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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.

 

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.

 

Into the woods

forest

I grew up with a forest for my back yard. Not a national park, but woods so deep they never seemed to end. I would get lost back there for hours, wandering and wondering about things that only I knew about in my own head.  I would lose time – examining leaves, tree bark and chasing fireflies as I quickly forgot about time and how I measured up in a world that seemed to be so limiting for me...even then.  I would stay out there until I was called back for dinner or bedtime, weary and drunk from the air that seemed so fresh and pure.  So it's no wonder that even today,  I still feel most at home in the woods.

There is a sense of embracing that envelopes my soul when I stand amongst the trees still, hearing the crunching and snapping of the twigs and leaves below my feet. I don't worry about who I will encounter or what I may come across. I feel supported - as though there is nothing to worry about but me, the breath in my lungs and the muscles in my body. I feel loved and protected. I feel safe....and understood.

I don't live near much of a forest these days. So every chance I get to be amongst the comfort of the tall trees and the quiet rustle of the ground covering is like some form of unpaid therapy to me. We travel far and wide so I can breathe in the earthiness of forest floors as I my every step seems to kick up another smell as I leave behind another worry, another issue, another problem. And nobody seems to mind as I stop to catch my breath as we climb higher and further away from every little thing that was tying me up in the first place.

And I just fit right back in - comfortably into this world without boundaries or borders to tell me what I have done wrong or right. I fit right back into to home.

 

Changing Tides

sunset

Often when the tides are changing, things can get a little tricky.

On the surface things can look smooth and easy, like the world is just floating along as it should be. But those undercurrents can be tricky. They sweep you away faster than you'd like, down paths you didn't think you wanted to go. So you spend your time paddling, treading water...forever trying not to get sucked under.

But sometimes that current sweeps you exactly in the direction you want to float. And instead of paddling and fighting, you simply need to float in the direction it's all taking you. Wistfully and blissfully... not fighting a thing.

That current can be confusing though. The very nature of getting swept away – even if it's in the right direction – can lead you to want to fight. When all you are used to doing is fighting a current, you can't help the feeling. You are always prepared for the fight.

Trust. Let go. Have faith that you will end up where you need to be doing exactly what you were meant to be doing.

Summer Daze.

surf's up
reading
smiles
shells
beach

I am in a summer daze. A hazy, lazy summer daze. I can't shake it off. And I really don't want to. I want these lingering days to last forever. Beach picnics at sunset and surfing into the dark hours of the day. I want to stay inside these in between days of spring and summer where the sun is shining and the breeze is cool and all I do is buck the Rules of Life.

It's here I want to lay my head and rest a while. I want to float around and get comfortably lazy with our schedules and Lists of Things To Do. I want to smile into the setting sun and thank her for yet another glorious day of life and give gratitude for the things that make the rest of it a little more palatable.

So here I will stay for a while with arms outstretched into the blue skies, laughing into the ocean winds again. Here is where I will be until the Summer turns her prickly heat on me once again.

And just like that.....

File May 12, 11 33 56 AM.jpg

Summer is here. Just like that.

For us, it isn't marked on a calendar or a clock. It isn't measured by the moon or the sun or the tilt of the earth. It arrives the day we drop our schedules and routines for something looser and a little more free. It arrives on a Tuesday at 5:37PM, when we are tired of homework and supper routines and classes and deadlines. It happens when we throw caution to the wind and finally sigh under our breath, "Summer is here. It's finally here."

Welcome back, Summer. I can't wait to float around gently and purposeless in your wake.

The Gift

my little backyard

When I need to regroup, recharge or just or restart myself on a new track during the day, I often come out here on my back deck and look at this view. I take a long, deep breath and pause to find 3 things I am grateful for so I can continue on with my day - hopefully a little lighter than when I started.

Mostly, this is an easy task. But in the past few years, I have struggled with some serious stress and hardship life decided to toss my way. It has made it excruciatingly hard to be present - particularly when your heart is not anywhere near you.

So what about those days when it IS difficult to find balance. What about those days that are hard and complicated and confusing? Or the days that are filled with angst and frustration? How do you find gratitude there? How do you look to find your happy place in those moments?

Honestly, some days I just don't. Some days I just fail miserably. And those are the worst days. But the best part is that I am trying. I always try to find the joy. It's a practice we all work hard for most days.

So I keep showing up here...on my porch. Some days, I have a tea and a smile and so much gratitude my heart could explode. Other days, I am pacing with anxiety or on the verge of tears. It's always different, just like each unique day. The point is, you have to always try. You have to keep showing up and without letting the present get away from you.

So I will keep showing up...right here on this porch. I will keep looking for the present within my heart while seeing the gift of what is real right in front of me.

Puzzles and life

An iPhone photo of the worlds most impossible puzzle.

An iPhone photo of the worlds most impossible puzzle.

Those that know me know that I am a huge fan of puzzles. I enjoy the challenge of a big puzzle and the gratification of the seeing all the pieces come together in harmony to create the final picture.

One thing I have learned from puzzling is that sometimes you just have to leave a parts of a puzzle alone - walk away from it. Or work on a different corner while scouring those pieces for the solution. They are always there, but often you aren't seeing them as they need to be seen. You need a different perspective. Its only after that shift - that moment away - that the picture takes shape, coming into focus, fitting the image you wanted to create in the first place.

