a rooted flow2.jpg

week 16 // love

When I started this project I tossed about with my project partner whether or not this should be a mother-centric project or not. We are both mothers (hers is 8 years and mine is almost 8 months) so I thought it would be appropriate. But she reminded me that we are more than just mothers. We are creative souls and we wear too many hats to count. To limit it to just mothering would narrow the scope too much. And I whole heartedly agree. However, as I have worked on these topics week by week for the last four months I have discovered that being a mother is more and more of who I am. I didn’t know I would become a diligent breastfeeder or a babywearing proponent and fanatic. I did not know that the way I would go about my day would focus so much on his needs both now and in the future. I did not know that so many of these words (the weekly prompts) would pull strength from me that I did not know I had or to cause me to fall in love with my son over and over and over again. I love him more than I have ever thought I could ever love another person. Here’s  a list because I love lists:

1.       He has taught me that I could love more than I ever thought possible. That sounds overly generic, but it is true. The moment we found out I was pregnant my heart grew to fit my love for him. And it still continues to grow. It’s possible that one day I will be all heart and nothing else, he has that effect on me.

2.       Watching my husband become a father was one of the most beautiful things I witnessed. We had waited so long for the right moment to start having children and all those years melted away and it was as if I was seeing him again for the first time. I fell in love all over again.

3.       The simple act of having a child has opened me to love myself and my body after years of battling self-image and weight issues. I may see a laundry list of imperfections in my body, but it worked perfectly to make him. How could I not love him or myself after that amazing accomplishment? Growing a human is not easy, even when he is made almost entirely of pizza (the eating the pizza part was very easy, actually).

4.       Watching him develop skills and strength and memory all make my heart sing. Around 5 weeks old he finally gave us the gift of his first smile; he was really a human and not just a floppy sack of potatoes that eats,sleeps, and poops all day. And in these last few weeks he has learned to hug, like really hug, and every time he leans in and squeezes me with his chubby cherub arms my heart expands a little more. The love he has showed me is now tangible and able to be captured in a picture.

5.       In the end, being a mother has helped me love better, stronger, and more willingly.

Thank you, my sweet one for showing me a whole side of love that I never knew existed. I love you more than coffee… and pizza… and chocolate. Gosh, darn it. I love you more than anything.

Admittedly, I did not take a picture or create something specific for this week. Instead, I chose a photo of my little love taken last week. We had just finished up a family walk along the local trail and were playing peek-a-boo around the trees in the park.

- Cory

week 15 // wisdom

I never considered myself someone that has wisdom. When I think of someone who possesses wisdom I envision the monk on the top of the remote mountain top that has the answer to the meaning of life. I think of Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr. But one does not have to be famously kind to have wisdom.  I think wisdom is accumulated over time, with experience, and is often complimented with compassion. It is not an expertise on a subject, it is an understanding of a subject and how it fits into the world.  One does not have to be smart to be wise.

How does wisdom fit into my life? I am skilled in many subjects. I am book-smart and well-practiced in them. But would someone approach me and ask me to share my wisdom on these subjects? Probably not. But I am learning that motherhood is one thing that can lead to another form of wisdom. Becoming a mother and having just one child immediately puts you into a category known as BTDT (been there, done that) and many first time mothers crave to learn from our collective wisdom. Until you actually go through it, pregnancy and childbirth are somewhat of an enigma. What will it be like to feel baby kick? What is round ligament pain? What is going to happen with my breasts? What do contractions feel like? What does childbirth feel like? And then afterward: will I connect with my baby? Will I be able to breastfeed? How do I get any sleep at all? And the questions are endless. Once you have a child you can lend an answer to most if not all questions, with the disclaimer that every pregnancy, birth, and child is different. A while after I had my son I realized that I belonged to this collective. I was part of this club called motherhood. The older your children get and the more you have, the more mother-wisdom you accumulate. I may only have one seven month old, but I can talk to complete strangers about drool and poop and boobs. Ok, so I laughed a little as I typed that last sentence. It is clear that my wisdom has yet to mature…

My image was taken while stuck in beach traffic on the way back home from running errands. Based on past experiences with the little one on long car rides we were well prepared... and it took us 2 hours to drive the 18 miles home.

- Cory

Week 15 : Wisdom

There are so many places I have not been, so many stories I have not heard, and  thing I do not know. How can I speak about wisdom? 

I know a few things that have taken a while to become deeply embedded into who I am and how I think. I suppose that is something like wisdom, though I doubt seriously whether anyone else would see it that way. They are reminders really, that help me see the light through whatever darkness may come. And, they are borrowed, stolen, and begged for from other people. Like most truth I have known, these bits of "wisdom" have been passed from one person to another and continually rediscovered to be so.

Humans see time as linear, but in much of the natural word it is cyclical. Seeing the cycles in life can help us to see that nothing is ever stagnant forever. Everything changes. Nothing stays the same. 

Here and now is the most important place and time for your mind to be in. Being there and then as often as possible is the surest way to peace and happiness.

People are basically good and kind. And you must listen to your subconscious voice when it tells you someone can not be trusted.

Compassion is a good place to make your default.

Violence and hate beget violence and hate. And so too for the good stuff.

Hard work feels good. Procrastination does not.

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted.

Parenting is a balancing act and not a place for ego to rule.

We are all doing the very best that we can. 

- Rachel

Week 14 : Simplicity

This is a difficult topic for me because a lot of the way my mind works is about seeing and contemplating the complexity within what is small, or basic, or simple. I started thinking this way when I was a child, when I was lonely, or scared, or felt the need to distance myself from what was happening around me. I would focus my eyes and my mind on the details of something around me. Sometimes it was the pattern in a tile floor or piece of fabric. Sometimes it was the visual rhythm of rows of crops zipping by on the highway in Central California, or the blurred variations of gray asphalt on the road to school. It could be as simple as contemplating the rise and fall of metallic relief depicting the face of a man on a coin, or  the interaction of breeze and tree and sun creating a dynamic shadow. It was always about something simple, something no one else would notice me noticing. And then I would dive into it, get lost completely in the complexity there, where no one could guess the tides of my mind. 

Everything I am as an artist tems from that practice. Amongst those who meditate it's called contemplation, and I like that phrase very much. It has a lovely, peaceful, sensory and intellectual quality to it. I like to think of what I do as contemplation now. But, for me, it started as coping and survival. It was escape and protection that gradually blossomed into a way of seeing the world that I enjoy very much. Today it is the way that art lives in me, the way that I turn what I see into art. And I feel grateful, lucky, to see this way, no matter how it came about.

This image is of an insect molt, in the palm of my hand. A simple, natural, mundane object in the natural world, infinitely complex in mine. 

- Rachel

week 14 // simplicity

I tend to over-complicate things and simplicity is too often an afterthought.

As a mother, simplicity is a way of life we yearn for in the otherwise cacophony of the day’s events. To simplify is to uncomplicate, to clarify, to de-clutter, to make easy. Simplicity can mean peace of mind.

Babywearing has allowed me to reach this state of being on so many levels and on so many occasions. It frees my hands to do what I need while still holding onto my son. He is entertained by the vantage point of adults and being mobile.  He is kept happy by being close to his mommy. I get to hug him for hours on end without my arms aching from supporting his burgeoning chub and chunk. When he begins to rub his eyes – the telltale sign that nap time is eminent – I pop him in my carrier and within a few paces back and forth through the living room the sleep dust has already settled.

This week during our walks I realized as I loaded up his stroller how complicated our routine is. Once we park I grab the giant jogging stroller out of the back of the car and begin to load it up with accessories: light blanket clipped to the cup tray to keep his legs out of the sun, sound machine on standby in case he gets fussy, toys linked to chains so they keep him entertained but won’t get lost, a hat to keep his partially bald head out of the sun where the sunshade doesn’t cover, pacifier clipped to the chest strap, and finally I throw my ring sling in the under compartment as a safety net in case he decides that he’s not down with stroller time this day.  Walking over a mile while holding him in one arm and pushing the stroller just once and I never left my carrier in the car again. He’s typically good in the stroller and I even got to try jogging for a bit, but a hand full of times I was grateful my sling was with me to walk him back to the car tear-free. Seriously, why does he need so much stuff just when he’s got the cushiest job of just sitting there and watching the trees and clouds go by while I push him about like royalty?  In the carrier he doesn’t need his complicated set up and accoutrements. He is simply happier there, tied to his mommy.

