Sunday, March 19, 2017

Walking in Provence with Lulu


I said yes, finally.

Yes, to watching a home in the beautiful Alpilles for ten days, yes to keeping Lulu company. And it wasn't in a strange environment but in the bergerie at the Mas de la Fourbine, where I had gone to help with the olive harvest during days when I was feeling quite sad indeed.

But I had hesitated. As I still don't have a car (even if I do now know how to drive), I would be there and only there for the duration. "What if...?" Oh, there were so many versions of that question, those two words that do far more harm than good. After reassurances on all sides that I had nothing, in reality to worry about. I packed my bags so thoroughly as to include the desktop that I am typing on, was parachuted in and the workings of the house were explained over a long evening with the family's littlest trampolining on my lap...until the next day when they drove off (me, waving), then, silence.

And I mean the hear your heartbeat kind.

I had already decided that this time was a gift (as usual, I seriously underestimated the weight of it) and that I could bury my stories under a blanket and use it as a retreat. So it was. Within a day, I had settled into my own schedule to give the hours shape. Rise, tea, first meditation...walk with Lulu...

The property is full enclosed, doubly secured with even an electric fence to keep out the wild boars that are a nuisance and a menace. So Lulu could run free by my side as I would stamp the perimeter, regardless of the weather. I came in winter, whipped by the Mistral and wrapped tight in many layers and left breathing spring, lunching outside with the first dots of color lighting my cheeks. But for those walks? I took my camera. I hadn't been photographing much of anything for weeks, something my friend J noted was "not a good sign."

So I would loop the camera strap over my shoulder and walk, thinking of Thich Nhat Hanh's gentle suggestions to be aware of the breath and the footfall combing. By the time that I had reached the first farthest corner, of which there would be three, my endlessly chattering mind (yes, even when I am alone, especially so) would quiet so that I would start to notice the littlest of things as if they somehow had an electric glow around them. 

At first I only found them beautiful, but eventually something stirred in my heart to lift my camera to my eye and squinting, then readjusting the settings (despite having had a good teacher, I am still a guesser in manual mode) to settle into a click. I would forget myself, forget my body; sitting in the grass to get closer until Lulu would run into the frame to kiss the side of my head. "Oh, Lulu..." She was always were I didn't want her to be but how could I mind?

Are the details I would notice important? Only to me, I believe. But that is how we live our lives, isn't it? Jumping from one seeming solid stone to the next across a river too deep. And yet it is there, who and what we love. Step by step, around the domaine until I was no longer exactly who I just had been but some other creature looking back with gratitude and tinges of relief.

I was waking up, that inner spring. And while I am still very much finding my way, from those mornings accumulated while walking with Lulu, I am trying to remember loudly the happy risk set into motion from simply saying yes.

"Yes, I see, thank you. Yes, I am...Yes."

































PS. Since that time in the Alpilles, I have been living out of my suitcase quite a bit and am not always able to get back to my computer. That is definitely going to be the case for the next few weeks, at least. So I hope that you will understand if I am not as active on the blog as I would like to be, nor as responsive. I am in the midst of continuing to fight to find my place here, as I suggested above. But I am still in Provence and am so appreciative of you all that words cannot express it. I do have something rather exciting coming up, so if you are not already following along on instagram, you might enjoy seeing where I am going on @lostinarles.

Thank you for reading and for all of your kindness,
Heather




Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Photography Lost and Found, a celebration



Yes, I am absolutely celebrating tonight.

The candles are lit, the jazz is loud. Bring out the Baccarat coupes and oh, to hell with it, just shake up the champagne and shower it over my poor grinning face, I don't care.

For I am so deeply happy. I have been given quite the gift.

But. I have something to admit. While I am a stickler for honesty, I haven't been so with you. Not about one certain but very important (to me) subject.

For some time, there are those amongst you who have been kindly making suggestions (or occasionally, demands) that I do a book or sell art prints, to which I always demured or agreed, but vaguely.

