Today marks the final post of my Flashback series — a collection of my favorite throwback posts, in celebration of Alpha // Whiskey // Foxtrot’s one-year anniversary.
And this one I’ve been saving.
The words are lonely, and it shows. A different kind of person would want to hide that from you — want to pretend that the lonely season didn’t happen, didn’t exist. But I’m sharing anyway. Because let’s be honest: loneliness happens to everybody, and when you’re in it, it feels like it’s going to last forever.
Can I tell you something? It’s not going to last forever… I promise.
Almost exactly a year has passed since I first hit the little blue “Publish” button on this post, and in that messy and imperfect year, my life has filled up and brimmed over with some of the best people I’ve met.
I feel at home in my little town…
At home with my people…
At home in my own body, and in my soul.
And really, I couldn’t ask for more.
So. If you’re feeling a little bit marooned today, please know: being lonely doesn’t make you alone — It just makes your heart wide-open to love.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
October 29, 2014
I have a mind that moves in fits and starts:
It surges forward.
Sometimes I joke that, behind my tailored exterior, there’s a rat’s nest in my skull. But something about a mountain trail untangles all the knots in my neural pathways. Which is yet another reason why I love this place. Southwestern Virginia is crisscrossed by hundreds of trails, most of them climaxing at a high peak with a hundred-mile view.
It is a good place to think deeply, if you’re not afraid to do so. And if you’re willing to take the time.
What is happening here is going to take some time.
I’ve been thinking about Georgia O’Keeffe a lot lately.
Something about her aesthetic appeals to me right now: her close-cropped view of the world. I came across this snippet of her words the other day, in which she speaks of her formative years as an artist. It kicked around inside my ribcage and just wouldn’t leave:
“I decided to start anew — to strip away what I had been taught — to accept as true my own thinking. This was one of the best times of my life. There was no one around to look at what I was doing, no one interested, no one to say anything about it one way or another. I was alone and singularly free, working into my own, unknown — no one to satisfy but myself. I began with charcoal and paper and decided not to use any color until it was impossible to do what I wanted to do in black and white. I believe it was June before I needed the color blue.”
On Sunday, Thomas, a friend and I hiked the Roaring Run trail out past Eagle Rock. It’s an easy path through the woods, a slow climb that hugs the stream and culminates at a lacy cascade.
We spent our journey snapping photographs. My beautiful friend had a fancy DSLR with a chromed-out filter that set the fall foliage on fire. I had my trusty iPhone 4S, its little camera set to my favorite black-and-white.
I followed behind her, watching the way she stalked her shots, the way her eyes searched the canopy for color. The way she spent time on the grander vistas: the overlook where you could see the mountaintops. The waterfall with its wild roar over rocks.
Meanwhile, I was in a different place, looking for different things. The jagged edge of a fern frond. Drops of water beading and falling over stone. I spent a lot of time on my knees, my face pushed right up to the subjects.
This is where I am now — I cannot bear to shoot the loud loveliness of a waterfall. I am overwhelmed by the chrome colors of the canopy when it’s full of light. My eyes are always searching for spare lines. The smallest, simplest things.
I began photographing things for the first time this summer — my own body, mostly, trying to see it differently. To love it anew. I photographed the sun cupped in the hollow of my clavicle, or splashing down the angle of my jaw. It was a brave subject, that. And maybe someday I’ll show you a little of my work from that time.
But I was also trying to learn this thing, photography, in a broader sense, albeit without any serious aspirations. The thing is, I didn’t want to just go to a class and learn how to use a camera. I wanted to learn to *see* the world thoughtfully – light and shadow and line, and also, something deeper than that. I wanted to train my eye and my heart, not just gain a technological skill.
So I limited myself to black and white, and I began with my iPhone, not the DSLR that sits on my closet shelf. I resolved not to use any technological tool until I absolutely needed it, to take every shot as if it would never be cropped, and to edit nothing.
It was June when I began with the simple shapes of my own form. The light falling in clear, perfect bars through the blinds. It was September before I could bear the visual cacophony of the woods, the wild frenzy of fluttering leaves.
It is almost November now, and I am just beginning to yearn for my bigger camera, its depth of focus.
Just beginning to hunger for color.
In the two and a half years since I moved to the Star City, this place has felt spare to me. I have walked around hungry for certain kinds of relationships I can’t seem to find, certain kinds of cultures and experiences that elude me. These things have been missing from my life for a long, long time now, and there are days when I feel the absence like a presence, an emptiness with heft and weight.
And yet, in this spare season, my soul has grown sensitive. I am soft enough to notice the small things — to be moved by spiderwebs and bits of broken glass.
And this is a blessing.
Even when it’s a burden.
Because it is a burden — it is.
Sometimes I feel it’s been so long since I lived in a place where I fit, it’s like I’ve been walking a hundred miles in the tundra, the whole world a wash of white, and if someone crested the next snowdrift wearing a crimson parka, I swear, the color would explode through my chest like a gunshot. And that’s a sensitivity I can use, even when it hurts.
I can, and I will.
A year from now, I hope my life is fuller and richer and thicker than the one I have now. I hope I’m more rooted, more sure of my place in this town. I hope I see my city with loving eyes.
But I also hope I don’t lose this, this sensitivity. This love for the small and the simple. The shadow and the light.
I’ll leave you with one more thought from Georgia O’Keeffe, just to show you what I mean:
“Nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small — we haven’t time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time… So I said to myself — I’ll paint what I see — but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it.”
Here’s hoping we both go and look at the world around us low and slow and close and patient, today. ❤