The Chorus: Stories


this is a project that has been burning a hole in my heart. we all sing our pure and shaky and earnest songs, to ourselves, our kids, our pasts. we sing because we need to hear our voices out loud, because it gets lonely sometimes, because it hurts, because the joy cannot fit in our bodies. mothers are always and never alone. i want to focus on the never part. i want to hear the voices together. i want to start a chorus.

– Amy Grace

 your story starts with eighty seven pounds. it starts with an ending. of years that blur into sharp edges and disappointment, of finding a scale while finding the place where everything hit and hurt, of shame that swallowed victories, moods that turned into lost months, all mingled with grace that left a haze so thick i could bear it. i was hair and bone and blood and beats of a heart grown tired and thin-walled and weakly, keenly knowing. full of fitful waves whose butterfly effect ended with a hollow drop in my chest. every cell full of starving. divesting. the last island in the archipelago. finished. and yet, here we were, both of us growing, a closed circle, beginning, waxing, eighty seven pounds.

this is the place you came to be. in this brokedown palace of a mother, glued together with love, with so many cracks that my insides were all shifting light. maybe that is what you watched, in the womb, like the shadow puppets that transfix you at bedtime, the shapes and wavy lines that come in through our windows with the sun. maybe that is when your giant, full blue moon eyes started watching.

i ate before i knew you were inside me. it was a decision to live, a hard one. made in quiet alone, over bouts of tears and blacking out and sneaking cigarettes i couldn’t believe i was craving, while watching the sun set, wanting to rise and set with it. over twenty years being born, with stops and starts like crashes. you saved my life, your mirror of a soul finding its way to me. because i became us. a last chance on which i was happy to bet. now i watch your sister approaching ten, her feet at the very edge of this age, of so much more it frightens me, of my first starvation. it started that young, like a hook in my side, snagging me, pulling me in and out of the stream for years, my lungs aching, just longing to breathe, to give in to something that did not require a constant fight with myself. the ever muffled sounds of the world underwater, eclipsed by the noise of the fight. i felt hollowed out; i felt everything. the years when i should have been all hope, my childhood was burning, with the energy, the calories, the constant stream of math problems keeping a toxic equilibrium i could balance against, terrified, comforted, always hungry for everything. losing mass and finding this lonely, singular devotion and hatred at once, to everything i am not today, caged inside myself. i wish i could say that something cool and hard and certain had saved me. it might have been the feeling of the bathroom floor against my cheek, too many times, where a shower would end. when my heart hurt and raced and fluttered and seemed to swallow its own beats. when i could hear your sister coming into the room, and it took every ounce of life to rouse me. when i realized like a hot flash of lightning, i was lucky to get up and stand empty next to her, when i wanted to be all around her. when my fear of leaving her in this world had become my world. when i think i must have known there was a you, because i was only a ghost. and ghosts don’t get second chances. so a switch turned off, and the terrible, beautiful, aching, stabbing unraveling began, with a tiny seed of a boy inside me, improbable and miraculous. a reward i promised to earn with every cell of me, every day.

from dark soil, you were born. from roots i could never forget. from my aching stories about holding my breath and heart. from the muscle memory of what it felt like to fight, to protect, turned finally against and for myself. but this is our story. it feeds on air and water and light. that point of light we made when we touched. the one in which the lacing in of hope makes me tell it to the world without a blink of shame or doubt. it is a sight for which my knees fall.

and now you talk up a story. now you are the story i want to live. a superhero doctor who always picks up his boy from school. your injured sister you will save from dying. all the “deep dark badness” you want to tempt and fight, because baby ladybugs are boys and they move and are so cute and don’t want to go in the trash can, they don’t want to go into the dark forever, because the dead baby lizard inside our door has a mommy and she is looking for him, because, because…. so much life and death for someone so small. good flows through your open window eyes. what do you need to make your stories, to be the worker, rescuer, the mother, the firefighter, the magic, baddest bad guy? you need a plastic fork and chopsticks, an old baby monitor, a stick and laundry line, a pencil and paper. you need the sky and clouds as you describe them and save them as words you memorize. you need someone to tell you the truth and listen to the truth of you. to answer with thought and kindness and to look you straight in the eye, and have you believe it on a cellular level. you need warm breath which will never be perfect but will always be close. “i want to be courage. does courage have a mommy?”, you ask. you are my courage my sweet littlest. you are enough to drown out the dark with a different light than i have ever seen. the best stories start with it.

