Archives for category: beginnings & endings

I have wondered for several years now, how I would feel when today arrived – the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th. I pondered what my thoughts would be; where I would be and with whom. What kind of force created by sentimentality and nostalgia would occur, connecting me with emotions and events I rarely speak about – not necessarily because I dislike speaking about it, but because I enjoy listening to the experiences of others…that combined with the delicate fact that my experience is relatable to a select few of photojournalists who, like me, walked through the dust and debris that day ten years ago.

When I awoke this morning, I sat at the kitchen table sipping the cup of coffee my sweetie made for me, still wondering how I felt. I was entirely unprepared for how quickly the tears came when we started talking about the arrival of today and the significance of the anniversary.

I found myself wondering aloud to Mike about the people that I photographed that day…where they are, who they are with and how they are marking this day. Where is Daisy, who lost her sister Batilda? Where is Michelle, who lost her husband of two months who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald? Where is Karrah, possibly the most photographed woman during the days following 9.11 as she tirelessly kept every candle lit at the Union Square memorial? Where is the firefighter from Ladder 21 who lost his brother, also a firefighter? Where is the man I photographed taping two missing person’s posters up outside of Bellevue Hospital – posters of his mother AND his father? So caught in my own tears for his loss, I could not speak to him to ask him his name. Where is the single firefighter I saw rescued that day? Where are all the doctors and nurses that I met and photographed at the triage station in the Staten Island Ferry terminal, all waiting and waiting to treat the injured that never arrived.

Most of all I wonder where Sophia is. Sophia’s husband, a Port Authority police officer was killed on 9.11. She miscarried their baby due to the stress. From Latin America and without family or many friends, she was utterly alone as her parents were denied visas into the country to come help her. I met, photographed and sat and cried with Sophia as she rocked in a rocking chair in a small, dim, quiet room. Sitting and crying with her in that room was the only thing I had to give her, which a decade later still feels an inadequate gesture for the gift she gave me of trusting me to tell her story and capture her image at such a moment in her life. Did Sophia eventually return to her native country in Latin America or did she decide to stay in New York? Did she find love again? Is she a mother now? Am I sure that I want to know?

I shared with my sweetie a quote that I have carried with me for years, since the beginning of my career. I found that today I have a much deeper understanding and connection to the words.

“Sometimes the price is heartbreak. There are people you carry around in your heart for the rest of your life, and some of their stories are sad beyond tears.” –  Cathy Newman, ‘Women Photographers at National Geographic’

I do carry the people I have photographed around with me. I cherish and protect them and I don’t speak of them often. Maybe because the person they were in the moment our paths crossed is so delicate. Maybe it is because of the vulnerability we experienced together that I protect that momentary version of them.

I will continue to carry these people. I will bring them with me through my life, in what may be a strange and feeble attempt to spread the heavy load we were given through the events of that day and to stay connected to others who saw what I saw, smelled what I smelled, heard what I heard.

In memoriam.

I turned my phone’s ringer off a few days ago and dedicated my holiday weekend to editing six years of photos – hundreds and hundreds of frames of heart shapes that I’ve found as I went about my life. I’ve been up and down memory lane so many times this weekend that my feet feel weary. 213 images made the final cut for possible publication within my very first solo photo book. A title change came along too, but I’m still playing around with that.

The image I choose for the cover was taken at the Phoenix Art Museum nearly a year before I moved to Arizona, while visiting my sister and her family. I like it. I have laid out the book and will self-publish a few copies and send them off potential publishers. This is a whole new process to me, and despite being a bit scared of the rejection letters showing up in my mailbox, I’m excited to be moving solidly forward on this project. Who knows what comes next, but seeing the edited body of work in one place is pretty freaking cool.

Here’s the book cover at it stands at this moment…

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Today I learned of the death of a woman who was – as the mother of my first love – a very imporatant part of my life throughout my 20’s. For the six years that I spent with D, his mother Irene, was a woman I learned so very much from and loved dearly. From her cute house on a small town main street with the proverbial white picket fence, she was a true leader in her small community on the coast of California. Irene volunteered so much of her time and was active in the annual parade and celebration of the town that hailed itself to be “The Artichoke capital of the world.” (Don’t laugh….they take it very seriously!) She took up tap dancing (and skiing!) later in life and performed tap with her friends in sequined red leotards and black top hats. She gardened beautifully, crafted a welcoming home and in her butter-yellow-painted kitchen with the low cabinets built for her petite size, she made the most incredible cioppino (fish stew) you’ve ever had. Her son has her quick wit and wonderful sense of humor and the two of them – both naturally gifted storytellers – would have the room in stitches for hours and hours, telling and retelling story after story.

