A couple of months ago, during the height of home renovation, Seattle photography classes and taking on extra articles at our paper, I was asked to do the Fall cover for the Methow Valley Arts Magazine.  It’s one of my favorite assignments.  I love working with artists, hearing their story and doing my best to capture that story in images.  It’s always a unique and interesting exchange.

This issue was dedicated to a local folk singer named Hank Cramer. 

We met for coffee and got to chat for a while.  His wife Kit, a high country wrangler, even joined us for a bit.  They’re really sweet people that have learned over the years what it means for Hank to be a professional singer.  In the process of his successful career, he’s recently been able to help find and produce some other talent (“no egos!”), which it seemed like has been really gratifying for him.  

They live on a ranch in Winthrop, Washington, with horses, dogs and a cat.  

Living in the Pacific Northwest, you may have heard of our wildfire situation pretty much all over our state, coming from Canada and from neighboring Montana, Oregon and California.  The smoke has been thick and intense all summer.  The day we scheduled to shoot, there was an apocalyptic yellow haze that hung in the sky like nicotine clouds.  Not having seen real sunshine for days, we just had to go with it and I did my best. 

I had dreams of horses backlit by golden hour sunlight and dust in the air.  However, without any real light, I’m not going to lie, it was a real struggle to make things interesting. 

Hank serenaded me with his folk music almost the entire time.  It was so nice, peaceful and comforting and yet many times I’d have to make him hold still.  A face captured while singing tends to be what it looks like when you put a movie on pause- ha!  

I think this one is my favorite of the outdoor portraits. 

If you read the biography on his website, you will see that he has traveled all over the country as a musician. It’s pretty incredible. 

I was feeling iffy about the outdoor shots.  I was concerned the haze would feel more gas mask/ war torn than folk singer’s dreamy ranch life, and wanted back-up options. I asked him if we could go inside to get a few more.  I’m soooo glad I did!  He has a little guest house and for whatever reason, the light and the booth reminded me of a cowboy’s early morning cup o’ joe, when the world is quiet, the sun is just waking up to a big day of work ahead. 

Not to mention, I LOVE the moodiness of window light.  The contrast of dark and light can be really haunting and lovely to me.  This is probably my favorite of the indoor portraits. 

And this is probably my favorite of all the shots that day… I just love the light on a musician’s hands.

Since this shoot, I haven’t picked up a camera.  I haven’t edited a picture.  Between all that has been going on to get our home ready for the market, two Seattle photography classes that were within two weeks of each other, this shoot and editing, all while being pregnant with stress fractures in my feet (podiatrist appointment on Thursday- YESSSSSS)…Oh!  And taking on extra article at our paper because our poor editor was down for the count for a couple of months with some crazy back virus…  It was a LOT.  

Now that the house is clean, I pretty much spend all of my extra time meditating.  Ha!  No, really. No check lists, no to do’s, no hundreds of photos to edit… I’ve barely kept in touch with people.  Anything that feels like panic or work or ‘I have to’ has been shelved.  It has been the most amazing few weeks.  I would even use the word BLISS. 

I also packed up all of my baking stuff to make the house look less cluttered, so no baking 24-7 temptations there.  It’s like every instinct in me is saying, “It’s fall- you’re supposed to be making apple pie!”  No, Habit.  I’m really not.  I actually bought a pie at the store yesterday.  Ha!  I BOUGHT A PIE!!!  (Granted the pies at our bakery are kick ass, but still…)

Not to mention, the storage on my laptop is completely full with the photos I have on it. I couldn’t import anything new if I tried!  I bought a monstrosity of an external hard drive months ago in Seattle but the idea of spending time transferring photos right now sounds like a panic attack waiting to happen.  It sounds like death.  Instead, I’m just SO super enjoying the peace, resting in the quiet and recharging as best I can because I know when this house sells, our Relocate-to-California Adventure will require a lot of energy.  

Once we get there, I will be grateful to pick up the ol’ girl again.  Photograph my growing belly, our new life… But in the meantime, I’m focusing on gratitude for what I have right now, manifesting new owners for our adorable cozy cabin and taking in all the beauty our little place has offered us while I still can.  

