Been re-exploring my love for photography this new year and took a photography class with a friend at the Garfield Park Conservatory. I’m also committed to being more creative and investing myself in doing more of what I love.
I enjoy focusing on vibrant colors, textures and unique patterns. I especially love capturing water–moving or still drops–it reminds me that life is fluid and regenerative and growth is everywhere. I appreciated being surrounded by supportive and inspired folks eager to improve their skills and harness their creativity in this medium.
Here are some of my favorite shots:
I’ve come to rely on the sun
The way a child does its mother
So when the clouds move in
And the sun is nowhere to be found
I must trust it will return
And it always does
Flickering before beaming
Filling all shadows with shades of yellow
Citrus rays skip across the sidewalk
As we stroll
One foot after the other
Hand in hand
The light is in us even when we can’t see it.
I reached an afternoon lull at work today and ventured outside to get some fresh air. It was gray out; the clouds a large crumpled blanket below the faded periwinkle in the distance. I welcomed the rain to drench me or the sun to burn me, the roar of the train to rumble through my veins. I wanted to feel anything but the mundane sensation slowly decaying every last bit of creativity in my body. This shouldn’t be how your job makes you feel.
Though I wanted to pop into a bar and get a drink, I opted for a vegan juice from the convenience store and walked over to an empty bench by a nearby fountain. Once settled, I began to write. What came over me was nothing short of fascinating.
The sun broke through the clouds and suddenly there was wind blowing through the branches above me, my hair, across my skin. I closed my eyes and listened to the water splash inside the fountain. A little bird chirped as it hopped around my feet. I was taken back to a time when I was interning in Washington, D.C. In the mornings before I went into the office, I’d get coffee and sit by the large fountain behind the congressional building. It was peaceful; there were beds of flowers and open grass and best of all, it was hidden. People seldom visited the space while I was there, so I could use it to write, reflect, meditate and just be free.
I wondered if this feeling is what mindfulness is–being able to transport your entire being into a peaceful state while simultaneously allowing chaotic emotion to flow through you without moving to stop it or quell it from existing.
Feelings are transient. Sometimes they can feel so overwhelming, but breathing them in and then out, can help lessen their intensity. In reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace is Every Step, I’ve been able to slowly adopt some of his teachings and remind myself to let the feelings flow through me, observe them and breathe them out. One moment at a time.
I’ve been practicing mindfulness today and this idea of being free and grounded keeps circulating in my thoughts. I imagine a bird flying in a bright blue sky with an anchor around its torso, weighing it down as it struggles to soar. Then I realize I’m projecting and really what it means to be both free and grounded is having the ability to fly but landing whenever you need or want to. Having a deep sense of self that allows you to know who are and what you’re capable of. And not letting anyone or anything get in your way.
It’s too easy lately to fall into this irrational state of being where even my imagination has been influenced by the negativity in my life. As I strive to rid this toxic energy from my life, I remember this line from Sylvia Plath:
It’s half past midnight and I keep staring out the window at the bare swaying branches glistening beneath the orange lamp post. I close my eyes and a moment with my daughter earlier in the day replays in my mind. We’re walking in the rain and singing the “rain rain go away” song. Despite the meaning of the song, it’s clear that neither of us want the rain to go away. It’s cold, but soothing and kind of amazing if you really think about it; the way water nourishes the earth, but can cause growth and destruction simultaneously.
She extends her arms out to catch the raindrops in the palms of her hands and tilts her head up to watch them fall. I smile, “You are so brave, little one. You are the ocean in a tiny drop.” Somehow it feels natural to recite poetry to my near 2 year old daughter.We walk inside and she says goodbye to the rain. A testament to her recognition and gratitude in something bringing her joy. I think to myself I will do anything to make sure her spirit is never broken.
When I was younger, I used to watch the rain from the living room window. It would pour down into the street, cars would drive by with their wipers on, people scurried by underneath umbrellas like the rain was something to fear. Water would build up on the side of the road, drops of rain diving into the puddles with lightening in the distance breaking through the clouds. I’d listen to the pitter patter against the awning, feel the thunder rumble inside me and remember that I was still alive.
I’m striving to become more aware of what my body is telling me and making sure to not only notice what’s happening inside me, but also around me. I’m constantly being reminded that I have to trust my gut and follow my heart. What I’m realizing through overdue introspection is that I do neither of those things consistently and if I’m being completely forthright, I rarely do them. This needs to change.
All that to say, there’s something significant about these 3 things that kept recurring in my mind today–I’m not sure how or why yet, but I can feel it. I’m still unpacking what they might mean, but very much welcome these “signs” and the creative energy flowing through me.
- Humming the Sesame Street theme song most of the day. Kinda weird, I know.
- The stories that hands tell and how they show love.
- My favorite poem by Li-young Lee, “Early in the Morning”
When my grandmother passed away several years ago, I salvaged a few dusters from her boxes of belongings. Dusters are basically Filipino “house dresses” or in American terms, muumuus. I wanted to repurpose them, use the beautiful fabrics that use to adorn her silhouette and bring new life to my space. As I was leaving, my uncle says to me with one eyebrow raised, “What are you going to do with them?”
He was the guardian of all things she and my grandfather left behind. The eldest living son of 9 boys, his face softened, “Take care of them.” I was cradling the stack in my arm, the way I would books when I was about to check out at the library and said, “I will.”
I’ve held onto them cautiously, with the intent of being mindful of how altering their original form may diminish their value, somehow strip away her memory. What I realized today is that not doing anything with them at all has hindered me from accomplishing the very thing I set out to do.
To repurpose is to “adapt for use in a different purpose” and when I looked it at that way, it felt wrong, not meaningful enough. My intention all along wasn’t actually to repurpose, but to revive the pieces, to “restore to life or consciousness.” In doing so, I imagine her spirit transcending the limits of my memory, her strength and power continuing to inspire. And that brings me joy. That makes me feel whole.
Last night, the sun was so vast and breathtaking as I was driving, I had to stop, get out and try to get some shots of it melting into the lake.
A flock of geese started to “honk” (just learned that sound they make is called that–I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t just google that) when I approached. So I didn’t get the shot I wanted because I wasn’t sure if they were going to attack me, but I did learn that geese “honk.” I am also reminded that capturing these beautiful moments and appreciating them for what they are, gives me so much life and allows one of my favorite poems to flow through me:
The first book I ever purchased was “Poems” by Maya Angelou. I brought $10 to school that day because I had been looking forward to the book fair for weeks–I must have been in 5th grade. I circled the aisles and something drew me to this book with the teal cover and photo of a woman of color that resembled my grandmother. She looked sassy with her short volumized hair and red lipstick, gold jewelry. Her smile was gentle, but fierce.
I picked it up and flipped through the pages, reading a couple of the poems–I was captivated. I wanted to be as strong as she was; I wanted to grow up to be phenomenal and always rise. This poem reminds me that, even at a young age, we can trust what our bodies are telling us and connect what’s in our heart to our mind. That despite the distractions and darkness that blur our focus, we are always capable of rising. Again and again.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.