One story I can always call upon when I need a laugh is the trip D and I took to Hawaii for the wedding of friends of ours. Irene loved Hawaii (because of all the rainbows) so she and her husband, J,  joined us on our trip. Irene and I were sunbathing and chatting on the beach of the hotel’s private cove, laughing as we watched D zig-zag back and forth as he doggedly snorkeled after a fish. We turned our attention to her husband J who had moments ago been sitting on the beach – just at the water line – so that the small waves cooled his legs….but we found was now rolling back and forth in the waves, having been “knocked” over by the small waves. Irene and I watched for a few quick moments and each time J tried to get up, he’d get close and then a wave would gently pull him right back onto the sand. It was exactly something out of a Three Stooges episode. Laughing at himself, J called us to come “rescue him”. We ran over and as we tried to pull him up, the sunscreen we’d just applied made our hands and arms slippery so he kept slipping past and kept rolling in and out with the waves. At this point we were all laughing so hard we were crying and within moments I too slipped into the water and found myself in the same predicament as J…being gently rolled back and forth by the small waves in the most silly and helpless way. I found that getting up out of the water was an incredible challenge, made even harder because all three of us were laughing so incredibly hard that our ribs hurt and we were gasping for air. Even now, years and years later, I can’t recall a time that I’ve laughed harder or felt more like a kid. Irene eventually saved both J and I from the teeny waves that had us rolling back and forth like hot dogs at a Circle K rotisserie.

Most of all, Irene Loved. With a capitol ‘L’, she Loved…her family, her husband, her grandchildren, her kids, her community, her home, her customers at the bank. Everywhere I ever went with her she was received with such warmth and respect. I was in awe of this woman, who was a mother figure in many, many ways to me.

As a young woman, I learned from Irene – whom had been married for decades – that Love is a choice. We choose to love the people that we love….and that sometimes it is an easy choice – and sometimes, not so easy. Real Love is complicated.

My family is indebted to D forever. Without him, the arrangements for my own father’s memorial service might not have gone so beautifully or have been as incredibly meaningful to me as they are. D and his family were so very, very supportive of my family in the days after my father’s passing nearly 16 years ago, and I can only hope they know the true value of what they gave us.

In this moment, I want to celebrate the life of a woman who raised a good man…a woman who added much to my life that she most likely was never fully aware of…a woman whose kindness of spirit and dedication to family and community are things that I still strive to emulate.

So, today’s photo is dedicated to Irene…Lover of rainbows. I did not take this photo today. I took it in August, the month of her passing. In Love and celebration of Irene D.

I have been so busy with work and challenging the creativity in others that I haven’t challenged my own creative channels. I explored my yard when the rains hit today, after they had been threatening for a couple days. It felt good to have my camera back in my hands.

Desert Rain 6

Desert Rain 8

Desert Rain 5

Desert Rain 1

Desert Rain 2

Desert Rain 4

Desert Rain 9

of course…I found a heart.

I have a love affair with travel, flight to be precise. It must be connected to my nearly insatiable need to be in motion, in transit, leaving here, going there, moving forward – literally or figuratively. Blame it on my nomadic upbringing, but the curiosity of finding myself surrounded by unknowns is a challenge I seem to consistently be chasing.

I went home for the holidays this year. It had been two years since I was home last for Heidi and Jake’s wedding. It was a splendid and relaxing vacation. I played games invented on the spot by my older nephews, who also taught me how to play tennis on the aptly named Wii. I flirted with my younger two nephews who already have heart-breaker qualities and made it extremely easy for me to fall madly in love with them. My sisters and I had wonderful talks that I wish we could have more often, if only we lived closer to one another. I had great conversations with my mom that continue to play-back in my mind. How does a mother’s identity change after thirty years of active motherhood slowly moves a woman towards being the caretaker of one – herself?

When I do travel, I do my best to time my flights properly. It’s a science, really. I schedule outbound flights to correspond with the rising sun and I time the descent of returning flights with sunsets. I like the conceptual connection of the dawn of adventure as I depart from my hometown of the moment. I also embrace the abstract of my adventure coming to an end as the daylight descends into night.

