Monday, September 28, 2009

When Everything Comes Together

When a one line email arrives in the middle of the night, point your nose into the breeze and take in the winds of change.

You may be too tired to grasp all that the email portends at the time, but stick it in your wallet like a Chinese fortune. I promise you will look at it later and marvel at the accuracy of its prediction.

Three months ago, Aimee sent me an email (not an actual cookie, though that would have been good too) with this message.

That was all it said except for the inclusion of a link to this.

I've been carrying around a camera since the late 70's. I still remember my very first one. It was a cheapo 110 that Santa brought me to take pictures on my upcoming trip to Disney World (a huge gift from grandmother). I was nine. All of the pictures from that trip are off-center because the viewfinder wasn't lined up with the lens. I can still smell the scent of the burned out flash bar.

The 110 was followed by a series of point and shoot film cameras, an SLR, a couple of digital point and shoots and finally two years ago a digital SLR. I thought everyone owned a camera of some sort or another. It wasn't until I posted a bunch of old photos on Facebook recently (much to the chagrin of many friends) that I realized my assumption was wrong.

You'd think after all of those cameras I'd know a thing or two about photography. But I didn't. Not really. I knew that I liked to capture moments. I was ecstatic when a photo actually came out sort of the way I imagined it would. But I'll let you in on a secret: it was all just a matter of statistics. If you shoot enough, you're bound to end up with one or two you love. Despite a desire to take a photography class, I still hadn't gotten around to it.

Over the past year or two, I'd been lurking around blogs with beautiful photography. I actually wound up the nerve to ask Yvonne and Aimee for a few pointers. Yvonne pointed me to this book (which I bought immediately--she said it changed her photography completely) and Aimee provided me with constant encouragement--that is until she sent me that link.

I knew of Me Ra through reputation. I knew other bloggers spoke her name in hushed tones. The workshop seemed like a bit of an investment, but photography was really becoming a hobby, so I signed up for the workshop.

And then I freaked out!

I was going to sit in a room with this amazing photographer and 19 other women who knew about aperature and f-stop and shutter speed and probably the Pythagorean Theorem--some of them even had their own photography businesses!

What the f*ck was I thinking?! I was going to embarrass myself.

Last weekend arrived, and the moment I met Me Ra my fears disappeared. I believe it's impossible to be around that smile, around her light and not feel inspired.

Yes she taught us how to leave the automatic settings behind and shoot entirely in manual (ENTIRELY IN MANUAL! You can do it too!), but that was such a small part of our weekend workshop. The very first note I took had nothing to do with photography at all.

"Anytime you can speak in front of people about what you do, the better."

And my second:

"What you have is enough."

Yes Me Ra is a published writer and an incredible photographer, but she is so much more. Me Ra was put on this planet to inspire women. Her artistic talents are just the tools she uses to speak to our hearts.
"Step back from your images and see what your soul is trying to tell you."

I've had a copy of The Artist's Way on my shelf for 15 years. I don't know that I've ever gotten further than the Table of Contents. That was until Me Ra started our workshop reflecting on a quote she pulled out of her well-worn copy.

I smiled as I looked at the book laying on the table in front of her. The cover was faded, the binding floppy and a rainbow of sticky notes adorned pages like ceremonial feathers. It reminded me of my copy of Let's Go Europe that still sits proudly on my shelf almost 20 years after that great trip.

My copy of The Artist's Way is no longer on the shelf but now sitting next to my computer where I can easily grab it when I can steal a few minutes to be inspired. I was so euphoric after the workshop I was mad when I had to return to work the next day. All I wanted to do was take advantage of the light outside, play with my photos in my free trial of Lightroom and spend the rest of my time reading and continuing on my path to creativity.

Oh yeah, I have a family and a job and house and...and...

But you know what? It's okay. Because last week I came across this post by Leo Babauta.

"Holding ourselves back is often considered a bad thing, but it’s not. It’s the best thing we can do, if we want changes to last. When we start a new change, often we are full of enthusiasm. But then we go all out and use up all of that enthusiasm, and run out of motivation or energy or get distracted by something else. But when you hold yourself back, you build up enthusiasm and keep it going for much longer..."

How did he know I needed to read this?

I'm the queen of charging full-steam ahead and burning out just as fast. I don't want to do it this time though. All this confluence of events and ideas and skills and encouragement, it needs to be treated differently. I know this moment is special.

I am full of anticipation with what will come. I am already seeing changes.

As of tonight, I'm not sure what my soul is trying to say through the images yet, but I'm liking what they are whispering.




20 Deserve Mamma's Love:

Gunfighter said...

Brava, my friend!

flutter said...

I am so proud of you.

Karrie Welborn said...

Wow! I cannot wait to see what pops up next in your flickr stream!

Emily McKhann said...

Oh, what a beautiful, inspiring post, and just what I needed to read today. I too just love having my camera in my hand and remember the smell of the flash from my first camera and have had The Artist's Way waiting for around for 20 years for me to actually get through it. Your description of it all coming together around creativity and life and Me Ra's class is really wonderful.

Cyndy said...

That is so exciting! I would love to take that class if they ever come back to DC. Your photography is already very beautiful and I'm sure that whatever you learned will enhance your talent. Right now I'm pretty much just a picture taker and it would be wonderful to actually learn how to do stuff with my camera. I'm going to try to find out when they'll be in town again. Thanks for posting about this - it sounds like a wonderful experience!

Kim said...

Excellent post, and I'm so glad you were there, encouraging us as well.

Nickname unavailable said...

Thank you so much for sharing this post with me. It was such a honor to spend the weekend with you, and Oh my goodness, these photos are AMAZING! I loved your energy in the mix of women. I love your passion for life, and wow, you painted so many pictures with your words in this post. What a gift to me, and what perfect timing. :) You are so dear.
xoxo, Me Ra

Pgoodness said...

Fantastic!

Karen Sugarpants said...

i think our plans have to change now. because of this. so there is room. yanno?
SO glad you got to meet Me Ra. I love her to bits - she has inspired me in ways I can't even explain yet.

thecheekofgod said...

What a gorgeous post . . . lovely pictures, lovely words. My wife is the photo-obsessed one in our home, so I'm sharing this with her . . .

Chellerie said...

Your enthusiasm is addictive! One day (soon) I am going to become brave with my camera as well!

Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

I'm crying. :)

Christine Koh said...

Just beautiful. I am so thrilled to meet you in person soon! -Christine

karey m. said...

true. your thrill is addictive...

making me feel like i can do some new things.

well done, you. {and thanks. i think i needed to read this.}

Deb said...

Wow. Wow.

Aileen said...

great post. you need to put up more of your fantastic shots!

patience said...

what beautiful work!!! i've been so stuck and really needed this post! thank you...

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tracey clark said...

girl! awesome stuff. there is nothing like a double shot of inspiration with an encouragement chaser!
love it!

becky @ misspriss said...

I've been thinking along the same lines recently. I love having a camera in my hand. I haven't been getting out with it enough.

And it's been several years since I read Artist's Way. I think it's time to pull it out again. I'm terrible at doing my morning pages. So I've tried doing them at night instead, before I go to bed. That actually seems to work better for me, as it lets me get everything out before I sleep. And then I'm not keeping myself awake over things. I get them out and move on.

This makes me long to take a class. There are some photog classes at the local community college. I may just have to sign up in the spring.