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. ❤

Simple Gifts

The Silver Lining That Takes My Breath Away: Day Twenty-One

(Sometimes it’s tough to feel at home in your own city.  Which is why I’ve given myself a challenge:  each day, for forty days, I’m going to find *one* thing I love about this place.  And then I’m going to tell you about it.  If you want to follow my journey, start here.  Today is Day Twenty-One.)


Every year, I love watching the leaves turn.

I grieve it when they fall.

But this loss, like every other, has a silver lining.


Just a week ago, when I looked out my back window, I saw our leafy beech and hundred-year oak.  A scrubby but golden-leaved maple.

Now, I can see horizon and sky.  Range after range of blue hills.  I can see all the way across the city to the white tower of the airport, where planes touch down and surge upward, over and over, all day long.


Tonight, I stand at my kitchen window and watch the lights wink on across the valley.

In thirty minutes, the whole city will light up and glitter — a river of light, sparkling in the dark.

And I wish I could show you a picture of this.  I do.  But there’s no lens I own that could do it justice.  And sometimes, the things you can’t capture on film are the most beautiful things of all.

So tonight you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say this:

I am grateful.


Barn’s burned down —


I can see the moon.

–Mizuta Masahide