Zion

So much happened over the course of the last 60 hours that it’s really hard for me to make sense of it all.  And I’m not talking about what we actually did, I’m talking about what actually happened.  Logistically, we hit 4 states and 5 destinations.  Including California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.  Visiting Calico Ghost Town, Seven Magic Mountains, The Hoover Dam, Zion National Park and Kanarra Falls.  As far as how many actual miles on the road or literal vertical feet climbed, I don’t have a clue, but metaphorically, we moved mountains.

I didn’t do this trip for my kids.  I did it for me.  But I think it’s fair to say that there were takeaways for all of us.  And most of that is internal.  I wouldn’t say this was the most fun we’ve ever had together or  the coolest thing we’ve ever done.  But, I will say that even trying to figure out how to write about this makes me get a bit choked up. 

The full rundown of the trip is totally worth a conversation and I’d be more than happy to share a table and a few drinks with anyone who wants to listen.  Let’s just say I lost my kids in Zion.  Or they lost me.  Or we lost each other.  It’s not everyday that I make the decision to leave my kids on a 1,488 foot gash of sandstone jutting out of a desert valley.  But when I do, I make the most of it by hanging out at the bottom for 3 hours while they hang out at the top, just for added emphasis.  

In all fairness, I suppose it wasn’t an actual decision as much as it was a miscommunication.  There is a fine line, or should I say, an awkward foot-stepping-on-toes dance while my teens and I figure out the nuances of necessary independence and off leash activity.  I realize, in hindsight, the top of a mountain 5,790 feet above sea level isn’t the best place to try this out.  Needless to say, Mom and Toddler in backpack are determined to hike to the very tippy top edge of Angel’s Landing, managing a somewhat sketchy chained section; regardless of the number of people up there on a spring Saturday that make the passing slightly more dangerous; regardless of the number of people turning around telling you to turn back because it is too crowded and is taking triple the time it should take to reach the top; regardless of the number of people telling Mom and Toddler they shouldn’t go because it is bad mothering to do that with a baby on your back; regardless of Son insisting that they turn back; regardless of Daughter who has already turned back.  

Something happened to me up there.  All those voices have been there my entire life.  And I have listened to them for the sake of keeping the peace; for the sake of not being the cause of an ‘inconvenience‘ for anyone and for the sake of putting others before myself.

And I listened this time, too.  I said ok and started back down.  And three steps later I stopped dead in my tracks.  And as if no one else was on that mountain but my son, my toddler and me.  I turned back around to him and said, “I didn’t come all this way to do something I’ve been dreaming of doing to make it ‘almost‘ all the way.  I will be kicking myself in the shins for the rest of my life if I don’t do this right now.”  And thus was the catalyst of the miscommunication.

“Fine.  But I’m waiting here until you get back,” Son says.  Other Daughter shows up surprisingly out of nowhere and says, “Mom, you’re going out there?!  No, you’re not.  Ok, you are, but there’s no way I’m going out there.  I’m going back down.”  “No, you’re not,” Son says to Daughter.  “Mom, I’m keeping Norah.  You go by yourself,” Son says to Mom.  “No, you’re not,” Mom says to Son.  Mom is walking up the mountain with Toddler on back and shouting over her shoulder, “You guys figure it out.  If you decide to walk back down, don’t get on the shuttle.”  And out of earshot Mom went.

Nearly 5 hours later, a lot of ‘mobile service unavailable’ messages and waiting on a park bench at the base of the hike while Toddler sleeps sweaty and fussy in my lap and shuttling back to the car in hopes that Son and Daughter are there and back to the park bench and waiting and talking with people who are completely unhelpful and cussing at the fact that there is no better security in a place like this and cussing at the fact that you made yet another stupid mom decision and being pissed at the lady sitting next to you telling you that a 13 year old died last week falling off of that ledge and deciding whether to hike back up or wait at the bottom or go back to the car again or finally break down because you have no clue where your kids are and it’s all your fault and...with some help from the US Park Rangers, we are all reunited at the base of the hike. 

I played it cool the whole time and I knew they were going to blame me and be pissed that we wasted all that time just sitting in two different places waiting for each other.  But what happened is nothing I could have contrived on my own in any other situation but what went down.  In their fury, thinking I was just hanging out at the top enjoying the view, they both hiked the sketchy section looking for me.  They bonded as brother and sister, they problem solved, they (most importantly, Maggie) did something she didn’t want to do and never thought she could do.  And, regardless of all the voices telling me otherwise, I’m so glad we were all lost.  

