landscapes

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.

 

A little work with Garden & Gun

Brays Island

About a month ago, I went on my first shoot for Garden & Gun - a publication based out of Charleston. If you aren't familiar with them, you need to check them out. They do a great job at celebrating Southern culture by showcasing all the best parts of what we have cultivated here and telling out dynamic, beautiful cultural Southern story.

I got to be a part of one of their highlight events during Jubilee Weekend and traveled to Bray's Island Plantation for the Women in the Field series. I don't usually share loads of photos, but I was so excited and inspired by this gorgeous place, I wanted to show you more than my usual one and only one style. Enjoy!

 

camelias
mural
jub-114.jpg

Your Path.

I talk a lot about paths and roadways. I think perhaps because often mine hasn't been clearly marked and traveled (and also because I love a good hike or roadtrip). I always was attracted to the unclear path...the one with adventure and uncertainty along the way. I don't know why this appeals to me except that it seems like I just never felt that I wanted to march to the safe beat of a predictable drum. I wanted a path of the explorer and the adventurer. I wanted to be anything but ordinary.

But aren't we all that way? We are all looking to forge our own unique, individual path? Even if we take the predictable route, there is still individuality on the path - because it's ours. Nobody has the same experiences - even on that well worn path. There are always twists and turns, branches in our way. or fallen trees that trip us up. It's still our path. Even if it looks as recognizable as the next guy's...school, job, marriage, kids, soccer games, holidays, etc.

The important part is that you are forging ahead. The essential part is that you are experiencing it for all it's worth - the good and the bad. The ups and the downs. The hurdles and the turns. Take them in. Drink them up. They are life. This is your life.

This is your path. Define it. Own it. Walk it proudly.

 

Floating with faith

“Faith is not a club to belong to, but a current to surrender to.” 
Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior: A Memoir

Faith is elusive. It's slippery and sneaky. It changes on a dime and curves in ways you would never expect. It looks calm and peaceful as a still river on top, but underneath is a roller coaster of twists, turns, dips and loop-dee-loops that you could never calculate looking at it all from your perched perspective. And just when you think you have caught up with Her... there she goes, slipping gently away again, just out of reach.

But maybe...just maybe...we are fighting too much against this current of faith. Maybe we are so used to fighting for a breath of air or struggling for our very own survival that this becomes our focus. We put our energy into staying above for air rather than floating with it - even if that means having to go under for a while. To surrender feels a lot like giving up or giving in to some of us.  We want a guaranteed outcome...a perpetual happy ending. 

I don't think faith is about the ending, though. It's not about surviving. It's not about gasping for air. It's about surrendering to a place you are destined to be. It's about flowing with the current rather than swimming against it's power. It's really just about trust.

So take a deep breath and jump in. Surrender some of that power you fight for.

Just give in...float... surrender.

Your Landmark

sheldon church

A few weeks ago now, I was on a shoot out of town and decided I was going to make a stop on my way home at these old church ruins that are a historic landmark here in South Carolina. It's something I have always wanted to see for many reason. The Old Sheldon Church ruins still stand today after getting torched/gutted twice over the course of history. What remains is a historic landmark - a time marker for us to only imagine what things were like then.

I mentioned to a friend that I was going to stop here and his prompt response was "good luck...that's the most over photographed place in the area. And I have never really seen a photo that does it justice." No pressure. Just a reminder that there would be no way I could do the place justice photographically. It's not my job or anything....

As I approached the grounds with minor photographic trepidation , I sized up this spot to see if I could, in fact, do it any justice. History buffs reading placards, families photographing their holiday cards, couples on engagement shoots, and art school girls working on a project were all scattered around the historic grounds trying to get in their shot, making it difficult for all of us to get in anything decent without existing in their photograph forever. I shuffled behind columns and into corners to avoid being a photobomber in someone's Christmas card this year. I certainly didn't want to be commemorated in an engagement shoot of someone I didn't know.

When I finally stopped worrying about how I was going to actually get the shot, I stepped into the space and really started letting myself think about the place. I immersed myself in the experience (which, by the way, is what any good photographer tries to do). I wondered what it was like in the 1700s sitting in a service there in the middle of August, sweat dripping from the minister's chin as he preached about hellfire and damnation. I thought about families draped in their holiday best coming to remember their Lord and Savior for Christmas service on a chilly winter day. I thought about the pews and the people and how they must have even gotten there. What was the Lowcountry like back then? Especially so far out of the way of everything? How did they dress? Was it hot inside? Did the windows open? Was there somewhere for a fire on chilly days?

When I found myself immersing myself in this story is when I realized something: it really didn't matter what my picture looked like. I was here, thinking...wondering...filling in gaps. I wasn't taking this photo for anyone but me. I wasn't going to sell it or get it published or have it lauded in any way. What it was, for me, as most photographs really are, was a record of a moment I was spending there. It was a memory...and just like this landmark served as a historic spot for people to commemorate something, so would this photo.

