Downtime

I have been thinking about our nights together in Los Angeles and our regular, irregular sleep away camp.   The radius of our downtown destinations is just steps from your building. The haunts we frequent since you transitioned to this commuter life fills me with an even more profound love of Los Angeles. 

Our lives are so different from the photographs you have piled in the drawer of your desk on the 30th floor, the ones that go back to those early days in Ohio, the ones we invariably share before dinner.  I stare at your picture, then to your face and back again, and wonder could we ever have been that young?   There is no doubt we look better today than we did then, and I consider whether this selfie generation, so conscious of white teeth and perfect poses, will understand the journey of getting better with time.   They started from a place so far ahead of where we did with youtube tutorials and eyebrow guidance. Absent for them is the hit and miss approach of our youth navigating style decisions between mothers, friends and older sisters.    It doesn't matter though, because I liked us then, I like us now, where we are in our lives,  and more importantly who we are in our lives.

And I love our downtime downtown.   

I arrive early and drop my overnight bag in the guest room and stop to look out the window.  The light is hitting just the right way to create arches across the transom and the illusion of the viaducts just south of Union Station.  The drapes diffuse the blinding sunshine and cast a glow across the pale colors of the older buildings in this part of town as it now starts to sprout skyscrapers.

I grab my camera and head out.  First to the right and up the street towards FIDM where the semester is ending, and preparations are underway for the party that will celebrate the end of the academic year. The finality of this conjures memories of my years in school, considerations of your daughter who has just returned from her first year of college and the question of whether I would trade places.   I ask and answer an instantaneous no as I focus my camera on a student with pink and green hair studying on the grass just outside the school.  For me, a chapter read is a chapter closed which makes it all the more comforting that we find ourselves so connected and such good friends all these years later.  We have Cheryl to thank for that.

I round the corner to Faith and Flower, the sight of one of our first LA "celebrations" if you can call it that.  The photo is still in my library and looks everything like a celebration gone wildly wrong.  A martini tempts me in remembrance of that night, but they aren't yet open, so I continue my walkabout.  I'm a bit sad by this, and so later I am thrilled when you suggest we head out for an after-dinner cocktail.    We are those women rolling into the final hours of the night in soft focus and warm friendship having traveled the distance between this instance and all the moments that happened since we were last together.  These days, there is arguably too much to share, so we grasp at these moments of kinship more intensely.

In the morning I will walk left, down that beautiful terrazzo sidewalk I love so much towards Il Caffe in the lobby of the Eastern Building an Art Deco masterpiece of aqua and gold in the theatre district.  It calls to me as if to worship, my DTLA Mecca of sorts.   Il Caffe is the perfect blend of coffee and company at hours dark and not so much.  The chatter, local and friendly,  serves to reinforce my love of Los Angeles and its proper place in this state I love so much, California.  

I walk further until I am in the Fashion District facing the Mart, and I begin the math in my head of the hours spent wandering showrooms in this big square unremarkable building in this city of remarkable buildings.  But this spot, this magical spot, is so notable for the gifts of friends who are now family and those first tender days with CF.  It is the perfect end to my downtown downtime.

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Go Time

It's early morning and for many, the day hasn't begun.   For a few of us, it is that most cherished instant of the day, a split second of revered quiet, where the only relationship you have is with your coffee and the news.  It is just before that green flash that means it is "go time."   But "go time" for me was hours ago.

I sit contemplatively now,  lost in my thoughts,  in this place with which I have such a rich history.  It's been years since I enjoyed the early solitude of this darkened corner of the cafe where I can observe the energy as it crescendos into the morning.  The dark green walls envelop me, and from my perch, I have the advantage of living between worlds, the in and the out.

It has been a morning of reflection that started hours before dawn when an unexpected mist hung just outside my door.  I awoke to my infrequent alarm accustomed as I now am to waking to the natural rhythms of my body.  

Leaving the house, I remembered the dread that comes with a drive to this unfavored destination and the required resolve to put one foot in front of the other.  Walking through the doors felt like a poke to a still tender bruise, and I traveled back to those other early mornings preceding this one.  I know in my heart that this is a self-induced panic, authentic nonetheless, coming from a real place of understanding.  I think of the times I have spent in halls such as these as a spectator, witness, and patient.  My eyes well more at the remembrances of those last visits with him than at any of the other memories.  Internally my empty belly grumbles as I outwardly smile and greet the woman in the elevator and make my way to my appointment.

That was the start of my day - hours before I sat in this fresh green space and looked towards that man with the matching hair.   My pace now matches my heart, slow and steady, as I reset the cadence for the rest of my day.