The past year has been an education in putting away the Type A, 60 hours a week, money is everything, workaholic mentality to learn the joys of a work/life balance.  As dramatic as it sounds, it has been life changing. Now I’m learning what it means to be still.  In that stillness, I’m finding that who I am isn’t defined by work– or even more so, creativity or the projects I’ve finished, it’s who I am in the quiet that is actually me.  The crazy thing is that in doing nothing, I’m not even remotely bored.  I’m just in utter gratitude.  

I’m curious how this all plays out when our little one joins us, crying at three in the morning, needing constant attention.  Maybe the angels know how important this time is for me– to really know and recognize the spiritual being in this physical body bag before our lives flip upside down.  Whatever happens, big changes are ahead and I feel like I’m looking on a future that is so different and incredible than one I’ve ever lived, I literally have tears of gratitude and I don’t even know why yet. 

Also, I love our little Baby Soul… I finally felt a real kick the other night.  WOW.  She was dancing up a storm on her ultrasound the next day.  I can’t wait to meet her… Yes, big changes are ahead.  I know it is going to be such a special time.  As backwards as it seems, it’s– strangely– making me insanely grateful for every moment of right… now. 

 

Just when you think the world couldn’t be more chaotic, hurricanes and wildfires are brought to the scene.  Add this to an already unstable and divided political stage, whose leaders are dabbling with ideas like nuclear war, and suddenly everything you know begins to feel a bit out of control– the sky is full of smoke and there’s a whiff of apocalypse in the air.    

Photo By Tristan Fortsch, AP

Granted, it might feel this way for me as I have an aunt and cousin in Houston, my dad (stepmom, friends and sister-in-law) lives in Florida and my husband and I live in wildfire country (currently on a Level 1 evac with a house on the market).   Does the rest of the world feel this way right now? Having lived in a community that has experienced significant fires, you see people become addicted to fear like it’s catastrophe porn. The news makes us long for an apocalypse and our churches guarantee one.  

At the same time, human beings have never been perfect and our existence has always been unstable.  The great Roman empire fell.  The rise of Germany.  The Russian nuclear scare of the 80’s.  The great San Francisco earthquake, tsunamis…  Life happens. Is it our social media age that allows us to see more of it on a daily basis?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that the way everything feels around me right now, the number of times we are clubbed in the head with a new disaster, it feels too big– the numbers too great, to ignore.  It personally has me begging the question, what are we learning from this?

What is humanity learning from this?  Let that marinate…. 

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In numerology, the year 2017 equates to a one.  One is the symbol of new beginnings.  This can be a very exciting time to start new things but it also means that whatever we create in this year stays with us for the next nine years- nine, being the number of completion. With so many factors happening as of late, I can’t help but wonder if we’re looking at everything myopically and not seeing the bigger picture.

Mother Earth has been spinning since the dawn of time.  SHE has seen some things.  Her own creation, dinosaurs, the building of the pyramids… She has some stories to tell. She’s been around.  The same goes for the oceans that receded to showcase spectacular mountains and gorges, or trees with their deep roots that plunge into the ground, hundreds of years old, THEY’VE seen some things.   Us?  We pathetic little humans see the span of 80+ years (if we’re lucky). 

I remember reading ‘Crazy Horse,’ a book about the war leader’s legacy as an Oglala Lakota in the 19th century.  In the book I learned that the Lakota’s calendar was based on 13 moons throughout the year.  The names of these ‘months’ reflected what was going on during that time of year.  Names like, “The Moon of Green Grass,”  “The Moon When Turnips are in Blossom,”  “The Moon When Chokecherries are Black,” or “The Moon When Deers Shed Their Antlers.”  I was fascinated and in awe of their connection to the land.  They respected it, cherished it and took part in it.  Personally, I believe they got it soooo right.

I find myself again asking for earthly wisdom.  What are we supposed to learn here?  

