And So We Grow

Mt. Hood National Forest, October 2017

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Lately, I've been thinking a lot about how we change and grow through the seasons and how we become who we are. Of course, who we are is constantly changing; who I am today is not who I'll be tomorrow. I believe there are parts of us that simply are, without reason or explanation. But then there are the more malleable bits of us that evolve as we experience the world. Such notions have left me wondering what kind of woman I want to be.

I woke up this past Monday morning determined to take myself out of the city. The days that came before it were strange and emotional and made me wonder what the hell I've been doing these past few weeks. It's as if I've been crawling through the dark searching for something unidentifiable. So, I got in my car and I drove east toward Mt. Hood. I had no plans. I was alone on an open road and it was exactly what I needed to make sense of things.

After driving around and exploring the Mt. Hood area for a few hours, I decided to wander up to Lost Lake and hike up the Lost Lake Butte trail for as long as my bum knee would let me. (I didn't make it very far before needing to turn around and prevent further injury.) I tend to answer life's tough questions when I'm alone in the woods and this trip was no different. I pondered who I was when I left the east coast and who I've become since moving west and somewhere along the way, it became painfully clear that I know exactly who I want to become. And now there is nothing left to do but become her.

When I was growing up, my mom and I used to spend lazy afternoons sifting through boxes and boxes of old photos from her adventures in during her twenties. I was always inspired by her adventurous spirit and dreamed of living a life like hers. While lost among the trees, I realized that I might have a daughter someday and when she and I sift through my old photos together, I want her to be inspired by me in the way I was inspired by my mom. 

I want my daughter to be raised by a woman who wasn't afraid to follow her dreams and explore the world on her own. I want her to see her mom as someone strong and resilient and brave. I want her to see a woman who isn't afraid to live fully and freely. Someone who keeps her heart open to love and adventure and uncertainty, no matter how much pain she experiences. I'd like to think that I'm on my way to becoming that person, but I know that I still have a long way to go.

 
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Where Do I Go From Here?

 

It's no secret that we live in a strange, digital world where real world rules don't apply. We use Instagram to turn our lives and ourselves into a brand. We post public Snapchat stories with the hope that one particular person might see them. We filter our lives on Facebook so that the world can see the best possible versions of ourselves. Over time, this phenomenon has created a sort of toxic vortex of fake happiness that is exhausting and impossible to live up to. For this reason, I've always tried to be as honest and as vulnerable with you as I possibly can. Today will be no different. This one is for those of you who check in on me regularly. I see you and I appreciate you and I want you to know that I'm struggling. (Don't worry, Mom. I'm okay.)

I started Without Roots back in 2016 when I was living in my hometown and looking for a project to occupy my idle mind. I'd moved back to that town after living just outside of New York City and I was extremely disappointed in the fact that I hadn't done anything particularly exciting with my life since getting my degree. I was existing in a town that I didn't particularly want to be in, and I needed something to do. This blog was a thing to do. I didn't think that I'd fall in love with photography and storytelling in the way that I did. This was what made the remainder of my time at home worth living. This was what made me want to do more than simply get by. But then, I moved to Portland and suddenly, everything was different. 

I'm feeling especially restless these days. All I do is work and sleep and work and sleep and it was fine when I was at home and waiting for the Next Big Thing. Portland was that thing. And now I'm here and I feel like I need to take my life in a new direction. However, between working and sleeping and trying to be present in the world, I am constantly exhausted. I have stretched myself so thin that I don't even have time to think about what I want to do with my life, let alone this blog. So that begs the question, where do I go from here? 

I am very, very attached to Without Roots. There is so much of me here. There are so many stories and thoughts and photographs that serve as published evidence of how much I've grown and changed since my first post in early 2016. But for now, I'm going to continue to exist in limbo. I don't know where I'm going from here but I know that there's bound to be changes. I might abandon this project for a new one. I might do little more than take a break from it and get myself sorted out. Either way, you probably won't hear from me for awhile.

But I can promise you this – you haven't seen the last of me.

 

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Olympic National Park, June 2017

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It’s like the people who believe they’ll
be happy if they go and live somewhere
else, but who learn it doesn’t work that way.

Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.

