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The Promise


A lot has happened in the past few months. I have fallen in love again, for the first time since my fiancé died. The growth of this new relationship has brought about unbelievable new joys as well as painful new layers of grief. One of the hardest things has been mourning the life I had planned with someone else. Deciding to begin a life with someone new has me feeling that pain sharply. And now, a more physical representation of that is about to occur. After 8 months of living 1400 miles apart, I’ve decided to move closer to the man I love (and his lovely daughter) and explore a whole new life. Starting a new direction though comes with goodbyes too.

I have been waiting for this day for some time… wondering when it would come. Knowing one day I would be ready to take flight once more. I’ve been stuck creatively for months now, unable to communicate my feelings into images. I hate when this happens… but it seems to always occur whenever big shifts come. I’ll sit stuck for weeks or months even, until suddenly one day, the fog just lifts, and I realize with such clarity what’s next. This happened a few weeks ago, while journaling. I suddenly realized that the next part of the story is about goodbyes, and that I needed to photograph the nest. Not the human-sized nest I shot for Sanctuary, no, but the one that was the very inspiration for that iconic photograph. This is the nest I found at the cemetery just weeks before shooting Sanctuary. It had fallen from the tree over my fiance’s grave site and landed right next to his headstone. That same week, I’d watched an inspiring documentary about Anne Geddes in which she reclaimed her inspiration by photographing bird’s nests. The next week I also watched a presentation on grief in which the speaker talked about losing your sense of home when your spouse or partner dies. The connection was so clear. It wasn’t long before the full concept for Sanctuary began to form.

After all this time, the little nest that inspired that photograph has been sitting in my office on the shelf. Never did I think of photographing the original nest itself. It didn’t fit the story, until now.

Slowly, without realizing it, I have become larger, stronger, and more capable over the past year. I have outgrown the nest that once surrounded me. It was not until recently that I saw it. Just suddenly, with the talk of moving. Moving far away from where my parents and my fiance rest. Far away from cactus and cowboys and the friendships and family I’ve known for years. Despite the fears and worries of such an immense change… I can feel it in my bones… it is time. Time to take flight and to trust my own wings to carry me to new lands. Time to believe that the unknowns out there will be beautiful, and exciting, and full of wonder. Time to build a sanctuary someplace new, one with room to grow.

I’ve been readying my heart to cut loose enough to catch the wind. Preparing to make a promise… to myself, and to everything and everyone that has gotten me this far. A promise to honor not only life but also death. To not abandon the nest which grew me in these years of my deepest grief, but instead to carry it with me and keep it safely within the space of the new sanctuary I will build. To hold it close to me always and to never forget all the love that has brought me here. The love of so many… all of it woven so warmly around my broken bones these fragile years.

My wings are ready. It’s time to fly.

The Dance


As I continue in this direction with hands I keep being drawn to… I have found myself suddenly at a powerful intersection of both my work and my life. Since the earliest days of the “Still, Life” series, I have held this image in my heart. It was always meant to be a continuation of the stories told in Hope and Desperation (below). It first came to me at a time when I was seeing a variety of images that included a second figure… a man. Some of these images were meant to speak of a connection to my late-fiance in the spiritual realm, while others were meant to speak of someone else… someone new. I decided hiring a male friend just to capture these stories wouldn’t work. It needed to be real. It needed to actually be the next man in my life. And without even a remote glimpse and no feeling of even desiring someone new yet, I put these ideas aside to wait patiently for that day to come.


And here we are, arriving at the day this image finally came to be. It is precisely what I imagined for all those many months… except for one thing: the story on the other end. That I could have never known.

The Dance depicts a meeting of souls. That pivotal moment in time when two paths cross in the darkness and a bond is formed. It is the story of brothers, of sisters, of soulmates and friends… each has met desperation and hope in their own way – making them unafraid to see one another in the darkness. In this way, something very powerful and solid is created from the dark places inside us. Such meetings are sacred. For it is the darkness that bonds us to one another in ways we cannot ever bond in the light. It is the tests and trials found here that reveal the truth of a person’s character, integrity, and loyalty. It is the place that changes us, and the place that unites us.

