Lift off is complete surrender. I am the cue ball facing the next triangle. Ascension, cloud drift, buoyant thoughts, one day, another day. It’s all starting to blur. To travel is to become unhinged from all that is familiar, to trust in a process, to relax confined. I keep my elbows in, toes tucked into the front pocket, in the dreaded middle seat, having given up my coveted window seat to an elderly couple lamenting their impending separation. Transfixed by arm wrinkles and sunspots in the space between the seats. I touch my arm in the same spot. I too will be old one day… I might still crave this feeling, this detachment, this trust. I know surely that photography will be part of my life, all else is questionable.
In the shower this morning I closed my eyes into a calm, scanning for happiness as scalding water fell on my shoulders. Yes, I am still happy. “So continue” I said out loud… to my feet, to my spirit, both of which threaten daily to stay home to recover… but I am happy. I am affecting people. I am living my purpose. So I continue.
Leaving Brady & my puppy never gets easier. This morning at dawn in a misty rain, Pinball woke up with me and followed me to the studio, nose down, eyes wide, staring unblinking at the suitcases and then back at me. Heart flailing as I collapse my softboxes, tying up electrical cords elbow to wrist. “Mommy’s gotta rock love” I try to tell her that it’s because her food’s so expensive that I need to work this hard. She doesn’t care.
Morning brought curiosity and I found myself sitting by the lake staring at a sunken dock. Easy to imagine a brutal winter and how summer transforms. This was the in-between, the dormant awakening. I could feel it in everything I saw, every puddle in the garden, every buzzing thing. Holly made cappuccinos expertly complete with whirling contraptions. She sprinkled sugar over my strawberries like a doting mother. I almost protested but wanted to enjoy everything ‘Holly’ that Holly did. She took me to the old Quaker meeting house that her mother lives in, the house she spent many years in. Original stained glass, original doors. She brought me to her favorite carousel in Heritage Gardens. We rode it all by ourselves, no one was there, a precious memory. Self-timer snappies of silliness in the grass before continuing the journey thru her past. Old cemeteries, Edward Gorey house, a secret trail behind a playhouse and a mad giggling dash to the car when the sky opened up, hiding my camera under my shirt.
From Cape Cod we journeyed to her friend Steve’s house in Quincy, who agreed to host my photo shoots. A backyard of overgrown grass, violets and wildflowers. Hoopers, dancers and families traveled near and far to make art with me. I took a few of them to this magickal hidden space up the hill from the studio, a Pagan ritual ground, perfect energy for my goddesses, for my gypsy loves craving the wild to juxtapose the clinical vibe of studio. In each case, we parked the car, had to pass by a veteran meeting hall. Old men in a room of windows, coming outside to scratch their heads at the parade of sexy, colorful dancers that I hurried into the forest. “We’re invisible now” I’d say breathless when we crossed the threshold… and so began the majestic experiences that happened there.
No two shoots there were the same. The turbulent sky seemed to be listening to me. I stared at the sky, willed the rain to stop and poof it would stop just long enough for an Irish singer in a sultry red dress to pose, or an introspective girl to stand radiantly melancholy. Churning dark clouds like battering rams held back their rain, but sent thunder & lightning as a message that they were not happy about it. The landscape looked like moors in England. There was no explanation for the perfect light other than it was a gift of weather, chance encounters that sent giddy fireworks bolts thru me as I pressed the shutter.
The tide would wax then wane suddenly, uncovering rocks where once there were just alien green knobby plant life that looked soft, but weren’t. One dancer perched perilously on a rock in the water and had to splash into it to get out in time as the water rose.
One night, Steve, Holly & I drank champagne and rented a movie that we never watched. In the morning I walked the dogs, a habit from home. At night I took Steve out to dinner. One night I shot a hooper in the backyard playing with fire and LED hoops. I thought we were alone but apparently many of the neighbors were against the fences watching, binoculars, camera phones, the whole bit.
Dancers laid in fields of violet, dogs on papasan chairs, witchy noir shots backlit like Fellini films. They brought white fabric and masks. One look at that, one look at my black backdrop and I saw instantly the photos in my head, posing them feverishly, unable to speak, just gesturing and giggling.
The end of a long day of shoots sometimes means I lose my words. I become the light, become the moment I wanted to create, all based on energy. It’s all energy… and magick truly. Creating something from nothing is an inane right, there for the taking. Once tapped into, once listening, grows stronger, overrides primal doubt, too easy to let a moment slip. Sometimes silence and gesturing is all I can muster, encouraging the moment to stay with me, to become real. Talking sometimes scares it away. I’ve learned a reverence lately for these ideas and visual blips that appear in my mind when I shoot. I don’t think. I don’t plan. It just happens. All I do is listen and go on a scavenger hunt to uncover the moment, much like scraping off a lottery ticket. That’s all photo shoots are really… working together to uncover the moment.