– Neil Gaiman –

 

What does it mean to be at peace with yourself? I think maybe part of it is being able to be alone with yourself and be comfortable with it. Maybe it's being able to interact with people of all sorts and know how to maintain your sense of self in a world that's constantly trying to change us. In the past, I've had a lot of trouble being alone with myself. A few hours of solitude was all I needed to spiral back into the vortex of self-pity that depression and anxiety creates. I spent years fighting tirelessly to figure out how to like myself and now I'm here on the other side and I can say with confidence that I unconditionally love myself.

So, about a month ago, I decided to take a road trip to Olympic National Park. Alone. Mind you, I'd never been there before. I didn't really know what I'd do there or if I would even enjoy myself. I took the leap nonetheless, and it was perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences of my life (at least, so far). What should have been a 4 1/2 hour drive between Portland and Port Angeles ended up being a 9 hour drive, simply because I opted to take the long way. I drove up the coast, learned that you can actually drive your car onto the beaches in Washington, realized that Oregon's beaches are nicer, listened to a lot of music, and smiled a lot. Aimless adventures, I think, are my calling in life. I drive and I drive and then I see a sign and I follow it because you never know what you'll find if you're constantly seeking a set destination.

This trip forced me to face a lot of my fears and leave the safety and security of my comfort zone. I grappled with my fear of heights while climbing not one, but two mountains. I hiked 8 miles in a single day and later found a blister the size of a nickel on my right foot. I spent three days alone in the woods and that, I think, was the thing that terrified me the most. Two years ago, I wouldn't have even considered doing something like this simply because I wouldn't have been able to handle that level of solitude without at least one emotional breakdown. But these days, I find that I'm a bit intimidated by how comfortable I am with being alone. My, how time changes us.

People often question my desire to do things on my own. I suppose that since we humans are social creatures, it makes sense to want to experience things with other people. But sometimes, we must have the courage to be alone with ourselves. This is how we cultivate self love. This is how we grow. And sometimes I think we tend to wait around for people to show up and want to experience things with us. However, when you're as busy as I am, that's a near impossible feat. I'm not going to be young and rootless forever. A time will come when I'm not going to be able to disappear into the woods for three days on a whim. For this reason, I don't wait. I do the things I want to do and I do them on my own because otherwise, I might not be able to ever experience them. And there's nothing in the world that I fear more than an unlived life.

 

Searching for a Trail to Follow Again

Oregon Coast, March 2017

 

What is the meaning of life? A simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.

–Virginia Woolf, "To The Lighthouse"

 
 

For the past month or so, I've been thinking about moving again. I'm not sure what exactly triggered such thoughts. Maybe it was my gut reaction to the misfortunes I experienced as winter came to a close. Maybe it was nothing more than the severe lack of sunlight. But I've been consumed by the desire to run. I've been yearning for something fresh and new – perhaps a place with a little more sun. Little did I know that a day trip to the Oregon Coast on a rainy Wednesday would change my mind.

When I moved to Portland, I promised myself that no matter how tough things got, I'd stick it out for a full year before moving on. When I got here, everything seemed to fall into place so quickly that it felt too good to be true, but there was lurking feeling in the corner of my mind that at some point, something was bound to happen. Things went wrong and they went wrong again and again and as hard as it was to keep my head up and trudge through the mud, I persisted. And I'm glad I did, because otherwise, I never would've opted to embark on the adventure that made me remember why I moved here in the first place.

Before this little excursion, I'd spent months itching to go to the coast. However, the weather was never nice enough to justify the drive. It was no different on this day – it was cold and rainy and windy and my jeans were completely soaked within an hour of wandering about. But there was something particularly enchanting about the dreariness that makes me wonder if the presence of the sun would've taken away from that magic. And for the first time in over a year, I felt like I was able to capture images that tell a story; I felt like these photos were more than just photos of things I happened to stumble upon. It was the kind of day that reminded me of why I love photography so much.

If I learned anything from this dreamy day trip, it's that spending 170 miles in a car with someone is a great way to get to know them. I was only slightly apprehensive about the idea of spending several hours in a car with a person I'd only recently met, but I figured that if all failed, we could fill any awkward silences with loud music. However, to my surprise, we listened to almost no music at all. Our 170 miles were filled with chatter and laughter (and periodic road rage on my part) and it was the kind of experience that reminded me of how wonderful it is to open yourself up to others.

After an hour and half of driving through the rain, Sam and I made it to Tillamook, where we decided to grab a bite to eat at a quirky, 1950s inspired diner. We sat, we ate, and we laughed about my uncanny ability to perpetually overestimate my hunger. Our first coastal stop was a town called Netarts. We climbed on some rocks, I captured some photos, and we watched with glee as a couple of dogs ran around on the beach. I also nearly lost my brand new iPhone, and we spent nearly an hour retracing our steps in the rain to find it. I was about to give up and move on with my day when I found it laying in the grass, miraculously unharmed. 

