Monthly Archives: March 2009

Scenes from a very sweet time in Seattle*

Ben in the cockpit, Canon Rebel Xti

The adventures started with Ben fulfilling his lifelong dream of flying an airplane to Seattle.

Kelly Rae, in her kitchen in Seattle, Canon Rebel Xti

The adorable Kelly Rae hosted us at her beautiful house. Every wall and every nook of her gorgeous home is so artfully done… (you can see a tour of her house here) I am now dreaming of flying her to Berkeley to give my house a little makeover.

The Diamond family, Seattle, Canon Rebel Xti

At the end of my trip I had the pleasure of photographing the Diamond family. They were playful, romantic and totally natural in front of the camera.

fort, Canon Rebel Xti

Kelly Rae, John, Matt and I pulled out all the stops and built Ben the most amazing fort in their living room. It even involved bamboo and duct tape! Ben was thrilled beyond belief while we were building it, squealing and jumping up and down and eating olives in the middle of the action. It felt like a magical moroccan tent. Of course, by the time we were done, he was over it. :)

Isn’t that just how it is though? It’s all about the process of creating, of getting ready for the party and not the party itself.

Kelly Rae and Ben in the kitchen, Seattle, Canon Rebel Xti

Ben and Kelly Rae at the kitchen table. Don’t you love those letters up on the wall? I’m going to start hunting for some for our house.

Me with camera, photo by Kelly Rae, Canon Rebel Xti

Me with my trusty extra appendage, my Canon Rebel Xti

Me and the family, by Kelly Rae, Canon Rebel Xti

hands after painting, Canon Rebel Xti

The best part though was getting to paint with Kelly Rae. I told her to pretend I had never painted in my life and to just tell me what to do every step of the way. We painted side by side like this for a couple of hours and it was glorious. Every time I would get stuck, she would tell me exactly what to do next, Just reach into this bin, find some pretty paper you like and paste it on the canvas. Don’t think about it for more than 5 seconds, okay? Five second rule.

She was such a kind voice to have over my shoulder while I painted. There were never any mistakes, no wrong turns, only the next step and the next. I hope to carry her voice with me the next time I paint.

Vote Hope

Shutter Sisters Dream Assignment: Picture Hope from LittlePurpleCow Productions on Vimeo.

If you haven’t heard already, there is a Name Your Dream Assignment competition happening over at Microsoft. They are giving away $50,000 to the photographer with the most inspiring photo shoot idea. Very exciting.

We are lucky enough to have Jen Lemen and Stephanie Roberts (two talented Shutter Sisters) represent our community for a project called Picture Hope. There is a beautiful description of the project here.

The nutshell version is this: They will be traveling the world, photographing and capturing the stories of people who are living icons of hope. In the meantime, we will be capturing our own hopeful pictures back home and contributing to the project as well.

To vote for the Picture Hope project, click here. All you need to do is create an account, log in, and cast your vote.

I think we can make this happen for them! Any extra help in the form of spreading the word would be so appreciated!

What is real*

Holly and Daniel, my adorable neighbors upstairs, Berkeley, Canon Rebel Xti

Where the heck have I been? Some of you have been asking me this lately, sending sweet little emails like, Are you okay? Or, Your blog sounds, I don’t know, different.

It’s true that I’ve been hiding out a little. Mostly, what I have been doing for the last several months is searching for what’s real in my life, what nourishes me most, what grounds me most powerfully in the tangible now of my life. I have been pruning, trimming, whittling away at what what no longer serves me, taking stock of all the blessings, choosing powerfully and intentionally what I want to keep.

Only some of this was self-inflicted. Sometimes the universal pruning shears come out and you are the unsuspecting, naked, bony tree shivering in the wind. The process can be painful, but I now see how essential it is for growth. Letting go of what no longer nourishes us leaves room for new fruit and stronger roots.

I am grateful for it, if not a little disarmed by the process. Growth can feel violent, like that line in Rumi’s Guesthouse about the crowd of sorrows: Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

In the wake of my clearing, I had the sense that my energy was too far-flung, dispersed in too many directions, that I had been tending too many things I couldn’t touch and that I was out of balance in some fundamental way. I realized I needed to bring my focus in closer and tend things much nearer to home. And when I say this, I mean really close to home, like my actual home, my family, my neighbors, my body, my heart, my community right here in Berkeley. I had to look hard at what’s most real and true in my life.

And of course, how do you reconcile being a blogger, surfing Facebook, emailing, texting, phoning, twittering when you are on a quest to ground yourself in what is real in your life? How do these things fit in? and what am I giving up by spending countless hours checking email and blogs and weather reports and celebrity gossip columns? What am I not creating in my life as a result of all of the life force I give to my “friends” in cyberspace?

And this is where it gets tricky to talk about.

I have a lot of friends in cyberspace. I know you do too. We love them! They are like us! They are kindred spirits. They are creative, they care about what we care about. We wish they were in our hometown. Sometimes we graduate to phone friendships and these connections deepen even more. Still more rare and wonderful is when we get to meet them in person and confirm, Yes! you are real! and you are even better in real life. These are incredible blessings.