Eli showed up one morning to drive me to NYC. Her 7-year-old nephew called Sharkboy was in the backseat obsessed with spiders, the World Trade Center and puking sounds. Eli had great taste in music and sweet energy. After 4 hours of driving, we took a wrong turn & ended up at Ground Zero, much to Sharkboy’s delight. They drove me to my studio space in Brooklyn Army Terminal to drop off my gear and then to Central Park 5 minutes before my first shoot at Bethesda Terrace.
At dusk I walked thru the park to the west side to meet my sisters and cousins for dinner. So sweet of my cousins to call a family gathering while I was in town. Hugs, vegan food and updates. I just love seeing their faces, a solid feeling of family amidst all the touring. A cab took me back to my sister Diana’s apartment in Astoria, stretching out on her floor feeling a mess, enjoying lying still . She sat with me on the floor and handed me a painted envelope… and inside it, the most heartfelt words of sister love, smiling big as I read it. At the end she asked me to be her Maid of Honor at her wedding. I attacked her screaming on the floor, collapsing into her lap. Tears and hugs and way too much excitement…
And days and days of shoots, some studio, most renegade. My favorite being Ali Luminescent. She arrived like a vision in a headdress with circus baubles. I mentioned fake eyelashes and she wore so many feathers on her eyes that I just stuttered staccato with inspiration. She embodied what she created. How she adorned herself, she became art, a gift for any photographer. Less conjuring, less banishing, more playing, more adjectives as mantras. A simple walk together to the subway yielded one of the most memorable shots. A cage that we both stumbled upon, said ‘hmmmm’ a lot and proceeded to attack it with our shared vision. “The sky’s falling!!” “Rattle primal in your cage!!” as confused passersby were just trying to get where they were going, disgruntled most of them. Bah.
One full day visiting my childhood friends in New Jersey. Sarah grew up across the street from me in Howell, NJ. We met when she was 3 years old now she has 3 kids of her own. We took walks, we sat in the grass behind her house in Spring Lake, talked about our memories and our lives now. I love her like my sisters and wish we lived closer.
We had a sleepover but this time, didn’t have to ask her parents. My father came to her house and we went out to dinner. So grounding to see him, if only for an hour.
The next morning, Bob picked me up very early…. We connect and reconnect throughout this life since we were 15 years old, reminding us that time is elusive. We sat on the damp sand at Manasquan Inlet with early morning rays sprawled out on a turbulent sea. I drew spirals as we talked about our history, laughing thru most of it. He spoke of alternate realities, entertaining thoughts of what if we had a family. “Our kid would’ve been 21 years old now! We could be grandparents right now!” “Nooooo!” I saw his father. He looks just like him, expressive eyebrows, the way he stares off when he speaks. Strange to realized I’m still healing from this breakup decades ago. “My divorce didn’t hurt as bad as the last time we broke up” I told him in astonishment, not intending to hurt his feelings but seeing glimmers of a similar history of hurt in his eyes when speaking of our past. Neither of us were evil. We were just young and scared. Sitting in the sand I compared our intensity to a ball of fire that we had no choice by to put down and run away from lest it explode or burn. Who knew the embers would remain revealing seeds of a friendship that would grow and discover so much about ourselves thru our shared history. We have so many of the same important memories and lessons etched permanently. Each time we connect, every 2 to 5 years, the sharpness of these memories dull a bit. Talking freely about it takes the edge off of it. “Good to be older” we both nod in agreement as we drive on thru the twisting back roads of our old stomping grounds, eventually spiraling off, back into our present lives….
He drove me to Danny’s house in Madison. Danny stood in his driveway with his infant son. We had a picnic with his wife and caught up. I love seeing these families grow. I live vicariously thru them…. We came from the same place and yet live so differently, still a great love and friendship with all of them, lessons learned throughout the years and a proud comfort in just knowing them.
More NYC shoots and then Kelebek drove me to Washington DC. I had a sense of foreboding as we arrived into DC. A mother of a dancer, an artist herself, who owns a bed & breakfast. The dancer was traveling abroad, difficult energy to make art in. She disliked me as soon as we met. I don’t know why. A client brought out a snake during a shoot and I got asked to leave. “…but I have no where to go…” I panicked. “Go on. Move along.” One of the meanest women I’ve ever met. Thankfully Lou & Bronwen came to the rescue. I had to cancel some shoots and was depressed for days. Grateful to spend time with them though, to play with sweet baby Nixy, who I captured as she came into this world.