Our next stop was Oceanside, Oregon. We wandered around the town a bit before meandering down toward the rocky shore and watching the tide come in. The sun made a brief appearance while we were there and because it was still hiding behind a thick layer of clouds, it turned the sky a blinding white. I was all smiles as I erratically ran up and down the coast, photographing everything in sight. Sometimes, I feel strange taking my non-photographer friends on my photographic adventures. When I'm in a new place, I become overwhelmed by the new sights and sounds and smells and I can't help but wonder if I seem a bit nutty to the casual observer. Nevertheless, Sam trailed close behind the entire afternoon, despite my unpredictable and whimsical way of exploring my surroundings.

Before heading back east, we visited Cape Meares with the intention of seeing the lighthouse there. If I'm being honest, it was the most underwhelming lighthouse I've ever seen and we couldn't stop laughing about it. But we took a walk through the forest and it was everything I dreamed it would be and more. I grew up seeing photos of the Pacific Northwest and yearning to walk among those very trees and suddenly, those trees were standing before me. I could hardly believe it at the time because I was so in awe of what surrounded me. It was eerily quiet; so much so that we could hear nothing but the sound of our breaths, the tapping of the rain, and the leaves rustling in the gentle wind. It was magic. I have no other words to describe it.

After a blissful afternoon of adventuring, Sam and I decided to call it a day and mosey our way back to Portland. On our return journey, the sun came out from behind the clouds and everything around us radiated with that golden hour glow. It felt symbolic somehow. It felt like the universe was telling me that all I needed to do was learn to be happy in the rain before I could feel the warmth of the sun once again. It was the perfect end to a perfect day, and so we rolled our windows down, blasted some happy songs, and we reveled in it.

 

I Belong with the Salt and the Sea

Cannon Beach, October 2016

 

Almost immediately after Kate and I arrived in Portland after five days of nonstop driving, we began ravaging our new city for a place to call home. It took about four days of phone calls, emails, and walk throughs to fry our brains, so we decided to take one afternoon of leisure before continuing our search. And so we drove 84 miles west to Cannon Beach in pursuit of nothing more than a few hours to breathe a little more easily.

The road to the coast was long and winding; it took us through downtown Portland and west over the mountains. It was everything I imagined the Pacific Northwest would be, but better because it was real – the towering trees a shade of green richer than I'd ever seen, the mountains rolling on and on toward the horizon. This is all it took for me to know that I would fall in love with the Pacific Northwest. As we approached the coast, we could feel the crisp mountain air melting away behind us. With each inhale, we felt the air become heavy with the sea. And then we could hear the ocean; we could hear the unmistakable sound of the waves crashing into the towering rocks that sat just off the shore.

It was 60 degrees and sunny at the beach, and while everyone was wandering about in their winter jackets and lamenting the cold, Kate and I were perfectly comfortable in just our sweaters. We spent a few moments chuckling quietly amongst ourselves about how ill-equipped for the cold everyone seemed. We spent some time watching people coming and going and enjoying what would be one of the last of the warmer days before winter's cold sting swept over the northwest.

As the hours passed, the sun began to inch toward the horizon and everything became a little bit more saturated with an orange hue. With it came an unspoken knowing that dusk was now inevitable. The crowed at the beach slowly thinned out and everything became quieter, softer even. With 84 more miles to drive, we said our silent farewells and moseyed our way to a quaint little restaurant before starting our journey back home.

The return home was quiet; you could hear little more than the soft hum of the car stereo intertwined with the whir of the engine propelling us east into the night. There was a mutual understanding between Kate and I that this was exactly what we needed to ease our minds of the looming possibility of homelessness.  The sky brightened little by little as we approached Portland and the city lights created a subtle luminescent dome over the city. This was our light at the end of the tunnel. This was our promise of a new home.

 

Chasing Light

 

Hi there. It certainly has been awhile, hasn't it? Not a whole lot has happened between early January and now, but I can say that I've got a whole bunch of photographs I'd like to share with you all. As I've mentioned a couple of times in previous posts, it's been tough to find the words lately. Between work and sleep and social obligations, I've sort of lost touch with myself and with this blog and I'm rather frustrated by it. I can't even use the excuse, "I don't have time" because I do have the time – I simply refuse to use that time productively. 

