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Brandon and Leigh

While in Utah we got to hang out with these two awesome people, Brandon and Leigh.  And also their adorable dogs Piper and Lily.  Brandon and Leigh travel in a Vanagon Westfalia named Humboldt.  They've done a lot of work to it complete with awesome maps inside.  You can tell a lot of hard work and love has gone into this place to make it feel like a home away from home when they are traveling.  Brandon and Leigh are some of my favorite people in the world.  Good as gold, always there to lend a hand, compassionate, hard working, and um fantastically sarcastic.  They hold a special place in my heart. 


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Homesick at Home

I'm drinking out of a coffee mug that used to be mine but I'm not in my kitchen.  A cooler with our last name on it is sitting out in the hall.  One of my favorite floral blouses is in the laundry basket.  It's like that moment that you first wake from a vivid dream and can't tell where you are.  But you know something isn't quite right.  It's like the sinking feeling of dejavu.

Before Zach and I left with our daughter to travel the US for a year, we sold our house in a hurry.  To say it was chaotic was an understatement.  Zach would have gladly set our belongings ablaze in the front lawn to save the hassle of dealing with them.  But we opted for peddling them on our friends and family any chance we got.  Our former belongings are scattered across East Tennessee and on up to Virginia.  I don't miss them.  Each time we gave away another thing I thought it would be so hard.  Once gone however, it was like it was never there.  They were just things after all.

Now as I sit at our friends house, having just crossed the US in a rush to tow their truck home, those things are reminders.  Reminders of the home we renovated.  The home that we brought our daughter back from the hospital to.  The house that we won't be returning to.  

Coming back made it just feel like a long vacation.  That we should walk through our front door and find our house just as we left it.  That we'll sigh and clean and cook and put our daughter to sleep in her crib and crawl into our bed to whisper to each other about the adventures we've had.

It's a strange feeling to yearn for a place that is so close and yet no longer what it was.  Not for us.  I guess that is the duality of what we are doing.  That I both crave more travel and miss a place.  That I feel both lost and more on a path than I have in a long time.  That I both have a home and am homeless.  That I am both homesick and already home. 

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It's strange to see something you've never seen before.  Most of us have been around long enough that we have experienced a lot of this planet.  Sure, there are many places I have never been before.  Something I'm slowly but surely rectifying.  But it is rare for me to think, "Huh, I've NEVER seen this." 

About a week ago I experienced my first full blown sandstorm.  We're talking zero visibility, lightening, thunder, and high winds.  It was awe inspiring and beautiful and terrible all at once.  

It safe to say that I love moody scenery.  I love the drama and the unusual nature of it.  I love fog.  How it envelopes you.  Consumes you.  This had the same mystery to it but was harsher.  The sand danced and shifted until you were unsure if it would come in blankets or waves.  Or would it be completely gone in half a mile.  There was also just a sheer force to it.  While fog creeps, sand dares you to come out and face it. 

I was itching to have a model with me.  Some woman in a long flowing dress.  Some brave soul to go out and be daring and play.  However, we were just rolling through.  It's on my shot list though and I feel privileged to be able to mark something off my list that I hadn't ever seen or experienced before.



Facing Your Fears

I am not a great lover of heights.  I don't mind them but I don't go out of my way to find them.  Just like snakes.  So when Zach's cousin said she wanted to take us rock climbing I was a little skeptical.  And by skeptical I mean nauseous. (For more on our visit to Los Alamos check out here!)

I am a great believer in facing you fears.  I don't like for fear to have control over me.  Period.  I don't like for it to dictate what I do or don't do.  Honestly, I was a feeling a little ashamed at how nervous I was about doing this.  I've been sky diving!  I've jumped off bridges!  Why would climbing a rock freak me out?  When I got down deep to it is was because after having a baby I feel like I have lost part of my athletic self--my daredevil self.  I was worried I physically would embarrass myself.  I was worried that I was being a bad mother by taking a risk.  Worry is just fear whispering to you. 

Lucky for me Zach's cousin Christie is a badass.  She's a mother of five, survivor, and rock climbing instructor.  If she could do it, I had to at least try it.  And I am so glad I did.

The truth is that by the end of the day Zach and I both had fallen a little in love with rock climbing.  For him, I believe it was figuring out the puzzle of where to go next, keeping your mind focused, and being outside.  For me it was facing that fear each moment, being in such beauty, and trusting yourself to make it happen. 


