Sunday, February 21, 2016
My brother gave me his old DSLR this past week when he found out mine got stolen after FedEx delivered it to my doorstep. Here's kale drying after a rinse.
(The pictures appear blurry on phones unless you click on them. Why is that? Any webpage smarties out there?)
It has been awhiiiiiile since I last posted or have written anything for that matter. In efforts, I'm sure, to feel like I am doing *everything possible* to get into a graduate program this year, I've arranged my schedule in a way that leaves an impossibly small amount of free time. It's maybe not the best arrangement I've ever made, and it feels maybe a little unnecessarily masochistic.
When a friend texted me today hang out and take a break from one of my preset homework days, I actually had to say aloud "Yes, Laura, you will go. You will go do this. It will be good for your health." You see, the other night I stumbled across an article in a health journal that was talking about how loneliness can be as harmful to our bodies as obesity or alcoholism, because it causes a sort-of constant low-grade stress that creates an inflammatory response in the body. And we know enough at this point to know that inflammation causes all sorts of disease.
And it was lovely, by the way. The time with my friends, that is. I smiled, I laughed, I was so alive.!. and not like the robot I've felt so much like lately. So I decided just to roll with it for the rest of the day. I ran 5 miles and basked in the sun. I climbed plastic at the gym (still fun!), I went to yoga. I ate brown butter dark chocolate. And now I'm wrapping up the day with photo editing of some recent shots I've taken on the DSLR, and some old photos from the archives. And now I'm writing, my favorite of all activities (besides eating brown butter dark chocolate).
I found this gorgeous picture (tooting my own horn...) of a bunch of roses I bought myself last February, only months after a break up that I still (still!!) am processing (there, I admitted it). I look at this picture and I think of being newly single again and how frightening it all felt. How quitting that relationship felt like maybe quitting a bad habit of many years might feel. Dark at times, confusing, incredibly depressing, but very, very, very good for me. My hormones were all fucked then. I feel a lot more even now. I feel comfortable being single... most of the time. I've developed all sorts of quirky single-lady habits that I'm sort of weirdly proud of. Popcorn in bed while reading at night maybe should ought not to be mentioned. But there, I did it anyhow.
I was at the end of my work-exchange shift at Centered City Yoga today when I paused in the alleyway while taking out the trash. The light was good. I was particularly drawn to the "I AM NorML" bit. I take time to look at street art when I can. I wrote my thesis on it in one of my seminars on Latin American history during my last semester at UVa (7 years ago! ahhh!!!). At that time, I spent months email interviewing (what I thought to be) a random street artist named Saner from D.F., Mexico. He asked to read the paper after I had written it and I sort of carelessly forgot to send him a copy. The thing was, at that time- shortly after I turned that paper in- I was also graduating and getting the hell out of Charlottesville, away from all the pomp and prestige I'd grown to resent in my 3 years at the University. Two winters ago I was flying to South America and there was a magazine on the Delta airplane. There was a really long article featuring Saner's world-renowned work. I almost dropped the damn magazine. I want to take a little bit of time to say: I am normal, Saner, you are not. You are something of a genius. When I was 22 and struggling to understand colonialism's effects on modern day Latin America, you helped to solidify some BIG truths for me. In a big way, you altered my worldview. Thank you for that.
A few days ago there was this crazy windstorm that took place while I was working at the hospital on a sort of stagnant-feeling day in the psych unit. I watched the rain and snow blow all around outside from the 5th floor window of the medical school building. A couple patients watched it with me. Watching the storm was weirdly rejuvenating when I was (and I'm certain they, too, were) feeling soul-tired. When I was walking into lecture after work there were tumbleweeds scattered about the Salt Lake Community College campus. A maintenance guy with a stick-thing was picking them up and putting them in the trash. I snapped a photo before he got this big one. People were staring at me as I was kneeling over the tumbleweed with my iPhone.
Washing vegetables. I've been slightly better about washing more thoroughly since being recently reminded that there is often chemical residue from fertilizers/insecticides on even certified organic produce. Wash, wash, wash. And photo shoot. I like how the water looks in this picture.
