time. We shared stories and laughter and our water rations. Suddenly, my perspective changed. Pushing through the hard parts encouraged me more. I wasn't thinking of how miserable I felt. I was thinking of how much fun I was having, how beautiful this was, how healthy and strong I felt. I stopped worrying and started just living in the reality of the moment. I stopped fighting the currents and let it take me where it was going to.

It is said that nothing good comes easefully. And I have to agree with that. Life's greatest moments are challenging - sometimes even when you are on vacation. While I took some time off this month from work, I was still working. My "work" became checking in with myself. My hike was a reminder that while there may be challenges and slippery rocks underfoot, you just have to keep on going. You may fall. You will stumble. You will sweat and maybe even cry a little. But you have to keep going. It doesn't have to be pretty. But you do have to finish what you started. 

So as I keep climbing through life - sweating on the path, slipping on the rocks - I will remember it's not always easy. But it is always worth it in the end.

 

Sunrise, Sunset.

summer sunset

Letting go of a sunset is a little like saying goodbye to something you love. It's bittersweet - painful and a little beautiful all at the same time.

But while each sunset can feel like a goodbye, each sunrise can be a fresh start...a hello all over again. It's a reminder that the circle continues, and life just continues to renew itself over and over again. Each day brings something a little new, a little different and something to look forward to all over again.

The faith comes in the letting go...in the sunset. And the affirmation comes with each new day.

 

 

On Saying Yes.

  I confess...I say YES to this a lot .

I confess...I say YES to this a lot.

I have spent the past month or so angsting over a fairly large decision for myself. I have wrestled with it, turned it over and examined it until I can't even stand it or myself anymore. I was relaying this to a friend of mine and told her the pros and cons and ins and outs of every minute detail. She listened...patiently. And watched as a squirmed around in my own self trying to convince myself that YES was the thing to say.

She was quiet and then from the clear blue said these words to me: "Just because the word "yes" is a positive word doesn't always mean it's the right answer for you."

LIGHTENING BOLT.

It was as though someone gave me permission to say no to something – even though the best and most logical answer would be a resounding "YES." But sometimes, just because it's right on paper, doesn't mean it's right for your life.

We often should ourselves right out of the things we really want to do because the world does it that way. I am, by all accounts, the most unconventional soul on the planet. I am a single mother. An artist. I work for myself. None of these things compute on paper. Yet somehow, I am still here. Standing on my own two feet and doing just fine.

If I had always listened to the shoulds, I would be married to someone I didn't love, working in a job I didn't want to be in, and just not taking any chances on myself. And isn't that part of life? Taking chances on yourself? Saying yes when you should say no and no when you should say yes?

I haven't made any decision yet, but now I know when I do, I will make if from a place of authenticity rather than obligation. I will decide from a place of freedom rather than ownership... love rather than fear.

So next time your YES rolls around, make sure to gut check yourself on it. Listen to what's inside. And do what's right for you. Because sometimes your YES looks like a NO.

Getting Balance

  My awesome spring break view.

My awesome spring break view.

I had a shitty "spring break."

Let me explain...

Like many of you, I have a school-aged son that was on spring break last week. We don't have a lot of spare cash these days, so a trip was not happening. Instead, I thought of the bright idea of camping for a few days in the mountains (something I have actually only done once in my life...smart thinking.). We set our plans and started the wheels of our camping trip in motion.

Of course, life being what it is, the universe had some other plans for me. Or maybe I wasn't fully committed in the first place. But my plans changed course somewhere the week before. Some great, unexpected work came up. My teenager had some specific ideas about his social plans. And then I slipped into saying yes to far too many things I didn't want to do. So our camping trip got cancelled, I worked a lot, and then became an unpaid Uber driver for my son in my spare time.

As the week progressed, I started to get increasingly more frustrated. I was mad at life...mad at myself. I felt trapped and owned by some imaginary rules I had set up for a life that I was supposed to live. And it only got worse as I scrolled through social media to see friends enjoying Caribbean vacations, European adventures, and good old US road trips. What's worse was that I knew in the truest part of myself that I was the one responsible for the way this week was panning out.

