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Southern California Family Photographer

 

I walked down to the waterfall-ish spot yesterday, meaning, the place where water travels down through the higher peaks and runs jagged through the rocky wash.  The actual waterfall trail I avoided because: people.  (I’m always teetering between feeling madly in love with the world or else heartbroken that the world feels so mad.  I think you know what I mean.)

In any case, I fought my urge to snarl at everyone I passed and put my little feet, one in front of the other, up the hill to the wildish yonder near my house.  To my delight, the CHP was forcing everyone to turn awkwardly around (I saw a few five-pointed turns) at the end of the small road that leads out to what is usually the trailhead parking for the waterfalls.  Turns out it wasn’t plowed after the recent storms left five or so feet of snow, which meant it was snow underfoot most of the way down to the water.

Every time I go down to that big wide wonderful gap in the woods, I don’t know why I resist it.  Actually, I do: it’s mostly because of people.  I want to commune with Nature without hearing Jack Stick and his buddies hooting and hollering at the miracle of running water; I swear, give the wrong people a little bit of wildness, and it’s so foreign and novel to them that the only way they know how to celebrate it is to ruin in.

I digress.  The hike out to the water was so lovely and fresh and the crunch and squeak of the snow underfoot was such an alive sound.  Since no one could park at the trailhead (or even near it), I saw not another soul while I traversed the icy creek and stood dumb-struck and in awe of all that water that fell from the sky at just the right temperature, became solid, and then decided to stick around for a while.

There’ve been times living in the mountains has felt so isolating this last year — sometimes I have to fight to stay here, reminding myself of how natural it is to be this close to nature.  But standing there gawking out at the wonder of white, I felt really glad I live here — that I can walk out my door and stand in that thick blanket of winter, shimmering and sparkling from every angle; that I can know the confusing exhilaration of the sun shining on the white-hot snow, so aware of both fire and ice at the same time, and the way the human body can respond with familiarity to both.

I get asked a lot if I’m afraid being alone like this, whether it’s living up here, building a fire on some pine slope or in various other solo-ventures over the years.  My answer falls short of my constant awareness of how not alone I am, and still how lonely it can feel to be not alone in a world like ours feels sometimes: stark in its seeming lack of solidarity.

The thing I mostly feel, actually, is held.  I feel more alone doing the dishes at my kitchen sink than I do out in the world, even when the world has felt really harsh.  There’s something cathartic, even, about loneliness as a result of the choice to go and be and do and see.  I’ve had nights hunkered down in a tent, just me and my dog, wracked with grief and full-blown ugly cry because LIFE — and still known the gentle hush of comforting silence.  Because deciding to learn what alone feels like through living is so very different than the true aloneness of barely breathing and calling it a life.

 

Elopement Photographer Southern California

 

 

 

“Like you’re drawn to the ocean –” she said to her son.  “– do you feel a conscious tug, or do you think you just have fond memories from when you were a kid?”

He stoked the fire and thought.  “I think it’s both.”

I recalled the first time I saw a photograph of the Hermitage of Carceri in Assisi, Italy.  I was a senior in college, in a seminar on mysticism.  I felt a jolt and I knew: I have to go there.  The next year, after spending Christmas in Ireland, I hopped a plane to Rome and rounded out a three-week solo backpacking trip in Assisi, the home of Saint Frances.

By that time in my trip, I’d stopped planning anything; I showed up not having a place to stay or knowing how I’d get from here to there in the sleepy town, which was mostly closed down for Christmas and the tourist off-season.  Assisi was the place that sealed in this bone-deep trust: go where you’re called to go, be who you’re called to be, and you will find yourself supported.

“I don’t think any one thing is the thing,” I told my sweetheart’s mother this morning as we talked around the last crackles of the Christmas fire.  “I think we’re compelled to go or be or create, and we don’t have to know why — we just have to follow what we love, which expands us to become bigger, to be more of who we were created to be.”

 

Italy Retreats for Women

 

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“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”
– Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

Maybe everything is a portal into clearer seeing and deeper knowing.  I think that’s part of why photography is so magical: it suspends a moment that would otherwise fade into the lush world of memory and imagination and says, in the most blunt and beautiful way: It was like this.

It’s almost too much to talk about it with words, but what else do we have but words — and music, and touch and art — to convey the ethereal…?  When we brush up against the Divine, we know it.  How we got there doesn’t matter; we’ve passed through a door into a truer world, and met a truer Self.

I’m foggy from last night, and rambling, maybe.  I can’t really talk about it yet.  But this morning, I feel the strong hand something reverent and sacred on my back, comforting me and whispering to me through the fog: You’re heading in the right direction.

 

Orange County Birth Photographer

 

 

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