Tag Archives: photography

Slippery Muse

“I feel like I am allowed to share with the world what I see.”
– Joel Robison, photographer

A while back, I saw the above quote when I was reading an article about Joel Robison, a photographer whose career had taken off practically overnight because of his photos that were noticed and purchased by the Coca-Cola company. While I’m not a photographer, that quote spoken by Joel with regard to his new booming career struck a chord with me. I knew exactly what he meant.  That’s how I feel about my writing – that beautiful feeling of seeing something and knowing that there is a story in it.  And then having the freedom and means to share that story with others.  I was excited to see someone put so simply into words exactly what I feel so often.  So, I quickly copied and pasted the quote into a new blog entry and saved it to my drafts to write about later.

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“Stuck Inside” by Joel Robison

And there it sat.

And sat.

*sigh*

And sat some more.

The quote was phenomenal and I knew I wanted to expand on it and blog about it, but I’ve just been kind of stuck.  Not only stuck on knowing what to write about regarding this particular quote, but just stuck in general.  I briefly mentioned my case of writer’s block in my last blog, but I sort of blamed it on how busy I’ve been lately.  (Which, mind you, I’m not saying doesn’t play a big role in it.)  But honestly, I don’t think that’s the only thing.  Once in a while, I just can’t quite grab on to that muse, you know?  I know she’s there.  She’s always there.  She sits there waiting patiently for me…whistling, twiddling her thumbs, trying not to be a nuisance.  But yet, for some unknown reason, my hands just can’t get the grip I need on that slippery little booger.  I try to reach for her, even think I’ve got a good hold every now and then, but lo and behold, she manages to slither right out of my hands. Oh, it’s not her fault. She hasn’t done anything wrong – hasn’t changed.

It’s me who can’t get a grip.

Well, a few weeks ago, I was honored to be a speaker at a local event called Night of the Spoken Word.  Eleven local writers were introduced individually and asked to read a 5-minute portion of one of their works. While I was excited to participate, I was also looking forward to the inspiration that I knew the night would bring.  For a writer stuck in a rut, there would be nothing better than to be surrounded by fellow writers – hearing their magical words flow through the room and feel them seep into my soul. I just knew this would be what would jumpstart my writing and get me back on track.

Well, guess what?  It didn’t.

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“Bookworm” by Joel Robison

Oh, I was inspired of course. I was in awe and full of admiration at all the talent that surrounded me, and beyond honored to be included among them.  But I got home and sat down at the computer and still…

Nothing.

Well, except maybe this one thing.

Something I had heard that night kept playing over and over in my mind. A fellow writer got up to read a poem he had written about a trip that he and his daughter had taken together when she was younger. As he gave the introduction to his poem – describing why he had written what he had – he said he had just had such a wonderful time with his daughter on the trip that when he got home, he sat down with pen and paper to write about it.  Specifically, the phrase he used was this:

I wanted to remember what that felt like.”
– Scot Pope

If it wouldn’t have been massively rude to whip out my cell phone during his reading, I would have done just that.  I would have went to my “notes” app on my phone and typed in what he said to remind me to go back and read it again later. (Oh, how many blogs I have written based on short, practically unintelligible “notes” from my phone…).  But, as luck would have it, I didn’t need to be rude and type it into my phone after all. I remembered it. I remembered it as I was leaving, I remembered it when I got home, and here I was remembering it almost two weeks later. I didn’t know why that meant so much to me, but it just wouldn’t leave my mind.

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“Short Stories” by Joel Robinson

And then, suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, one day it hit me.

Inspiration.

I hurried to my blog site and dug out that dusty old draft with the Joel Robison quote in it.  Looking at his quote, and comparing it with Scot Pope’s quote, I realized why I write. And realizing it made me appreciate it.  And appreciating it made me want to do it again. I hope these two remarkable, talented men won’t mind my combining their quotes by saying that writing, for me, is not only a way to remember what I felt when I saw something in this big, awesome world, but to also be able to tell people about it.  I feel something, and I no longer have to hold it inside.  I pour it out onto the computer screen, hit that little “publish” button, and suddenly, I’ve shared a piece of myself with you.  I’ve invited you into my memories.  Into my life lessons.