Photos are just that. They are visual landmarks of time. Go through the Facebook albums of any close friend and that's what they are. Are they always great? Probably not to you. But maybe to the person who took them. They are special memories created for you, by you to remember life. That's all a photograph is in it's raw essence.

Each one of us were there to capture our own memories - or those of someone who wanted the moment captured for them (the reason you hire a photographer is you need something done that you can't do on your own.). Each one of us were clicking away on our phones and mirrorless cameras and DSLRs for our own purposes – just like every photo we take. They are ultimately for the person who takes them.

So stop worrying if your photo is okay. It's okay. It's just what it was meant to be: Your memory. Your milestone. Your landmark.

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.

Trust the outcome

Jim Martin. Compost in my Shoe. Farm shoot, Fall 2016.

Jim Martin. Compost in my Shoe. Farm shoot, Fall 2016.

You have to do the work...

Work the land. Plant the seeds. Till the soil. Weed. Water. Mulch. And watch with patience as things develop.

The good stuff takes time and love and reckoning with things you might not be prepared for. But the rewards are great.

Take your time. Do the work. Trust the outcome.

Lessons in a foggy morning.

Fog

The other morning on my sunrise walk, without warning, the fog began to roll in at a rapid pace. We usually see fog come in from the sea at night around here, quickly burning off after the sunrise, but this fog came in from the land AFTER the sunrise. I thought I heard someone yelling to me, as if to warn me of it's impending arrival, but I couldn't be sure that my mind wasn't playing tricks on me.

The whole thing was so disorienting. You couldn't see very far in front of you which made me feel as if I was suddenly going the wrong way or something was going to be there that perhaps shouldn't be. Briefly, I felt like I didn't know my right from my left or which direction I had come or where I was supposed to be going. Instead of panicking like I wanted to (it's been a theme for me lately), I held on to what was true and what I did know. I trusted my senses - my hearing, touch (dry sand/wet sand) and what sight I had left - to lead me where I knew to go. Eventually, I ended up exactly where I had started, heading to the water and following it to back to the boardwalk and then on to my car.

This is something that happens daily for us. The fog rolls in leaving us disoriented. Sometimes you don't know where you are supposed to go. So you evaluate your choices. Sit and wait for it to pass. Or follow your instincts and carry yourself onward. Either is a good choice. Both will get you out of it. But both rely on you trusting yourself.

If you ask me, the trust is the hardest part. When we are hurting or down, our trust in ourselves can waiver. It can be shaky and confusing. It can be disorienting to feel along in our own fog. But most likely, you know what to do. Stop panicking. Breathe. Trust. You will almost always end up where you need to be.

 

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.

 

A day off

An iPhone shot of my long day away.

An iPhone shot of my long day away.

This weekend, after working for about 4 weeks with no break, I did something uncharacteristically me. I took a whole day off. No emailing. No photo editing. No picture taking (except with an iphone). Nothing. I needed to get away from social media, email, photoshop and all the things that pull me in a million different directions.

This happened after a bit of a realization on my end on Saturday and something I admitted out loud: I wasn't happy.

Don't get me wrong. I am filled with appreciation and gratitude for everything I DO have in my life. But something wasn't jelling with me. Too much work and stimulation. Not enough downtime. Too much pleasing everyone. Not enough pleasing myself. There have been deadlines and hustling and meetings and computer time. But everything in my life felt a little chaotic.

This was a sign to me that I was overdue some time to decompress. I needed to do something for me. Self care and self preservation is most important. So, I headed to the beach where I always feel like I can breathe again and plopped myself down and decided to just BE.

I talked to a friend. I sat and stared at the waves. I watched my son swim and frolic in the sea. I walked along the edge of the shore. I dug my feet in the sand and let it crumble between my toes. I did all of this, over and over again, until I felt better. I did it until I realized that all the things we feel and see and want are all only dictated by the stories in our head. I did it until i realized what I really wanted was right in front of me, right at that very moment. Peace. Love. Friends. Family. It was all right there.

Often when we go seeking what we want more of, we realize it's been right there with us all along. For me, it's always been helpful to strip away the noise...the cell phones, the computers, the deadlines and the things-to-do lists. I can come back to what's real and what's most important...

For me all it boils down to is love. Pure and simple love.

Summertime

A little look at our iPhone summer.

A little look at our iPhone summer.

Summertime in Charleston is full of beach days and pool time, flip flops and wet swimsuits, picnics and prosecco.

We don't always have the budget to travel to exotic locations every year or to go on exciting adventures every weekend. But we do have the budget to go to the beach for a few hours to ride the waves, search for sharks teeth (my new summer obsession) or watch a few sherbet-colored clouds float by the fading summer sky.

We get to dance for a little while longer under these lovely, lingering summer skies. And I plan on doing more of this. More meals by the sea. More days lived by the rhythm of the waves. More schedules set by sunrises and sunsets. And come August 15th, I will sigh a little more heavily as our once simple days wash out in the waves once more. 

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.