Posts Tagged ‘ connection

re-picturing SWIMMING


My big toe skims the surface of the pool and the water feels colder than I expect. Although I instinctually pull my foot back, I force myself into the water to swim. In one swift motion, I plunge into the pool and dip my head under the water. I remind myself to breathe and settle into the front crawl.

As my hand slices the surface of the water, I capture a brief glimpse of the faded “T” that is tattooed on my wrist. I smile (and cough as I breath in a little water) and recall the reactions of my friends to my now almost non-existent henna tattoo. One friend wondered if it stood for Tom Tiegs and my husband plays along saying that he likes to have his women branded. Another wondered whether it was real (real henna-yes, permanent-no) and more to the point “what is that all about.”

My answer is simple. The T stands for Tribe. And thanks to Rebecca Murphy, I, along with 7 other women shared this symbol from our most recent gathering. Yes, the T stands for Tribe, but determining what the Tribe represents is much more complicated.

Anxious from the uncomfortable space of silence, I start rambling on and fumbling over my words. The questions feel pointed, even though they are motivated by friendly interest and curiosity. I try to find the language, but am at a loss.

So, I start with the real, the tangible, the concrete. Facts that I can logically piece together and articulate to others.

What is the Tribe? Well, the people of my Tribe are beautiful, creative, brave, authentic women who were willing to symbolically take the plunge and go to a creativity retreat with a group of women they had never met. I am still so grateful that Celina, Dar, Emily, Elizabeth, Meghan, Melissa, Sophie, and Rebecca said “yes” to that initial gathering of very different, but like-minded spirits. We came as strangers, but left as a Tribe. We are writers, photographers, painters, mosaicists, researchers, videographers, wives, partners, mothers, striving to be more authentic and creative, following our bliss. The Tribe is a scattering of women from across North America, but we congregate in spirit through our blogs and our “secret” Facebook group and in person in a rugged beach house on the Oregon coast. We do everything from the ordinary to the extraordinary. We prepare and eat meals together, we walk and run by the ocean, we dance. We create vision boards, we paint rocks, we voice dreams and fears aloud for the first time. The Tribe is about creativity, it is about connection, it is about drinking wine, it is about authenticity, it is about Mic Jagger.

Although my heart has a deep understanding of the Tribe, it hasn’t yet found the language to speak this truth to my mind (much less give me the words to explain it to others). Perhaps it’s the lack of oxygen that comes from being a novice swimmer or a momentary lapse in my racing thoughts as I fully immerse myself in the flow required to coordinate my limbs into one fluid swimming motion, but my mind is just quiet enough to hear my heart whisper that swimming in the water is a lot like being a member of the Tribe.

Some of us dove. Others waded. Still others got their feet wet, but decided that it was not yet their time to swim. Each woman in the Tribe ultimately plunged into the unknown, trusting the universe, trusting one another, and trusting herself.

Just as the Tribe requires us to share with one another wholeheartedly, swimming requires you to be all in. The legs can’t take a breather, leaving the arms to flail forward. You must be willing to give your whole self (even those parts that we often hide in the dark because they don’t feel so pretty – our insecurities, our anger, our not-quite-fleshed-out ideas, our what-ifs, our pettiness) and accept other people’s whole selves in return.

After having a long-standing running injury, I appreciate how the water supports me unconditionally. It’s not easy. I have to show up each day. And, even when busyness, fear, and feelings of not enoughness make me want to run, I know that the water is waiting for me to come as I am.

The water also offers gentle resistance as I move forward on my path. Likewise, the Tribe supports me, but also calls me on my shit. What do you mean you don’t have time to breath? You can’t prioritize 5 minutes for yourself? Hell, let’s breath now. Doesn’t that feel better? Yet, even with the gentle resistance that comes from moving in the water, I don’t sink.