Into my heart.

Writing is who I am.  It just is.  When it’s missing, a piece of me is missing. And sometimes that does happen…sometimes I lose touch temporarily with who I am.  (As I’m sure we all are prone to do.)  But then, inevitably, Inspiration comes slipping in that door I left ajar yet again.  And quietly, without any noise or fanfare to speak of, she plants her little seed once more- whether through the eloquent words of a fellow writer, the majestic beauty of a talented photographer, or the kind words from a blog reader who lets me know that my words meant something to them – and I once again find myself back on the path towards home.

In closing, and as a thank you to each and every one of you, my vast array of seed-planters, I’d like to once again quote Joel Robison:

“So with that, I’d like to thank YOU for being a part of this big and small world. For looking at, enjoying, commenting and appreciating my work and what I do and for helping me find the path that I’ve found.”
– Joel Robison

Thank you all for your part in helping me to reach out and grasp that elusive muse with both hands, and hold her tight to me where she belongs. Thank you for helping me to find my way back to where I belong.  Thank you for helping me to remember who I am.

Ahhh.

All is well.

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“Wordly Balance” by Joel Robison

Vanessa

“I have never felt more beautiful in a dress and I was denied the opportunity to wear it. Instead of leaving it to hang alone and dejected in my closet, I took it out and wore it. I wore the hell out of it.”
– Vanessa Schilling

I spend a lot of time using this blog to tell my stories.  Today, with her permission, I want to tell you someone else’s.

As some of you may remember from a previous blog, I got an awesome opportunity a few months back to play Glinda the Good Witch at a weekend festival in Beech Mountain, North Carolina.  I could fill this blog for a year with stories from that experience.  It was just so friggin cool.  And, truth be told, I will probably reference various tidbits about it for the rest of my life. Therefore, allow me to go ahead and issue my formal apology right now for that and just get it over with.  In fact, may I suggest a drinking game?  Every time I say the word “Oz” or “Glinda” or “good witch” or “Darn it, I miss being a pretty pretty princess!!!,” just go ahead and chug. Hey, everybody wins!  I get to talk about Oz [DRINK!] and you get to put yourself in the mindset to put up with reading the rest of my blog.  Ok, wait.  Maybe I’m the only that wins?  Eh.  Either way…drink up!

Whew.  This blog girl sure knows how to digress….

So, back to the point.  One of the first experiences I had after just arriving at Oz [you paying attention?  DRINK!] was meeting a lady named Vanessa.  In fact, I have a photo from about 5 seconds after meeting her.  Wanna see it?

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There you have it folks.  I kid you not.  It went pretty much like this, “Hi, I’m Vanessa, and I seriously have to get under that dress.  Hold still….”  Now, granted, that might not be the first time I’ve ever heard that in my life after just meeting someone, but I can honestly say it was the first time I’d ever heard it from a woman…

But in all seriousness, that story right there pretty much described Vanessa –  a funny, charming, risk-taking breath of fresh air who quickly became my friend.  She ended up being one of my roomies for the weekend and I found myself looking forward to just being around her.  No pretension, no formalities – you could just be yourself around Vanessa because she brought that out in you.  She was ‘real.’  And I liked that.

And along with being real, you wanna know what else she was?  About 8 months pregnant.  Yep, there were actually two people under that dress in that picture up there.  (And room for plenty more, to be quite honest…)  Vanessa, who usually played the wicked witch for this Oz weekend, was just along for the ride this time since it might look a little odd to have the wicked witch of the west with child.  Didn’t want to confuse the kiddies, ya know.

So, Oz weekend came and went and we all discarded our costumes (Darn it! I miss being a pretty pretty princess…[DRINK!]) and went back to our lives.  Thanks to good ole Facebook, however, we were all able to keep in touch.  I eagerly awaited the updates from my new friend Vanessa’s pregnancy and was excited to see that bouncing baby boy bundle of joy arrive a few weeks later.  Her military husband had just arrived from his tour in Afghanistan and her happy little family was complete.  