So why don’t I babywear every time we walk? Honestly I was asking myself this very question earlier this week as I laughed at our elaborate stroller set-up ritual. I was also thinking that a stroller wouldn’t work well for long walks on the beach either. Can you imagine? Anyway, I have a ring sling which goes over one shoulder which is not particularly comfortable for anything longer than shopping trips without taking breaks or switching sides. I have to carry him on only one shoulder right now in the ring sling, so it all comes down to needing a carrier that distributes his weight better on my shoulders, hips, wherever.  And what carrier would be simpler than one single stretch of fabric? I’ve wanted to get such a wrap for a while due to their versatility, but I never thought it would be their simplicity that would finally get me to buy one. So this week I bought a lightweight wrap based off of one that I fell in love with at a local Babywearing International meeting. Tomorrow we return to our weekday walking routine and I can’t wait to try him out in it, to let my arms swing by my side, to hug him and talk gently to him as we go. It would be a small win to simplify any part of our routine, but a win nonetheless. To simplicity!

My image is a cross-section of my new wrap, a simple batik pattern in two of my favorite colors.

- Cory

week 13 // light

The sun: burning, glowing, radiating, strong, spitting out energy toward our receptive little planet. The sun is light.

Watching the sun rise is an amazing show. Sure, you might think it’s like a sunset in reverse and that’s true. But it’s so much more. For most people, seeing the sunset is probably more common than seeing the sun rise. And that is what makes them more special. It is a magnificent show shared only by few. By the farmers, the truckers, the fishermen, the bakers, and a handful of commuters. Watching the sun rise and witnessing the light pour over the horizon in a mystical ombre is like getting to be in on a really good secret.

When the day is grey – foggy, stormy, or even just a little cloudy – the light becomes filtered. To me, it is like a dream. I love a grey day beyond any other type of day. I feel like I’m on the verge of something amazing that’s supposed to happen.  I’ve always had a really good feeling bubble up from within, like when you hear the perfect song played at just the perfect moment. I feel more productive.  I feel at home in the grey.

And light is like oozing hot nacho cheese melting all over the place. It pours through windows, leaves, clouds. It warms your skin and everything it touches. Can’t find your cat? Look for it in a beam of light, a cozy warm spot on the floor.

Light is priceless treasure. As a photographer I chase after it, seeking those fleeting moments of perfect light as if they were so many rubies I could hold in my hands if only for a short while. I ache to see the way treetops seem to burn as the sun begins to set. Or when the sun peeks out during the rain, casting warm glows against a dark an ominous sky or hitting all of the little prism raindrops and spreading a rainbow so big that you can never find the other end.

When the light is right, it is magical. 

My image is (again) of my son. His hair has started curling and he has been fascinated with the blinds in my bedroom. In the morning as the sun came through the east facing window he pushed the slats so that the light hit his hair just right, lighting his fuzzy curls up.

- Cory

Week 13 : Light

A random group of thoughts on light:

Light is everything to artists and photographers, because vision is all about light. 

I can't help thinking that the concept of darkness isn't really a real thing on it it's own. There is light and there is the absence of light, which we have given the nickname "dark". 

Everything most of us know about life and living on Earth is completely dependant on light. It's kind of amazing to realize that so much of the complexity of life in terms of diversity, and in terms of how complicated we humans make our cultural and social lives, is completely dependant on something so simple and so completely taken for granted, as light. 

- Rachel

Week 12 : Grow

This ended up being a lot more rhymey than I had intended. It wasn't suppose to be a poem of any sort. I guess Cory's psychic projections reached my brain.

I'm working on not being as much of a perfectionist, and going with the flow. So, the rhymey little non-poem stays. 

- Rachel.

week 12 // grow

From a wee little apple seed

You sprouted like a weed

Now you’re on your way to be a strong, strong tree

For a while you were actually a part of me

Watching you grow

 

From your first cry

To that first faulty babble

Sputtering your first syllables now

Words will follow soon

I’m right here beside you

Watching you grow

 

Your eyes are sharper now

They see further than my face

Anything within reach is yours for play

The world is your oyster

I’m right here beside you

Watching you grow

 

Your fists used to be clenched tight

As if holding a secret treasure

Now your hands are open wide

And all you touch is a kaleidoscope of textures

I’m right here beside you

Watching you grow

 

From elemental wants and needs

The buds of personality

And preference and habit and humor and ability

Are developing daily

I’m right here beside you

Watching you grow

 

What will tomorrow hold?

What will you learn?

How many stars will you get to wish upon?

Where will your journey take you?

I’ll always be here beside you

Watching you grow

 

My image is of my son in the grass. He is standing often, and here with assistance from his daddy. I really thought I'd see his feet from this point of view but they are still so tiny.

- Cory

week 11 // reflection

What do you see when you see your reflection? Do you see the lines and curves you have come to know over the years? Do you look a little harder and see the trials and triumphs that make up the story of your life? Your reflection is as deep as you want to be, and it will always be there waiting for you.

When I look at my reflection I see it all. I see the tolls my body has taken and the stories that go with them. Body image has been a reoccurring struggle for me ever since 5th grade when I was diagnosed with ITP. The first thing the doctors did was to pump me full of steroids and sentence me to a life without jumping, climbing, running, or any activity which could lead to even the smallest bump or bruise. I ballooned up, as steroids have that effect. And without exercising my body no longer had the sinewy ligaments and thin limbs of a little girl that likes to play. The condo my parents owned had floor to ceiling mirrors which took up about 20% of the wall space so watching my transformation was unavoidable. Four years later my ITP was sent into remission via splenectomy. Without my spleen I was finally able to bump into things without massive bruising, use a real razor for the first time to shave my legs, but not wear a bikini thanks to the 6 inch gash across my abdomen (maybe if it was from a shark bite I would!). As a teenage girl I was confused by my own history of body image issues that came with the treatments for my illness and, later, a fear of fat that came with growing up in a preppy town where everyone was expected to look and act a certain way. And all of those mirrors showed me my reflection from every angle, a disappointment compared to how I saw myself in my mind. I developed an eating disorder during my junior year and I marked the pounds I lost with tick marks on my shoe. 10, 20, 30, 40… Thankfully my friends and family intervened before I caused permanent damage or worse.

As a freshman in college I finally learned what it meant to love your body. The concept had never been introduced to me at all while I was growing up. It took the down to earth wisdom of a dorm mate of mine that proudly grew up part of a “farming” family in the woods near Garberville, CA. On her door she had posted a magazine cut out of women’s bodies. They were of all ages and they were wearing plain undergarments or nothing at all. I had never seen anything like that, having only seen ads in fashion and beauty magazines and the people on TV (mind you, The Real World was the only reality show back then). No wonder I had such issues with body image. My understanding of beauty when it came to bodies was narrow minded and unexperienced. But those women? They were beautiful. You could see it in their eyes and the lines around their smiles. I haven’t thought at all about those images until now. I really had no idea what an impact they had on me looking back 16 years later. It changed how I saw myself. For the first time in my life I felt comfortable in my skin. Instead of looking at my reflection with vile scrutiny, it began to be something I’d do to occupy my time while I brushed my teeth or just to make sure my hair was brushed. I was healthy, happy, and had little need for mirrors.

But there is this thing when you become a little too comfortable. You get lazy. In the first couple of years with my husband we explored the world of cooking together. Food has always been a big part of our lives. We don’t spend money on toys or objects. No, we indulge our taste buds instead. We grew together and we GREW together. I more than he. I stopped fitting into my clothes so well and started making my own clothes because it was 1) less expensive, 2) unique, and 3) I didn’t have to know what size I was as I continued to grow. Ten years later in our relationship I was 75 pounds heavier and had slipped from simply overweight to technically obese. Even though I have neglected to associate that term with myself it was the pictures I saw of myself that made me wonder if I was looking at the same person in the mirror. For a change, I did something good for my body and started working out. That was a hard thing to do since I’d never really crossed the bridge over to athleticism once it was first burned in elementary school. We focused our love of food on health and that part actually stuck. I lost 25 pounds. I never saw the loss in my reflection, though I am told my face thinned out. But the biggest part of the acceptance of my weight was that I finally went out and BOUGHT clothes after making my own clothes for nearly seven years. 