When I started to reconcile what was happening and got real with myself, I realized a few things.
1. I was in desperate need of a break.  I work weekends a lot. And when the typical work week rolls around, I am usually still working. While I do set my own schedule and have lots of freedom to make appointments and go grocery shopping at odd times, I tend to still feel like I need to be getting work done during the Monday-Friday, 9-5 hours as well. To top it off, I was going on weeks of constant work without a break. I needed a change. 
2. I was telling myself a story that wasn't real. Not everyone I knew was on a spring break vacation. In fact, I knew more people that had to work than those that did not. Spring break trips are a luxury, not a right. And I needed to hip check myself on that.
3. I was feeling sorry for myself. And that wasn't allowing me to live on a higher "vibe" - if you will. I was sulking and wallowing in self pity instead of changing my reality. Once you change that, everything changes. Literally...everything.
4. I wasn't seeing the amazing opportunity around me. I live in a place with abundant beauty. I am 15 minutes from the beach on a good day (5 minutes from one of the most gorgeous parks in the world). I have gift certificates to 5 local restaurants. I have a sister with a pool in her very own backyard. Enough said.
5. I wasn't saying "NO" enough. Not to my son. Not to his dad. Not to friends or neighbors. I was doing things I didn't want to be doing. I was creating my own misery and my own sense of disappointment.

Once I started seeing all these things, I began changing my story. I planned an Easter Brunch to see family I hadn't seen in months. I went to the beach. I watched the sunset. I played with the dogs. I went for a walk with a friend and talked about some amazing topics like meditation, family, and life changes that we are both on the precipice of making. Once I took the wheel back, I lived in the presence of joy and gratitude instead of wallowing around in my own self pity.

The best part of this shift is that it only takes a moment to change your mindset. For me, it finally happened when I got real with myself and realized I wasn't listening to my inner voice saying - SAY NO...YOU NEED A BREAK! I was trying to please too many people - clients, family, friends, neighbors. I wasn't voicing what I wanted to do. But once I finally followed through for myself (albeit with begrudging sighs and protesting from my teenager), everything shifted. In that simple moment of saying "This is what I want," I stopped being a victim of my circumstances and started taking care of myself. I started enjoying where I was in the moment.

  Squad. Goals.

Squad. Goals.

  My heart and soul got some much needed beach time too!

My heart and soul got some much needed beach time too!

  Beach time with friends where I mixed in a little work with a little pleasure.

Beach time with friends where I mixed in a little work with a little pleasure.

  Looks like they #brunchedtoohard.

Looks like they #brunchedtoohard.

 

Sometimes saying what you want isn't about being selfish or narcissistic...it's just about taking care of yourself. Simple, kind gestures that say "Hey wait...I'm important too!" Make yourself answer the call to do more for you. You know when the teeter totter of balance of your life looks like a chunky kid from gym class is sitting on one end with sandwich and a Snickers bar laughing at you for being trapped way up there. Take control back. He's not in charge.

Just get some balance.

Up to the Top.

 From our time in Texas last summer.

From our time in Texas last summer.

Some days, I feel like I am on top of the world, climbing towards infinite possibilty. The only thing between me and upward mobility is a little bit of air that I can effortlessly float on.

And then the other days come....the days when I feel like all I do is climb over treacherous obstacles and stumble over rocks and boulders. There are the days that feel like I am on a narrow pass on the edge of a 2000 foot drop with jagged edges underneath. And there are days where my feet feel stick in pluff mud that's thick and heavy and pulling me under the more I try to wiggle my way out. 

Those are the days it's hard to say to yourself "You've got this. You can make it!" Those days you stay frozen, laying on the ground and hoping you can figure a way out without getting sucked in again.

The key, I have found, is to tell yourself these words:

You have seen this cliff before.
You have been stuck in this mud already.
You have climbed these boulders time and time again.
You and you alone have freed yourself from this...You have got this.
Just keep going...inch by inch. You will make it.

And every time, just like that, I move slowly to the top of the mountain once again.

 

Forge Ahead

sky

When we are caught in a sea of uncertainty, the best thing to do is to find a spot on the horizon line to focus on and paddle towards it with all your might. The seas may get rough. The winds and currents may be unforgiving. But you will always end up at your destination if you keep focusing on where you are headed. 

So eyes forward. And forge ahead.

 

Cultivating faith

 A shot from the newly cultivated crops out at  Compost In My Shoe .

A shot from the newly cultivated crops out at Compost In My Shoe.

Cultivating a crop takes patience. It takes time and repetition. It takes weeding, observing, watering, and watching. And sometimes it doesn't go as your careful plan. Pests get in. Frosts hit. Rain washes away your hard work. It's a precarious game making you anticipate Mother Nature's next move.

This can be said for a lot of things, too. Raising children, starting a new job, or even creating something new... like art. It's a balance of patience and grit, of testing and trials. You await for the outside influences to come and hope that you have some semblance of a plan when it all hits. 

But after the battles and the hardships, you are left with new soil and a fresh, new place for seeds take root. New growth come. And the crops that were taken out during the heavy rains, pest invasion and frigid temperatures have made way for fertile ground to sprout new ideas. 

And along the way, you realize that ultimately it is all a test to cultivate a crop of faith in yourself to handle it all.