And boy do I wish this story could end here.

Unfortunately, however, as often is the case, Life has a way of stepping in and not letting stories end all tied up in the pretty red bow like we wish they would.  And this time is no exception to that sucky rule.  Just a few short weeks after Vanessa’s baby was born, her husband dropped the bomb.  He told her he wanted to end their marriage.

I sat and watched, helpless, as my friend’s world was falling apart.  I watched her go through the motions.  Sadness.  Defeat.  Confusion.  Fear.  Anger.  Anguish.  I could list vocabulary words for days and none of them could adequately describe the pain.  And I, like so many of her other friends, had no idea what to do to help her.  So, we watched helplessly from afar, hoping that our empathy could somehow reach through the technology waves to let her know that she wasn’t alone.  What else could we do?

I found myself thinking of Vanessa so often throughout the day.  This vibrant ball of energy had lost her spark.  And though I had only known her for a short time, it truly affected me to know that her spirit had been crushed.  And one of the posts in particular that she had on Facebook especially tugged at my heartstrings.

Vanessa had just gone shopping for  a new dress to wear to her husband’s formal military ball.  And, as a lot of us who have been mommies know, your body is barely your own after you’ve just given birth. We can all imagine just how thrilled she was when she found the perfect dress, post-baby body and all.  A sweet little red number that accentuated her curves to a tee.  She had found THE dress.  The one that was going to make her the belle of the ball.

Well.  There went that.

All dressed up, and no place to go.

As the date for the military ball drew closer, Vanessa’s hurt and pain increased.  This was supposed to have been her night.  Much like the feeling I had as Glinda during our Oz weekend – now it was Vanessa’s turn to be the princess.  To don the dress and watch the heads turn as she walked arm-in-arm with her prince.  She was supposed to feel beautiful again.  This was going to be night that fairy tales were made of.

Only the prince didn’t hold up his end of the deal.

And there you have it.  This sad story could have ended right there.  No ball, no dress, no fairy tale.  The end.

But no way.  Not a chance.

This was Vanessa.

Vanessa had a decision to make.  Now, most of us would understand if that decision involved sitting around the house eating a large tub of ice cream and staring at the beautiful dress hanging on a hanger in the closet, right?  Of course we would.  Heck, that’s probably exactly where I would have been if I was her.  But oh no.

Not her.

Tucked underneath all that hurt and pain and anguish was the same girl that had climbed underneath all that tulle only seconds after meeting me.  That risk-taker.  That fun-loving breath of fresh air.  That beautiful tower of strength.  And for a few hours, Vanessa made a decision that took the last bit of courage she could muster.

She pried open the heavy door of pain, and let the real Vanessa run free.

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Armed with the combination of her incredibly talented photographer friend, Van Roldan, a gorgeous white horse, a sexy red dress, and an enormous well of strength that I don’t think she even knew she had, my friend Vanessa decided that she didn’t need the prince in order to be a princess.

Channeling all of that pain into something beautiful, Vanessa got that dress out of the closet and created her own memories. And then she decided to share the result with the rest of us.

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I looked through these pictures this morning with tears streaming down my face.  This was it.  That display of human strength and resilience that I am constantly striving to put into words in this blog?  These pictures did it.  Vanessa did it.

vanessa6This girl is a survivor.  We are all survivors.  No matter what life throws our way – no matter how many times we are left sobbing on the floor feeling the world crash in around us – we always, always find a way to drag our sorry selves up off the ground, brush the dust off, and put one foot right back in front of the other and keep moving forward.  Even when we think the world should stop spinning, by God, it just doesn’t.  It just doesn’t.

So, we might as well just do what my friend Vanessa just did.  Hop right back on that horse and see what’s waiting around the next bend.  And hey – why not look sexy as hell while we’re doing it?

Thank you for letting me tell your story, Vanessa.  I am certain that someone out there somewhere needed to hear it.  I know I did.

Welcome to your new role as an inspiration.