I kept the weight off for over two years, up until the third trimester of my pregnancy where I gained most of it back. When you have an excess of fat stores, gaining 20 pounds during pregnancy is pretty reasonable. I LOVED my body. I had been happy with it at one point long ago, but never truly loved it the way I did when I was pregnant. I stared at my growing belly reflecting like some magical orb in the mirror every day. I watched as my breasts and ankles swell with it. I delighted in seeing patches of hair pop up in random places. I was a Wookie the size of a small moon and I loved it. I watched red scratches – the badges of motherhood – stretch across my abdomen. I couldn’t get enough of this miracle. I never knew what it was to feel beautiful until I was pregnant.

After my son was pulled from my abdomen I was left with another scar – my mother scar – and a pooch like a deflated basketball. My pregnancy was over and I didn’t know these shapes and feelings under my skin. Who was this person in the mirror? I exclusively breastfed and started taking daily walks with my son so that the beginning of our life together was a healthy one. Today I am now 41 pounds lighter than the morning he was born. It took six months postpartum to finally become familiar and somewhat proud of my reflection with my widened hips and drooping curves that tell the world I am a mother. But losing almost half of the hair on my head as a postpartum side effect was something I couldn’t handle. I threatened to cut it off and hide indoors until it grew back.  Here I was regaining faith and love for my body as I watched my reflection in agony with each stroke of the brush pulling out more hair than I used to lose in a week, moments after losing fistfuls in the shower. Every way I brushed it looked like a bad combover so I began to hide my balding head under fabric head bands and scarves. I felt like I was watching myself turn into Gollum from Lord of the Rings. I pathetically poured over pictures of myself from just a few months before where my hair was lush and, even though it was really thin to begin with, at least it was all there. I sulked too damn much about my sickly thinning hair. It made me upset that I felt so vain and that it was the only side effect of my pregnancy I didn’t embrace.

And then I looked into my son’s eyes (I swear that is the remedy for pretty much anything) and I saw my reflection in them almost filling them up completely. I realized that he doesn’t care what I look like. I am his whole world whether or not I’m covered in boils, bald, bulging at the seams, or look like Barbie. He loves me because I am his mother, not for what I look like. What does matter is that I care for him unconditionally, that he knows what love is, that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and that I and teach him how to be a good and thoughtful person. And a lesson that I have learned as I have written this is that I need to teach him healthy habits, to be comfortable in his body, and lastly, that joy should be measured in smiles and laughter, not pounds.

My image is of my son as I gazed into the reflection of the world in his eyes.

- Cory

Week 10 // creativity 

Creativity fills a void – a cavity – in my life. Without creativity I know I wouldn’t be complete. It is so much a part of me it is in the way that I think, the words that I say or write, how I cook, how I approach a problem, how I use my time. It fills in the gaps between science, reason, and necessity. It is so much a part of me, I have half a room dedicated to all things creative: sewing machine, cameras, lenses, tripods, seaweed pressing stuff, acrylics, water colors, yarn, paper paper paper paper paper, yarn yarn yarn yarn, pencils, pens, markers, paper paper paper… you get it.

 Creativity has always been a part of my life. During those silly introduction games in which you state your name and something you like that starts with the first letter of your name I would either say, “I’m Cory and I like colors,” or “I’m Cory and I like being creative.” But it is so much more than having a need to create art or having a flare for craftiness.

 Generally I have always considered my personality to be divided between my creative side and scientific side. However, pondering the concept of creativity this week has led me to realize that the scientific side is steeply enriched with creativity and vice versa. Science requires creativity to develop innovative research, create new technology, and imagine things that no one ever thought possible. In that way, creativity is fueled by science. Science requires creativity to write a grant proposal just so in order to woo the lenders into funding your project. Getting creative with science is how we influence education. It is balanced, pulling and tugging in compliment; a beautifully choreographed dance in which one motion inspires the next.

 It reminds me of one of my favorite creative outlets in which I really get my science geek on: photographing seaweed. It is one avenue where my love of science and photography continues to evolve into an ever reciprocal process. I first used to photograph seaweed to convey scientific concepts, for species identification, and for education. In order to identify a species or photograph certain details I would hold up a bit of seaweed to the rising or setting sun to look at its features only to discover the most beautiful illuminated jewels. And I was hooked. My collection of seaweed jewels is never enough. I would conjure up new ways to photograph them, display them just so in just the right light, organize a frond on a piece of paper to press into a keepsake. I continue to seek out their illuminated shapes and features, collecting images as my treasures. And later, those images have ended up being useful for a field guide or a book or on display at a National Park and the art has become science once again. It is an ever rewarding cycle. Seaweeds allow me to indulge in both my science and creative sides completely. They inspire me with their beauty. They fuel my creativity (even if I am not working with them directly or even living near any at the current moment).

 My image conveys the word creativity and how it fills in the word cavity. The pattern is a seaweed just before it was pressed.

-Cory

Week 10 : Creativity This is another one of those words which I have a hard time really pinning down  it's meaning within the context of popular vernacular. Without going too deeply down the rabbit hole which is my brain working out these kinds of riddles, I will just say that I find it puzzling when people are spoken of as either being or not being creative. How can it be that a human being isn't creative? Every time we solve a problem, tweak a tool's purpose, make a friend, share an idea, have (literally create) a child, etc... we are being creative. We all do creativity, everyday.  Clearly, most people are talking about a specific kind of creativity upon uttering the word. They are speaking of an artistic ability. But, I have to say that I just reject that. I feel like it puts up too many walls between people who are supposedly artistic and those who are not. That rankles because I believe that we all have artists inside of us. We are talked out of knowing that part of ourselves and guided away from knowledge that would allow us to explore and express that artistic side, as our lives progress. The lucky few are encouraged and/or educated in a way that they are able to seek out or remain connected to that part of themselves. Or, some of us are just so infected and enamored by the love for artistic expression that we have only the choice between pursuing it or going mad. And I do mean that, mostly literally. My struggle with depression is far greater when I cannot work (artistically).  It honestly kills me just a little bit when people say they are not artistic or creative because they cannot draw. The truth is that drawing is a skill that is taught and learned. It's a skill that requires one to relearn how to see three dimensional objects and convert them into two dimensional objects in their head so that they may render them on paper. That is a tricky thing to do. It take education and a whole lot of practice. Some people learn it faster than others. That is the only difference. (This of course excludes situations wherein there may be a learning difference or cognitive issue that would hinder learning this skill) The same can be said about learning and then committing to our subconscious knowledge skills related to composition, color theory, painting techniques, etc.  Yes, I do recognize that there are differences between people who never get truly good at art and those who do. I would propose, however, that those differences have much more to do with 1. having something they desperately needs to be expressed within themselves (which might be caused merely by having a brain that focuses on the emotional consequences of life over the logical), 2. having a strong preference for, drive toward, need of artistic expression (as opposed to those who are perfectly content to keep those feelings and experiences to themselves) and 3. being taught, being encouraged and being brave. I think that may be the bottom line for me. When other's see creativity, or talent, or art... I see a person being brave.  The image above is something new for me. I don't usually do artistic pieces involving people. This is me being brave. -Rachel

Week 10 : Creativity

This is another one of those words which I have a hard time really pinning down  it's meaning within the context of popular vernacular. Without going too deeply down the rabbit hole which is my brain working out these kinds of riddles, I will just say that I find it puzzling when people are spoken of as either being or not being creative. How can it be that a human being isn't creative? Every time we solve a problem, tweak a tool's purpose, make a friend, share an idea, have (literally create) a child, etc... we are being creative. We all do creativity, everyday. 

Clearly, most people are talking about a specific kind of creativity upon uttering the word. They are speaking of an artistic ability. But, I have to say that I just reject that. I feel like it puts up too many walls between people who are supposedly artistic and those who are not. That rankles because I believe that we all have artists inside of us. We are talked out of knowing that part of ourselves and guided away from knowledge that would allow us to explore and express that artistic side, as our lives progress. The lucky few are encouraged and/or educated in a way that they are able to seek out or remain connected to that part of themselves. Or, some of us are just so infected and enamored by the love for artistic expression that we have only the choice between pursuing it or going mad. And I do mean that, mostly literally. My struggle with depression is far greater when I cannot work (artistically). 

