Exploration | Reclaiming childhood adventures

By Phae, Flickr.com

By Phae, Flickr.com

Most days that summer, the neighbor kids, my brother and I would climb down the bank into the creek behind the neighbors’ house, shaping miniature cats or dogs out of the natural clay. Most days, we’d dig for and catch salamanders, admiring their agility and counting their spots.

This day, we decided to make a raft out of a saucer sled, or maybe it was a trashcan lid. There were four or five of us, riding down the creek like Lewis & Clark, exploring in the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina. Or, that’s how I imagined us – the creek was no more than two feet deep, and the rapids made more of a babble than a roar. At seven years old, this was a true adventure.

We traveled for what felt like miles and miles, spying newly built developments, a blooming meadow, strange and looming roadwork equipment. When the sun began to set, we traced the creek back, and we were home in time for supper.

This bed was dry most of the year, but when the creek ran, the water draining from the mountain rain could be ferocious.  I always feared that a title wave would sweep me up as my tiny, bare feet teetered on boulders and my eyes scoured the pebbles for treasures. Unlike our suburban creek, this dry bed indeed had its gifts: little fossils we called “Indian money,” a racially questionable and technically inaccurate term of which I’ve since tried to let go. Once I found a real arrowhead, but I’m not sure where it is now, more than 15 years later.

The creek curves behind the rural Tennessee farm where my mother’s longtime best friend/cosmic soulmate, Sherry, has lived for I-don’t-know-how-long. Like much of my family, she is originally from Florida. Not 100 feet from a bridge is a small cave that gave us kids blissful cool in the summer, as long as it hadn’t rained. Usually, I’d wander up the creek bed, into its cave, or up its banks to the mountainside, with my brother or Sherry’s sons, all older than me. My most treasured were solo expeditions, accompanied only by a protective and attentive dog named Waylon.

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Extreme hiking. #tbt

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I’ve had the kind of day so far that makes me feel like an independently wealthy 30-something single woman who closes each relaxing day with a few glasses of dark, dry wine. Like Liz Lemon when she’s on paid leave, before she finds out her new group of leisurely lady friends is actually (spoiler alert) a fight club.

I woke up and lounged around in my bathrobe until I decided to skip my usual Friday morning at-home yoga session and opt instead for some time at the gym. Then, I grabbed breakfast and a chai latte at Starbucks, chatting with the mom of a spirited red-headed, blue-eyed toddler who looked just like me.

I sat near the window and read a few pages of House of Leavestaking my time and shaking off the cold. I drove to Macy’s and bought a much-needed black Calvin Klein blazer for too much money (an investment piece), and I even dropped it off at the tailor to get the shoulder pads trimmed.

It felt strangely domestic. But a passage I read this morning in House of Leaves has reminded me of my childlike, adventurous side. The passage, an aside, is frankly inconsequential to the story. It’s cute and whimsical and probably not intended to be thought provoking. It’s a relief from the never-ending tension that lives in the exploration of Will Navidson’s dark, terrifying, mysterious house.

“Based on what we can tell in The Navidson Record, it appears Chad [Navidson’s young son] soon got fed up with his class assignment and took off down the street with Hillary [Navidson’s dog], determined to explore his own dark. Navidson had to look for almost an hour before he finally found him. Chad it turned out was in the park filling a jar full of fireflies. Instead of scolding him, Navidson helped out.

“By ten, they had returned home with jars full of light and hands sticky with ice cream.”

Of course, I’ve indulged my adventurous side as an adult, but airline tickets, eight-hour flights and customs agents have a way of dampening the whimsy of exploration.

As Joe [husband] and I prepare to move from Harrisburg, Pa., to Gothenburg, Sweden, I feel a bit like Chad – wandering off, exploring my own dark with my closest companion, hoping to fill my own jars with light.

Here’s to palms clammy with anticipation, bright beginnings and charging headfirst into the unknown.

Happy Friday, everyone.


The Photographer-Journalist 2015 (Reprise)

For those of you who have been wondering what’s going on with my life since I abandoned this blog in 2012, below is a brief list, in no particular order, of the various changes I’ve experienced in the last few years.

For those of you who have lost interest in my life since 2012, why are you here?

