“Are you Yuliya? The photographer?”, someone asked behind me as I was strolling my local farmer’s market in search for the perfect raspberries. I turned to locate the source of the voice. I was met with a young woman with long, curly hair who was surrounded by flowers in her market stand. She was smiling.
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.”
― Brené Brown
As much as I love living in the Pacific Northwest the seemingly never-ending days of rain can definitely alter my state to that of near insanity. Last week, as I looked at the forecast, more rain was predicted at which point it would have meant it would have been raining for ten days without a stop. Wanting desperately to go outside and play with my camera was out of the question – the rain kept coming down in merciless, hard sheets of water. So I continued to stew in my cabin fever, distracting myself by writing, drinking tea and reading Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by the amazing Neil deGrasse Tyson. Until…
I looked around the beautiful garden that was so clearly loved and tended to for many years and noticed a striking shaft of light paving its way across the grass. Grabbing an old, slightly rusty metal chair I put it directly in the path of light and asked Melanie to sit down. Her brown curls were instantly illuminated by the warm, orange rays. The sun wrapped around her like a blanket, warm and golden. Looking at her backlit, glowing, luminous, I asked her to look at her house and think about her beloved husband and the amazing life they had together. To relish in their glorious love, in their memories, despite the fact that the house was soon to be torn down and that the love of her life suddenly passed away ten months ago. She paused, closed her eyes and cried for a few moments. My heart reached out to Melanie and I was just there, present, supportive with my spirit as much as my silence. She wiped her eyes, lifted her chin high and looked at the house again. That’s when I clicked the shutter.
Most of us have heard the story of Ophelia. Some may have read the required Hamlet in high school, some may have stumbled upon it later in life on their own accord. I was one of the latter people, having read only excerpts from Hamlet in grade ten. I did not understand much of it back then, its language being dark and confusing, like a never-ending maze. While the confusion by no means dissipated with my aging, I now have more patience to read and reread paragraphs to sink in their meaning. It was while I was reading the paragraph below that I started imagining Ophelia and her story.
One day back in 2010 Sarah Hartsig was sketching. She was going through a difficult time in her life and her inner world was a complicated tangle of light and dark, of confusion and need for clarity.
She was feeling sad and the movement of the pencil in her hand was calming her mind. Her hand kept drawing and an outline of a figure began to emerge. Just a short while later, a sweet little mouse named Pepper came to life before her.
‘Who was this little friend?’ Sarah thought. ‘Where did it come from? That was the moment. The first spark of light in my lantern that would guide me.’
While out shopping with a friend at a local thrift store, I stumbled upon a dress. Now, this is not a story of me falling in love with it at first sight or realizing it’s the one thing my life has been missing. This is a story of hidden potential.
“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
― Kobayashi Issa
It was quiet, save for a hint of tiny raindrops brushing down onto the delicate cherry blossom petals as they fell to the earth. At seven am in the Quad of the University of Washington there was no one but photographers around. I counted four of us total. Who else would get up at an ungodly hour only to record the short life of these blossoms on a digital sensor in our cameras?
Today is a rather dreary day in Seattle – dark skies, an almost constant downpour of chilly droplets from the sky and the ever-present color gray. I suppose this is how Seattle got its reputation. But days like today don’t tempt me into depressing gloom. Days like today are my most productive days.
I was raised by a single mother, and my household was home to several more women from the immediate and extended family. There were no men. Every one of us, in our own way, were the bring-home-the-bacon gals. My definition of a woman was formed based on my hardworking mother: a strong, proud and self-sustaining woman ready to conquer the world.