66. About a year and some months into my Peace Corps service, my good friend Maria, a neighbor, a part of our women’s group, and a participant in our greenhouse project, taught me a whole lot one day. I was walking down the dusty road, my body doing the work of moving from point A to point B, but all of my effort applied to my brain, juggling a to-do list, feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. That I was taking up too much space and too many resources and not giving back to this small community. That I was fallible. She and I made eye contact as we neared each other, holding the gaze with soft smiles until we were close enough to greet. I opened with: “Dona Maria, mira….I have the wood and piping and cement all ready to pick up, the remainder of the plastic and nails and rebar, they’ll be ready at the end of this week. In our next meeting, we’ll schedule the greenhouse construction…..”. She interrupted me. I don’t think she actually put her hands on my shoulders and shook me, but she did as much with her words. “Buenos dias, Dona Estacey”. Good morning, Stacey.
Her words shook me out of my head. Into my body I returned. Feet planted, the breeze gently blowing. The dry, warm air. A beautiful, young mother standing in front of me. Good morning.
This was a seminal moment in my life. One that I remember often but often have to remember to reintegrate, because I forget.
In that moment, I wanted to be valuable. I wanted to be integral. I was going to give her reasons to view me as a contributor. What she taught me through this interaction is that I was all of those things. Just by the very nature of being alive, being a friend, being in her community, I was seen, valuable, integral, contributing. That was enough, and by starting there, so much more authenticity could flow.
65. I don’t often bring my camera around when I’m with friends. When shooting, my brain moves and shifts, focused on the images to be created, as opposed to interacting with those around me in a wholehearted way. But when camping along the beach, accompanied by the the metronome of Pacific Ocean waves, the setting moon, and the streak of the milky way, well, then I might make an exception.
64. I once heard this brilliant This American Life episode, in which the subject of the story was something like 80% deaf, yet didn’t wear hearing aids. She worked at a clothing store, helping customers and folding clothes. They simulated what sound was to her, and it sounded just like the teacher in Charlie Brown. Muffled. Tonal but indecipherable. She was asked: “How can you possibly answer questions that you cannot hear?” Her answer? “Well, it turns out that humans are amazingly predictable.”
I think about this when I shoot. As a visual storyteller, my goal is to find what is truly unique about the day, the subject, that particular moment in time. The smallest details can tell the whole story. I challenge my mind to wander and expand. To really look. During the most everyday moments, there is a story to be told. And if my images look like Charlie Brown’s teacher sounds….well, then it’s time to get to work.
63. It’s dreary, cold and cloudy out. A temporary pause in the springing of summer here in Seattle. So today I’m going to work on my computer, and glance out of the window occasionally. Peek beyond the monitor to see what doggies walk by, the tree branches blowing in the breeze, birds landing on the wires. And wait until those blue skies come out again.