– Amy Grace, A Beautiful Life Photo

Last winter I drove solo to Salt Lake with my then 4 year old to visit my family for the holidays. Road trips are adventurous enough with a 4 year old, even more so alone. In between the copious amount of car games, were moments of silence. Alone with my thoughts, I began to really see this land I was traveling through. I would imagine the families living in these humble homes in the middle of no where. What was their story and what they were doing as we were driving by? Two lives intersecting for one brief moment. I suddenly saw horizons in an entirely new way; they’re mysterious, unassuming, vast. It’s hard to tell where they begin and where they end. They symbolize new beginnings and change while being constant and strong. I started taking photos with my phone out of the window as we passed by. Taking everything in, seeing this world around me in a new way. I was in awe of the beauty that surrounded me, the possibilities for the future and I breathed in the quiet stillness that the horizons offered.

– Heather Perera

My father’s gift of the talisman and lessons on letting go.

Fifteen years ago my father gave me a white gold and diamond celtic cross necklace for christmas. It was a delicate and extravagant gift, but it was important to him that I had this. Just about two months after giving me that present, my father was dead. Prostate cancer took him from us. It was a cruel twist of fate for a man who dedicated his life to practicing medicine and pioneering procedures in urology. My father was buried on Valentine’s Day 1999 and since then I have worn the cross as a talisman. My father’s protection over my heart. When he died I was 28 years old. I felt like a child in an adult’s body.

I am not religious despite my father’s hopes for my Catholic redemption. I do think there is something else out there though and over the years I have developed a dependance of sorts on the cross. I guess it was more a superstition than religion. I wore the cross on my wedding, whenever I traveled and nearly every moment of my pregnancies only taking it off the days my children were born. And even then, only for the few hours as needed. The kids grew and life turned the days since my father’s death into years and more years until I found myself going weeks at a time without wearing the cross.

I still reached for it when I traveled though and true to that ritual, I pulled it out of the jewellery case to wear on my trip a couple of weeks ago. When I need comfort on the road, my fingers automatically reach for the talisman and I am safe. Exhausted upon my return home, I went to take a shower and what I had feared for years might happen, had happened. My chain hung there tangled in my hair with a broken clasp and the cross was gone. As I tried to remember when I had touched it last and considered all the ground (and air) I had covered, literally thousands of kilometres, my heart sunk. It was gone. My father…I lost the final tangible connection to my father.

I sat on the bed trying to quell my rising panic and sadness when Gemma walked in, asked what happened and told me that just by happenstance the cross had caught her eye tonight as we arrived home. She was sure of it. She was certain it had been on my neck.

The whole family helped me search the house, car and garage but as we kept coming up empty handed, Gemma started to cry. I went outside in the gloaming with a flashlight as I had briefly run around the back garden with Chilli and the kids before going up to shower. Maybe it was in the yard? We have a family of magpies in our olive trees so I knew that if it was there and I did not find it then, they would by morning. Magpies love shiny things for their nests. My cross would just be another pretty thing to them. It had been close to thirty minutes of searching, was completely dark now and the neglected backyard grew shin high in spots. Gemma continued to sob that she was so sad for me. I was about to give up the search and give in to crying myself, but in that moment I saw my father was giving me an opportunity to teach my eight year old child a lesson. I needed to show her strength and safety in the reality of this painful life lesson. I hugged her and as we crumpled in the grass I told her that it was OK. I told her I would alright because despite my own broken heart, I truly believed it. I still had the memory of my father even if the last gift from him was gone. I did not need the cross to know he loved me. Nothing was permanent. Loss was part of life. I was no longer the child.

Before we got up, I felt compelled to run my fingers through the damp blades of grass one last time. Right there under the stars with my oldest child by my side and my heart full of lessons taught and learned, I was given another gift. I found my missing talisman.

– Rachel Devine

to live a beautiful story, we must slow down enough to be aware of the story that is already happening all around us.

last year, when drowning in busyness
little sleep, deadlines upon deadlines, staring at that endless glowing screen
part of our souls fell asleep, & we knew it.
we had to get out. be outside. try to wake those sleepy souls.

as we drove along those winding roads,
clouds rolled over the sky darkening the air around us.
as we stepped out of the car, those dark clouds opened & spilled out their guts.
huge raindrops hitting our bodies.
arousing  our souls from their slumber.

we ran like maniacs, with our arms held like birds
shouting with all our might, “i love thunder, i love thunder!”
& the thunder shouted back, “wake up, wake up!”

