Sunday, March 19, 2017

Walking in Provence with Lulu

I said yes, finally.

Yes, to watching a home in the beautiful Alpilles for ten days, yes to keeping Lulu company. And it wasn't in a strange environment but in the bergerie at the Mas de la Fourbine, where I had gone to help with the olive harvest during days when I was feeling quite sad indeed.

But I had hesitated. As I still don't have a car (even if I do now know how to drive), I would be there and only there for the duration. "What if...?" Oh, there were so many versions of that question, those two words that do far more harm than good. After reassurances on all sides that I had nothing, in reality to worry about. I packed my bags so thoroughly as to include the desktop that I am typing on, was parachuted in and the workings of the house were explained over a long evening with the family's littlest trampolining on my lap...until the next day when they drove off (me, waving), then, silence.

And I mean the hear your heartbeat kind.

I had already decided that this time was a gift (as usual, I seriously underestimated the weight of it) and that I could bury my stories under a blanket and use it as a retreat. So it was. Within a day, I had settled into my own schedule to give the hours shape. Rise, tea, first meditation...walk with Lulu...

The property is full enclosed, doubly secured with even an electric fence to keep out the wild boars that are a nuisance and a menace. So Lulu could run free by my side as I would stamp the perimeter, regardless of the weather. I came in winter, whipped by the Mistral and wrapped tight in many layers and left breathing spring, lunching outside with the first dots of color lighting my cheeks. But for those walks? I took my camera. I hadn't been photographing much of anything for weeks, something my friend J noted was "not a good sign."

So I would loop the camera strap over my shoulder and walk, thinking of Thich Nhat Hanh's gentle suggestions to be aware of the breath and the footfall combing. By the time that I had reached the first farthest corner, of which there would be three, my endlessly chattering mind (yes, even when I am alone, especially so) would quiet so that I would start to notice the littlest of things as if they somehow had an electric glow around them. 

At first I only found them beautiful, but eventually something stirred in my heart to lift my camera to my eye and squinting, then readjusting the settings (despite having had a good teacher, I am still a guesser in manual mode) to settle into a click. I would forget myself, forget my body; sitting in the grass to get closer until Lulu would run into the frame to kiss the side of my head. "Oh, Lulu..." She was always were I didn't want her to be but how could I mind?

Are the details I would notice important? Only to me, I believe. But that is how we live our lives, isn't it? Jumping from one seeming solid stone to the next across a river too deep. And yet it is there, who and what we love. Step by step, around the domaine until I was no longer exactly who I just had been but some other creature looking back with gratitude and tinges of relief.

I was waking up, that inner spring. And while I am still very much finding my way, from those mornings accumulated while walking with Lulu, I am trying to remember loudly the happy risk set into motion from simply saying yes.

"Yes, I see, thank you. Yes, I am...Yes."

PS. Since that time in the Alpilles, I have been living out of my suitcase quite a bit and am not always able to get back to my computer. That is definitely going to be the case for the next few weeks, at least. So I hope that you will understand if I am not as active on the blog as I would like to be, nor as responsive. I am in the midst of continuing to fight to find my place here, as I suggested above. But I am still in Provence and am so appreciative of you all that words cannot express it. I do have something rather exciting coming up, so if you are not already following along on instagram, you might enjoy seeing where I am going on @lostinarles.

Thank you for reading and for all of your kindness,

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Photography Lost and Found, a celebration

Yes, I am absolutely celebrating tonight.

The candles are lit, the jazz is loud. Bring out the Baccarat coupes and oh, to hell with it, just shake up the champagne and shower it over my poor grinning face, I don't care.

For I am so deeply happy. I have been given quite the gift.

But. I have something to admit. While I am a stickler for honesty, I haven't been so with you. Not about one certain but very important (to me) subject.

For some time, there are those amongst you who have been kindly making suggestions (or occasionally, demands) that I do a book or sell art prints, to which I always demured or agreed, but vaguely.

Now, hold on, no editor has approached me yet, that is not the news. You see, I know how your mind works because we are so in sync after all these years...

More than six, to be precise.

And for these past twelve months...for a reason that is lengthy and deeply personal to explain...I thought that all of the photography from the first five of those years, the full files, were gone. Lost. Just gone. 

During that time I was publishing three times per week with anywhere between 20 to 50 saved images for each post. This times 260 weeks. Even at a conservative estimate, that is over 5000 photos. Without high resolution versions, there could never be a book nor could I sell prints. I would really like to do both, once my life is more in order.

Now I can.

Because, in such a wonderfully mysterious fashion, those files were found today. Very much hidden in an unlikely source, stacked away under miscommunication amidst the deep confusion of my leaving Provence. Of course, now I am here again, and miraculously, so is the photography.

So not all is Lost forever. 

For me, that is quite something and a source of Hope so tangible that I could stretch to kiss the night stars shining. And do you know what? I just might.

 These are a few of a series of photos that I have saved for quite some time; put aside, squirrel-like, for the eventual day that I might do a book. At least some of them. But oh, how I have come to learn to not wait for life to give you the green light. They were taken at a friche industriel, or abandoned industrial site in the hills above L'Isle de la Sorgue. I think that they pretty much sum up what I am aiming for at Lost in Arles, in a very general way, to express my love for this time-worn and tested region...

I know that quite a few of you in the past have been interested in participating in Together Rising's incredibly positive and inspiring fund-raising efforts, in which all proceeds go to directly help individuals in dire need. In light of the most recent anti-Muslim travel ban, today's is especially poignant. Tonight I will be celebrating by giving. It may be little (donations are a maximum of $25), but it will be a tangible echo to the gratitude that I deeply feel.