Now, hold on, no editor has approached me yet, that is not the news. You see, I know how your mind works because we are so in sync after all these years...

More than six, to be precise.

And for these past twelve months...for a reason that is lengthy and deeply personal to explain...I thought that all of the photography from the first five of those years, the full files, were gone. Lost. Just gone. 

During that time I was publishing three times per week with anywhere between 20 to 50 saved images for each post. This times 260 weeks. Even at a conservative estimate, that is over 5000 photos. Without high resolution versions, there could never be a book nor could I sell prints. I would really like to do both, once my life is more in order.

Now I can.

Because, in such a wonderfully mysterious fashion, those files were found today. Very much hidden in an unlikely source, stacked away under miscommunication amidst the deep confusion of my leaving Provence. Of course, now I am here again, and miraculously, so is the photography.

So not all is Lost forever. 

For me, that is quite something and a source of Hope so tangible that I could stretch to kiss the night stars shining. And do you know what? I just might.












 These are a few of a series of photos that I have saved for quite some time; put aside, squirrel-like, for the eventual day that I might do a book. At least some of them. But oh, how I have come to learn to not wait for life to give you the green light. They were taken at a friche industriel, or abandoned industrial site in the hills above L'Isle de la Sorgue. I think that they pretty much sum up what I am aiming for at Lost in Arles, in a very general way, to express my love for this time-worn and tested region...


I know that quite a few of you in the past have been interested in participating in Together Rising's incredibly positive and inspiring fund-raising efforts, in which all proceeds go to directly help individuals in dire need. In light of the most recent anti-Muslim travel ban, today's is especially poignant. Tonight I will be celebrating by giving. It may be little (donations are a maximum of $25), but it will be a tangible echo to the gratitude that I deeply feel.  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

My promise to Spring



Maybe it is due to the pending solar eclipse, but I have been trying to take a look at some of the shadowy trails in myself - those wisps or lightning stikes that tend to block out the sun of my own light, my true self.

I wrote, in what seems like really another lifetime ago, that fear was running the show and that it was something that I wanted to work on. Save that it most certainly is the same lifetime, because I am still dealing with that exact issue. Granted, life has provided me (and us all) with some fresh material.

But amazingly, importantly, I might be getting to the heart of it (and I chose that word carefully): fear is expressed or conceived in direct relation to my lack of trust - in myself and, sadly, in the universe (or The Powers that Be if you prefer). If I am looking in the mirror and that is the reflection that I see? Well, it is tempting to look away, I can tell you that much. But how can I trust myself if I can't accept myself first? I get that. So I am digging down in my bones to summon the bravery and courage to lean in, even though I still am looking so dearly for something to hold onto, a structure that seems solid enough to carry my weight. It has to come from within.

I remember being on the plane on my way to the States very nearly one year ago. For some reason, I had a really clear idea that I should get the word "trust" tattooed in the whiteness of my inside wrist. The same blue-grey as my eyes in a sloping but formal cursive. So now, after so much, I have circled back to that very word and it is written, actually, only on the inside, and it is asking for attention. Shine a light, shine an eclipse.

Can I "imagine that life is always right," as Rilke asks? I have a blissfully good imagination, it is my main source of company at times. That too is in the footfalls of a leap towards trust. Off a cliff of the known into other, certainly, but there is great beauty in it.

And if there is anything where I can unhesitatingly invest my trust, it is in beauty. In Natural Beauty, specifically, that of the universe's gold dust. So I do.

It is where I will start, or start again (for the hundredth time), while coaxing that voice within me to believe that it is reliable and that I am too. I can grieve whatever experiences of abandonment happened either in childhood or, say, last month, and then move on. It will get there and I am listening. In the meantime, I can make a promise to Spring.