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#snow #winter #snö #vintern #harrisburg

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1. I am inspired.

I’ve recently become connected with a huge network of devoted women writers. These writers are insanely talented and immensely supportive of each other. This network has introduced me to countless stunning pieces of work that fill my heart daily as I read them. It has provided me a safe place to ask my questions about writing, editing, freelance work and more and get prompt expert responses from women who have been where I am.

Most importantly, surrounding myself with smart ladies and their writings has inspired me to strive for a level of professionalism, motivation and enthusiasm for both writing and photography that I couldn’t have otherwise imagined.

And I’ve made new friends! That’s always a bonus.

With these ladies’ support, I’ve decided to delve into the realm of brief, topical personal essays. I had one brief stab at it in February 2014, when I revealed to the world my less-than-secret love of death metal. While that one was fun, I have so much room to improve. I’ve got more stories to tell, and I’ve got my eye on a few outlets where I’d love to contribute. So, I’m reading more engaging authors and honing my storytelling skills.

I’m making a photography comeback as well. No, not weddings. I’ve decided to continue a series I began in college called Through the Windowpane. You can read the artist statement at the link, but in brief I’ve taken slide photos that my father took of our family before I was born and projected them in various parts of a home, inducing sometimes haunting scenes. Parts of the piece were published in plain china, a literary magazine, in 2011. It has been one of my favorite series, and I could see it morphing into its own book someday.

I have finally procured my own semi-portable projector, so I can now take the show on the road – so to speak – and shoot in almost any location. I’m even seeking out other families’ slides, and scouting antique shops for strangers’ discarded, old slide photographs. I am unspeakably excited about this project!

Here’s a slideshow of my past Through the Windowpane photos.

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 2. I’m more in love with Sweden now than ever.

My husband [Side update: oh, right, I got married in May 2013.] and I visited Gothenburg again in August 2014, this time also with my father. It was his first time meeting his Swedish family and seeing his motherland. I believe it was as transformative for him as it has been for me, although he’s not hellbent on moving there the way I am. Perhaps it’s my mid-twenties naiveté.

On this trip we saw as much and more — the bustling city of Gothenburg during kulturkalaset (cultural festival), the beaches of Lake Vänern, the forests, the aquaducts, our first real-live castle called Läckö Slott, rainy Borås, Oslo city, and other sights too lovely and fleeting to embed themselves in my fragile memory. We spent lots of time with our family, which was priceless. Joe (husband) and I decided, definitively this time, that we’re moving to Gothenburg. It’s only a matter of treacherous, crawling, arduous time.

Here’s a slideshow of our many escapades.

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 3. I’ve become obsessed with Westeros.

I’ve read the five main-series books; debated the HBO adaptation with frienemies who dare to say that Danaerys is a stronger feminist than Arya; delved into the new A World of Ice and Fire history epic; and even bickered with my husband over the Risk-esque board game. (If the Targaryens were a playable house, I could just fly dragons to non-adjacent areas and burn all your supply tokens. So there.)

This probably shouldn’t even be on this list, but I swear it’s important. George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series has inspired me to be a reader again. It has been much too long since I have immersed myself in a fictional world so deeply that I can escape when I need a break from the toils of life. Not since Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings have I declared myself an expert in characters and worlds of little to no real-world consequence.

I credit the series with re-introducing me to the beauty of fiction. I had entirely written off the genre as not-for-me. So, indirectly, without A Song of Ice and Fire, I wouldn’t have been so quickly introduced to Swedish-Finnish writer Tove Jansson’s brilliance in “Fair Play,” which is easily the most touching book I read in 2014.

In related news, I also briefly reacquainted myself with popular Young Adult fiction, devouring both The Hunger Games and Divergent series, and also sweeping up “The Fault in Our Stars” just for fun. It was a nice little fling, but I think I’m done with YA for a few more decades.

A friend bought me some delicious poetry books for Christmas, and I consumed Tytti Heikkinen’s “The Warmth of the Taxidermied Animal” and Patricia Lockwood’s “Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals” with great glee.

Those are the major life-updates for now, although there’s much more spinning around in my headspace.

Stay tuned, for in the coming days I’ll grace the Internet with a thousand thoughts about debt and goals. You’ll love it.