– Amanda and Nate Howard

When you have swum in the sea
a lake will no longer do;
everyone else was always a pond,
but the ocean was always you
-Tyler Knott Gregson

Our lives, like stories, have many chapters.
Chapters which I believe, don’t get written until we are ready to receive them.
I am going to share a love story…my love story.
The first chapter begins in 1999 with a boy named Craig, I was 23.
My friends convinced me to go to a dance party with them while my then fianc’e was out of town on a sporting trip.
I was happily planning a wedding at this point in my life. I was just a girl swaying to the beats pulsating through her body at a dance party, not looking for anything or anyone.
I wonder if I sensed his essence behind me before I turned to the sound of his voice?
“Excuse me, hello” he stood before me, looking a little sheepish but with a quiet confidence.
“I think you’re really beautiful, can I kiss you?”
What I saw in his eyes and smile made me sigh deeply. I held up my hand and pointed to the ring on my finger and said “I would really want to but I’m engaged”.
He was good natured about it and an undeniable feeling of kinship led us to hang out together into the early hours of the morning.
Over the next year a friendship was formed. It was wholesome and pure.
Of course I thought he was ridiculously good looking but it was his sensitive and intelligent nature that I was fond of.
Looking back now I think part of me loved and belonged to him from the moment I met him that particular night. He emanated this astonishing light of his own being and like a moth I was drawn to it.
The time came that foreign countries called to him and he left the country to travel. Iceland became his home for the next year.
I saw him once when he returned to Australia but after that we lost touch.
I was all white picket fences and busy with married life and he was back in his home country with endless possibilities ahead of him.
He was often in my thoughts over the years.
Memorising him was as easy as knowing all the words to your old favourite song.
I tried to find him, Facebook was alive and kicking by then but I couldn’t remember his last name.
Life went on and my marriage ended, I was consumed with loving and raising two little girls.
Last December at the local pool I looked up across the glistening water and I saw a man sitting in the distance. It seemed we were both staring trying to recognise the other.
My heart raced, could it be him?
Fourteen years later and our paths had crossed again.
We sat sharing about our lives as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
That day a love for each other was unlocked inside of us.
It’s been a rocky road to be free of our pasts to allow it to happen but for the past eleven months we have known love like never before.
He is ying to my yang.
My soul feels like it could swim in his aura forever.
Say yes to love and the chapter it wants to write for you.
Always always say yes to love.

– Toni Raper

I woke up not feeling enough. It comes at me all the time. I’m not working hard enough, because if I was, we wouldn’t be worried about a slow winter business wise, we’d have already been prepared with enough savings to take a sigh of relief. I’m not fathering well enough, because if I was, my kids would love each other the way I imagine a perfect love is, they’d never fight, and they’d always help mom and dad when asked. I’m not husbanding enough, because if I was, Jenny and I would never argue, like, ever. And there wouldn’t be that hole in our wall in our room that we just had to patch up. I’m not enough, it hits me, over and over and over again…

But the amazing truth is, it’s all bullshit. All of it. I AM ENOUGH. We are all enough. At the end of the day, I can lay my head down knowing I poured my whole heart and soul into this thing called life. My life isn’t perfect. What is a perfect life anyway? An expectation of a perfect life quickly turns into resentment for all the wonderful things we do have, because we end up focusing on what we don’t have…a vicious cycle of negativity. It’s all bullshit.

I see how well I’m loved, and I’d be willing to guess, if you took a few moments, you’d see it, too. We have the opportunity to watch a sunrise/sunset every single day. That’s pretty amazing. I get to snuggle chat my kids to bed every night where we share laughter, our wildest hopes and dreams, and we talk about all the things we’re grateful for. I’m sure you have moments like that, too. I have no doubts about the love my wife has for me. We adventure, both big and small, every day…I say all this, in hopes that we all start lightening up on ourselves. We are all doing the best we can, and that’s all anyone can ever ask of us. I challenge you to give thanks for all things, good and bad, in this wonderfully precious and short life…because, we are ENOUGH. And for that, I’m thankful…

– Josh Solar

As we lay in the setting sun, just us in the hammock, chatting about the day and the stories it give us.
“It’s the little moments that make life big.”