And yet, I realized that part of that far flung feeling was due to how many of my friendships were far from home. At least for a while, I needed to anchor myself in the realness of people I could serve tea to, whose kids I could watch, who could brave Ikea with me or help me rearrange my furniture. I put a very unofficial call out to the universe, a prayer that went something like this: Ground me in what’s real. Help me find a community here. Help me feel connected in a new way.

And very soon after that, some magical things started to happen. My upstairs neighbor Holly asked if I’d like to cook with her every Tuesday night. Matt and I started going to the park in the evenings with Ben and getting to know all the dogs: Chuy, Fat Boy, Eddy… New friendships found me, other moms living merely blocks away. I noticed how often my neighbors just hung out outside waiting for a glimpse of someone to connect with, or to usher Ben into their house to play the guitar or pet their dog. It’s not as if I didn’t have these things before, but my attention was not there, I was not ready to appreciate them.

Some of the brightest spots in my week lately have been the nights when Holly and I cook or Wednesday nights when we watch Lost on our neighbor’s tv (we got rid of ours a while back) This sense of community is giving my heart stronger ground to stand on and a new place from which to create my life. It feels very basic, very elemental, this sharing of meals and borrowing of bread crumbs. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had this.

The other day, a new mom friend and her two year old were at my house playing. As we walked up I introduced her to my neighbors on both sides who happen to be outside their houses. A few minutes later, Holly knocked on the door to borrow our car for the last items in our recipe for the evening, Christina wheeled up with her baby in a stroller to see if we wanted to go to the park and Matt peeked his head out from our home office. Surrounded in that moment by literally ten people I adored, I could finally see it: I had built a community. These were the people in my neighborhood.

How do you find community? And how do you create balance between your online community and your actual life?

p.s. A great article from the NY Times Magazine yesterday by Peggy Orenstein: Growing up on Facebook

Everyone is Beautiful

Ben, Santa Cruz, CA

I had the pleasure of meeting Katherine Center last night at the reading of her newest book Everyone Is Beautiful. I am such a fan now! and can’t wait to read both this book and The Bright Side of Disaster.

Over at Shutter Sisters, check out the One Word Project. This month the word is beautiful, inspired by Katherine’s book. There is already an incredible collection of images over there to inspire you to go out and capture your own beautiful.


daffodil, Canon Rebel Xti

“When I was a kid I was very skinny, and my mother told me that one day the wind would blow me away. Since than I always put stones in my pockets.”
– Despina, from the I Used to Believe site

the right light*

Piedmont cemetery, Oakland, Canon Rebel Xti

Light is everything; every photographer knows this. It can turn the most ordinary things into magic, elevate them to a kind of poetry. In the right light, everyone looks more beautiful, more true. It’s almost as if you had never really seen them before.

It’s an age old metaphor, I know, seeing things in the right light, a different light, etc. But I just saw the connection with photography today. As photographers we are light seekers, beauty hunters, we want to see something extraordinary and we usually do. In a very literal sense, we are trying to see things in the right light so that they please us, are interesting to us, give us the pleasure of appreciating them.

This is a kind of spirtual practice as I see it, a way to move through the world looking for what you can love, what you can be grateful for, what dazzles you about this colorful, amazing world.

Reuben Margolin’s art*

Reuben’s wave, Berkeley, Canon Rebel Xti

Reuben’s wave, Berkeley, Canon Rebel Xti

One of my favorite artists is also a friend of ours-Reuben Margolin. He is like a modern day Leonardo Da Vinci, making elegant and beautiful kinetic sculptures out of found materials. If you have a few minutes, have a look at this Make Magazine documentary about his work. (Even the first few minutes will give you a taste) One thing I love is that he gets curious about things in nature that you might never notice; his work will inspire you to see your world in a different way…

Good things Monday

Camie and her belly, Berkeley, Canon Rebel Xti

Camie and the belly, Berkeley Marina, Canon Rebel Xti

Camie and the belly, Berkeley Marina, Canon Rebel Xti

Camie and the belly, Berkeley Marina, Canon Rebel Xti

Camie and the belly, Berkeley Marina, Canon Rebel Xti

Friends doing great things:
– My gorgeous friend Camie pictured above and her magic belly.
– BORN: My friend Ahri’s hour long radio documentary about the post-partum experience. Ahri interviewed Matt and I so you can hear our voices throughout. It was such an honor to be a part of it. Give a listen to the sample here and download it.
A song by my friend Jeff Pitcher and Christian Kiefer, from their project as described on NPR: Before the election of Barack Obama, a group of musicians recorded and released a collection of 43 original songs, one for each of the U.S. presidencies. Titled Of Great and Mortal Men, the three-CD set ended with George W. Bush. Now, just in time for the inauguration, the creators have completed their 44th song. The incredible drawing of Obama on that page was done by the talented and amazing Rama Hughes.
Brene Brown’s new and improved site. I just grabbed my authenticity badge today!

a sweet face for a sunday morning

Ben’s sweet face, Canon Rebel Xti