River walking hand in hand with little Nixy. Her small hand wrapped tightly around my pointer finger. We built sandcastles on a sandy embankment. I scooped the earth. She filled up a boot with water, depositing it into the moat I made to protect her castle. Frustration as the water soaks back into the soil. ‘Nothing in nature stays… ’ I whispered to her. Just then Fionna appears, blonde ringlet hair, cherub face, and then Savannah bounces over. I find myself thigh deep in naked toddlers. We all begin to build a village of castles, complete with alligators for the moats, flags & circles of rocks. Savannah tugs on my hand and says we should decorate our castles with gold, tells me to press the mud between my hands to find it. I think it’s a game until I actually do it and notice the glitter flecks in the soil, squealing in wonder “Wow, it IS gold!” and so we adorned our castles in gold… until Nixy got boot crazy with the moats and drowned out the village.
Fionna & her mother wandered back to the circus tent, thinking it best to continue helping set up for the wedding. I steered the children back. Savannah sweetly protested, asking me to walk further down the river with her. All my adult excuses rear up. “I’ll get my pants wet.” She smiles, chin up, waiting. “There are bugs & besides the river is high today and….” “It’s…just waterrrr” she sings, “You know you want tooooo…” and she was right. and so we walked on in the river some more… eventually emerging filthy and content, as if from a secret world.
The next day’s groom, Nixy’s father Lou reminded me that I’m not a babysitter. But I truly want to know Nixy. I want to share and grow with this family, drawn to them years ago. There’s just something that happens when you witness someone enter this world. I want to capture her growing up, even if on a yearly visit, perhaps eventually shoot her wedding as well. I experience family life vicariously thru this family and others throughout my travels. Bronwen, the bride, was a belly dance client years ago, then a friend sharing intimate stories of life’s changes. Then one day when I was in Washington DC with a day off she asked me to come to the hospital and I witnessed their souls multiply into a Nixy.
Their wedding day was a beautiful community event. Friends & family converged on the family farm in Rocky Mount, VA. Pigs were slaughtered & roasted in the smoker. Everyone brought food & drink, decorations for the blessing tree, antique keys, poems, the ashes of her father. I was adamant about time alone, just the 3 of us to capture their love without distraction. Magick moments I had in my head for months already, a scavenger hunt for perfect light to bring them to this reality. Barns, chicken coops, aged wood.
The familiar focused frenzy took flight inside me & I spent the remainder of the event hovering slightly above my body, unable to hold a conversation. My eyes felt neon & voracious. I was a fishing net thrown wide to reel in the salamanders of memory. I was existing in their love… The posed portraits ended, the ceremony began. The audience on hay bales. The blessing tree radiant in the golden light of sunset. Nixy walked down the aisle, straight to a hidden part of the tree and unexpectedly released her grandfather’s ashes. Many tears flowed…
Dusk descended and I found myself spinning in a field with my sister-in-law, Crys who drove 8 hours to spend time together. So great to see her, sister energy and sharing. She helped harness the light during portraits using my reflector.
Nighttime came and a parade of fire performers ignited the field, spinning their love for their troupe leaders. Mohawked men in corsets, top hats, feathers, everclear on tap, the evening took on a Burning Man element. Raucous celebration, tents, flasks, shifting temperatures, fire, candles, bass vibrating the ground, a world into itself.
Midnight neared and I felt myself fading. Crys handed me a water bottle in the hotel room and I sucked it down without stopping, throwing it across the room laughing. I laid there vibrating, unable to sleep until all the photos were safely uploaded. Crys tucked me in… We had breakfast the following day & she hit the road.
Once alone, the faerie mallet descended from the clouds and spanked me hard, one swift stroke & I realized that I was in pain and depleted. I lay on the floor for 9 hours, my back an unhappy child, my voice hoarse, my spirit recovering. I was useless.
Today I went back to the farm to soak up more time together. A skeleton crew of friends remained. Where yesterday was summertime with humidity & sweat, today was instant autumn with jackets & cool air. The mismatched Victorian dishes laid out, hugs and plans to see each other soon.
“Each time I see you, you feel more and more like family…” Bronwen said at the airport… My heart flickered vibrant fireflies around her eyes & we separate once more. Her to her family… & me to unearth the pearls captured in my magic box.