There is something I cannot describe as anything but magic when I think about this image. To have spent so much time with this visual in my head and heart – with no idea when I would ever meet this person or be able to create it – and to now see it made real. And not only to see it, but to now know both stories. To know now what I didn’t know a year ago – that this man’s story would end up being just as important as my own story to the shot.

This soul, who I didn’t even know existed just 4 months ago, matches my own dark journey in a way I could have never imagined. A way I will always wish didn’t exist… because he also endured the death of his love. His beautiful, bright-shining, courageous wife of twelve years. To an agonizing long-term illness. A journey very different to my own sudden loss, but a journey through the darkness nonetheless. As a relationship has begun to unfold between us these past months, I came to know with certainty… he is the one I have been waiting for – to tell this part of both of our stories, and to live this part of my journey.

The Story of Hands


As a symbol, hands have begun to fascinate me lately. They have so much power to tell the deepest, most primal stories of our humanity. Fear, survival, love, belonging, safety, evolution, history, ability… there so many stories contained within this single element of our bodies.

These images were shot at the end of my last shoot with the calf’s heart, just experimenting and going wherever intuition takes me…

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No 37: Baring Secrets


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“Baring Secrets” speaks to some new and very personal things stirring inside me in the past few months. Most significantly, the ideas of love and vulnerability. I met a man recently who I formed an instant friendship with. From the get go, it was less like meeting for the first time and more like remembering someone I haven’t seen in a very very long time. It is the very same sort of feeling I had when I first met my fiancé.

Being faced with such a connection has left me both thrilled and terrified. Both happy and conflicted. And interestingly enough, I now realize why it took so long for the heart images to come to fruition. I think things were getting in the way on purpose until my heart was in the very space it needed to be to tell this story – until the circumstances of meeting this person came about.

There are stories of fear and bravery here. Stories of the secrets I hold deep within me… the places of pain that no one else sees. Places even I have not dared to venture within myself since my fiance died. Places that I have sewn tightly shut for the past two and a half years. Places that I know – once the stitches are removed – have the potential to be very painful and scary.

So it goes with the heart… with the possibility of allowing someone new into the most sacred parts of ourselves. It is not only for the widowed, but for anyone who risks their heart. Because we have to open up the stitches of old wounds if we’re really going to love and be loved. We have to be willing to bare the secrets that reside in those most private, dark, dirty, worn corners of us if we ever want a chance to feel that beautiful soul-filled unconditional love from another.

It is not easy to open up these deepest wounds. It takes incredible bravery. The open air can be excruciating at times. We have no guarantee that the person who is loosening the stitches will do so gently and with love. No guarantee that they won’t try to rip them out, or seal them shut without a care to heal them. All we can do, is hope, and trust that we chose someone who can do the job right.

God, it is terrifying… so terrifying to let new hands begin to loosen the stitches. Especially when someone else had already done the job so well, years ago. Someone else, who’s death caused new stitches. But… I think, far more terrifying to never let new hands touch the heart. To never try and allow someone to be gentle with me. Because in that, I will never learn that someone new can do the job well, too.

After years of hiding it away, I am finally presenting my heart bravely, and allowing some of those stitches to be loosened. Not all of them, and not all the way. But some, and slowly. Thus far, these new hands have been gentle. They have not tried to open my heart any more than I am ready for. They have not tried to sew the wounds back shut once they saw inside. Instead, they have held my battered heart quietly, with strength – seeming to know that all it needs is to be held, to be seen as fully as it wants to be seen.


Project Update: Into the Unknown

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There are new things on the horizon, I can see it. New landscapes I’ve yet to explore – within my artistic career and myself. I’ve been feeling it for some time now… and as I sat down today to write week 37 of the series, I somehow ended up with THIS post inexplicably. So I’m deciding to pay attention… to listen to whatever stirrings have finally decided to come out….