There is so much more to be learned from this trip.  And it wasn’t all fun.  In fact, I’m not really even sure anyone, but me, actually had fun.  And maybe that’s completely beside the point.  We didn’t really eat a full meal, we slept in our car, we went higher than we wanted to and farther than we wanted to.  We went without naps and food and breaks and froze our feet off in the river to the point where you feel like you are stepping on needles when they thaw out; always to the point of wanting to turn back and always to the point of being urged to go just a little farther.  

I could do this everyday.  But for my kids, it’s a new experience, and one I wouldn’t trade for the world.  There is something so valuable about reaching a breaking point and learning how to glue yourself back together enough to get yourself out; to finish what you started.  

Life doesn’t magically lift us out of the narrows when it gets too hard and too cold and we are too deep and we are ‘oh, so, done with this’.  But, something does.  And I can only hope to leave a trace of whatever you want to call that, with them. 

While in Vegas

It was a ‘kid in a candy store’ type of day yesterday...rock hopping, loud music on the open road, trespassing in abandoned waterparks in the desert.  Nothing global and exotic, but enough of a rush to keep the smile on my face driving home through Southern California 5 ‘o’ clock traffic.  Just because, I’m also tacking on a few frames from the previous days desert-art-installation-bucket-list adventure.  I wish the people weren’t there, but at least they give you an idea of the scale of those randomly stacked rocks.  

(And in case someone and that someone’s children and another photographer friend want to journey back to that magical and creepy waterpark...possibly in the dark with some high powered lights...I have a super fun series to put together complete with hot dogs, cotton candy, swimsuits, zinc, blow up inner tubes and plenty of water-free fun for the whole family!) 

Reluctant Road-tripping

I’d forgotten, somehow.  Knowing it to be true for me, but disregarding it for the sullen and slothful demeanor of my teenagers.  I’d forgotten the power of nature; the inexplicable ability for the landscape to overlook the sour and lethargic and unexcitable attitudes of my children and beckon them into something mesmerizing and unexplainable and beautiful.  To inspire them to play again; to laugh; to stand mouths dropped and eyes wide with awe at something so vast and fascinating.  Desolate and barren and harsh and unwelcoming and somehow all those things lead us into the decision that Death Valley, for those who are willing to lose themselves in it and appreciate the magnitude it embodies, is anything and everything opposite of it’s first name.

Reluctant road-tripping, we’ll call it, at best.  At worst... well, let’s just leave it at best.  I smudged the line a thousand times trying to figure out where to draw it.  Do I say they have to go?  Do I let them opt out?  Do I engage them in the process of picking where to go and what to see?  Every place I drew the line was met with equal and unavoidable obstacles from my ever-so-willing-to-verbally-challenge-their-mom teenagers.  To the point where I threw up my hands and said, “Get in the car, packed or not.”

And in doing that, something moved.  Not immediately, but a slow leak.  In me.  In them.    I shut up and they followed suit and we rode in silence for a long while. And what happened after that is nothing short of a miracle.  I’d forgotten the magic of the ‘road trip’.  The feeling of freedom on the open road.  The undeniable draw of windows rolled down and loud music and eating too much candy.  The way that being too close together for too many hours draws out every form of obnoxiousness in everyone to the point where you scream as loud as possible out the window for everyone to shut-up and then everything boils down into one chaotic mess of laughter and singing and shouting and making up the same stupid games I played as a kid as if it were the first time they’ve ever been played.  And at that point, the kids are debating whether it would be better to die at the hand of the scorching sun left alone on the side of the highway in the desert or by the hand of your own mother who is literally about the strangle you if you repeat that same line of that movie one more time.  

I hope you know what I mean.  Because it is something horrific and beautiful at the same time.  And what happened can all be summed up in this:

After driving for hours and being in and out of the car visiting the sand dunes and the salt flats and a bunch of other ‘points of interest’.  I’m reading the informative plaque about the formations of salt on the ‘Devil’s Golf Course’ and it’s fascinating and incredible and I can’t get enough of it.  My toddler is walking toward me crying because she took one step out there and gashed her shin on the ‘pokey stuff’.  My son, already way out, is breaking off the ‘pokey stuff’ and hucking it at his older sister, my middle daughter, who is running toward me disgusted shouting, “Mom!  Mom!  Norah has poop coming out of her shorts and...make Perez stop.  He’s regurgitating his food and spitting it up all over me and trying to take me out with that pokey stuff.”  

I smiled at the lady next to me who was also reading the sign.  “I’m sorry you had to hear that.  Road tripping with toddlers and teenagers.  Can’t get much better than this!”  And, I actually meant that.  For the first time, in a long time, I actually meant it.

