landscape

After the Storm...

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And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come
And I look up,
I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.

After The Storm, by Mumford + Sons

* I have posted the lyrics to this song before. It’s one of my most favorite ballads of all times by one of my most favorite bands ever. I listened to this music during a very hard time for me and remember feeling like it was a life jacket that some threw me in a wild, stormy sea. It still brings me to my knees when I hear it.

Silver linings

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I would have missed this sunset if life had been normal.

I would have been in my house, AC cranking, cooking dinner alone in the kitchen. I would have probably been listening to a podcast or book on tape or even watching some sit-com rerun for the umpeenth time, my son in the other room doing homework or playing guitar or a video game.

Instead, my life had been turned around in a first world kind of problem sort of way. We’ve been without AC for weeks. And I am on a cooking strike. So I piled my son and myself into the car and headed to get some form of take out. On the way, we saw this incredible sunset. We stopped in awe of mother nature, the universe and the power of serendipity.

Sometimes, life happen for us. Sometimes situations present themselves. Last night, as we sat around the table at the restaurant, we marveled at the fact that had it not been for the awful week we had, we would all be spearated ,living our own individual moments in front of one screen or another. Instead, we have explored forests, new restaurants, new cities, and even glorious sunsets with views for days right down the street from where we live.

So maybe the past few weeks weren’t really a crisis after all. Maybe it was the just the opposite - maybe past few weeks was the universe trying to break up our regular, safe, ordinary days with new adventures and some much needed fresh perspective.

If it comes with a silver lining like this, I’ll take it.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

Ten.

mom

Ten Years.

A decade has passed since you left us...a decade since our little party ended too early for my liking.

Ten years is a long time to love something you can't see or feel or touch or hear or talk to. It's a long time to love something that is no longer tangible. I can look at these pictures and try to remember what is was like to walk down that sunny street with you on that crisp fall day, or what it was like to eat chocolate together, or play Yatzee before bedtime, or just melt into the the comfort of your soothing, strong voice on the phone.

But it's not the same, is it? Memories always feel like they become more translucent as time goes on until suddenly and without warning, you can't see them anymore.

In ten years, I have become a pro at living around the hole you left behind. I did my fair share of falling into it's clutches in the early days. But now I know how to co-exist with it – dodging it's jagged edges and walking around it's stony cliffs. Sometimes I stand on the edge of it, just looking in... just remembering. But I know now how to climb out and dust myself off. I know where it is. And I know how to live with it.

Death changes the landscape of your life. Grief and sorrow become the pit you live around. You lose your way. You lose your sight. You lose your sense. It's disorienting and all-consuming – like being in a storm at sea without a mast to your sails or oars to a boat. And through it all, you still have to pretend like you have some semblance of control.

After ten years now, I have figured out that this landscape that I got used to in my early days will keep changing. Life will continue to shift things, so we can't get too attached to the view. Babies will be born. Children will graduate and become adults. Family members will pass on. Relationships will fail. Trust will be lost and found again. Friendships will be made. Love will be had. It's all part of the landscape of life: it's ever-changing. 

So I will just strap on those hiking boots and keep learning how to make it through the dry, harsh deserts and deep, musty caves. I will swim and sail through dark, stormy seas and slink through the wild, sticky heat. In the end, I hope see it all and witness the brilliant spectacle that is life.

In the meantime Mom, just keep being that shiny star, helping me navigate this ever changing terrain. I still need you.

With love,
Libby

 

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.

 

On Unbecoming

From my shoot at Bray's Island, SC with Garden & Gun this month.

From my shoot at Bray's Island, SC with Garden & Gun this month.

Today, I embark on my last scheduled shoot of the year. Now, normally I don't think much about this sort of stuff. But, you see, this year has been a little different for me.

This year, I took chances. I tried new things. I showed up when I didn't want to and exploded through boundaries I didn't know I even had. In this, a gentle but noticable transformation has taken place. Each small thing that has pushed me out of my comfort zone helped me to grow more. Each task helped me achieve something I didn't know was even possible. Each milestone and marker in the grass meant I had overcome something a little bigger and better than the last time.

Even when the chances I took were small and unassuming, the change was still happening inside. Little by little as I pushed through hurdles and boundaries I set for myself, an unfolding started to happen. I was unbecoming. This process has been a gentle teacher. This journey has been a peeling away of label after label, costume after costume, until I showed up stripped down to my real identity. I was unbecoming someone I thought I was. I was becoming the real me.

The unbecoming of the old me into the new me has been the best part of this journey. I am not saying it was easy. The good stuff never is. But each time I did something I never thought was possible for myself, labels started to fall away from me like water off a ducks back...rolling delicately one by one onto the ground below me and splashing into a puddle at my feet until I was ready to fly away from them all.

So each shoot became a milestone - a virtual marker in my journey back to me. Each phone call I received became an affirmation that I was, in fact, on the right path. Each compliment I heard made me sink into the new labels I was creating for myself – capable, strong, brave, worthy, talented.

Photography is a hard business to be in. It's competitive and cut throat. It's not for the faint of heart. Someone is always out there with better work, a bigger portfolio, top clients and fancier shoes. But honestly, it doesn't matter. None of it matters. Because ultimately, the competition you are holding yourself up against is you. The person you need to show up for each day and do better for is you. Competing with other photographers isn't worth it. Compete with yourself and your vision.

So today, as I look back at this past year and realize I have ultimately accomplished everything I set out to do, I will let this job be a swan song that will lead me into next year and propel me even further to my goals and farther from that person I never really was to begin with.

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.

The edge of things

pluff mud

For those of you unfamiliar with pluff mud, it's been described as "the slippery, shiny brown-gray, sucky mud, with a distinctive smell like none other, of the tidal flats and spartina grass salt marshes.  Unpredictable in its sucking power, when you step in it, you could sink up to your ankles, or up to your knees, or even to your hips.  And if you sink up to your knees, you can pull yourself out, but do not plan on retrieving necessarily your shoes unless they are tightly laced."

Pluff mud is designed to trap you...suck you in and not let go. It's what borders us from the solid ground we are confident from which we safely stand and the fluid waters that will whisk us swiftly away from everything safe and secure and known. If you think too much, you'll get stuck there. You will be left trapped in the in-between, struggling to free yourself from a losing battle of man vs. mud.

Like any difficult edge, pluff mud is tricky to navigate. And it's always deeper and wider than you expect it to be. The struggle seems deeper when you have sunk hip deep in the sticky, silty, sucky mess. But you can get out. There is a way. You just have to make a choice. You can crawl back to the safe, dry land or float out to the unpredictable currents of water that can whisk you away to new places...parts undiscovered by your soul.

The choice is yours.