There exists two ways in which to measure this world – with light and with darkness. Heaven and hell, good and evil, love and hate, same same. I existed in darkness for a long time, neither knowing where the light switch was, nor how to switch it on. There is still a dark side to me, which I suspect everybody has. It’s the side which pulls us towards the bad wolf – grabby and greedy, full of shame and fear, jealousy and anger, fueled by inferiority, unworthiness and a wounded ego. We are small in this dark place, and we hold onto our pain like it means something.
There is this quote I love. “Open a closed door and the light floods into the darkness, never the reverse.” (LL Cartin.)
I love it because darkness can be so consuming we think we might be enveloped by it entirely. I love it because it gives us a way out – to keep finding a way out – simply by opening doors and finding what shimmers. Photography, for me, has been one of the biggest door openers of my life. In photography, all one does is chase light – both literally and figuratively. Everything in photography revolves around light, and what I see when I take photos, who I become, I move further and further from that which is dark and I fall head-spinning into beauty and moments and life so breathtaking I can barely handle it.
I had a big post in mind in response to some negative criticism I’ve received lately. When I receive comments that sting, my first knee-jerk reaction is defense, and last week, when I was feeling fragile and angry about it, there was a lot I wanted to yell about. However, I think that when you’re yelling, I don’t believe that you’ve actually even got it all figured out. I think the louder we scream, the less peace we actually have with our choices. I think that we’re not yelling in defense, the problem is that we’re yelling because we’re as internally conflicted as our criticizers.
I am the one who chooses to open my life publicly. Readers owe me nothing, least of all kindness. To be shocked by people’s dislike is just as ridiculous as believing you are amazing just because you’re told you are. Know Thyself becomes the only benchmark upon which to judge yourself, because if truth can’t come from within, you sure as hell won’t be able to find it elsewhere.
Listen, I get it. I put myself out there, I should be prepared to take a little heat. The more this blog grows, the more I’m going to need to fine tune my handling of criticism. I take things to heart and I care about how I affect others. And if you think it’s fraudulent of me to take smiling photos of and with my family, even though we have problems — even though we fight and fail — then so be it. If you think I am trying to portray a “happy families” life, that I don’t have a right to post pictures of the good stuff because there is bad stuff underneath, I would simply suggest to you to find another place in which to spend your time. I have never for one second claimed to be perfect, to have a perfect life, a perfect marriage, a perfect family life.
I listen to Mumford and Sons a lot, because every time I do there is always another line which jumps out and settles into me. This week it was this: Where you invest your love, you invest your life.
I choose– I will always choose — to use this blog to invest in what I love. I will continue to document what makes me come alive — and I will do it here forever. And yes, most likely more than the I-just-had-a-fight-with-Joel-and-he-just-sucks-and-our-partnership-is-in-ruins-and-our-kids-are-doomed stories. My life is 10-diminsional. I hit major highs and lows each day, just about. Do I write about every low? No. Do I photograph every high? No. It’s a snippet, a small slither from an otherwise huge cake. It has to be, obviously.
In the end, I’ve come to realize that what matters to me most is not what people think, not what I am ‘portraying’, but the process of making the art itself. Nice feedback is nice, just as bad feedback is bad, but what gives me that heart-opening I’m Alive feeling is paying attention to the world, weaving a collection of words together to accurately describe what is true to me, and hitting that publish button once it’s all out and done. What comes next – the response – is something I still feel awkward about – both the “you’re amazing” as well as the “this is crap” reactions.
It’s like my friend Bec wrote in her blog after I took some photographs of her and her family recently, You know the Californian guy who claims food tastes better with no sound? These photos that my friend Rachel took of my family are a bit like that. Life can seem prettier when you freeze it in time, take away the noise, and just look.
Because this blog? These photos? They are, they have become, my daily practice of LOOKING. Of feeding the good wolf. And honestly, if we all knew how pretty our lives were, we’d fall off our chairs and stay there forever.
Photography – light chasing – is the surest way I’ve found to fall.
And this good wolf? He is the one I want to feed.
He is the one I want to win, in the end.
Today, these are the things making me come alive.
I said goodbye to her yesterday. In the worst and best kind of way. It was all the big feelings and I’m making a 2016 plan to cart my family to Austria to visit her and hers. Bec is an old friend from school, over 10 years had passed since we saw each other last and somebody pop some champagne and let’s cheers social media, because somehow she found her way to this tent and we reconnected after all that time. Cue trip to Australia, cue catch up, cue beautiful friendship, cue don’t-go-bawling-to-Mumford-and-Sons-as-soundtrack, cue Joel-we-are-going-Austria-immediately, etc. Bec, I know I’ve already said it, but you are one of a kind, my friend. Truly. And you will be terribly missed.
First Photo Shoot Delivery
It was a happy day the day I dropped off my first collection of photos – a USB with 76 photos, a sweet little photo book, and a full heart. It was a rite of passage, a happy little milestone. This makes me happy.
It’s an all-summer call to drag ourselves to our front pavement with chalk and scooters to watch the late afternoon sun disappearing behind the rooftops. Another happy place, the front of our house. Especially with a cold, crisp beer on hand.
Emergency room visit
There’s nothing like a quick trip to the Children’s hospital emergency room to make you feel like a proper mum. Yesterday afternoon, Ella got her finger trapped in our car door — the hinged-side completely closed on her thumb and the silence which preceded her scream was so long I knew it was the most pain she had ever felt. It was a deep slice, there was a lot of blood, and our beach plans were immediately discarded as we jumped in the car and raced off, Joel and I firing questions like: What do we do? Where should we drive to? Should we go to the hospital? Do we call our doctor? Why don’t I have the number of our doctor in my goddamn phone? Ohmygod pull over. We need to call somebody.
While two kids screamed in their car seats, me wedged between them trying to speak with a receptionist at the doctors office to ask what we should do, we were eventually directed to the ED of the nearest hospital, promising Ella chocolate and ice cream and lollipops and anything she damn well wanted once we got there. I would have given her a pony if she’d asked. She did really well coping with the pain, and she’s now fine – nothing broken, no stitches needed, just some medical glue and a bandage covering – and as our trip home coincided with witching hour, worsened by no food on hand, lots of adrenaline and a baby who was not impressed with being confined to a car seat, we pulled into Red Rooster, shoved chips and burgers into everyone’s mouths, felt like trailer trash, bought a still-fragile Ella an ice-cream to top it off, got home, collapsed into bed, praised each other on how well we handled a stressful situation and vowed never to eat take away food again. Though it was awful to watch, there is something beautiful about being the mother of a child in pain – the ferocious protectiveness you feel, the instinct to nurture, the knowledge that you are the one they want – the one who makes everything better. Well, you plus a McDonald’s soft serve cone.
Happy Friday, sisters.
May y’all be investing in the good wolf, too.
Friday Photo Dump (theredtent on Instagram if you want to follow the feed.)