In Context. In the Middle of the Road.

004254. I haven’t forgotten about this blog. The opposite, in fact. When I look at images, stories come alongside, and lots of stories have been circling this week. I’m just back in D.C. for the start of my forth year of this back and forth life, living and working between Seattle and D.C. Back in the neighborhood and places I know so well, seeing friends, clients, waitstaff, cashiers, homeless, familiar strangers and more whom I’ve known for a decade and a half. It strikes me that I feel centered as I walk down the street. All of this familiarity puts me in context…with a sensation that I’m a person within a larger system, instead of an individual chartering an unknown path, alone.

This image of Elena, I can feel her smallness in the vastness of the world. The union of the horizon line with her body. How that union meets with her center. The smallness of her within the vastness of the space. Her vulnerability as she stands alone. That she has a place and power, but no matter the pressure that she ever feels, that the world does not rely on her alone. That she is a person within a larger system, in context.

Spring is Coming!

jumpsmall.jpg53. I’ve been off for a few days visiting with a close girlfriend, a member of my “council”. The small group of people who I call on when life gets real. When the questions require true reflection. Seattle got excited to see her and put on it’s Sunday best. Sunshine, mountains proudly beckoning from every view, and a city humming with early relief from the rain. And in just three days, I’ll be on a plane to DC for my spring season! Hope to see you at our Cherry Blossom Mini Sessions on Saturday or Sunday, or sometime else before my mid-may journey back west.

 

Mirrors

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52. Looking into a mirror, most of us see what we perceive needs correcting. But there is this moment, when you’re a bride. A rite of passage planned for, deliberated over, wherein the adornment is a large part of the ritual.  A glance into the mirror after dressing, and a slight breath in, to feel something so outside of ourselves, so outside of the everyday. I love this image of Alicia before her marriage to Ben. In the space between planning and declaring. A moment of culmination.

 

Happy Easter. Bye Bye.

0040.jpg51. My great aunt Joan was my maternal grandfather’s sister. She lived in the city of Indianapolis, where she taught kindergarten as far as I know. She also played classical piano. She smoked a pack or two of cigarettes a day, and as we grew, the gaggle of cousins that are us were intrigued by her. My memories of her: she wore orange flowered bell bottoms, she bought us gifts, she was hoarse and independent and tiny and a little outside the main. One year, near the end of her long life, we had come home from Easter Sunday church. My mom hit the blinking PLAY light on the answering machine as we walked into the wood paneled kitchen, and Joan’s nicotine-laden voice came through: “Claire. Happy Easter. Bye Bye.” As far as we know, she left the same message, with a different address, to each of my mom’s remaining 7 siblings. Joan was a woman born to a woman who died giving birth to her. She has a story that I don’t know, but want to. She carried a love for her extended family, because we were what she had.

I get a call several times a day from a man in Atlanta. A 770 number. A few months ago his message would say “Lanel! It’s your dad. Just wantin’ to talk with ya. Give me a call when you can.”  I called him back after a few messages to let him know he had the wrong number. After gently explaining the situation, he became irate. His wife grabbed the phone. I explained the same, and she said “We just got off of the phone with Lanel, our son. Please excuse my husband, he’s not well.”

He still calls me. Every morning and most evenings. I don’t know his name. This morning his voicemail said “………..my knees are a’hurtin. so bad. my knees are a’hurtin and i don’t know what to do about it. bye.” and just now: “I’m havin’ problems. Lanel….” I could hear his wife chatting in the background with a visitor.

I can’t do anything about this man in Georgia, I don’t think. I can hear his wife in the background as he leaves me messages, thinking that he is communicating with his son. But what it reminds me is that family and community is everything. If you aren’t in touch, be in touch. Today is the day.

Living It

17-3.jpg50. Twelve years ago I was introduced to this lovely woman, Kelly Dinardo. I asked if I could pick her brain about starting my own company. She said, “Sure! Join me while I take my dog for a walk and I’ll share with you what I know.” She had been a freelance writer for many years before then, carving her own path. It was her support in this first conversation, and a deep, multi-faceted friendship and series of collaborations since then that has enriched both of our lives. With joy, I want to celebrate her new book, Living the Sutras and podcast, Living It. To celebrate her newest endeavor, my little new company Bird&Fish, Co. is giving away a free set of custom playing cards with any purchase. Listen to today’s podcast for the code, and be entered to win a fun Bird&Fish, Co. gift pack!

Here’s to collaborations, great friends, mutual support and living it well. And RIP dear Dudley, the wonder pooch who needed a walk and helped bring us together.

Crux or Climb

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I have a dear friend, Carter, who is wiser than most. We have rock climbed together throughout the years, and a couple back we were discussing why we love it. What he said then I’ve leaned on in so many moments (his words paraphrased): “Some people climb for the crux, the hardest move in the sequence. Their goal is to conquer the most difficult part. But we climb for so many other reasons. To be in nature. To share a campfire and guitar strumming and good food with close friends. To be on the climbing route, moving our bodies, stretching and working and feeling the journey. In each climb we confront our fear, address it, keep moving, confront fear again, address it, keep moving. What I learn about myself from those routes is what keeps me climbing. Not just beating that crux.”

Yesterday I was climbing Red Mountain, on skis this time. A few hours in, we traversed a very steep, sketchy section on 8 inches of new powder, and a layer of ice underneath. With each tentative step I took, I heard circling in my head: “fear, address it, next step. Fear, address it, next step.” Then: “The more you do this, the less fearful you will be. You will have been here before.”

Once safe in a stand of trees, I said, “Let’s head down. I’m good.” Fear talking. I still had strength and power but didn’t feel the need to go on to be satisfied. But as an experiment, and a more stable way to continue, we then took off our skis and put them on our backs, something I had never done before. And we said “we’ll go maybe 10 steps, this is just to get used to it”. My highly experienced partner lead the way, doing a vast majority of the hard work, breaking trail. We walked to one set of trees as a stopping goal, then pushed on to another, then pushed on to yet another. We thought that we were 1000 feet from the summit and knew we weren’t going to make it to the top because of the time of day, but we kept on. We’ve come this far…just a bit more. As I hiked the last thirty steps to where my partner stopped in our committed finish spot, the blowing snow cleared. Like magic. After lunch, we looked behind us to see that the summit was just a few/five hundred feet above us. Within reach. But it was too late to continue, so we headed down. The steep slope giving us a whoop! inducing run, earned hard and well enjoyed.

When something induces fear, it can force us to either back off or keep going. There are only two choices. We don’t live in the middle. When we keep going, we lay down one more data point of possibility. And when we return to a similar situation, that data point reminds us that we are capable. We overcame fear and came out the other side one notch up, opening us up to the next challenge. Confront fear. Address it. Keep moving.

Cherry Blossoms are Almost Here!

3-5.jpg49. I know that it seems impossible. It always does in early March, when we’re in the last throes of winter, days still feel short and nights long (we spring forward in only 6 days!!) and there isn’t a sign of spring to be found. Not a bird chirping, a leaf forming, a crocus emerging. But we are almost there! Before long everyone in the checkout line will be complaining about the heat (sigh). So join me in ringing the bell for spring by registering for our 11th Annual Cherry Blossom Mini Sessions! Registration opens tomorrow, March 5th at 12pm EST. Mark your calendars and check back for the registration link, as we typically sell out in 24 hours. Can’t wait to see you all there!