It honestly kills me just a little bit when people say they are not artistic or creative because they cannot draw. The truth is that drawing is a skill that is taught and learned. It's a skill that requires one to relearn how to see three dimensional objects and convert them into two dimensional objects in their head so that they may render them on paper. That is a tricky thing to do. It take education and a whole lot of practice. Some people learn it faster than others. That is the only difference. (This of course excludes situations wherein there may be a learning difference or cognitive issue that would hinder learning this skill) The same can be said about learning and then committing to our subconscious knowledge skills related to composition, color theory, painting techniques, etc. 

Yes, I do recognize that there are differences between people who never get truly good at art and those who do. I would propose, however, that those differences have much more to do with 1. having something they desperately needs to be expressed within themselves (which might be caused merely by having a brain that focuses on the emotional consequences of life over the logical), 2. having a strong preference for, drive toward, need of artistic expression (as opposed to those who are perfectly content to keep those feelings and experiences to themselves) and 3. being taught, being encouraged and being brave.

I think that may be the bottom line for me. When other's see creativity, or talent, or art... I see a person being brave. 

The image above is something new for me. I don't usually do artistic pieces involving people. This is me being brave.

-Rachel

Week 9 : Peace

Peace feels like floating, weightless, yet slightly compressed, like an embrace or the gentle constant pressure of fluid all around. Peace is soft and firm, supportive and freeing. Peace is a buoy, a foundation of calm, a muscle that gives and holds at the same time. Peace is safety and love and trust.

Peace tastes clear, fresh and clean, and infinitely complex in it's subtlety. It is cool on the tongue and warm in the belly. It feeds and soothes.  It refreshes and revives. It nourishes and warms from the soul outward. 

Peace smells of warm musty earth, hints of sweet succulent greenness. It smells clean and crisp, transient yet rooted in soil. It smells of nature and is so faint that I wonder if I imagined it all.

Peace is quiet, a flowing kind of sound. It ripples and glides in truest subtle harmony. There are children's laughters so distant that it may be memory. There is music so fundamental that it is indistinguishable from the rustle of tree leaves, the strings of a wooden plaything, the beat of a heart, the sounds of an animal being. Peace is a complex kind of quiet that lets me hear.

Peace is the glassy, ripply, choppy, wavy, flowing, stagnant, sparkling, foaming, jubilant, dark blue and green surface of water. It holds together with astounding tension, yet trickles through my fingers. It molds and carves mountains yet glides and drips from the most delicate spider's web. It beads and floats through the air. It freezes solid, sharp and brittle. It holds and reflects color, light, images, sounds. It gives under pressure but bounces back in graceful equilibrium.  

It's potency is paramount to life on this planet and yet it contains entire worlds within its smallest measure. 

It is elemental. It is perfection. Water is my peace.

-Rachel

week 9 // peace

Peace is not just a sense of calm, but it a state of acceptance. For me, I have struggled with the birth of my son ending in a cesarean.

This is [an abridged version of] my birth story.

I had the most beautiful pregnancy, the kind you read about in fairy tales if they were about such things. From the moment I saw the faint line on the pregnancy test I was filled with a light. I glowed through my first trimester. I floated through my second as the life inside of me grew and started to flutter about. And when my belly swelled in my third, I was truly prepared for the little life I had grown from seed. I had embraced all the changes my body had gone through. I had taken all the classes, read and re-read all of the books, and written a birth plan. At 41 weeks and 4 days I lacked any pending labor signs – even the descending of my baby into my pelvis. I gave into my impatience and accepted an induction, throwing half of my birth plan out the window then and there. I was at peace with that though. I wanted my baby in my arms and not weighing on my hips.

It is in my nature to 1) be in charge of a situation, 2) be kind and polite, 3) avoid conflict, and 4) worry about things more than I should. During labor with my son I learned that some of these traits are stronger than the others. I thought that #1 was truly one of my strongest traits as it influenced my perception of my birth during my pregnancy. I had educated myself in the anatomical and spiritual senses in preparation for this day.  As it turns out, #2, 3, and 4 were all much stronger that day. Really, who is polite during labor? I don’t know. But I was far too polite. I listened to the nurses and not my body. I also progressed much quicker than they could measure.

I doubted that I could make it past transition  when I was in as much pain as I was only at 5 cm (though I had already gone through it) when I asked for an epidural. Again, throwing another line of my birth plan out the window. The idea of an end to the volcanic eruptions occurring ever closer within my uterus brought me peace. With pain medication I felt I would float on a cloud to 10 cm and push this baby out as if he were but a tiny marshmallow.

I had to wait to finish an IV bag full of fluids before I could get the epidural. Drip by drip the fluid entered my body, bringing me closer to the moment when those magical drugs would numb me from the waist down and ease me through the end of my labor into delivery. By the time I finished the bag I had dilated completely and really had to poo. Which, as it turns out is how it feels when you are ready to push. I was told not to since three nurses couldn’t tell if I was fully dilated. I did what I was told and fought the most primal urge I have ever felt in my entire life. The anesthesiologist had just arrived and was told to wait aside until the doctor arrived. Finally the doctor came in and “let” me push. This was supposed to be the moment my son was born. In the chaos that is the well-choreographed dance of medical staff turning on the infant warmer, the doctor pressing on my perineum and coaxing me to birth my baby, the nurses holding my legs and coaching me through my contractions to push, my husband was holding my hand with the excitement and anticipation of finally being able to hold his little boy.

Instead, I did not progress. I don’t remember how long I pushed for, but the doctor did not feel that I was going to deliver then and there. Not within some invisible timeframe I was unaware of. So he suggested that I labor down. I got an epidural at 10 cm. At the moment the anesthesiologist told me to stay absolutely still I managed to fight my convulsions, my contractions, my pushing urge… and the blood pressure cuff went off on my arm.

And then I floated away. I rested pain-free, covered in wires and probes and tubes. I was at peace with my decision. Unmedicated Pitocin labor is no joke. I had survived through all 10 cm of dilation so all I had left to do was push this little guy out after a little rest. I could do this, easy peasy.

I snuggled up under my blankets, curling up with my baby still in my womb. I talked to him and gave him pep talks on how he was going to descend and slip right out when I pushed.  I ate (vegetarian!) jello and sipped ice water. When my hour was up I was thrilled to finally finish what my body had started. I scooted to the edge of the bed and began pushing. I pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed. For three hours I pushed. I pushed in every different position possible given the amount of drugs, wires, and tubes going into me. I felt that he was so close. My husband even got to peek in and see the top of his head. I tried to sit up in the bed to push but the nurse kept pushing me back down. She suggested that sit ups were better than gravity than pushing out a baby. I tried not to argue with her, so when she would leave the room (which she did quite often) I would adjust my bed back into a sitting position. But I still did not progress. My epidural faded, no matter how many times I pushed the button for more.

The doctor came back in and watched as I pushed. Nothing was happening except for the pain returning. I wanted to keep on pushing. I wanted a mirror. I wanted to hold my sweet baby in my arms. The doctor informed me that after 3 hours the baby was still too high for forceps or suction. He planted the seed of doubt that caused me to worry: even though his vitals were fine his little head was being squished. I don’t remember exactly what he said but the concept frightened me and my labor was no longer about me, it was about my baby boy.  And ever so casually the doctor suggested a C-section. He didn’t even get a chance to finish his sentence when the tired and scared in me became overwhelmed and whimpered out, “I’ll take the C-section.” And like that, every item on my birth plan was nullified.

In the first days after my surgery I was in shock. Not that I had had surgery; I’d had abdominal surgery before. In a way I was actually a little fascinated by the aspect of being awake for my second abdominal surgery. But it was because something I had planned and prepared for could turn out so far from my vision. Understandably, anything can happen during labor and delivery. But I had not been strong or been my own advocate in the most intense and beautiful moment of my life. Looking back I question whether my C-section was not one of medical need but a shortcut, a means to an end, a decision ruled by impatience. Despite having a beautiful and healthy baby boy I couldn’t help but feel that my fairy tale pregnancy did not have the happy ending I had practiced for. I could not utter the words I “gave birth” or that “he was born.” I refused to. For the first three months I could only say “he was brought into this world.” I felt as if my birth experience was stolen from me. I lamented for the loss of the experience I never had.