In the morning, Lou cut up her blueberries. We played with blocks, took photos outside between rainstorms. We spent a whole day at the Maryland Faerie Festival where, despite the wretched humidity, had a fun time. In other noteworthy DC news, I finally did laundry and slept on a comfortable bed.
Then I flew to San Francisco, where my friend Foxy McShugah (love that name!) drove me 2 hours north, deep into wine country. Twisting gorgeous roads deposited us at my friend, JD’s Spanish mansion. Decadence, a sanctuary. It was just me and a private chef named Ricardo. Bear, the mutt with the oversized head, pissed on my backdrop, ended up churning in the laundry while I had one hour to relax before shoots. Cobwebs on lanterns, frogs echoed in courtyards at dusk, palm fronds scraped hauntingly. I made an insane amount of art there. From the medieval wine cellar to the stone fountain. Goddesses posed on griffins, a mother bare-chested nourishing her toddler in the shade, orange-washed walls, black chandeliers, avante guarde postures, clothing designers and hired models. 5 days of shoots there. Dancers came over from Tribal Fest to play with me. I enticed them with photos of the ‘sexiest house I’ve ever shot in’ and the wonder in each of their faces when they arrived tickled me.
The tour resumed…. off to Atlanta. Flight delays caused by thunderstorms meant I arrived at 2am, along with the rest of the delayed weary travelers, snaking lines for baggage, for cabs. When finally I scored a cab, it took an hour to get to the resort in Peachtree City for an event that I was hired to shoot. The driver didn’t speak a word to me, hardly used his wipers in the pouring rain and generally just scared me a lot. As much as I tried not to wake my roommate, Steph, a sweet 22 year old Bollywood dancer, she was up and witness to me throwing a fit from the long travel day. Peeling off my soaked clothing and throwing things on the bed like a delirious brat. “Sorry, just had a hard day.” Sheepish smile and I liked her instantly.
We settled in for a few hours of sleep and I took my time setting up my studio the next day. The weekend brought new friends, new styles of dance. Mostly classic Egyptian style belly dance. And there was Tito from Cairo. Holy smokes, he is one hot tamale, got all the girls crazy, dancing on tables and doing all these tricks. I was enamored with many new people I met, All in all, just grateful for the new experience. When I wasn’t shooting, I meditated in the forest & walked around getting lost.
Peachtree City is known as the golf cart capital of the country. Golf carts zipped around everywhere. They even have separate roads for golf carts. One morning I went in search of a Georgia peach, found one at a farmer’s market and ate it triumphantly, juice all down my short, didn’t care. I was in ecstasy, best peach I ever had. Finally found a bank to deposit my checks. Started fantasizing about all the months I can now coast at home on the amount of work I’ve done. Thinking I’d gotten away with not getting sick… that was until I arrived into Austin a few days later.
In Austin I stayed with my friend, Pixie Sunshine and her family. We call each other ‘the other pixie’, although it felt wrong to call her that in her own house, so I became ‘other pixie’ respectfully. Mornings were spent throwing a stuffed octopus over and over in the kitchen for their 6 month old Boston Terrier puppy named Violet to chase and retrieve. She never tired of it, all the while PF trying to make breakfast for their 5 year old Wayne.
I had one delicious day off in Austin before the avalanche hit. I went to yoga, had a 90-minute massage, ate healthy food… then the next day began 5 days of sold out shoots, 11 hours a day of non-stop shoots. Day 2 I got the flu. Day 5 I lost my voice. I used up every ounce of energy I had in me to treat each shoot with all it deserved. Some of these clients booked me 6 months in advance. Some spent $ on hair/make up. I was not going to let them down. If it weren’t for my assistant, Rebecca I probably would’ve had to cancel. She left her kids and family to travel for hours, to dedicate days to helping me, what a rockstar. And that she says that the experience changed her ‘as a woman and as a photographer’ makes me so happy.
Dancers from all over the country, pregnant women, babies, a family shoot outside in Mayfield Park with screeching peacocks. The finale at 11pm that last day, an angel of a girl, topless, backlit, fan, wild hair, risky lighting… brought us to tears… and then it was over. I unplugged. I let the sickness take over. I cried most of the night. It hurt to whisper. I almost went to the hospital, so much pain. I felt like the very last flicker of a dying light bulb.
The plane home was excruciating. Banging my head desperately on the window, out of options to relieve the sinus pressure. Brady met me at the airport with a thermos of TheraFlu. I was home. It was over. He tucked me in. “What happened to you?” “I rocked…” I whispered and proceeded to pass out for 14 straight hours, in my own bed, with my own puppy, A week of home, the illness ebbing and flowing, breathing issues, doctors and prescriptions…
On my way today to Tampa, 80% back to self… I continue.