On my flight home I found myself thinking about the “why” of my travels. What is it about leaving and returning that is so magical? Here are some pictures and some words I strung together during that return flight…landing at sunset, of course.

flight

goldenwaves

look with flight speed
way down and across
a curdled-milk contrail
diagonally cuts
the crossword quilt
sewn by her hands
to comfort the 4-year-old boy
crying in seat B, aisle 33
salt-watered tears
mimic erosion flows
imprecise, confused
direction(less)
into and over
their complicated neighbors

dense, red light
breaks snowed-starved mountains
into baby pink tips
sharpened, carved
by extreme extremes
paler, and paler pinks
as the aircraft falls
in tandem with the sun
I am anxious to reconnect
my feet with their walking path
because even from this distance
gated bedroom communities
have beauty.

contrails

p.s. When I fly into cities I know well, I also select which side of the aircraft I want to sit on (go ahead, call me neurotic, I don’t mind). When flying into Oakland, I sit on the right side of the plane so I can peer down into Yosemite National Park as we pass over (sadly, it was clouded over this trip). I sit on the left side when flying out so that I can peer down upon San Francisco, where I went to university. We also fly over Candlestick Park, where I cut my teeth as a young photographer covering 49er’s games back in the days of Steve Young, Jerry Rice and a young kid named Terrell Owens.

candlestick

I have joined an truly amazing group of local artists from nearly every creative discipline – writers, poets, dancers, designers, architects, arts advocates, educators, filmmakers, body workers – for a deeply collaborative project.

The Invisible City aims to explore the ways in which we – as people, as inhabitants – interact with the spaces that we live in. The project is focused on downtown Tucson’s growth, both stunted and rapid. The project is occurring completely in public spaces and we fully welcome participation from everyone and anyone.

Sessions are Fridays from 5-7 p.m. and on Sundays from 2-6 p.m., over the next four weekends and will take place at a wide variety of locations throughout downtown Tucson.

Click here to visit The Invisible City project blog.

Click here for locations and information on how to participate.

Click here to see images and to see video.

Click here to read the work of writers and poets.

At the end of the project, a performance will be held on Sunday, Nov. 16th at 5:30 pm, (Tickets: $10). Location is the top floor of Pennington Street Parking Garage.

I find myself sick, for the second weekend in a row. Apparently last weekend was just a warm-up exercise because this weekend I’ve gone down hard. I don’t even had the benefits of a sexy radio voice. At this moment I am enjoying a hot cup of triple-dose echinacea tea. The tag attached to tea bag is printed with this motivational statement:

Say it straight, simple and with a smile.”

Straight and simple wrapped in a smile. Maybe there is some truth to the old adage that bad news/uncomfortable situations are best delivered/endured with a smile. I have come to realize that I am an absolute pro at smiling my way through the litany of bizarre situations that life tosses my way…much too often, if you ask me. I provide the events of last Wednesday evening as an example. (I would have blogged about this that night, but my good friend Sean’s last words to me that night were “No drunk blogging!” which he cautioned is worse than drunk dialing and/or texting).

Last Wednesday evening I joined a handsome gentleman/local music aficionado and his fish-named-dog for dinner on 4th Ave. I’ve been curious about this particular gentleman since I met him many moons ago and dinner was a chance to actually talk before heading to a cd release party for the awesome local musical group Molehill Orkestrah. Dinner was good and the conversation swell and comfortable. Talk about connection points…it seems that this man and I share some crazy geographical connections – from small Ozark mountain towns to the east San Francisco Bay Area – our life paths have criss-crossed over the same small waypoints. It was fun to reminisce about the stomping grounds of my youth with someone who also stomped on the same lands.

We break after dinner – he to walk his dog home and me to run home to feed The Gertie before meeting him back at Plush for the show. On my way home, I dialed the number of my most recent romance (now defunct). I needed to stop by and pick up my things, having run out of saline solution that morning and having left a full bottle at his place. I didn’t think he’d be home, thought he’d still be working and I could slip in and out with the key that I still had on my key ring. “Yep, I’m home.”…”Is it okay if I stop by to pick up a few things?”….”Umm, sure.” he answers sounding distracted….”You’re positive?”…”Yeah. Sure…yeah.”…”Hey…are you alone?”…”Umm, no.”…”Who’s there?”…he answers with a girl’s name. Without really thinking, I say “Okay. Cool, I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Obviously, I didn’t listen to that little voice called “Intuition”. In hindsight, that was my clue to just go to Walgreen’s. Shoulda, woulda, coulda…yadda, yadda, yadda.