And then I wrote. I have written and retold my birth story countless times. Each time I learned something about myself. Each time I recalled another part I had forgotten. Each time I became more accepting of my outcome because I cannot change the past, only the future.

But this does not have to be my only story about becoming a mother. I am not done having children. Next time I will have a toolbox stocked with experience and knowledge. I have educated myself about VBAC. I will have a doula by my side advocating for me and a peaceful beginning for my next little one. I know there is beauty in birth and in my future.

Above all, I am making peace with my “failure to progress” by looking into my little boy’s eyes and knowing that, no matter how he was born, he made it into this world healthy and so very loved.  

My image is a dyptich representing the bookends of my pregnancy. The first is a picture of the ocean on the day I took my first positive pregnancy test and the second is my C-section scar at 6 months postpartum. Stretch marks, pulled up pooch, and all.

- Cory

week 8 // hope

I wake up every morning filled with hope (after I’ve had my coffee, that is, and can function properly). It is an amazing feeling. Like having my lungs filled with happiness. My hope is not focused like a wish or a dream – though I do both of those daily as well. There is no room for disappointment in my hope. It is open ended, bottomless, daring, eager, and every morning I get a free refill. I look into my little boy’s eyes so full of wonder and fascination; I start a checklist in my planner for the day, and go from there.

I think my hope stems from the excitement of the unknown, almost like each day is adventure and anything could happen. Anything! Where will this day lead me? What will I encounter? What will I learn? Who will I talk to? What will I see? Where will I go? What effect will today have on my life or the lives of others? If I was better at journaling, each day would be its own story. Admittedly these would be boring to others, but wildly fascinating to me nonetheless.

I don’t know how I got this way or when. It must have been sometime before I met my husband because I remember him telling me that I was the happiest person he’d ever known in those first weeks of dating. All I do know is that it makes every day a joy, being filled with hope, such that even the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

My picture is of a sunrise over the Pacific Ocean in Cambria, California. The words are from a song I made up over the last few months which I sing to my son each morning as we watch the sun rise over the trees from our living room window.

- Cory

Week 8 : Hope

This is probably unexpectedly dark. I don't mind if you skip it. Hope is a beautiful thing to most. I don't wish to deny anyone that perspective. 

Really, go back and read Cory's words. Her hope is such a nicer place to be.

There is a passive quality to hope that I find very distasteful. I know that it's the kind of concept that is defined by an individual in the way that they use it and regard it. But, there is this pervasive and defining quality that is introduced when a word is used as decoration. I see the word hope displayed all over and that washes away any depth the word ever had for me. I cringe when I see it now. 

To me, hope is the last ditch effort to hold your head above water before giving up and drifting into the great abyss. Hope arrives when everything else goes to hell. Hope is something to grasp onto while putting one foot in front of the other, until you can walk without thinking about it. Hope is faith in the idea that not matter how bad things get, nothing ever stays the same, and someday it will change. All of this is suppose to make it beautiful and reassuring, I understand. And I do think that is true for some, but not everyone. 

In many ways I think hope is a luxury of the rich and privileged in western societies. It's a "first world" perk, an accessory. Plenty of people have suffered and died regardless of how much hope they had in their hearts. 

I have hope, and I have faith, but I feel these things in regard to that which I know to be true and real. I'd like to think, when I'm at a point in my life where I might need hope, I'd go down fighting instead of wishing things were different. Fighting is my brand of hope. Being an active participant in my "fate" is the absolute least I could hope for. Anything else feels like a fairy tale to me. 

My image doesn't really relate to what I've written. It's just something I was working on at the time. I suppose it could be seen as my kind of hope, standing strong against the prison bars of despair, instead of cowering in a corner. But then, why is my prison made of a flower. Freud? 

- Rachel

Week 7 : respect

empathy + humility = respect

I'm tempted to firmly plant myself on the other side of the generational divide known as "old" by saying, "There's not enough respect these days..." I'm not going to do it however, because my feelings are far more complex than that particular lament is prone to evoke. (What else is new?!) 

I am a firm believer that respect is earned, and shouldn't be a blanket philosophy that leads to automatic acquiescence to authority. I was taught to question authority. In my youth I thought that meant that calling my teachers Mr. and Ms. was an institutional device used to pound the square peg that was me, into the round hole that was that institution. Now I understand that teachers are people with lives and mortgages and dreams. I understand that they chose a difficult job that paid next to nothing, and in my case, in a neighborhood that had potential for violence and the assurance of poverty. What an incredibly daunting path they chose. They weren't all good at it by any means. Some actually did it because they had nothing else they could do to earn a living and they were biding their time, trying to make it through. But most cared. Most showed up everyday, in every way, and they did their best. Calling them Mr. or Ms. was the absolute very least amount of respect I could have paid them. They were owed that respect, I just didn't understand that.

I couldn't have possibly known. In a sense, I wasn't suppose to know because that's where we are developmentally in grade school or middle or high school. It's a good thing that paying them respect was institutionalized etiquette or I don't know how I could live with myself now. 

But I digress. My point, I think, is that I get the sense that some of us never really grow out of the developmental stage where we just don't understand what the word means. And I think that's a shame because the elements that make up respect (empathy & humility - in my view) are the perspectives we most need to build peaceful societies and peaceful lives. And that is something that that we are sorely in need of. 

Later in my thought process I realized this:

Over at Urban Dictionary they have a way of defining concepts by committee. People contribute their own definitions. The ones on respect are surprisingly different than what you find on more traditional dictionary websites. Where traditional sources speak of admiration, ordinary folks speak of kindness, compassion, acknowledgment, recognition, and consideration, etc. I guess some of us do know what the word means.  

- Rachel

Later Edit: What I forgot to mention is that the teacher experience I related helped me to see that while I still don't think respect should be automatic in that it is blindly given, I do think that most people have often earned it without our knowledge. It is that conclusion that makes me inclined to have and act with respect toward others while always evaluating, always watching, that it is cared for by those to whom it is given. If they abuse it, I snatch it back. It's, therefore, a blanket philosophy with a caveat for stitching. 

week 7 // respect 

Respect is a philosophy to me. Do unto others as you would have done to yourself, or so the story goes. It should be black and white and very clear, but it isn’t always. 

I believe that somewhere inside of everyone is a good and decent person. A smile exists behind everyone’s BRF. And I try to act accordingly by respecting their space, their privacy, their rights, their opinions. I try to exist in the area between the mantras Perform Random Acts of Kindness and Keep Calm and Carry On in that way. I love the diversity of thought and expression that exists in human nature and respect that each individual conveys emotion and life in general so, so, so differently.

 But when I feel disrespected the black and white philosophy begins to crumble. My kindness goes topsy-turvy. I feel unsettled after putting so much effort into being a good person, a good driver, a good friend. I don't know how to act and I don't know what to say. This is the grey area where many, if not most, people might hold a grudge. But unless actual harm is done I cannot and will not hold a grudge. I don't think it’s fair. I’d like a second chance if given the opportunity.

 Like hey, eggplant. You taste like shoe. I know that you are an amazing vegetable that is well loved in many cultures and I remember tasting you one time and you were actually extraordinarily delicious. I will try and try and try you again because I respect you, eggplant. I know there is good in you. Maybe eggplant isn't a person, but it makes sense to me.

- Cory

week 6 // clarity

I was in fourth grade the first time I truly experienced clarity.  It was when I walked out of my optometrist’s office with my very first (and VERY nerdy) pair of glasses. Until then I had no idea that the world was blurry. I thought that the chalkboard was hard to read because I sat in the back row but for no other reason. When I stepped out of the doors and looked at the empty lot across the street I gazed at the trees. It was as if I was seeing them for the first time. I will always remember what I said, “the trees have leaves!” I could see clearly for perhaps the first time in my life and I became enamored with the world all over again.