"Dear Spring, I give you my firm intention, to be open and present, to do my best 'à me liberer' from outdated beliefs. I will let your beauty guide me to renewal, with trust that all that I am experiencing is or will be for my best. I am so grateful to still be here and turned towards facing. Together, I hope that we can breathe anew. Thank you."

Trust could become the True North on my inner compass. Growth can spring from even blackened branches.

The words Self-Care and Potential are popping up quite a bit for me right now. Like popcorn. The latter makes me squirm uncomfortably and always has. It sounds like a threat but what if it isn't and is more of a promise instead? It feels possible, certainly when linked to another "P" word that has been swirling like a hawk: Purpose.


What do these words mean to you? And what promises are you hoping to make to Spring? No need to share (but by all means do if so inclined or email them along). It just might be interesting to ask, with the utmost of kindness, or maybe I am just hoping you will be by my side while I do. I know that I can trust in that too.


PS. I have a feeling that this is one of those posts that will come off as sad when it was meant to be anything but. There is so much positive that is buzzing in me, like the bees around the almond tree blossoms, announcing a new season.

PPS.  Thank you for stunning me yet again with your overwhelmingly kind responses to my previous post. You give me the courage to publish posts where I feel vulnerable to do so, such as this one!
 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Allow me this




I know
you'll say
with a pat of
a reassuring hand
"It will come again,
It will.
There will be another."
And while
you mean well
and I even believe you
this morning
my skin
is longing
to be touched
and lightly,
my lips
to be brushed
with a kiss, sweet
and my eyes
to be held
in a gaze beyond
fondness, stirring
shared.
Allow me this.
For I am open
but missing,
not "him"
more than 
another 
for 
a deep breath
of love's burning
smoke.






If you would like to hear me reading this poem, you can do so by clicking here.





Saturday, February 11, 2017

Beyond ghosts and a wishing past



"We have a surprise for you."

My friends know me so well and they were brimming with excitement. They lead me through a forest path, uneven. I held onto a gentleman's arm for stability as slick leaves slipped out from under my feet until we leveled out into a clearing. And there, pilled up bricks and stones took the form of an abandoned church. My jaw dropped.

"But the best part is that we can go in."

The front doors were only held shut with a wire which the gentleman soon unwound.

We stepped in and the grey of the afternoon was blotted out with a burst of warm pastels. Layers and layers of paint and patina, layers of so many histories. What had been and what was, with a fairly breathy bubble in between. I quickly set my light and raised my camera but my heart was beating so as to shake my hands, awkwardly. But joyfully.

For did it make me a bit sad that so much graffiti covered the walls, the floors? It did but they are stories too of people that who had felt so filled with life in this particular lieu that they had to mark it down. "I was here." "...slept here...it was very cold." The unmistakable initials of another Romeo and Juliet, so in love, just at that precise moment. I could feel their presence, still, as well as those who had been married in this space or had baptized their children. Such a panoply.  

Since a while now, I have been especially aware that time is really not as linear or neat as we would like, to shrink it to what is palatable, but rather round and expanding. Nearly breathing, if you are willing to follow me without eye-rolling for such an oddly-named scenario. I was breathing with it, in many directions at once.

We stayed our welcome.

It seemed to take us a bit of time, blinking, to readjust to the forest once we had closed up the church. So much brilliant green, things growing. From across a ravine, I could hear the clank of bells and soon the goats strolled into view, herded by a man who seemed remarkably out of time himself. We watched with something nearing disbelief as he coaxed his crew over a small bridge until the little horned creatures were just there, one nibbling on my camera strap. He was friendly and we exchanged what we could amidst Italian and his local dialect. 

Something about that moment was so perfect and direct that it made me forget all of the ghosts just behind the walls. His smile perhaps. That this is his life, that he is good in it, in his skin. With a final call of "Ciao" and a wave he was up over the hill. The bells and bleats echoed on for a minute or two and then silence, present tense.
















How is everyone? 
Thank you for being here. 
Sending much Love and Strength, as always,
Heather