The Tribe is linked to one another in the same way that the water connects all life in the sea. Although sometimes nothing is said, the Tribe hurts when one of our members feels alone or can’t speak her truth. Like a rising tide, a success of a fellow Tribe sister also raises us all to a higher level.

This year, the Tribe plunged into the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean. As with our first encounter, there were those who were instigators and others who were followers, but when it came down to it, there were 8 women throwing caution (and garments) to the wind as we raced toward the sea.

My big toe hits the surface of the ocean, quickly followed by the rest of my foot, calves, thighs and torso. Somehow, with these beautiful women surrounding me, the water feels warmer than I expected.

picturing BEGINNINGS


be.gin.ner (noun) – a person who is new to or inexperienced in a certain task, situation.

It’s been a long time since I let myself be a beginner at anything. Don’t get me wrong. I love trying new things: traveling to new places, learning new skills, taking on new challenges. Beginnings make me feel energized, hopeful, alive. However, being a beginner — new to or inexperienced at anything — makes me a bit (by which I mean, very) uncomfortable. And this has certainly been the case with both photography and blogging.

I’ve been thinking about starting a photoblog for a while now. Well, wait. Let me start at the beginning. For the past year, I’ve been trying to create balance in my life by intentionally finding time each day to work, play, and rest. One of the ways I created time for play was by enrolling in a 9-week photography class. In the course, we completed a series of technical exercises (e.g., hyperfocal focus, shallow depth of field), in which we shot the equivalent of a roll of film (all of us were using digital SLRs) — 36 photos — each week. We then printed our photos with no corrections and presented our 8 “best” to the class. The photography class was a lot of things — it was a great place to connect with a photography community in Lincoln, it was an excellent resource for learning how to use my new Canon EOS Rebel t2i, and it helped me to begin to figure out what my own unique photo style might be. But, more than anything…it was just plain FUN! I loved taking, printing, and sharing my pictures.

When I asked, what next? My soul whispered…hmm…a photoblog might be kind of fun. I’ve found that if I even take a small step toward creativity — acknowledging a small creative dream, for example — the universe often responds with a little prompting of its own. In this case, my creative sister-in-law, Brady Gervais, writer, runner, and non-profit extraordinaire, mentioned in passing that maybe I should start a Photoblog.  My spirit entertained the possibility for about 2 seconds, but then my beginner’s doubts crept in.

You are not a good enough. No one’s going to want to look at your photographs or read your thoughts about photography, my inner perfectionist said.

You don’t have enough time to start a blog, (especially if you want to get tenure), my inner workaholic chimed in.

Anything you create won’t be original — there are other people in your life who have been doing this a lot longer. There’s no room for another photographer and if you try, you’re going to look like a fool, my impatient social comparison fiend added.

Yet, I wondered, what if. What if I embrace my beginner’s status? What if everything didn’t have to be perfect? What if I committed only small chunks of time each day? What if I could connect with other like-minded people at all stages of their creative journey and we could help each other?

I keep coming back to the fact that taking and sharing my pictures makes me more mindful. When I’m taking pictures, I’m in the moment. I’m not thinking of the dishes that need to be done or the manuscript that needs to be submitted. It gives me perspective. Most of my favorite photos are of ordinary objects that picture an extraordinary meaning to me because of their fresh perspectives. Finally, I’m finding creative communion, by sharing my photography and creativity with fellow creative spirits.

So, where do we go from here? I will be sharing one of my photographs each day and one longer blog post each week. Most of the photos will be new (i.e., taken that day), but I will also revisit some older ones because, as my photographer teachers says, sometimes you need to sit with a photograph for a while as it reveals its many layers. Most importantly, I will be embracing my beginner status. I’m giving myself permission to be a beginner in every regard — I don’t have to have it all figured out yet, I will make mistakes (probably some big ones), I can try new things simply because it sounds like a little fun. I already see curves in the road ahead, but I’m going to focus on each step, each moment, each day and have faith that the path will be presented to me.