Now, clarity has more meaning for me in the realm of photography. Clarity comes at a low f/stop when focus is precise and calculated, like a hand reaching out of the fog. Clarity comes at a high f/stop and all the world is crisp and each edge is defined. Clarity comes when an image conveys an idea that the viewer can clearly grasp and connect with. Clarity comes when an image is balanced in both composition and color, when nothing is left to question. Yet there is still comfort and excitement when none of these are met. I am huge fan of hunting and capturing bokeh – the out of focus blur and circles of light usually in the background of an image. I love the blur of colors together, where leaves on trees bleed seamlessly within the spectrum between blue and yellow. Perhaps it is reminiscent of my childhood, when everything was literally a blur. My lens was focused too close and the scenery was completely bokeh. I suppose, to me, there is clarity in the blur.

- Cory

Week 6 : Clarity

This topic, for last week, was honestly, supremely ironic. For the first few days of last week I was in some kind of massive and sudden funk. Here's what I wrote about it:

"I know there have been times in my life when I've felt less clear, less solid, less rooted in knowing who I am or what I am about. But, It's been a long time since then. Maybe I should think about this in terms of what I do feel clear about. A clarity list - I began it in my head but the length of it and the relative importance of the words on that list belies the enormity of the emotion in being bogged down in the muck of uncertainty within a very deep small place within myself. It's those questions we all ram up against at different point in our lives - Where am I going? What am I doing?"

That night I slept for 12 hours. The next day, I was about 50% back to myself. The day after that, I was all back. 

I've had a lifelong relationship with depression. I take medication and for the last 15 years or so I've been relatively stable in mood. There are lows of course. There always are. That's normal. It's the soul sucking abyss of despair that you can't pull yourself out of that is the dangerous kind.

What happened last week wasn't typical for me in any way. I was pretty clear about what felt broken in my life (another irony) just not why it came to be so intense so suddenly. I'm also unclear why those same issues no longer bother me. The intensity of it rocked me to my core. Having lifted after a much needed rest, also was atypical.  Another strike against clarity.

I can't say that I have gained too much wisdom from this brush with the abyss. At the very least it's another page in the lesson book of Nothing Ever Stays The Same So Just Hold On To What You Can While You're In Freefall. 

(Image is of a pond's surface, with photographic layers of light, shadow, rain, and other water, over top of it. It's what my brain felt like.)

- Rachel

week 5 // dream A dream is out of focus until it becomes reality. - Cory

week 5 // dream

A dream is out of focus until it becomes reality.

- Cory

Week 5 : Dream

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live 
right in it, under its roof.” -Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

That word scares me. It might as well be synonymous with "nightmare." Dreaming was dangerous when I was young. It meant disappointment was inevitable. And disappointment was lethal in my child mind. There are a lot of hows and whys to this development but that is the dull, sad part. The far more hopeful part is the slow climb up from fear of good things snatched away toward a self possessed, fierce ability to snatch them back. 

I dream. I often call them goals, or hopes, or fantasies, but they all mean the same thing. They are things (I love that words. It means anything and everything) I want. Love is a dream. My child's happy life is a dream. Another  child to nurture is a dream. A place in the world that makes me feel closer to the land, to the natural rhythms that make far more sense to me than human constructed ones do. Romance is a dream. My work, being seen by others, is a dream. I have bigger dreams too, but those scare me the most. It's good that they scare me because that's how you know they are big enough. Unlike the fear I have of all dreaming, this is a clean kind of fear in that its the kind of fear we all share. It's the fear of thinking so big that you might fail. 

When I need to hold a dream and the fear of that dream together in my hand, to claim it, possess it and own it, I do it gently. I don't "white knuckle it". I don't, "go big or go home." My dreams need air to breath and a soft place to grow. When they're big enough and strong enough, I move in and live there. 

- Rachel

Week 4 : Sustainability

I know this is bit of an odd reflection on sustainability, but it's been a difficult topic for me, one that has brought up a lot of dark and cynical emotions about humanity's abuse of our home. Instead of inflicting that on you, dear reader, I decided to look at an aspect of emotional sustainability. 

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”   - Tyrion Lanister (character) in The Game of Throwns by George R. R. Martin:

Okay, I realize this might actually sound pretty negative on it's own. But, I don't think it is. I think that we all face times in our lives when we feel vulnerable to others with less than friendly intentions. Part of learning to live a fulfilled, actualized, contented life, is to learn how to protect ourselves from those who would turn their pain on us. Owning and accepting and gathering to us those things within us that make us feel weak, will ultimately make us strong. If we deny our weaknesses, set them away from ourselves, they are still part of us. We still are wounded upon an assault to them. But, if we keep them close, wear them with pride, accept them are parts of us, no one can touch them. If we love our faults, our vulnerabilities, no one can make us ashamed of them. 

-Rachel

week 4 // sustainability

At the beginning of this week, struggling with how I would approach the theme of sustainability, I asked my husband what comes to his mind. He simply said, “it is the opposite of waste.”  I love how he can take something that is a tangled knot of discussions and stories that I could start and never finish and make it so simple. Like, duh, why didn’t I think of it like that? 

Sustainability for me has been a key word—a hot topic—in my journey, generally in regards to the environment and agriculture. Because of that I wanted to be certain I attended a farmers’ market this week and hopefully capture the essence of what I feel is the epitome of sustainability (responsibly managed, locally sourced food) in an image. Unfortunately a wicked rain storm and the storminess of my little one’s moods that come regularly with his Wonder Weeks prevented me from doing so. And here, at the end of the week, I am still struggling with choosing just one of my thoughts on sustainability to focus on. 

 Sustainability has been a big part of where I came from, where I have been, what I have done, and who I know.

As a kid, I spent my summers on a huge farm in Idaho where the fields would change each time I returned. I didn’t know until later that crop rotation was a form of sustainability, allowing a farm to persist on the same land for decades and requiring less fertilizer. If not for having a farm-based family I don’t know if I’d be such a huge proponent of local agriculture as an adult.

As a young adult, I attended Humboldt State University where the CCAT (Campus Center for Appropriate Technology) house exists completely off the grid. I had a friend who lived there and shared with me all of the magnificent systems they had in place, including a composting toilet, solar panels, grey water system, and bike-powered blenders (mama needs her margarita – pedal faster!). We had sustainability fairs on campus where Woody Harrelson would come by in his bus and preach about the benefits of raw food diets for health and the environment. I have eaten cookies baked by the sun in a solar oven. Around town you could smell clouds of fried food where vegetable oil-run vehicles had just passed by. I hoed weeds for countless hours on organic farms in trade for vegetables and plants for my garden. For being a tiny remote town behind the Redwood Curtain, we had the biggest weekend farmers’ market I have ever attended. I always thought that if the rest of the world ceased to exist that we would do just fine maintaining ourselves in our isolated ecosystem.

 When I moved away and into the real world I learned how fortunate I was to live in such a place. I took for granted how easy it was to recycle and find local produce in the market. But even though I had moved away, that little town was still in me. I started working with fisheries and aquaculture. Like agriculture, there is a great deal of pride in locally-sourced and sustainably-harvested seafood (see this article I wrote a few years back). Of particular note I am excited that seaweed is becoming more and more popular in the aquaculture world for so many reasons. In my opinion, a seaweed farm is quite possibly the most sustainable agri/aquaculture there is. No fertilizers, pesticides, or need for precious freshwater as in terrestrial agriculture. Unlike animals, it needs no lower-on-the-food-chain food source. All you do is plant the seed (‘sprouted’ spores, actually) and, as Jerry Garcia sings, “let it grow!” 

Now this is where I would normally digress and go into a spiel on how seaweed will save the world but I will save that for another place, another time. I could keep on going on and on about so many tangents on sustainability  but I will just stop here with what I have shared. It is like seeing your first amazing sunset over the Pacific. You want to share and describe every glorious memory and image in detail to encapture the whole experience. I want to share how sustainability has shaped my life in so many different ways (and no, I’m not one of those snobby super crunchy types – I can’t afford to be) but to do so would take far too many pages and seriously bore anyone who isn’t interested in what would likely become my memoire.

Sadly, my picture is not from farmers’ market as I had hoped for. But, hey, I drove my Prius to get to the store, didn’t use a plastic produce bag, and remembered my reusable grocery bag so that has to count for something, right?