I found this photo today. This is a photo I took just outside of Zion National park two Decembers ago when me and my buddy, Dan, were about to head into the park to fix ropes on the first 3 pitches of Moonlight buttress. We jugged the lines the next morning at 430am. It was 26 degrees outside. My body wasn't warm even after jugging 2 full rope lengths to the beginning of the 4th pitch, even under an 800-fil down coat. I started up the 4th pitch aiding and was making painstakingly slow progress. I balked at one of the 5.10 free moves for fear of falling onto my daisy. I blamed the cold at the time. I've recently come to terms with the fact that I didn't finish that climb not because I was fucking freezing (I was), but because I was fucking heartbroken. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to be the kind of person that triumphed in the face of a bad breakup and climbed a world-famous line. But, really, I was just too damn sad to care to finish the climb. As we repelled to the base I cried. I looked at the snow-dotted orange, red, and white sandstone peaks around me and felt guilty for feeling so damn sad in such a beautiful place, and for blowing such a good opportunity. Things are different now. I like climbing again. I don't do it for weird reasons like I used to. I do it because it's just fun. It's funny, too. I'm climbing better than I ever dreamed I could.
Speaking of dreams, this was taken while I was daydreaming on a 15 minute break during work yesterday. The sun was setting over the Oquirrh mountains in the west. I was wanting to be done with work. I had just eaten 3 pieces of pizza. Didn't even much stop to breathe I was so hungry/bored. I started thinking about Hemingway. I instagramed this shot with a Hemingway quote. It was kind of a depressing quote but I was feeling just peachy, admittedly, if not a little bloated.
Things are well. More photo-weeks to come. Perhaps with less musings and more pictures but we'll just have to see. xoxoxox.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
I was in that state of dreamy half-sleep in the back of the Logan Hotshots alpha-squad buggy, legs starting to tingle from the weight of my fire boots and feet not quite fully reaching the floor, when we went over a large bump in the road. My eyes opened, and I peeled my groggy head off my fire pack and worn yellow nomex---the best pillow system I'd worked out all summer---when I caught my first view of the Lost River Range in the early-morning light. I snapped a few photos on my crappy flip phone and tried to text a picture to my Dad. No service. Constantly tired and never quite feeling like I was keeping up with the energy levels of the rest of the crew during those 14-day assignments, I fell right back to sleep. We were headed to another fire again, and my body understood very well by August that when you had a moment to get some shut eye, you damn well better use that moment properly. I was a coughing, clunky, work-horse that summer; even parts proud, achy, humbled and quiet, while just barely keeping up with the rest of the guys. It would be my last summer of fire after my L1 vertebrae protested like a diva, "honey-child, you're so done carrying a 40-pound pack all day."
That was two years ago. I thought about that summer with a smile and a couple silent chuckles over all the haggardness and physical suffering while I snapped a few photos with my DSLR on the side of the road in skinny jeans and big, silly movie-star sunglasses. The contrast was almost alarming. Here I was in summertime-glam-mode, jacked up on coffee, and acting like a tourist on my way to Powell, Idaho to visit a friend who still worked in fire. The old Laura would have stared in awe and disappointment blankly, and then would have questioned current me why I wasn't still chasing old glory dreams of hotshotting for multiple seasons and earning she-hero status, savin' babies!, as they'd joke. But there I was anyway; I felt so happy and good in those skinny jeans, and I wasn't saving a damn thing, except maybe my back. The breeze was nice, and the sun felt warm. I got back in the car to continue on the drive.
In Challis, Idaho there are striking red and white mountains, sage brush scattered and rooted in their sandy soil. The fragile desert ecosystem of the Great Basin possesses a different beauty, one that is captivating in its barrenness. Cattle land stretches across this valley, dotted with small homes that in their humble simplicity seem to pay reverence to the earth they sit on. I had seen it all before, but only with a certain half-attentiveness to the beauty of the land around me, as the pressure of keeping up in work governed nearly my whole outlook during the summer of 2013.
I stopped in a gas station to pee. I walked in with those giant movie-star glasses on. The lady behind the counter stared at me without smiling. In efforts to win her approval, I thought of apologizing for all the smoke that socked-in her town, hung over it like a plague for weeks on end, during the Lodge Pole fire two years ago. That was a real money maker. I bought a package of chewing gum and another coffee for the road. I smiled extra sweet at her at the cash register. She looked at me like the foreigner I was but said, You have a good day, Dear. Non-emotional, straight forward, sensible, but courteous; the characteristics of people that live in farm country. I felt my appreciation deepen as I walked out the door with a jingle. Eventually, I really need to move out of the city, I thought. And I started up again my little lima bean Toyota corolla and headed off towards northern Idaho.
