Begin

It was a hard day, but then I was writing to a dear friend and found this quote from our years dancing together in college — and sharing it made the evening brighter.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no woman could have dreamed would have come her way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” — Goethe

(I took liberty with Goethe’s words and changed “man” to “woman” and “him” to “her” in the fourth-to-last sentence.)

Fallen Orchard

They cut down the orchard. It wasn’t a surprise — but still a shock. This orchard is on the northern edge of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and it could remain in agriculture as long as the owners wanted to maintain it.

Having lost interest in the orchard, the owners sold the land back to the National Park (the girls and I counted 45 rings in a tree stump: well beyond the age of most productive cherry trees) — and so now this land will revert back to wild.

It’s a gift, in a way, because no more pesticides will be sprayed on this land, and many more creatures will come to live here over time. And yet, it’s still a deep shock to see this landscape, that my siblings and I grew up with, changed so dramatically overnight.

My sweet Amie sat on a fallen tree and cried. Wallace watched her, perplexed. I stood close by, feeling swallowed up in the mist around us.

In the Orchard

My sister-in-law, Lara, has been painting in an aging orchard this year — a series of works in different sizes and different media — following the landscape over the course of the seasons. Seasons of weather; seasons of motherhood; and seasons of political change. I admire how she has stayed with her subject, looking at it in unexpected ways and sharing both her process and her finished pieces.

Seeing the landscape through her eyes this year has renewed my own interest in the intersection between a cultivated and wild world.

Challenge

One of the questions I’m living with right now is this:

“Is she being met with enough challenge?”

A wise mother friend suggested to me this week that I may not need to be responsible for bringing the challenge to her; instead, my daughter may actually seek it out.

She has crossed a certain threshold where her own bravery and strength will help her find what she needs to thrive.

Golden Hour

I love backlit photos, but the learning curve is steep! Inspired by my friend Jenny’s recent podcast interview with Summer Murdock, I followed my children around on the dunes last night during golden hour — trying to capture even a sliver of this gorgeous light.

Summer shared so many helpful tips on how to use and experiment with backlight. If you’re interested, you can listen to their conversation by clicking here or searching for The Family Photographer podcast, episode 15, in your podcast app.

341 :: Let them be Left

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It is dark. I am in bed listening to David Whyte read a poem by Gerard Manly Hopkins, written in the late 1800s. I am in awe that this poem, written in a land across the ocean, over a hundred years ago, can reach my ears just now, in this place. The last stanza leaves me breathless.

33. Inversnaid

This darksome burn,* horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

— Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89), Poems: 1918.

(*a burn is a river)

David Whyte, in his reflection on this poem, talks about a radical letting alone of the self — a part of you which is not meant to be spoken of, but which accompanies you, like a friend who holds you in his or her mind through thousands of miles of distance or time, no matter where you travel in the world.

I fall asleep to these thoughts. And my dreams carry me away to the wildness I know and love — the wildness I will never truly know but will always deeply love.

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312 :: Outtake

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I love this family so much,
with their contagious energy and joy.

We share a love for wild places,
good food,
and good literature.
Our discussions are lively,
and our houses fill with laughter
as our children play together
like a little tribe.

How grateful we are to have such dear friends
so close,
in our little part of the world.

258 :: The Point

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I love that you can see Jenny’s smile even as she is taking a photo of these very wiggly children in the midst of a huge sand dune!

Jenny is a joyful photographer and her joy is contagious. It is so much fun to be photographed by her and to photograph next to her.

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