- Cory

week 3 // patience  As I approached 42 weeks pregnant I had anything but patience. I wanted my baby here. Now. Not next year (he was a late December baby). Now that he is almost five months old patience is the theme of my life and I practice it every day. My mother always told me, “Patience is a virtue.” I don’t believe I was very patient as a child because I remember that she said it a lot.  But by that standard, I have finally achieved the status of virtuous. Ha! If she could see me now. Patience is many things. Patience is putting someone else’s needs before your own. Patience is learning not to get upset or aggravated when your schedule is shifted or goes completely out the window. Patience is persistence humble cousin. This week for me, patience was waiting through a few more minutes of rocking to be certain that he is absolutely asleep before I can go pee, shake my arm back awake, and knead the blood flow back into my hand. Patience was being content with a cold dinner or cup of coffee, both badges of parenthood. Patience was not getting frustrated when I’m trying to put a clean diaper on him and he has his feet defiantly fixed in his mouth as if they were glued there. Patience was learning and relearning to read his cues and using that knowledge to attempt tear-free days. Patience was not cutting my hair drastically short in response to my peaking postpartum hair loss. The hair is going to fall out whether it is short or long. I just notice it more because it is long. Patience was understanding that the pounds won’t melt away as quickly as they did in the first couple of weeks, even if I am breastfeeding. Patience has taken me a long time to learn. And it took a person brand new to this world to teach it to me.  - Cory

week 3 // patience 

As I approached 42 weeks pregnant I had anything but patience. I wanted my baby here. Now. Not next year (he was a late December baby). Now that he is almost five months old patience is the theme of my life and I practice it every day. My mother always told me, “Patience is a virtue.” I don’t believe I was very patient as a child because I remember that she said it a lot.  But by that standard, I have finally achieved the status of virtuous. Ha! If she could see me now.

Patience is many things. Patience is putting someone else’s needs before your own. Patience is learning not to get upset or aggravated when your schedule is shifted or goes completely out the window. Patience is persistence humble cousin.

This week for me, patience was waiting through a few more minutes of rocking to be certain that he is absolutely asleep before I can go pee, shake my arm back awake, and knead the blood flow back into my hand. Patience was being content with a cold dinner or cup of coffee, both badges of parenthood. Patience was not getting frustrated when I’m trying to put a clean diaper on him and he has his feet defiantly fixed in his mouth as if they were glued there. Patience was learning and relearning to read his cues and using that knowledge to attempt tear-free days. Patience was not cutting my hair drastically short in response to my peaking postpartum hair loss. The hair is going to fall out whether it is short or long. I just notice it more because it is long. Patience was understanding that the pounds won’t melt away as quickly as they did in the first couple of weeks, even if I am breastfeeding.

Patience has taken me a long time to learn. And it took a person brand new to this world to teach it to me. 

- Cory

Week Three : Patience This is my patience. This is my struggle with patience. This is my son's struggle with patience. This is Homework.  My son has a condition called Sensory Processing Disorder {SPD} (formerly called Sensory Integration Disorder). It's neurodevelopmental disorder which effects kids in large variety of ways, but essentially makes it difficult for kids to perceive &/or not be overwhelmed by sensory information and then process that information in ways that it will be used to guide thinking and behavior. Living with this is something akin to trying to drive a car that isn't working correctly. The breaks only half work every 3rd time you pump them; the windshield wipers and horn won't shut off; the mirrors are foggy, the back window is cracked, the transmission keeps jumping out of gear... etc. But, you can't get out of the car. And you have to sit still in a classroom and learn new things everyday while trying to drive this insane car. You have to control your stress level, reactions to others, and be socially appropriate while learning what socially appropriate means. You have to try to sleep at night, wake up when others say so, make friends, and communicate needs. You have deal with disappointment, frustration, anger, loneliness, fear, etc. and the impacts other's reactions to those emotions create. And, you have to do this while also processing the stress and frustration inherent in driving a car that doesn't work. The nightmare that is this disorder is only mitigated by the fact that there is help available (Occupational Therapy) and these kids also tend to be quite bright, thereby allowing them to be reached and for them to reach out to others. My son was diagnosed about a year ago. We started therapy right away and it has helped tremendously. He is just finishing his year of first grade. He did two years of Kindergarten during which we saw countless mornings of full blown meltdowns because he didn't want to go to school. At the beginning of this year he refused to do all classwork. It was getting really bad. We sat down one day and talked about class work. I let him vent about it... just let him go instead of trying to change his mind about it. Then I told him that I remembered feeling that way when I was a kid. He was surprised. Then we talked about why school is important (i.e. and education means having more freedom to do what you want when you are an adult). I asked him if he had any ideas as to how we could help him to make class work more tolerable. He came up with a to do list that his teacher had sign off on at the end of the day. If she didn't, he would get screen time after school. It was all his idea. Two months later, we didn't need the list anymore. He was just doing his work.  Homework got easier in tandem. I still see the difficulty he has with staying focused on his work. At the end of the day, when he is tired and that car is at it's most dysfunctional, we sit down together and work on the things that are hardest for him (writing due to fine motor issues, and spelling due to memory issues). Writing a sentence that has three spelling words in it can take 15 to 20 minutes. I have to remind him of the sentence he thought of many many times while he is writing it. Meanwhile he has dropped his pencil or eraser countless times on to the floor and has to pick it up; He's made a mistake that he's tried to cross or scribble out instead of erasing and then I have to ask him to erase and write it again; He's erased the mistake and then rewrites the same mistake because he pushes so hard with his pencil that no about of erasing will completely remove it and the visual que is just too much to resist: He's started daydreaming or thinking of something and wants to ask me questions it; He wants a hug or a kiss... and so on.  He is a trooper. I'd have become homicidal by this point. Sure, he gets grouchy and whiney but mostly he's just a very sweet, sensitive, loving kid who keeps trying to do what I ask him to do. He has some self esteem issues and we are working on them along with his OT. But, otherwise, despite these huge challenges, he's a kind, adventurous, fun loving kid. It's crazy what we ask his small brain to do. But he does it. And he inspires me. Every time I start to lose patience, with anything, I am humbled by the thought of what he must tolerate. We are teaching each other patience. It's slow learning. We try to be patient with learning patience too.  - Rachel

Week Three : Patience

This is my patience. This is my struggle with patience. This is my son's struggle with patience. This is Homework. 

My son has a condition called Sensory Processing Disorder {SPD} (formerly called Sensory Integration Disorder). It's neurodevelopmental disorder which effects kids in large variety of ways, but essentially makes it difficult for kids to perceive &/or not be overwhelmed by sensory information and then process that information in ways that it will be used to guide thinking and behavior. Living with this is something akin to trying to drive a car that isn't working correctly. The breaks only half work every 3rd time you pump them; the windshield wipers and horn won't shut off; the mirrors are foggy, the back window is cracked, the transmission keeps jumping out of gear... etc. But, you can't get out of the car. And you have to sit still in a classroom and learn new things everyday while trying to drive this insane car. You have to control your stress level, reactions to others, and be socially appropriate while learning what socially appropriate means. You have to try to sleep at night, wake up when others say so, make friends, and communicate needs. You have deal with disappointment, frustration, anger, loneliness, fear, etc. and the impacts other's reactions to those emotions create. And, you have to do this while also processing the stress and frustration inherent in driving a car that doesn't work. The nightmare that is this disorder is only mitigated by the fact that there is help available (Occupational Therapy) and these kids also tend to be quite bright, thereby allowing them to be reached and for them to reach out to others.

My son was diagnosed about a year ago. We started therapy right away and it has helped tremendously. He is just finishing his year of first grade. He did two years of Kindergarten during which we saw countless mornings of full blown meltdowns because he didn't want to go to school. At the beginning of this year he refused to do all classwork. It was getting really bad. We sat down one day and talked about class work. I let him vent about it... just let him go instead of trying to change his mind about it. Then I told him that I remembered feeling that way when I was a kid. He was surprised. Then we talked about why school is important (i.e. and education means having more freedom to do what you want when you are an adult). I asked him if he had any ideas as to how we could help him to make class work more tolerable. He came up with a to do list that his teacher had sign off on at the end of the day. If she didn't, he would get screen time after school. It was all his idea. Two months later, we didn't need the list anymore. He was just doing his work. 