– Xanthe Berkeley

I always wanted to be a story teller. I wrote many stories as a child (and told a few as well). Even then I enjoyed the time I had to sit and write. To create. To be me. Now as a mother and wife and someone running and trying to build a business, in any time I have to spare I just want to sit. And think of stories I could be writing if I only had the energy. I think of that excitement I had as a girl, the smile that would come on my face as I would begin to unfold something with words. I would get lost in them. I long for that excitement and wonder now. There are so many stories to tell, so many words to share. But I am stifled. Gagged by exhaustion. Fingers frozen on a keyboard as  to-do lists and reminders go through my head. And then he walks in the room. Telling me about the alligator that was hanging out with the T-Rex in his room and how they were planning to eat our house but the dog next door came over and saved us all. Now, his words and unfolding story are what makes me smile. And I am relieved and proud that he is all the sudden a storyteller. A creative. And now in any time I have to spare, I want to get lost in his stories with him instead of my own. His are way more exciting.

–  Meghan Boyer

“All things splendid have been achieved by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance…” -Anonymous

Ten years ago, I was 22 years old.  I can reflect upon that time now and know that I was in a stale place, though I’m sure I actually knew it then as well, but back then I had it in my mind as a “rut” that was only temporary.  I had left college early and moved back to my home state by almost two years at that point.  I was working in a job that was also supposed to be temporary making $11.00 an hour and dating someone I didn’t intend to be permanent with.  I felt angst in my most inner being because I knew I was not doing anything that was helping me move forward.  I was just existing.

Around that time I found out that I was very sick and not long after, I learned that I was pregnant also.  While every one of my lovely, ambitious friends was moving forward, my already stagnant existence was met with cement.  Normally a very positive person, I could not see the silver lining in my circumstances and I clung to the quotation above like glue.  Motherhood was always something I knew (or rather hoped) I wanted–but those ideas were always far off and meant for my later 20’s at the earliest and definitely after I was married…not before.  I didn’t really know what to do.  I was terrified and confused and my “news” was met with so much shame.  I felt that the dreams and ambitions I was clutching too were being ripped from my already loose grasp, but I resolved to make the best of it.  I didn’t know how to do any of it, but like the cliche goes–I took one day at a time.

My thought patterns were consumed with my impending motherhood.  How would I know how to be a good mother?  My own childhood was full of neglect and starved affections, how would I know what to do?  Would I know how to love this baby?  I certainly knew what not to do from example, but felt I needed more than that.  Even as I went into labor, worry crept in like disease.  How would I be capable of being any good for her?  But then a wondrous and amazing thing happened, because as I held her mere seconds into her new life, I was overcome with the most glorious and rapturous love I never knew existed.  I knew her.  In fact, an intense feeling that I had known her my entire life was covering us both.  Somehow she had been with me always and my heart just spilled out everywhere and anywhere for this amazing little girl.  Truly, I could not have dreamed of a richer, more intoxicating love. I was astonished how easily I could be an excellent and loving mother just through the intense desire to be one.  Loving her has proved to be effortless.

Just this year I was reflecting back upon that time and the years that have passed since.  I have thought of everything I desired and believed I wanted before her and laugh now at the trepidation I felt.  The feelings of loss, shame, worry, and even the ambitions; they are nothing compared to her.  Her life has made every facet of my own greater, stronger, better, deeper.  I am astounded at how my gaping and vulnerable heart for her has been counterintuitively  healed and strengthened.  At one point, the trajectory of my life appeared halted, but really it was exactly opposite… for she was the catalyst in finding my true path…my arrow, blazing through it all.

– Marla Cyree

Cheers to favorite spaces with the ones we love.

– John Waire

“who knows not to just lend a hand, or an ear when you need them to give you their spine” – Sarah Kay

I always say the greatest gift I have given to you is each other. Your stories now are one and the same…a family story. Of growing up, of pushing and pulling, of breathing the same air. You girls are a yo-yo…one bouncing up while the other bounces down but still connected. I hardly think of you two as individuals…but as “the girls”.

But in time these stories will separate. You will go your own way. Find your own story away from me and each other. However, I also know you will find your way back to each other. Being there to catch the other…lift up and offer your spine when the other needs the support. I know as a society we relish in individuality and fearless wanderers. But when your dad and I am long gone you will need each other…you will need to borrow each other’s spine from time to time. This is not weakness…this is love. Support each other, dear girls, so you can each live your own story.