Photo by Richard Carson, Reuters

Who are we to nature?  What do we think and feel about it?  Is it something to be owned or purchased?  Do we rule over it? Do we respect it? Or are we beginning to question our part in it all?  Are we spending hours fighting various policy without any real connection to the earth? When do we become guests here?  Shouldn’t the earth have seniority? Shouldn’t there be some humility? Shouldn’t we ask for its’ wisdom?  It seems awfully ungracious and ignorant to not look at the bigger picture.  And yet in our 80+ years, we’re the rulers and decision makers.  At this point, shouldn’t we at least pay our respects to the wisdom of the hundred year old sea turtles?  Why are the ‘ants’ of the world the ones to rule?

And its not just about the natural world, it’s about humanity.  Our political climate is a battlefield full of righteousness and vitriol. Again, the question smacks me in the face… What are we learning here?

Photo By Brynn Anderson AP

Hours upon hours spent on Facebook and Twitter, ‘fighting the fight’ and ‘setting the record straight,’ in my experience, has not changed a single opinion.  It has done nothing to progress anyone’s agenda but create more division, and made us feel even more helpless and angry, righteous and indignant.  How can that be a good thing?  

Even more than the great chasm between us, this time has instilled in us hateful reactionary triggers set to go off on a moment’s notice– whether it’s politics or which ice cream to get, we feel we are under attack all of the time– offended, disrespected and you’re going to know about it.  

“NO, I’M RIGHT AND I HOPE YOU DIE CHOKING ON YOUR BLUE BUNNY, YOU MOTHERFUCKING ASSHOLE!!! GEEZ… CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT GUY?  EVEN HAAGEN-DAAZ WOULD BE BETTER… FUCKER… HE’LL PROBABLY PUT CHOCOLATE SHELL ON IT… DO YOU KNOW WHAT CHOCOLATE SHELL IS MADE OF?  …WHAT A DICK… “

HE’S what’s wrong with the world. Thankfully, you’re on the side that’s ‘right’ so you don’t even have to feel guilty for too long blowing your top. I mean, you’re not typically like that, but THAT guy?  It was awell warranted.  Not to mention, all of your friends will validate your righteousness through ‘likes’ as they think chocolate shell is the devil as well.  It feels good to be right. A community of right people.  If only all the world was as right as you are.  

It’s happened to all of us. We are all guilty.  But tell me how this is helping anything.  I see little John Connor as a young Edward Furlong, ringing a set of car keys in his hand… “Are we learning yet?”  We don’t always have to kill the guy to get the car.  There can be other possibilities. Sometimes we can find a spare car with keys in the visor.  What if nothing is well warranted?  What if crazy stays crazy and we just watch it spin rather than react in the same way? Instead, we crave Judgment Day. Maybe we’re a bunch of kill-fest terminators that need reprogramming. 

I recently listened to a podcast about reincarnation.  According to this podcast, after death you are greeted by loved ones.  After a bit of ‘Welcome Back Cotter’-esque celebration, there is a life evaluation.  In this evaluation, you are able to see all of the decisions you’ve made but also–and this was the kicker– you feel the feelings of every decision you’ve made.  You feel the feelings of those you’ve effected.  You see the ripple effect of your actions.  Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, can you imagine what it would be like to literally feel how you’ve made others feel?  And how it has effected your life and the world around you?  YIKES.

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Meditating on this question, thinking about what we are supposed to learn, I have a sneaky suspicion Baby Soul and other children will come out of our wombs scratching their heads, wide-eyed, unprogrammed asking ‘Why would you do that?’  I pray it’s a generation of children that instinctively know it’s about raising our vibration.  

I hope we can pause a second to this about this… 

I don’t have answers but I think questions are a great start…  What do I need to learn?  Do I feel grounded? What does that look like in everyday life?  Am I meditating or making time to reflect?  Am I living in gratitude?  How am I speaking to those around me?  Or online?  Do I judge people I don’t understand? When have I been shown kindness or compassion? How did it make me feel?  Do I live in fear? Where does it come from? How am I showing respect for the earth?  Am I seeking wisdom?  Why does it feel good to ‘be right?’  Am I stuck in a lifetime of circumstances that have happened to me or have I done the courageous work of healing those hurts?  What would it feel like to be free of those burdens?  To forgive?  

It is a blessed and harsh reality that I truly have no control over what happens in the next few weeks. But what I can do is ask myself the following:  How can I raise my own vibration?  What can I bring to the table as a guest here on earth?  How does my life effect the world?