Secrets, Self-Portraits & the Subconscious … & also, a Silver Lining

I am a keeper of secrets — especially from myself.


A long time ago, I realized I was one of those souls who felt everything too deeply —

Who wept inconsolably when I saw a little bird crushed by a car tire.

Who agonized over the troubles of friends and characters in books.

And so, over the years, I learned the trick of keeping all this emotion where it couldn’t hurt me:  I’d sink it deep in the cold waters of the subconscious — repressed.

This is both a useful habit, and a dangerous one.


A year ago, when I began photographing my own body, I learned another trick:

In an unguarded moment, my face would say a great deal of things I never knew about myself.  In the hollows below my eyes, the hard lines of my mouth, I’d suddenly see all the secret emotions I’d been hiding from my mind.  A lot of these were emotions that should have been acknowledged honestly and released many years before.

And so, I’ve learned to recognize my soul’s unguarded moment when it comes.  I might be hiking over a mountain pass or ambling down the grocery aisle.  I might be hunched at my work desk, or mowing the lawn.  But wherever I am, when I feel my subconscious rising to my musculature, my skin, I pull out my iPhone and snap an image, before the moment can pass:


Slowly, I’m teaching myself a better way to heal.


I’ve mentioned, briefly, that I’ve been carrying a quiet hurt for three weeks now.

And it would be easy at this point to ignore it, forget it, sink it below the surface like a body in a lake.


Earlier this week, while walking in the woods at twilight, I feel a strong emotion cross me like a shadow.

I pull out my iPhone.

I snap a picture:


There.  Do you see it?  Slow ache and sleeplessness and regret?  Me too.

So now, the only question is what to do with it.


It would be such a simple thing, to do what other people do when they’re hurting:  buy a drink.  Dye my hair.  Ride around town with friends.  But these things are deliberate distractions from the hurt, and lately I don’t want to be distracted.  Because if life has taught me anything, it’s this:

When my soul is wide-open to hurt, it’s also open to joy.

When my senses are attuned to my troubles, then they’re also attuned to magic and mystery — my spirit suddenly imbued with the language to understand each word the wind whispers in the leaves.  And I don’t want to miss this.

So I get out my paintbrushes, my camera or my journal…

I give myself permission to feel it all.


Three days ago, in the fading light, I take a long walk.

On the last uphill climb toward home, rain begins to fall, and I could run for shelter, but I don’t.

I lift my face, let the rain fleck me all over — drops of wet cold that sequin my hair, my skin, my lips.

I close my eyes and breathe … feel a sense of wonder crossing over me like light.

I take out my iPhone.

I lean back and snap a picture:


This is what a silver lining looks like. ❤


On Quiet Grief, & Quiet Goodness …

Can I tell you a secret?  For a little over a week now, I’ve been quietly carrying a private hurt — one I caused myself.

And I won’t explain any more on that subject, except to say that for days now the hurt has been dogging me like a shadow, the way deep hurts often do.


A few days ago I went for a walk, and I thrust my face in an open magnolia bloom.  I gasped in a lungful of its lemon scent …

And it was good.

I walked farther, and fireflies sparked around my ankles.  Locusts whirred in the trees.  I stroked the silken fuzz of a mimosa bloom, and glimpsed for the first time how each baton-shaped pink petal is tipped with gold.

(Have you noticed, the way mimosas fold their leaves up for the night?  Believe me:  all the world sleeps, and starts again).

I walked a little farther still, and suddenly a doe stepped lightly across my path, three spindly-legged fawns following behind.  I caught my breath — oh, God, what beauty, the way their white spots glowed in the dusk, the way their wide eyes stared into mine…

This world is bent and broken… And also, it’s breathtakingly good.  


I’d be a fool not to see. ❤