– Lindsey Bergstrom

At the very core of all my art is a desire of connection. A deeper connection to myself, others, and the world around me. I do this by telling stories in my work. Every picture I take reflects a story of myself and one of my subject. Personally, I am drawn to make images of struggle, because our perseverance through these struggles are the most important stories. The most beautiful acts of love and kindness surround our most painful times, and those are the stories I hope to pass on

– Bethany Petrik

A day not long ago led us to a fork. To the battle of us. And as I gave an authoritative stare into her deep blues, I imagined her little voice reciting these words…

“Mama, Your mouth is as dirty as the sea. You spew sweet, empty promises in exchange obedience. For this I may never forgive you… or me for listening. The louder I am the more red you become. My own body then paralyzed with rage. I too see in shades of red… pink being by absolute favorite, and then blue. Blue after all is the color of the sky as the cloud curtain is drawn, giving way for warmth to make it’s award winning performance. For tender kisses and loving hugs. For melting into you and you into me. For instant forgiveness and only a fog of a memory left to be blown away with the wind. I am your baby. Again. And again.”

So I took a deep breath, exhaled audibly and smiled as I wiped a not yet tear from her swelling eyes. She laughed and told me I was her sunshine. And then I cried a hundred thousand tears.

– Katy Tuttle

When I was 33 weeks pregnant with my second child I broke my leg and my foot. My son Jack and I had taken the train back from visiting my dad in the suburbs and met my husband on a beautiful Sunday morning in July. We stopped at a garage sale and then decided to get breakfast. While my husband parked the car I took Jack into the restuarant to change his diaper. The restaurant didn’t have a changing table so I decided to take him outside to look for a spot. I was thinking in my mind I love this kid so much I am so glad we have this time together. someone opened the door for me and I felt like I have walked into air. When my right leg hit the ground I looked down and saw my bone sticking out of my leg. I thought my sons head had hit the pavement, but it was my leg breaking. I had gone down indian style to protect him, a mothers instinct I guess. But he was unharmed and someone held him while my husband was parking the car. And there I was laying amongst people eating breakfast in a skirt. I always tell people to wear good underwear…it is true. In the ambulance I was given morphine after being afraid of taking a sudafed while pregnant. While in the emergency room they noticed my left foot turning swollen and black and blue, it too had broken. I had a surgery while the cesearean crew waited in the room…just in case. I did go into labor, but it eventually stopped and I delievered my son Sam at 37 weeks with a cast, and with no drugs. Sam decided to come into the world 20 minutes after we left for the hospital. I always think of this day in July, I always appreciate being able to walk without a limp, some scars and some metal in my leg. And I always wear black underwear.

– Elaine Melko

he was ninety-four when he passed away. indy had been born earlier that year and before he left us, she had the chance to sit on his knee–his veined and transparent hands holding onto his first and only great-grandchild. i remember her reaching for his face, as if she was trying to hold onto him, as if her baby-self wanted to be able to recall his skin. his bones. i remember that room on the third floor with its strange nursing-home smell and its view of the water and sky. it was mid-december when he died and the night was hollow and purple-dark and wet leaves covered everything. this ninety-four year old man (with his full head of hair and shirts with sewn-on pockets and his voice with a slight hint of norweigen accent) was my last remaining grandparent. we put his ashes in the cupboard, alongside the ashes of my grandma, that had been waiting in that dark space for years. a funeral never felt quite right and the time passed by and we held onto those heavy little boxes, waiting for the right moment to let them go. a few years ago, when indy was five, we traveled to the place where my grandmother was born; the place that she and my grandfather met for the first time. we brought the two boxes with us and travelled by plane, ferry and car, to finally land in the tiny and wild ocean-side alaskan town where it all began. we spent days looking at old photographs, trying to piece together their history; we drove to the places that they had lived and the areas where my great-grandfather mined for gold; we told stories and laughed and remembered and we all felt a true connection to that town on the water. on the last day we were there, we drove into the wild, to the edge of a raging river: a wide open space with pink river rock and miniature flowers and mountains that touched the sky. it was quiet and untouched and spectacular–a river my grandparents knew, with a view they would have loved. we collected rocks and gathered sticks and studied the current. we found an old log that sat the five of us perfectly, and with boxes in hand, we watched the eagles and the clouds. my uncle spoke, my mom read a poem and my dad talked about how we are literally made from stars–that we are all connected, and how at one time, we were all a part of the lights that shine above. he said that, in the end, we all return to the same place from which we came. as we poured my grandparent’s ashes into the river, the wind lifted a few invisible swirls into the sky, and i watched as what used to be their bones and skin and hearts mix with water and sand. indy stood beside me and she asked if she was made of the same star dust as her grandparents, and i told her that of course, she was. in the middle of that wilderness, we witnessed as my grandparents made their sweet return home, their ashes swirling together at last, finally disappearing into that great wide river.