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***

Four things greater than all things are, –
Women and Horses and Power and War.
– Rudyard Kipling, “The Ballad of the King’s Jest”

A Thousand Words

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.”  
– Eudora Welty

I have a friend who is a photographer.  And a great one, too.

(Hey, wanna check out her stuff?   Her name is Iman Woods.  Click here for her new family photography Facebook page, and here for her pin-up photograph website.  You can also click here to check out her blog.  Her stuff kicks butt.)

So, yeah.  Photography is her thing.  And that’s awesome.  She uses photos to capture a story.  And each one does just that.  And quite beautifully, I might add.  After all, she’s an artist.

Me, on the other hand?  While I love photos, and never hesitate to snap them whenever I can, my ‘art’ is a little different.  We’re all artists, you know.  All of us.  We just have to find our medium.  My medium?  Words.  Without the talent to capture photographs or to paint or to draw, etc. etc., I fall back on the art that I think I have discovered that I’m somewhat good at.  And that is creating an image in people’s minds using the written word.

This weekend, however?  This weekend was a different story.

This weekend I have discovered a new appreciation for Iman’s work.  Because sometimes, it’s the picture that tells the story all by itself…and no words are able to do it justice.  Sometimes you just have to show people what your words cannot seem to adequately express.

A few of you regular readers may remember a blog I posted a while back about my premature twin nieces entitled Week-Old Miracles.  Well, this weekend, I got to spend a few days with those now six-month-old miracles.  And while I’m no photographer by any means, please take a look with me at the mixture of humorous and touching moments that have touched my heart over the past few days with these little angels.  And check out some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way as well.

Photo Lesson #1:

Watching this:

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…turn to this:

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is a very beautiful thing.  Wow.

Photo Lesson #2

Not many things in this ol’ world will fill your heart with as much love as filling your arms with twin babies.

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Photo Lesson #3

Watching a teenager bond with a baby makes your heart smile.

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Photo Lesson #4

Ditto.

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Photo Lesson #5

Sleeping with a baby in your arms is a very peaceful feeling.  (And having your teenage daughter think to take a picture of it is a pretty sweet deal in and of itself.)

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Photo Lesson #6

Not many things in this world are as sweet or as enduring as a mommy’s love.

Six months ago:

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Now:

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Photo Lesson #7

Watching grandma dress a baby after a bath is so darn cute.

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Photo Lesson #8

Babies haven’t quite yet learned to mask their facial expressions. When it’s the first time they’ve ever met someone, you’re gonna know it.

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Photo Lesson #9

It sure doesn’t take a baby long to decide you’re pretty cool…

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(And p.s.: Hearing your boyfriend refer to himself as “Uncle Richard” to your niece, gives you a feeling of “rightness” that words can’t begin to express.)

Photo Lesson #10

Duck face pictures are stupid.  Unless they’re done with a 6-month-old.  Then, they rock.

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Photo Lesson #11

If you’re an adult, you should live your life in such a way that you’re caught in the background of a picture playing at a playground all by yourself.

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(*giggle*  That’s Richard back there.  Bless him.)

Photo Lesson #12

It’s impossible to look at this and not smile.

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See?  Smiled, didn’t ya?

Photo Lesson #13

The smile on your face while holding a baby can’t possibly be faked. 

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Photo Lesson #14

Witnessing your Alzheimer’s-ridden grandmother meeting her twin great-granddaughters for the first time is a moment that makes your heart climb into your throat.

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Photo Lesson #15

Seeing that grandmother with a smile on her face again, after what seems like forever since you’ve seen it, is a moment that makes you know that some things never change.  My grandmother is beautiful.

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My aunt Joyce commented on one of my photos on Facebook with, “Thanks for letting us live your day in pictures!”  I hope this blog allowed you to do that – and hopefully helped you to see what I saw.  To feel what I felt.  Maybe it might even make you turn around and look at your own family, your own little miraculous works of art in your life.  And maybe it will make you get down on your knees and thank your lucky stars that you’re alive.  You’re alive.  You know?  Get out there and capture these moments. before they slip by.

After all, you only get one shot.

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***

““The Earth is Art, The Photographer is only a Witness ”  
– Yann Arthus-Bertrand