Homework got easier in tandem. I still see the difficulty he has with staying focused on his work. At the end of the day, when he is tired and that car is at it's most dysfunctional, we sit down together and work on the things that are hardest for him (writing due to fine motor issues, and spelling due to memory issues). Writing a sentence that has three spelling words in it can take 15 to 20 minutes. I have to remind him of the sentence he thought of many many times while he is writing it. Meanwhile he has dropped his pencil or eraser countless times on to the floor and has to pick it up; He's made a mistake that he's tried to cross or scribble out instead of erasing and then I have to ask him to erase and write it again; He's erased the mistake and then rewrites the same mistake because he pushes so hard with his pencil that no about of erasing will completely remove it and the visual que is just too much to resist: He's started daydreaming or thinking of something and wants to ask me questions it; He wants a hug or a kiss... and so on. 

He is a trooper. I'd have become homicidal by this point. Sure, he gets grouchy and whiney but mostly he's just a very sweet, sensitive, loving kid who keeps trying to do what I ask him to do. He has some self esteem issues and we are working on them along with his OT. But, otherwise, despite these huge challenges, he's a kind, adventurous, fun loving kid. It's crazy what we ask his small brain to do. But he does it. And he inspires me. Every time I start to lose patience, with anything, I am humbled by the thought of what he must tolerate. We are teaching each other patience. It's slow learning. We try to be patient with learning patience too. 

- Rachel

Week Two : Beauty : 

Beauty is a difficult concept for me. I don't really know what it means. Like the words love, or happiness, or success, it's meaning seems to be highly contextual, fluid, relative, and contradictory at times. What is beautiful to me, at any given time, at any given place, at any given mindset, may not only differ from what I might find beautiful in the next moment, year, breath, next to a different person, on a different shore... you get the idea. It's an elusive and squirmy kind of animal. That's hard for me because I like words to always mean the same thing. I like being able to use them as precision tools without having to calibrate them upon each use. I also love the maddingly elusiveness of these kinds of words. 

One thing that I can say I find overwhelmingly attractive within my personal aesthetic sense is the interaction of two, or more, elements. I love the mingling of fog or clouds within a stand of trees. I love the play of river waters amidst smooth stone, it's fluid caress, it's sticky surface tensions. I love the unpredictable nature of overlaying watercolor shapes as they choose to mingle or repel or combine to form something new. It's a lot like what people do when they meet, fall in love, become friends or enemies, etc. It's a lot like collaboration within a project... like this project. 

-Rachel

week 2 // beauty  

I’ve been out walking a lot more since the weather is now in that awesome, albeit short, stretch of wonderful between the bite of winter and the sting of summer. I am taking advantage of these days and getting out as much as possible. It is cathartic to walk in silence and take in nature’s symphony. It is peaceful to walk at my own rhythm. And there is beauty in getting to really know a patch of forest or any sort of wild land.

When I moved to the east coast the first thing I did was buy a field guide to east coast trees before the leaves dropped off for nearly half the year. I’ve brought that thing with me on vacations all over this side of the U.S.  Knowing the native flora helps me get a sense of a place. To me, California is redwood. Washington is doug fir. Utah is juniper. Colorado is aspen.  Vermont is sugar maple. Louisiana is bald cypress. Florida is palmetto. Maryland is sweetgum. I find beauty in watching the cycle of life of trees and all plants, really.

So in this last week I strolled for hours along a wooded trail and contemplated the beauty of this stretch of forest I have come to know well. It is late spring and all the plants are awake again and in some phase of transition. The poison ivy is fresh and young, deceptively tender looking. The black cherry is just past its peak flowering such that the wind picks up so many spent petals and fools you into thinking it is winter again as they drift like snowflakes down to the earth. The fallen stalks of sweetgum inflorescences break like amber-colored chalk under my feet. The black locust is in full bloom, with a scent so sweet and thick you think you would see it in the air.

But knowing a wild area isn’t just knowing the timing of things. It is knowing where to look for treasure. When I was younger and lived in the redwoods I could tell you where I once found glow worms, how many minutes of walking it took to get to the fallen tree that could be used as a bridge across a fern-laden gully, the best tree stump to lay on and look up at the canopy, where a fire had hollowed out a tree and you could stand inside of the gargantuan bark husk that remained, the tiny clearing with a tree bench where I used to bring my guitar and saw a bobcat. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, the treasures are different and so are their beauty. In this stretch of forest I am drawn to a patch where long-gone vines left their strangling corkscrew marks in the bark of young and old trees alike, a lone dogwood whose delicate branching patterns never cease to amaze me, the mudflat where muskrat tracks can be found at low tide, the stretch of path where I chased a male American Redstart, the spot where the forest opens up to pastoral views on either side of the trail, the few places you can look through the woods to see a young grove filled with a surreal gossamer understory of flowering grasses that glisten like lace made of stars in the morning dew. That is certainly a place where unicorns and fairies would be found.

I saw my surroundings in a new light this week. My walks became more enjoyable as each day I basked in the beauty hiding behind another tree, around another bend, only footsteps ahead of me.

-Cory

Enthusiasm : Week One

week 1 // enthusiasm

As I packed away the last of my boy’s 3 month clothes with a load in the washer peppered with 6 and 9 month clothes, I reflected on the day that I put away his newborn clothes.  I was teary-eyed from a mix of emotions: lament for the days when he was so small he fit snugly into the crook of my arm, but also joy that my breastfed baby boy was amazingly in the 97thpercentile in height and 75th in weight and growing by leaps and bounds (finally I can relate to these clichés).

I recollected that as I folded those newborns into their tub I literally had to stop myself from using the words, “I can’t wait until…” All of those milestones to come – sitting on his own, walking, words – they get me excited to see what will happen next for this little person who was once so helpless fresh out of the womb.  I realize that each day is more fleeting than the last and how important it is with children to live in the now and appreciate each moment it happens. There must be a better way to describe this feeling.

I am so glad that enthusiasm was our theme this week. I rolled the word over my tongue; I ruminated on its meaning beyond my overwhelming excitement to start a new project with an old friend.  Enthusiasm was the word I was looking for when I stopped myself from saying, “I can’t wait.”  Enthusiasm encompasses my eagerness and excitement all in one.

 I am enthusiastic for every milestone he makes, at whatever pace he meets them at.  At four months I feel like he has been doing something new every day for the last few weeks. Whether it be holding a toy, responding more acutely to our voices, or even moving up a diaper size. I am his own personal cheerleader for each of these moments. I am filled with enthusiasm every day, watching my little one grow.

 As it turns out, I can wait. I may be on the edge of my seat, brimming with enthusiasm and sporting an ear-to-ear grin. But I can wait.

- Cory

Week One : Enthusiasm

The minute I saw the word I knew this would be about my son. He can be enthusiasm personified, and if he's interested in what is before him, he usually is. On the flip side of that is the absolute and utter resistance to whatever it is that he doesn't want.

This has mellowed somewhat as he's gotten older, but it's still a fairly well defined aspect of who he is. When he is happy he is the sun, all bright and happy and shiney. When he is not happy, he is a volcano; a cauldron of roiling emotion with intermittent explosions of temper or sorrow. 

This is so far away from who I am and who I was raised to be. My enthusiasm is a quiet sort, adventurous in small measures, inventive and willing, given that I feel safe. I find almost anything interesting so long as I can explore it in my own time and space.

I am thankful, if not a little overwhelmed, to have been the mother of the sun. I have seen both ways of enthusiasm and I am grateful. 

- Rachel


A rooted flow is a meditative project of words and images centered around a new concept each week and shared by friends Rachel Haynes and Cory Janiak. The name is derived from the quote by Virginia Woolf “I am rooted, but I flow.” To us, this is a poetically apt metaphor for life in general and for a balancing point we both strive toward in our lives. We are rooted in the world, in our roles and responsibilities, by those we love and those who love us. We flow through currents, seeking to move in rhythm with the world while seeking to know ourselves as we change and grow, seeking to move and be moved in our own unique ways

Each week we will respond, visually and with words, in our own unique ways, to a concept randomly assigned to that week.

Marine biologist by training, mother by design. Cory is a seaweed fanatic, a photographer, a long-time vegetarian, and lover of yarn.

Perpetual student of life by choice; mother, wife and artist by some wonderfully miraculous twists of fate; Rachel is an independant artist, professional volunteer (although unpaid) at her son's school, long-time vegetarian, and generally bumbling human being learning how to walk.