on being present

There has been a lot written over the years on being present. The in-the-moment seekers are everywhere these days. And it’s one of the best practices I know. I do yoga regularly and have learned through my practice to apply the here-and-now thinking to most aspects of my life. It’s easy when you can look at the above photo to remember presence and peace of mind. But the challenge comes when you are racing to your next appointment or staring at your dwindling bank account. Presence is hardest in those most pressing and challenging moments.

I was on a photoshoot when this was taken. I was just finishing a maternity session with a lovely couple who had access to one of the most beautiful plots of land I have ever seen in my life. Their dock stretched on for miles and backed up to the lovely sunsets of the low country. However, during this moment I was busy with my camera, sweating like it was August, and getting bitten by mosquitoes (somehow nobody else was bothered by any of this). Somehow despite all that I managed to pull myself away from what I was doing long enough to snap a photo of this glorious spot. Moments later, we saw a few dolphin swimming by. I quietly put my camera down to take in the magic around me. It was so still and quite, you could hear them puffing through their blowholes. It was a spectacular moment in my day.

This photo shows none of that to you. None of the sweat. None of the bugs. It doesn’t show the moment I saw the first dolphin and turned back to the covered dock to take it all in. But the second I look at it, my skin starts itching and my heart draws back to the place I was in my mind – peaceful, grateful, present in it all. All the itching and sweating. All the bugs. All the lovely views. All the work. I couldn’t have been happier doing my job.

Everyone is seeking presence, but somewhere along the line, we got it wrong. Being present has gotten confused into being in some zen and tranquil state of being all the time. We hear stories of being happy in the peacefulness surrounding us. But I just don’t think that is being present – at least not entirely.  I think being present in your life is to fully experience the moment – hot, sweaty, buggy, breezy, sunny, quiet… just grateful of the experience as it was right then. Each moment is significant and special in it’s own way. We just have to let it be that way.

As I practice being mindful and present in my days, somehow the gratitude seems to tiptoe along behind me…gently and quietly reminding me of where I have been on my journey. I think it’s during this time when I face the brightest light of the moment that I see my shadow of gratitude standing clearly at my heels ready to catch me when I fall off course at any moment. The trick is finding the gratitude and the presence of mind in the darkest hours of our days where everything is dark and the shadows of gratitude seem like they are nowhere to be found. Only then can we fully be sure that we are present – being grateful for the light and the darkness that follows. I think only then can we become fully aware and completely present…through all of life’s joyful pleasure and all of it’s greatest pain.

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#weekend10 – week 2

I have had trouble distilling this set of #weekend10 down to only 10 photos. Seriously…it was a perfect weekend in my book – full of fun, family and fresh air. I packed up the car Friday afternoon on a whim and headed to Asheville to get away for some much needed R&R. Oh man… it was so worth it. The perfect balance of fresh air, rest, activity, food and fun. The weather was spectacular and the company was even better…just our small tribe of 3 (plus 2 doggies). I am not sure I can even squeeze all the amazingness we experienced into ten little photos. But here goes:

The French Broad River. Picnic at Sunset. Yes, please.When someone picks you flowers from their yard and puts them all over the house, it’s worth a photo.Morning hair win…this photos doesn’t even do this head of hair justice. PS – look at the eyes. They slay me.

Hiking in Blue Ridge Mountains. My happy place. A special surprise trip to see the birthday girl. Love this 2 year old!Early morning mountain view + clean air + flowers = heaven.Zipline champions getting ready for the plunge! We needed rest. Lots and lots of rest. A stroll through the botanical gardens was just right for our active Sunday afternoon. (from my trusty and ever-handy iPhone.)Lily Pad from my iPhone.

What you don’t see…King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffles. Honeysuckle. Dogs in the river. Marathon shopping. My new friend Cotton (he deserves a post of his own). The Gorge Zipline tours (a MUST do!). 9:00 PM reservations with an 11 year old. Smokebombs. Sandwiches. Sparklers. Meals on the front porch. Tea. Sweatshirts!

Oh Asheville… I love you.

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#weekend10

Right up front, I am going to admit it… I am borrowing this “#weekend10″ idea from another amazing photographer (check her out here), but only because I think it’s inspired, fresh and fun. Mostly though, it fits in with what I really need right now. I am excited to have a new personal focus and challenge over the next few months as a photographer.

Maile said on her blog that started this as a source of creative inspiration since she didn’t seem to be taking as many photos of her family as she would like to be. It’s hard to pick the camera back up sometimes after you have been shooting for a week straight. The last thing you want to do is take photos of unwilling subjects. And on the weekends, I usually look forward to experiencing more real time with my family and friends and less camera time. You just tend to miss out on a few things when you are concentrating on shutter speed, ISO and composition. You forget to embrace the actual moment in front of you. So there has to be a balance. But to be truthful, some of my most favorite images have come from those moments that I just picked up the camera and clicked away at a scene even when I didn’t want to.

Thankfully, one of my favorite cameras to shoot with is handy one attached right to my iPhone. I find myself shooting more and more with it these days (so much that I need to free up some memory). It’s with me. It’s super portable.  It’s small. And it’s light. I am not going to lie – I don’t love lugging my big DSLR down to the beach all the time, risking getting sand in the body or scratching up my $1500 lens. And since my main camera is in the repair shop right now (sniff sniff), I am even more likely to hop in the car, iPhone in hand, feeling prepared for anything.