Closing One Chapter:
Although I have not reached a full 52 weeks on the project, I have made it a full year of shooting the series. (A few weeks were missed for holidays and bad weather). And so I’ve decided that I will make the informal close of the first year be at week 35. The dates of my last 5 or 6 posts I think will reveal I’ve slowed down things a bit. It’s good, in a way… it is because so much life has been happening. Rushing in quickly since the beginning of the year. Still, Life is happening, indeed.

I never planned on Week 35 to be the closing image, but somehow looking at it now, it feels appropriate. It is about the point in which life truly begins again… the rushing in of life and the reaching out into it. It suddenly feels just right for this image to close one chapter and allow for the next chapter to begin.

I say the “close of the first year” because I’m intending to continue “Still, Life” indefinitely, but at a slower pace. Perhaps one image a month. Or perhaps just organically as life allows room for. I will be working that out out over the coming weeks and months. I’ve still many shots planned for this series and others still unknown that will come – so I’ve no doubt that this is now going to be a series I carry on for a very long time.

Into the Unknown:
As for what lies ahead… there are other things my ambitious heart is yearning to get itself into. It’s a bit terrifying, and I have no idea where it’s going yet, but I’ve got some ideas. I’ve just submitted my first proposal for a public speaking engagement on death and creativity. I want to begin speaking to people about the healing power of creativity, about everything this project has taught me in the past year. About everything I’ve learned over the course of my life about creativity and healing, and the power of death to help us live life more fully. There is so much to share from behind the scenes of this series, and I’m feeling like it’s time to begin making room for that.

Along with public speaking, workshops, articles, and the like… the even bigger project that is calling my name is the “Still, Life” book. I have dreamt of this since I first begin the series. Have held it in my mind and heart all this time. With every image and every word written… with every painstaking hour and uncomfortable position I put myself in for a shot… always, the book was there in the background whispering to me. A physical manifestation of one woman’s voyage… navigating the depths of herself as she lives through death, loss, fear, anger, and despair… coming out the other end more powerful and more alive than ever before.

This is the first time I’ve been so open about sharing of the book. I’m hoping it lands in supportive hearts… I’m having faith that it will be heard by just the right people out there who can help me to make it happen too. I believe in those connections… in opening the door and the right person walking in. I’ve got faith and things to share and I know the right publisher will be found. And the right speaking and writing opportunities will too. If you’re out there read this, and have any advice, ideas, or connections for me, feel free to leave a comment below or message me on my Facebook page. My heart is open, I’m ready for what’s ahead, and I’m all ears.

I want to thank everyone who has been on this journey with me thus far, whether you have been enduring your own journey with death or not. The growth and number of lives this project has touched could not have happened without every one of you. When it’s gotten hard to keep going, just knowing I had an obligation here – with you – kept me pushing ahead. And it will continue to do so as I take my first steps into the next phase of this journey… onward it goes. Thank you all!

Week 36 // Balance


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I’ve been waiting for this image for a long time. Over the past year it has evolved in various forms until the idea of creating a story around heartstrings came up. The original of the idea came from hearing a story about a woman’s near-death experience recently, in which she described leaving her body but seeing literal strings connecting her heart to all the other hearts around her. That clicked for me as the perfect concept for this shot.

I’ve sat with all the images from this shoot for over a week now because so many of them turned out to be very powerful. So much so that I’m thinking I will break it out into its own smaller series – in color. I’ve certainly had a hard time choosing just one for this series, but this is the one that is speaking to me today.

The heart story. Connections, love, vulnerability, tension, fear, courage. The heart is a raw, wild place inside us that we only ever allow a very select few to see. Personally, I like it that way.