– Shelby Brakken

I surprised myself this week.

I naturally assumed I would share an image of my own children, and tell one of our stories.  But instead, I find myself returning again and again to the work I do for my clients.  One image in particular keeps pulling me back.  A photo I took of a newborn moments after her birth.  She is the third child born into a family I’ve been working with for the past seven years

Shortly after I delivered these photos to the family I received the most beautiful thank you card from the mother.  In it she wrote: “The images we have of our family tell a story, an unfolding of such beautiful lives. Thank you for being there with us along this amazing journey of bringing life into this world, and the nurturing of it.”

I’m sharing her words not to toot my own horn, but because I believe what she has to say is true for all photographers. We share in the most important moments in people’s lives.  We get to watch their kids grow up, and reflect back to them what they feel and how they love.  It humbles me, and fills me with gratitude.  And it reminds me that this is why I pick up my camera at all, to tell stories.  What an amazing thing.

– Sandra Coan

“ the pour is quite tricky and takes some practice….” a dear friend told me just the other night. he was referring to the chemicals used in the development of wet plate images, but i saw it as something else entirely. three years ago, i wrote the following essay at a time when i was struggling with my vision and trying to find myself in the photography world. during that season, my pool seemed stagnant, and i wished for movement and dreamed of pouring.  now several years later, i again find myself with my pitcher brimming, my pool of thoughts not only moving but swirling wildly, looking for a flow line to follow. there are days that i can’t quite get “the pour” correct – wild splashing or slow drips.. clearly it will take some practice. sometimes you wade, sometimes you tread. sometimes you just drown. i’m actually ok with that.

wax and wane, ebb and flow.
early on in my photography journey, i attended a lecture by the incredible joyce tenneson.  i remember standing and watching her beautiful slides shuffle one after the other, while she spoke of her art, how it came to be, her influences, etc.  – but what i remember most was her trying to explain how her ideas would come to her and how stifling it could be to try to create it when the moment didn’t move her.  by the light of the slide projector, i saw numerous heads bob in agreement – understanding the same frustrations – seasoned photographers artists who were comfortable, and just as equally uncomfortable in their artistic skins.  accompanying one of her floral images, she cited a quote from emily dickinson: “not knowing when the dawn will come, i open every door.”  i remember fumbling in my purse, scrambling for my “inspiration” note book to scribble it down in the darkness.  it sits open before me now.  it’s on the opposite page of my random note taking: “28-300 lens – great lens, suffers in speed, though”, “what is that hood thing?”, “f16 rule – f16@ 1 over iso…”, “rule of thirds (complete with diagram)” – all notes that seemed necessary at the time for a self taught photographer, however, it was the quote i came back to over and over again for guidance.

i feel as though i’ve been flinging open doors for months now.  behind many of the doors are solid brick walls, do not enter signs, and barren empty rooms. but behind some of the doors, i find little notes, small treasures and tokens – all hinting at where i should go next, pointing to new doors.  i think that many photographers can agree that there are the definite times, as joyce explained, that the doors seem tightly locked.  you twist and grind at the knob, but nothing will give way.  i’ve begged at doors, cried at doors, and willed them to open – all to no avail.  it’s at these times, that i try to exercise patience and remember the 5 most influential words that stayed with me from joyce’s lecture….”it pours out of me…”  it pours out of me. what is it like to have your art pour out of you?  she spoke of the images that resulted in her book, “light warriors”.  she recalled how woman after woman entered her studio and how she was able to let all of her emotions, her ideas, her thoughts….her art simply pour out of her. i wanted that feeling.  at the time, i thought it came with experience, with clients, with practice, with understanding – a well rounded seasoning of sorts.  but i have come to learn that the pouring occurs at the most unexpected of times. in the most inexperienced, fumbling, emotionally packed or emotionally drained of times.  i have unexpectedly found that doors i have relentlessly screamed and pounded on for weeks will suddenly burst open with just a breath and all of the ideas, emotions, visions, images, and pieces of me that i so desperately want to leave behind will flood forward – i can’t sketch fast enough, or think clearly enough.  my notebook is filled with nonsensical mutterings, quotes, lyrics, outlines, lists and locations.  ironically, at these times, i abandon the notebook and just take the camera and go.  just go.  just do.  sometimes a client stumbles into the torrent of the flood, and i am grateful for their openness to my “doings”.  but for the most part, my unseen images, my tucked away, most sensitive, most honest images become my own during the pouring.  sometimes i share, most times i don’t.  i’m ok with that.