In my experience it always pays off to face your fears.  Whether that is fear of change, fear of loss, fear of heights, snakes, spiders, infestations, whales, or the fear of being alone.  We all have one that makes a nest inside our heart and minds.  Take that fear out, set it on fire, and go live.


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Being a Mom is hard.  People say that to you when you become pregnant.  You believe it but you don't fully understand.  Women will talk about the pains of childbirth, the early sleepless nights, the terrible twos, teething, sickness, fatigue.  They will share their stories.  Which we all need. We need these stores.  We NEED to talk about all of this.  We rarely talk about ourselves though.  We rarely discuss the loneliness, the guilt, the boredom, or even the yearning for a previous life.

I wasn't in love with my daughter.  Not at first.  Everyone tells you that when a baby is born it will change your life.  That you can never imagine loving something more.  I cried big hot tears when they first put her on my chest.  Tears of relief and exhaustion.  I knew that she was mine.  That I wanted to protect her, care for her, and do what was best for her.  But I also didn't know her.  Our love affair was a slow one.  Getting to know each other.  Her revealing her brilliant shining personality one small moment at a time.  And then one day there it was.  That unimaginable love.  The kind that brings tears back when I think of anything happening to her.  I had a lot of guilt at first about not being bonded with her.  People asked if I just couldn't get enough of her.  If I just wanted her with me all the time.  Nope.  I needed space.  I needed to be me without being a Mom. 

These days its hard to find space in a small camper with a one year old.  She sleeps in the same room as us.  She cries, she snores, she coos--she wakes up really damn early.  As a Mom, Photographer, Navigator, Wife, and Researcher I'm still trying to find the balance in myself. And we need to talk about that.  There are days I just want to be one thing.  I just want to be a photographer that day.  Or I just want to be a tourist.  Or I just want to be a lover.  It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the roles and demands.  To pine for a simpler time instead of being present in this whirlwind.  Right now there are no babysitters.  All of my roles are full on all the time and I would be lying if I said it wasn't exhausting. 

But its also beautiful.  There is a lot of living in my life right now.  I get to experience a beautiful world that I shamefully haven't seen before.  I get to roam streets and woods and beaches and swamps.  I wash our daughter under the full moon.  I sing her to sleep amidst the background of crickets, tree frogs, and cicadas.  I read.  I photograph what is before me.  I talk about what is whispering to my soul.  I tell myself the truths I need to know.  It's okay to be overwhelmed.  Live here now.  You are enough.

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Let's talk about magic for a minute.  Not the Hogwarts magic (although definitely amazing).  I want to talk about the kind of magic that happens in the ordinary world around us.  The kind of magic that gives you goosebumps, the kind of magic that births dejavu, the kind of big magic that happens within us when everything comes together.

I'm a believer that magic comes to you when you need it most.  Like a breath of air when you're drowning.  On the road so far we've had a lot of highs and lows.  Much like the rolling hills that we travel down.  Times of pure magic.  Times of exhausted darkness.  We've seen more sunsets, sunrises, and stars than we have in years.  We've had more long talks and held gazes.  We've also snapped at each other and been on the edge of losing it more than we have in awhile.

We had set up camp after a particularly long day.  Lucy June had just not wanted to be in the truck.  She clung to my chest laughing and crying at the same time when I opened the door to try to put her in her car seat.  It's heart wrenching.  She cried off and on all day thanks to fatigue and four giant molars cutting their way into her mouth.  When we arrived at camp she was done. 

Sometimes distraction is our best friend.  So she and I embarked on a small hike.  We soaked in the sun, the new green of spring, and became flush with exertion.  But by the time we came back we were both done.  No one knows the fatigue of being on the road until you do it.  And we were all feeling its full weight that night.  By the time we had made it through a screaming dinner and put her to bed, Zach and I sat in a crushing silence.  Fatigue is also the bringer of doubt.  It whispers to you about your faults--your insecurities--your regrets. 

Out of the darkness glided a Luna moth.  Silent and gliding making large graceful loops into the lamp light.  It mesmerized us.  Brought us out of our own selfish thoughts to gaze at its translucent beauty.  It was magic.  The magic of childhood summers and teenage twilights.  That deep breath of fresh air.  Big magic in small ways.