The next 10 minutes are surreal and uncomfortable. Nothing like being the lone sober person walking into an already-started-party-for-two. So…we do what any normal people do in a situation like this – we make small talk like this is a completely normal every day situation. How-are-you’s? are exchanged while I’m gathering my toiletries. “Hey, I found a shirt of yours while doing laundry.”….”Thanks. I was looking for that this morning.”…”How is work going?”…”Good. Busy.”…I pause and put my things down for a moment. I slip his key off my ring and hold it out for him to take. He stares at it for a moment but makes no move to take it. I place it on his nightstand. “You want your keys back too?”…”Yes, eventually. Your grill is still at my house…”

I remind you, dear reader, that all this is happening with an audience. Yes…”The-return-of-the-key” ceremony had an audience, which is a first for me. I don’t really remember what I said as I departed. I just know that I flew out of there as fast as my wobbly legs would allow. I do remember getting into my car and saying out loud, “What the f*@% was that?!?!” before taking a deep, deep breath to ground myself before heading to Plush for the show (which was lovely, despite the beautiful belly dancer who’s be-charmed waist jingled-jangled two feet away from me and did not necessarily compliment the band’s performance).

My long-time friends know that I often find myself in some rather bizarre situations. All of these friends have agreed that this event has vaulted to the #1 spot. My mom said, “Your life is soooooo interesting!”…which I think she meant in a positive way. My sister just followed my lead and laughed at the absurdity of it all.

Say it straight, simple and with a smile.

If you hang around me long enough, you’ll learn that nothing in my life is straight, nor simple, but I certainly do know how to smile my way through it.

Last night, after a lovely dinner with my even more lovely friend Mel, I stopped at the market to pick up a bag of coffee. Three days earlier I had brewed the last of a truly fabulous roast that was a pleasure to wake up to every morning. Dark, sweet, a little spicy but very smooth.

I stood in the aisle, staring down all the varieties, trying to decide which I should choose. “Hmmmm…which country do I want to travel to each morning? France for French roast? Columbia? Sumatra? Hawaii? Do I want my coffee Bold? Balanced? Rich? Earthy? Full? Light?”

Sigh. None of these would be able to replace the pleasure and the depth of flavors in the coffee I had been enjoying for the past two months…the coffee that was brought back from Olympia, Washington as a gift and cannot be found locally (that I’m aware of).

In the end, I choose Sumatra. Earthy. Rich. Robust. Grand.

As I sip my cup of coffee this morning, it is none of those things. The flavor is bland, the aroma is boring. I miss the chartreuse green bag printed with two dancing goats that remind me of the Pan character from Tom Robbins’ book, ‘Jitterbug Perfume’. I miss the sweet smoothness and dark complexity of the coffee, and of the person who gave it to me.

Last night, in the market, I should have chosen a different coffee, a different set of adjectives…but there was not one that claimed to be “Dark. Sweet. Complex. Balanced.”, which is what I was really looking for.

today, a tuesday, is remarkable. one year ago i pulled into Tucson, checked myself into a hotel and immediately began to fret about what i would wear the next morning as i began my new career as an educator in the non-profit world.  everything about my life was in transition at that moment. i had no idea where i would live…if i would like my co-workers or if they would like me…where i could find a good cup of coffee…what the local music scene was like…if i could make friends in a town where i knew only one person…if i would be able to work with youth. if i would even like Tucson…if it would ever feel like “home”.

as i write this post, i sit on my sofa with my feet upon my beautiful vintage Lane coffee table inside my quaint 1938 adobe home. my vintage dishes fill my kitchen cabinets. local blues musician Tom Walbank is on my iTunes and i have plans with friends every night this week. i survived my first year working with youth and i soon came to realize that teaching is deeply rewarding to me in ways that i could never have anticipated. i totally and completely adore my co-workers and i think they have come to appreciate my steel will and off-beat sarcasm. i had a good cup of Mexican organic coffee this morning from a local coffee shop and a youth i mentored this year stopped into the office to say hello.

anniversaries always make me stop for a moment…take a breath and give thanks for all that has come my way. they are a moment of reflection. i am thankful for the spectacular individuals in my new “home”-town that have added me into their lives, enriching mine in the process. i’ve written about them all here. i also give thanks for the support given to me from out-of-state, especially during my early months here.

i feel incredibly fortunate. i feel proud. i feel creative. i feel challenged. i feel strong and free. most of all i feel closer to my continual goals of stability and clarity.

i (heart) Tucson.