a friend once told me that my work seemed to blossom with every summer. i appreciated her insight because it’s in the summer that i’m the most free. i feel that i hold a ring of keys to so many unknown doors, and it’s at this time when i’m able to unlock so many of them. spring is slipping and summer is finally extending it’s hand…and like clockwork,  i feel the doors bursting now.  the keys are jingling to an almost insane tune.  i’m sketching wildly again, quotes, songs, ideas are screaming. i can’t decide if it’s the actual pouring or the tipping of the pitcher that intoxicates me the most.  i hope that i will be able to gather each precious drop in the coming months so that the pitcher and the bursting rooms can empty…be silent, and slowly fill once again.  i’m filled with hope and renewal, and that glorious agony of “there’s not enough time, i don’t have enough strength to get it all out” ….such a beautiful thing… i think the dawn is coming.

– Martha Schuster

Those sweet baby fat rolls I could have kept squeezing forever. The softest of skin. His eyes lighting up as we sang his name. Kimble. His smile melting our hearts. His eyes reflecting the love in our eyes. The miracles, too many to count. The first time I saw him working to smile at me with his bright little eyes… nearly 2 months after the night we took him to the emergency room. That night we thought we’d never bring him home again. I hadn’t wanted to let my heart hope that we would share smiles one day. And he survived his first open heart surgery. I remember the day back in our own home when he reached up to grab a toy and brought it to his mouth… a complete miracle. And then suddenly, it was time to say goodbye. In the hospital after a second heart surgery, he lay sedated and sleeping. On the last day, his nurse tried to encourage us… “He’s still fighting for you.” But we could tell it was too hard for him to keep holding on. The surgery hadn’t brought his little heart the relief we were hoping for. I was so afraid if he left us now, his story wouldn’t be a good one. That’s what we want for the ones we love… a good, beautiful story. His was ending much too quickly for me. But when I spoke my fear aloud, I heard the truth, so much stronger than my fear… whatever was to come, God was going to write a good story with Kimble’s life. He’d already been doing that since the start, shining beautiful light into the darkness. I’d never been so stirred to trust, to cry out for help when I felt my heart crushed by the weight of his prognosis, so thankful for each moment with him. His story didn’t end the day he passed from our arms into the arms of Jesus, the day my heart broke and I handed those pieces over to Jesus too. I see glimpses of it around me, right here in the middle of my brokenness. There is purpose, and there is Love. A much bigger story that sings of life from death, of light shining in the darkness, of comfort and grace in the brokenness.

– Alicia Brown

  • Hannah Mayo - What a breathtaking collection of stories—as always, it has stopped me in my tracks and made me grateful that I took the time to read it.ReplyCancel

  • Hannah Nicole - Hope and balm for my soul this morning. Beautiful collection.ReplyCancel

  • kate - a beautiful gift to read as I await the wakening of my own children… thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa Kessler - I’m completely in awe of the talent and beauty gathered here. Your poetic words resonate to the core. So very beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • amy bader - such amazing talents and voices. expressed with such unique perspectives, and yet all united in what makes us all human. thank you.ReplyCancel

  • lindsey - what a beautiful grouping. thank you for letting me a part of this great group of inspired soulsReplyCancel

  • Elise - Moved. Completely moved by them all.ReplyCancel

  • thunder dance at beetle & fig - […] were asked to take part in a beautiful chorus happening on our dear friend Amy Grace’s blog. she has created an incredible space filled with real stories & words of brave individuals […]ReplyCancel

  • Kim - Beautiful stories <3ReplyCancel

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