There has been, all my life, this constant tension between myself and the outside world. I have lost far too many people in my 32 years to be frivolous about who I attach it to. This isn’t something that has been caused by my fiance’s death, but likely by the death of my mother when I was very young and likely also to the dysfunctional nature of my childhood. I turned inward when she died, and spent much of my time within my own heart and mind. Safe from the pain of losing others. Over time, I became an expert at keeping connections at bay… but in the background, I always knew there was something about this that I didn’t like. It was all too easy to sever ties with most people because I never let them connect to me in the first place.

My fiancé’s love changed all that. He crept into the depths of my heart in ways that I had not allowed anyone else to. His essence wrapped itself around the deepest, darkest, most vulnerable parts of me. There was no fixing, just existing. Together. Wrapped around each other’s darkness. And around each other’s light. I let him all the way in. When he died, I could do nothing but bleed for a very long time. The brokenness made it impossible not to.

So it was his death which actually began to change something in me. In particular, the trauma and shock of how suddenly he died. It ripped my heart right out of my chest. What I didn’t know back then, is that although this meant my heart was now more vulnerable than ever, it also meant that it was more out in the open to receive love. That’s the thing of it – to receive love, to create connections, we must be willing to put our hearts out into the open and risk them being ripped apart.

It’s a terrifying thing. In the past few months, there have been some powerful shifts for me that have led to new challenges. There have been events and people who have come into my world which have pushed me to decide whether I will continue working to keep my heart our there in the world. Beginning to date again, and move into deeper friendships with men again, has been one of the biggest struggles of late. Particularly because it began to present itself so without warning and it has uprooted all sorts of things I had yet to begin to work through.

As I move forward, I’m learning a new balance with the outside world. I am not hiding my heart away like I used to. Finding less need for that now. I am not leaving it out in the open either though. I am holding it close to me, grasped firmly between strong hands – protected, but connected. Allowing others to grab hold of my heartstrings without letting them pull me out of balance. Choosing people who will not want to pull me out of balance. From here, I can loosen or tighten my grip as needed, in order to feel safe. And I can trust others respect that and do the same for themselves. The tension is no longer a negative. It is no longer out of balance on one side or the other, but instead like two equal forces, myself and the hearts of everyone else around me, creating power, energy and stability in the space between us.


“Still, Life” is a year-long self portrait series exploring the journey of grief. You can read more about the project in this post. To see the full image gallery visit 2014 PROJECT. Please share with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

Week 35 // Flow


There was a real magic about this shoot. The day I came back down to the beach, the water was eerily calm… the tide was unusually low. More so than I’ve ever seen it growing up. The sand bar – which is normally at least 10-20 feet out in the water was up out of the water entirely… and just on the other edge of it the water washed up steeply. As the sun laid low into the west, it created an unmistakable line in the sand that seemed to go on into eternity. I was mesmersized, and knew instantly this was the place for the next shot.

I’ve often heard the idea of grief being like waves of the ocean that ebb and flow in our lives. I’ve certainly found this to be the case too. But what this image showed me, was something of the opposite… how life will ebb and flow in and out of our grief. There will be times when we are able to reach out into life again. Moments when we will walk up to the edge of a new life and begin to take that first reach into it. How this image depicts to me that when we do, life will flow right back into us, and back into our grief. If we let it. And when we are ready.

It may take years before we are ready to venture up to the water’s edge – to the rushing flow of life. But there will come a time, as I am coming to know now, when we will see life with curious eyes again. It is where I have been as the new year has come. A curiosity to explore has begun to return. I do not feel as if I am leaving the landscape of my grief, but rather that I am further out on the edge of where grief and life meet each other. I am allowing life to flow in, to wash over the edges of my grief and soften them. Indeed the edges are beginning to feel less sharp. It’s a miraculous thing to begin to see, and even more so to be experiencing. There was a time I never believed this could be possible. But here I am, beginning to lean into life, and letting it flow back into me.

“Still, Life” is a year-long self portrait series exploring the journey of grief. You can read more about the project in this post. To see the full image gallery visit 2014 PROJECT. Please share with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

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