I had to cross into Montana before heading back into northern Idaho to get to Powell. I drove 100 miles thinking about someone with whom I'd once driven that stretch on highway 93. I listened to blues and vacillated between annoyance, resentment and a kind of bittersweet nostalgia. Once I reached Lolo on the 93, feeling a little emotionally weathered and a little older, I put it all behind me as I crossed into no cell service. 50 miles into the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, I'd soon reach my friend, down a winding road that parallels the Loscha river. But as I drove deeper into the wilderness, up and over Lolo Pass, I began to question my ability to change a flat tire if the need arose. Or how comfortable I felt hitchhiking with a logger if my car broke down (I can't really help it; my brain does this sometimes).
But the trees. Holy shit.
The trees backed right up to highway 12 in a way that almost scared me. Some towering a hundred feet above my car, they were draped with a moss colloquially referred to as Old Man's Beard by folks that like to talk about foresty things. There was a giant cedar grove that smelled like my late grandparents' old house when I stopped off the side of the road to stare up at it. The last light of the day shot god fingers through those old, giant limbs, and interrupted the cool, damp river air with pockets of warmth. I could see the Lochsa river sitting behind those trees, I figured it was sometime around the salmon spawn, and I wondered with a little unease about Grizzlies in the region as I decided to head back to my car (again, my mind).
That evening I reached my friend in Powell. We shared wine and pan-fried steak. I felt a certain peace at the ease of the conversation, resumed after months of not hearing from her so far out in the boonies as she is. Lying in the guest bed I fell asleep so effortlessly with the window open to the cold northern air, and the backdrop of crickets chirping in the darkest forest I could ever imagine under millions of hole punches in the sky.
The rest of the next couple days I spent a little time in Missoula with Mel, mountain biking in a nearby canyon and window shopping downtown. One day Mel had to work, and I rode my mountain bike on the road up to Lolo pass. It was a lonesome, weighty, 12-mile slog, except for a brief interaction with a road biker, who passed me by pretty quickly. After a pause for a cup of tea at the Lolo Pass information center, I rode down the mountain against a heavy headwind that made the descent feel like a slow-motion ride into heaven with the sun warming up my back.
After 4 days spent by the river and big trees, with ample quiet alone time, punctuated by the sweetest time with my dear friend, I was feeling comfortable in my own skin again. I drove back to Utah in my skinny jeans, headed back to my city-slicker life, the anxiety ache in my chest gone, having been released into that wild, unmapped wilderness.
And you'll never guess what I saw as I was listening to the worst radio country ever, celebrity sunglasses, big ol' wad of gum making my jaw feel sore, going 90 mph on I-15 headed south. Dead moose on the side of the road, a hotshot buggy, and a flock of Canada geese traveling determined and swift, somewhere between solid ground and the heavens.
Monday, June 15, 2015
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Thursday, February 5, 2015
You have 3 hours between planes, I have 1 hour before class.
I pick you up at the airport and we drive west on I-80.
The Great Saltair, once a place of supposed healing, now junked-up and antiquated.
Park the car.
Crack two beers.
Take a long walk to the edge of the water.
Over salt and dirt and sand.
Bird carcasses scattered.
To the edge we go, you-- my old friend-- and I.
Stare out in the silence and, yes, death.
And more life.
Maybe more years.
I never could have pictured this,
How much we would be blessed.
And like that you're gone again,
and my soul all the brighter.
Friday, January 23, 2015
Outdoor Retailer is going on in Salt Lake City. My friend, Sarah, founder of OutdoorFest, got me in with an staff pass so I could shoot some pictures of her event. She calls it Mappy Hour. The idea is to look at maps, get inspired, have map-talk, drink beers. I did all of the above, and took some pictures, as well. I was reminded once again it's sometimes awkward being a photographer. And I got a little tired of people's awkward sideways glances so I started saying things like, "I'm just going to get in your face for a second here," or, "just keep doing what you're doing, you look great." It made them act less weirded-out, but it made me feel like a creep still. Oh well, went with it.