Now that I've become truly settled here and have begun to actually live, I've started to vortex into a mildly anxious state. I'm not unhappy with my life at all, but I've gotten myself lost in the day to day routine and lately I'm starting to feel like I'm not doing anything meaningful. Now, while I could simply allow myself to wallow in that feeling, I think I'd rather try to change my outlook and put in an effort to dedicate my time to the things that matter to me. I think I'd rather chase the light.

The photos featured below are little more than a product of boredom on a long drive on the highway during the prelude to a snowstorm. Light trails are rather fun to capture because you have no idea how they'll turn out. In the age of digital photography, we can see how an image will turn out before we capture it. In my view, this is a fun way to directly interact with the images that I'm creating that creates a sort of spontaneity that you don't really experience with DSLRs. 

That's all I've got for you today, but I do hope to share a lot more of my world with you in the near future. Thank you all for your patience!

 

Monday in the Mountains

 

When Alex and I decided to take an afternoon field trip to Mt. Hood, we didn't expect to make it very far. We headed east nonetheless, hoping we might stumble upon something to do along the way. The further into the mountains we traveled, the snowier it got, until we reached a chain restricted area of highway. Being from New York, it's never even occurred to me to even own chains, but we meandered onward anyway and hoped for the best.

There's something particularly enchanting about embarking on a journey, even a short one, with no set destination. Everything is, in a way, left up to chance. We drove on and on, feeling a bit apprehensive about the seemingly endless trail of cars traveling west toward Portland and after awhile, we decided to turn around and head west ourselves. We joined the never ending car caravan and after about ten minutes of being in a near-standstill of traffic, we opted to pull off the highway and kill some time.

We ended up in Government Camp, a tiny town of about 200 people, and we played in the snow and explored our surroundings for as long as the frigid January air would allow. Once our fingertips became numb, we tucked away into a little bar that felt exactly like those ski town bars I saw in movies as a kid. We were complete outsiders in a town where everyone knew everyone and we laughed quietly about how much it reminded us of our own hometowns. In that moment, I felt a sort of nostalgia for the small town life I ran away from. 

I used to perceive myself as a city girl trapped in her two-bit hometown dreaming of a bigger, better life. But more and more I realize that I'm quite the opposite. Sure, I enjoy being in a city where there's almost always something to do at any time, but I am certain that I will someday find myself setting in a town much like the one I grew up in. Until then, I suppose I'll keep on drifting. Isn't it strange how even the shortest adventures can teach us so much about ourselves?

Golden hour in the mountains holds a special kind of magic, especially when everything is covered in snow. The iridescent glow of the sun reflects off the glimmering snow and paints everything a soft orange. And in the east, the sky fades to a deep indigo and the moon is floating above, waiting for the sun to disappear below the horizon. These are the moments I always long for, when everything is so surreal and beautiful that you can't help but want to notice every subtle detail.

We spent a few blissful moments exploring and playing in the snow beneath the setting sun before the cold got the best of us once more. We dipped into a little cafe and warmed ourselves with hot drinks and sweet treats before we hit the road home. Our adventure may have only lasted a few short hours but it was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits, and it left me longing for countless more days like this.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Everybody's Favorite Season

 

The winter solstice has come and gone and I’m left with little more than the promise of a long winter. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I have a softness for marked days. They carry a sort of significance that other days don’t seem to possess. These are the days that indicate beginnings and endings. These are the days that give me hope for the possibility of something new. 

This year, the lightness of summer seemed to disappear overnight. The once heavy and humid air of summer suddenly became crisp and cool. My world, once green and lush, transformed into an endless sea of reds and yellow and oranges and it led me to believe that maybe autumn days are the brightest of them all. In the past, my autumns were simply a colorful transition from summer to winter, from hectic to reflective. This autumn, however, was different. In a couple of months, my entire life changed. I jumped three time zones, took the road trip across the country I've been dreaming of, and started a brand new life. So far, it has been the most rewarding adventure I've ever embarked on. And while right now, I'm tired in every way imaginable from my hectic work schedule, I am so happy with the direction my life is heading.

Winter is upon us now, though the lack of snow here in Portland makes it feel less like winter and more like an extension of November. The winter season tends to worry me, as it tends to be a season characterized by an overwhelming melancholia that I can't seem to shake until spring rears its head. But maybe this winter will be different.