I have in a bit of a creative rut lately. I don’t know if it’s the fast pace of spring’s eternal chaotic energy or my personal life catching up with me a little, but I honestly needed a little something new to work on over the course of the summer. I want to remember why I came back to photography in the first place. I want to remember why I love doing this job so much.

Anyhow, enjoy the journey with me. And I hope you all will start the same thing. Post your links to my Facebook page. Or send me a link to yours in the comments here. Let’s have some fun! Happy snapping!

Now…here are my #weekend10 from this weekend. I hope you love them as much as I do!

 

Libby

 

A rare beach walk with Bella on Friday Morning. The water at Folly has been unusually tropical. I had to see it for myself. Bella said she wanted to be a part of that too!  (iPhone Photo)

A morning walk around my yard and a few intimate happy moments with the garden project.

Cooking up the contents of my farm share from Compost in my Shoe. Mmmmmmm….(iPhone Photo)

Beet, leek and feta pizza – FTW!

Morning picnic at Folly. Also fairly rare.

We chatted about the strange blue water, nerf guns, sea turtles, video games, music and the 60 dolphin we saw swim by. No kidding.

Wine, cause… you know…it’s me.

Sunday night homework. Because we were low key this weekend and won’t be this week!

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A window seat

I am fascinated with the world from above. I love to take the window seat on an airplane and press my head up against the layered glass while keeping my sights on the horizon. The quick shifts in altitude can be jarring while navigating the skies, but the end result is always worth the magnificent view. From up there in the air, things look peaceful and pretty. Calm and serene. Way up in the clear blue skies, the land looks like a jigsaw puzzle, scattered across with greens and blues and tans and browns, waiting eagerly to be put back together. Boats make pretty little white lines against their cerulean blue canvases in the water and the smooth coastline looks inviting and summery, no matter the season.

Maybe a little distance is all we ever need from a situation to see the simple beauty it holds. Despite the shift in altitude (and the subsequent drop in my stomach’s fortitude), I am always reminded that a change in perspective can alter my view of reality so quickly. The further I get from the picture, the more I seem to understand what it looks like – lines become more defined while the edges soften a bit. The peaks and valleys of the landscape of our hardships seem to level out a little more when you get some distance. Suddenly, nothing seems like it did when I was right up on it with blurry vision from too many years of examining everything much too closely.

Those confusing little details life faces you with head on are not nearly as significant from up above. Struggle slips away as fast as water through your fingers. You can no longer hold on to the picture you have in your head. And nothing seems as hard or bad from the perspective shift brought to you from your window seat.

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Johanna

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love.” Rumi
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This is not a post I want to write. Not now.

But I find myself at this frustratingly familiar crossroads again. The crossroads of love and loss. I find myself with the bittersweet taste of memories churning around in my confused mind and my broken heart mourning another loss of someone far too great to say goodbye to so quickly.

My sister, Johanna, passed away on April 25th. Just 2 short weeks ago. It seems like an eternity right now. She was memorable – to say the least. Her soul was as colorful as the rainbow and as sparkly as a sequined dance costume. She was gentle and strong at the same time. And fiercely passionate about the things she loved most.

Johanna shaped the joyful memories of my youth. She took me on some of the greatest and most simple adventures of my life. Carnivals, circuses, fairs and bazaars were an annual occurrence. Trips to the lake with cookouts and sunburned faces became a right of passage with her each summer. We never missed a trip to our local cider mill or pumpkin farm in the crisp, cool New York state fall. Our annual holiday shopping trips to White Plains every December were the highlight of my season as I grew older. Plays. Musicals. Operas. Concerts. Being around her was like being at the Greatest Show on Earth every day.

My sister was like a second mother to me. She was as fun as a friend, but fiercely protective of my heart. She watched me like a hawk – sometimes disciplining me more than the mother we shared. She cried with me when we lost our own mother and laughed with me through my many comedies of errors. She knew more secrets about me than most of my closest friends. She taught me how to laugh at myself and take care of myself. She taught me how to embrace my flaws and let the rest of it melt away by being perfectly imperfect in all my ways. She showed me that life is meant for living and embracing in every way possible.

The bond you share with a sister is indescribable – no matter the age difference. There were 25 years between Johanna and myself. Over the years, many people have asked asked me if I was close to her despite all the years. I always smiled and said “Of course I am…she is my sister.”  We shared a bond that is timeless and ageless…limitless. She knew me so well that words were never needed. There was never a doubt in my mind that she loved me. Not for a second. I can only hope she knew the same now. I can only hope I told her enough.

I never wanted these days to come…mourning the loss of her sweet smile, her hearty laugh, her long stories. I will miss everything about her her with all my heart and soul.  I will miss our conversations and our connection. I will miss her joy and her verve. I will miss her fierce, protective nature and her kind, gentle ways.

Wherever she lays and rests her weary soul now, I hope she is free and light. I hope she knows only love and joy. Mostly, I hope she knows what a difference she made for every person she touched. I hope she knows the immense difference she made in my little world.

Be free and joyous now, my sister. And shine on you crazy diamond!

 

Love you…

Libby

 

 

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