The Desert

I’m more than slightly irritated that the desert has become so mainstream.  You see it in home decor, fashion, art and pretty much every other form of marketable, well, anything.  Every mainstream store is carrying the modern version of some desert-wildflower-boho gypsy you name it type of thing and everyone wants it because it somehow sparks their hippie love child wanderlust inner self and in buying, wearing, decorating with it you are somehow living free and wild and happy.

Don’t get me wrong.

The desert is fascinating.

The people who choose to live in the desert, just as fascinating.  But, for the record, none of those people moved to the desert so that they could be mainstream and hung on someone’s wall.  The desert is meant to be odd and harsh and intolerable.  And while you drive through it you absolutely should be thinking who the hell lives out here and how the hell do I get out?  Life in the desert is not about wearing gauzy skirts that blow in the wind just perfectly or smooth bronzed skin that glistens in the sunset.  No.  No way in hell.

The desert is about heat and drought and leathery skin and pokey plants snagging your clothes as you trail by.  It’s wandering and loneliness and death and suffering.  

It’s downfall is, ironically, it’s draw.  Without the desert, we may never know the deep loneliness of wandering.  And without wandering, we may never know the raw strength of being found.  And in being found, we recapture the wonder and awe of God and our place in his story.

The desert was created for that.  The desert was created for wandering.

SIDE NOTE #1: My recent attempt at a 2 day desert wandering pilgrimage turned into a one day overnight at a desert campground with my toddler, which then turned into a 1/2 day  6 hour car ride with her to see some dilapidated desert art (which is so incredible...a must see -- Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum) and eat at a Panda Express in a modern, bustling desert town just to drive back home and watch Dolphin Tail on Netflix.  

Seriously.

And it was so worth it.

SIDE NOTE #2: Anticipating a photography weekend making images of vast starry skies and textured details of yucca plants, what I actually shot leaves a lot to be wanted.  A lot.  I guess I will have to have a go at that another time.  But we had fun imitating Joshua Trees, posing for shots in some large scale art and running around in the dirt.  Sometimes you just have to take the picture for the sake of documenting it..."Remember going to that quirky art museum of trashed dwellings and toilets and random people's junk?  No?  Well, here's proof you were there"...that kind of documenting.  For what it's worth.  It has it's place.

I hope you dance

For me, the soul feels its worth in the woods (or the ocean, or a mountaintop, or anywhere in nature for that matter).  And I have so many more words to put to this, but they are so jumbled and covered in heaps of dirty laundry and unpaid bills and galleries of photos waiting to be edited.  None of it's getting done and I'm bored and overwhelmed at the same time, so much so that I've been craving times of solitude; time to give my brain and task list a rest and explore the depths of the spirit underneath all that, so that I can hopefully come back fuller and more alive and ready to take on the world.  Thankfully, I have a family that is willing to let me do that. 

There should be beautiful words and detailed insight about this most recent 3 day trip.  But there isn't.  My brain is going dark.  So, all you get is some very roughly edited pictures (hey, blogs can handle a rough edit, right?!) and the words of someone else that spurred me on and filled me up during this trip.  Thanks, LeeAnn Womack.

"I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance....I hope you dance.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin' might mean takin' chances but they're worth takin',
Lovin' might be a mistake but it's worth makin',
Don't let some hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to sellin' out reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance....I hope you dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance."

Birthdays

Birthdays always seem to lend themselves to something deeper than the average, run of the mill thought processes.  As does the month of November, considering we focus so much on giving thanks.  Being that I was born in the month of November means that I have no escape from the inevitable birthday gratitude blog.  Go figure.  

Here’s to a new year. To thoughts and wisdom from the corners of my heart this past year and from a recent jaunt into the wild.  May it inform the year I am embarking on today.  I am grateful:

For the wisdom and audacity of friends to tell it like they see it; to reach into my life and look past the things that can’t be passed up and call forth something new.  

For still feeling small when I stand beside the ocean.

For the emptiness of the early morning in a midweek forrest of trees bigger than my pain.

For sky and air and things that listen when you talk out loud to nobody and everybody who isn’t actually there.

For pen and paper and a tangled wet laundry heap of dirty words hung out to dry.

For being only 5’ 3” and fitting comfortably, fully stretched out in the back of a Dodge Durango.

For rain and rain and more rain to remind me that colors are far more vibrant in a storm.

For whiskey and swedish fish to keep me going and put me to sleep all at the same time.

For God’s breath in my lungs, small and shallow, long and deep, quickened or calm.

For the chance to do it all again.