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10000 hours

Mastery seems an abstract concept when associated with a passion. The word implies a finish line, rank or position, a goal.  Moreover, it means an investment with conventional wisdom placing that at 10000 hours.  It got me thinking about my library of photos all 61904 of them.  Recently I watched a movie where one of the central characters was a notable photographer who had dedicated his life to the artform.  At one point he says, and I am paraphrasing, that he can remember the moment he took every shot.  I have witnessed this amongst my photographic mentors and friends and must confess that I relate.  

During the winter months, my single hard drive died unexpectedly.  I have since remedied this, but for a stretch, longer than I ever care to relive, I didn't know if we would be able to recover them or not.    It didn't seem like it would be a big deal until it happened. Sixty thousand photographs, gone.  I laugh about a comment I flippantly made years ago that they were only photos. It was at the beginning of the trajectory that became my photographic life, but once said - even that long ago, it became part of this story. And, I might add, it is only amusing in hindsight because it could have gone another way, and then, it wouldn't have been funny at all.

Thinking of this made me wonder how many hours I have invested in this passion of mine. I never think of the time when I am behind the camera as anything but joyful.   It passes so effortlessly that the idea of the time being a deposit in the bank of mastery diminishes the happiness it adds to my day and my life.

All that said, thinking about mastery inspired me to go back to this week for each of the last nine years.  The photographic eye I have today is vastly different than the one in 2009 and 2010, the year I received my first "important" camera, a gift.   I have memories of who I was then, the one with the camera; voracious and insatiable. The photographer I am today bears little resemblance to her, but she remains present in every photograph I make and retains that same insistence.

In 2007 the original iPhone was released.  In the decade-plus since we have all learned a different language, a visual one.  My fluency in this new language includes reminding myself of my grocery list through pictures.  Something magical made mundane, democratic, or so it seems until presented with a life-altering image, one that confounds or inspires, that excites and implores you to act, and moves you closer to 10000 hours behind the camera.

What did I discover through this 9-year hindsight?  

First,  to accept those early photographs as treasures.  They aren't well made, composed, lighted, framed, but they are treasures nonetheless.  They are the moments of my life with family, friends, and people who have crossed my path, experiences I have had.    I look at them now with tender, not critical eyes.

I discovered that the subjects which were vital to me, in the beginning, remain so today:  family and friends, landscapes, water, architecture, nature.  Each category represented in the selections from this week over the last nine years continues to be a part of my repertoire today.

Lastly, I acknowledged that even if I am approaching 10000 hours behind a camera, there will never be a finish line for me.  Instead, I commit to being insatiably curious, to challenge myself, to admire things I did not or cannot make, and most importantly to continue to learn new things.

The best time

 

It began with a resounding thud that hung heavy in the air between us.  I feared an anticlimactic finish to the whimsy and romance of the preceding days.  The universe must have heard my plea for it delivered an infusion in the form of a darling bartender tending darlings at a local restaurant.  As if on cue the evening accelerated and before I knew it your encouragement propelled me into the delicious delirium of Karaoke night at the Chief's Peak.  It was the best time.

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Lunchtime: A Still Life

Be still life!  Let me relax in this moment of you across the table from me.   May my mind wander its recesses for all the memories of the lunches and dinners past, stacks of images layered one on top of each other blurring and blending into this montage of moments that make our life.  Be still life.  I want to linger here in this place with you.

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Golden hour in the Golden State

California is my home.  This place gifted of sun and shadow, of long sandy beaches and deepest blue waters reflecting bluest of skies.  The endless horizon of rhythmic waves that exist outside my window.  Its siren song pulls me close no matter where I may travel.  The euphoric cadence of our days strung together into our narrative.  Our story.  Our golden years.

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Every Time

Every time I turned around, there was something more to see,  more to consider.  The tree stood tall and broken.  The flames must have had to work hard to burn it so thoroughly.  The living breathing fire attacking this graceful beast of a tree apparently from the inside out.  Carefully I stepped into its trunk to examine the charred wreckage surprised to find the fertile remains sprouting moss and ivy.  Such a contrast in this beautiful desolation.

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Time to Reflect

On this Sunday, I am reflecting on Milarepa's teachings on facing fear and choosing love. In my time this week, I experienced infinite joy and love and hurt that brought up old concerns and reminded me that one needs light and dark to experience life.   I awoke with a renewed calm as a result of leaning into my worries,  leading with my heart and being reminded of his lessons.

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Wasted Time

The rain is falling in sheets as we make our way along the treacherous road that takes us deep into the woods and the unknown.  Soon,  you will close the door to the yurt, and I will be left to fill hours.  I am confident for others these hours would be considered wasted time - alone in the forest in the pouring rain.   But not me.  These are golden moments where the intrepid explorer in me, camera in hand, attempts to capture the mood.  As I point my viewfinder skyward,  raindrops fall surrounding the delicate fern in a manner that reflects the late morning and this experience and,  I think to myself, this time is anything but wasted.

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