If you think about it, that's a lot like life. Often, we force pieces that don't belong in next to each other, searching for answers in places they really aren't. All the while, all it is we need is a little rest, perspective and change of view. Or perhaps some time to work on a different corner of our world in order for it all to come together how it's supposed to.

Just remember, its the middle part that is always the hardest.

Tiny Squares

A recent snapshot from my Instagram feed.

A recent snapshot from my Instagram feed.

In many ways, this is what my Spring has looked like. And at the very same time, this is also not at all how my Spring has looked. Sure, I have seen my fair share of new life, beautiful landscapes and miles of gorgeous green. But there are a lot of gaps that are here that you can't see at all. There have been spaces filled with heartbreak and hard times. Love and loss. And moments where tears filled my eyes and my days. But these moments were in there too. These were the snapshots of my days that I clung to in between those other - and often unbearable - times.

My reason for posting this is not to tell you I have had a hard spring. Nor is it to tell you I had an easy spring (which I did not). It wasn't written to share all too intimate and unnecessary details of my life (keeping things professional here). It's actually to remind us of something important.

We all know that Instagram and Facebook make everyone's lives look envious at best. But those are simply moments - snapshots in between the other parts. Everyone is carrying their burdens. Lots of people have laundry and chores and days filled with nothing but work and computers. Some people have crosses to bear that most often we cannot see - heartbreak, stress, struggles that don't appear in those tiny squares next to their napping cat or the pie theu just made from scratch. But we fill their gaps with a story that we are telling about them. We are filling the gaps with our story. However, that's not our job. Our job is to tell our story.

Whatever your story is on the inside is okay. Whatever story you are telling on the outside is okay too. It's all okay. Because it's your story. Some people want to only hear the good. And others want to hear the real parts - the meat and the details. (Those are special people. Keep them close. They will support you through the details.)  Just remember, you have to keep telling your story however you want to remember it, not how the rest of the world wants to see it. It is your story after all.

If I told you my story over the past 10 years - mostly it's been good. It has looked like this photo in my heart. But truthfully, I could tell you they have been the most formative and difficult 10 years of my life. I lost 2 parents. I said goodbye to countless aunts and uncles. And I even buried one of my sisters. I have raised a boy from toddlerhood to a blossoming teenager and bought a house. I took myself half way around the world, been on some fantastic trips, and loved many people. I have even shifted careers. But what I will most remember about these years is not the trial and tribulation. It's moments like the ones you see here...these snapshots of my life. They represent it all - new and old, big and small, bold and fragile, cloudy and bright.

It's all there looking back at me in those tiny squares. 

Winds of Change

storms

The winds of change are coming. Blowing in from a new direction and bringing with it the waters to wash away the dust and debris that remains. Don't be afraid, friend. Embrace it - the wind, the rain, the dark times. The storm can be a bumpy ride. But in the end, the sunshine will come out and shine it's magical light in all the places that were once covered up and waiting to be found again.

March on

The well-worn, tree-lined path of McLeod Plantation.

The well-worn, tree-lined path of McLeod Plantation.

Sometimes the path is clear and open, lined with lovely oaks, dappled with clear sunshine leading to a clear destination on the other end. Other times the path you come across is overgrown and unclear. The uncharted territory ahead can make you confused and question whether or not you should follow that well traveled, worn path that so many have taken before you. Do they know something you don't? Or do they like knowing the outcome?

Me...well, I have always seemed to hike through the overgrown brush. I must like a good challenge. The outcome is never guaranteed and the direction can be confusing at times, but in the end I believe the destination and views will be well worth the effort. And even though all the other followers know where they are ending - somewhere safe, warm and dry - doesn't mean their ending will be any more gratifying or their views any more clear than where I find myself in the end.

So I will forge ahead - doing what I want and marching to my own drum. Because if nothing more, the small discoveries I make along the way will be worth all that hard work.

Safety net

live_oaks

The twisted and turning branches of the live oaks form a canopy like no other. Their arms gracefully shield us from the elements of life - protecting us from anything too harsh to see and encasing us in their webbed safety net like a flock of mother hens.

I want to stay here forever under the strong arms of Mother Nature. I want to linger in her cocoon of love and protection. I want to be guarded by her stature against the odds of life. I want to lay safe with her and rest happy, knowing she can keep out the bigger problems surrounding our souls.

There is only love.

puddles

Some days I want to jump in and swim to the other side. Float into the land of glee and ease where the clouds are made of cotton candy and the stars twinkle like diamonds in the night sky.

In my mind, the other side is cool and sunny with soft grass beneath your feet. It's filled with music and laughter, with the right amounts of everything. The other side has just enough of everything, but never too much of anything.

On the other side there is no pain or hurt. There is no anger. No frustrations. On the other side, there is only love.

There is only love.

 

Clarity

cooper-river-bridge

I have taken this photo before. I have taken it at sunrise and at sunset. I have photographed it in rain and fog and clear and crisp sunny days - just like today.

But today felt different. I saw it. Clearly. Nothing distracting from the view. Just simple lines against a lovely blue & green backdrop.

Today, it was like I saw it for the first time all over again. Grand. Clear. Perfect. Just like it is. But most importantly, just like I saw it today. Nothing in the way. Nothing changing the view.

Clear as it ever was.