Solo

I'm trying to find time in the midst of this busy season to process a recent solo trip into the Point Reyes backcountry (and front country, I guess, considering I drove all over the desolate bluffs from one end to the other as well as hiked into the woods).  I came to the realization that if I don’t write and post pictures, well, now, it will never happen.  I also came to the realization that this trip is just the beginning of many more like this, I hope.  Time to be in nature, journal my heart out, question everything and answer nothing, write, hike, climb trees and jaggy seashore rock outcroppings, make pictures, cry, smile, be silent, scream at the top of my lungs, rat my hair in a windows-rolled-down-all-the-way euphoria, drink a lot of whiskey, drench myself in solitude and serenity and thick seashore fog and of course attract a few bug bites and a little stinging nettle.  And, for the record, stinging nettle really does sting. 

It was a weekend full of ‘soul-ness’; of searching inner depths and choosing not to make excuses for anything; of solitude bordering on solitary; aloneness dancing with loneliness.  Which of course makes total sense that my entire 48hrs was riddled with dense fog and no light.  Because Light. Changes. Everything.  Fog leaves things flat and dull and without tangible shape or form. It makes sense that what I needed was to dance with that.  To feel heavy and wet and not be able to focus on anything while at the same time feel completely peaceful and motivated and inspired and so far out of the box that no one would even bother looking for me there anymore.  A journey of trying not to die on the crumbling edge of a seaside cliff while at the exact same moment feeling ridiculously alive.  This was it.  This was all of it.  

And it knocked the wind out of me.  

And put it under my wings so I could fly.

 

Addendum:

I wish I could say this was a photographic gem of a trip for me, but sadly, no.  It appears that I’m slightly out of practice with this camera thing and that my psyche was craving balance and symmetry and teetering on loneliness, because that’s what this lens saw.  And unfortunately on this trip, my photo making skills were reduced to simplistic landscapes.  The stuff of calendars.  So, if boring, muted, slightly creepy renditions of landscape calendars are your jam, keep scrolling.

A Back Alley Summer

A Back Alley Summer

And it feels so good to lean into that.  And I smile a lot more and sweat a lot more and realize that when you have a beautiful person, some rockin’ vintage clothes and a weed-infested-cracked-concrete back alley in the middle of the unrelenting sun, what could possibly go wrong?!

 

 

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Woman

If you're driving on Keystone Ave. in Reno and you're stopped at the corner of 2nd and Keystone, you might see this in the window of a little gem of a store called The Nest.  Yes, this is me, but no, it's not just me.  This is every woman who has ever breathed.  Every girl who has jumped rope, cuddled a teddy bear, gotten a C on a spelling test, started her period too early; every woman who has held her newborn child, hugged her friends, cried her eyes out in the shower over a heartbreak, listened to countless accolades and criticisms and titles about her roles and her womanhood and tried on every hat anyone has ever handed her.  

This is me and her and us.  And she’s so strong and resilient and giving and gorgeous.  And she bears the weight of her world, your world, the world on shoulders too narrow for the load.  And she may slump a bit and stammer and fall to her knees.  But it’s almost a given that she will stand again, maybe not alone, but she will stand again.  She will rise and straighten and plod forward in and out of weeks and through decades.  And her feet will ache and her face will leather and wrinkle. 

But her smile.  Oh, her smile.

A collaboration worth every penny in your pocket

There was a moment of magic this weekend.  Possibly not tangible to others, but to the three of us, well, let’s just say we can’t stop talking about it.  Dark chocolate, whisky, vintage clothes and locally made wares all wrapped up in the filtered light and history of a century old barn.  Geez.  We all probably could have moved in.  

When local businesses collaborate, something more than just business happens.  There is strength in that bond and the mingling of hand-worked products and die hard passion   infuses everyone with creativity and drive.

Honored to be a part of this union.  Here’s to more rendezvous (and more chocolate and whisky) in the near future!

And if it isn’t obvious enough, shop at Bespoke in Truckee and The Nest in Reno.  Your closet and home will thank you.

The Nest Winter Wonderland

The Nest Winter Wonderland

Fashion has never been my thing.  I care that my clothes are comfortable and low maintenance and are versatile enough to be worn in a diverse array of social situations.  In addition, having a young toddler, I have done away with adornments such as earrings and necklaces for the time being.  

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Donner

It may not be shocking to most of you, but Donner Lake is frozen over.  Approximately 4 inches of ice covers the east end and makes it completely walkable, even skate-able...

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Family

Family

Finally finished an edit of a family portrait shoot I did at the beginning of December.  In years past, I would have said traditional family portraits are totally not my thing.  And, to be honest, I would still say they are totally not my thing...

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Daughters

Daughters

In honor of the Women’s March on Washington, yesterday, I didn’t march.  I stood in solidarity with women all over the world who live in snowy climates.  We raised our shovels instead of our signs and proved our strength by digging ourselves and our families out of our houses.

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