A few months ago I mentioned that I was interested in building out opportunities to bring D.C. residents together in comfortable settings to do interesting things like artist salons and discovering forgotten and hidden stories. For a hot second, I thought about starting something myself but instead decided to look around to see if something similar existed in Washington that I could join and support. I found two interesting opportunities: Little Salon and Obscura Society’s D.C. chapter.
I learned two important things in this search: 1.) to be a discoverer, you have to begin as a seeker and 2.) the best way to discover is to search together with others. And these are lessons I will continue to carry with me at the top of my mind and at the center of my heart. More details soon!
On Saturday night, I stopped by to hear a FotoWeek DC panel discussion about the future of photography. To be honest, the panel was much less insightful than I had hoped it would be. However, one quote that inspired and resonated with me came from George Hemphill, the owner of Hemphill Fine Arts, a commercial art gallery here in D.C. He encouraged people to get started collecting by saying, “As a collector you can’t make any mistakes. Just collect what you love.”
In the past few months, I’ve started to dip my toe into the world of art collecting. The genre that’s recently resonated the most with me is photography. My friends, Kriti and Allie, went to Pancakes and Booze this summer and I met CJ Bown, a Philadelphia-based photographer. I fell in love with his work and the process he uses to produce canvases of his photos. (Each one takes about 2 weeks to complete.) I snapped up two of his pieces – one of the stairs to Bethesda Fountain in New York City’s Central Park and another of Boathouse Row in Philadelphia.
On Sunday, I learned about the intensely physical work of aerial photographer Vincent Laforet. “You have to try to take photos that no one else has taken. In 2015, that’s a tall order so I have to come up here.” By “up here”, he means in a helicopter as it whirls around while he attempts to capture stunning nighttime photos of cities. The fruits of his labors are stunning. They are living, breathing artifacts of how a city moves. I couldn’t stop looking at the galleries on his website so I bought a limited-edition lithograph of one of his New York City shots.
Are you a seasoned collector? Have you also started to collect art? Have You been thinking about starting a collection? I’d love to hear any tips, ideas, and perspectives. Let’s learn together.
“I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” -Truman Capote
As hard as the writing process can be, editing is so much harder. It’s emotional, even painful, but it’s also necessary. Editing is the polish that makes a piece of work shine, whether that work is done in words, images, or sounds. It takes perspective and intense reflection. What are you really trying to say or show? What thought, feeling, idea, or action are you trying to evoke in the people with whom you share your work? Creation is so much more about what you give, not what you get. It’s an act of generosity so edit, edit, edit, and make it a gift you’re proud to offer.
Have you ever had a situation come up in your life and wondered “what the heck is the purpose of this?” This week Brian and I talked about the idea of soul retrieval—the Native American belief that when we go through a traumatic experience we leave a piece of our soul with that experience. Stay with me here; these two ideas connect because Native Americans also believe that throughout our lives we are offered opportunities to reclaim the parts of our souls that we’ve lost. These opportunities show up in the form of confounding situations, scenarios that require us to rise up, change, and do something that’s difficult. They often require us to break a long-held pattern that needs to be reversed.
I recently had a few events like this pop up and Brian did a brilliant job, as usual, of guiding me through them. Even though I knew it wouldn’t lead to the best outcome, I was tempted to act in a way that I’ve acted before when these types of circumstances arise. Brian counseled me to examine how I would normally react and then he encouraged me try a completely different tack. It was uncomfortable to react in a completely different way than I normally would, and I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. Still, I followed Brian’s advice, tried these new approaches, and then waited to see how it would unfold.
Brian’s advice was spot on. I broke patterns that had long-outlived their purpose, and the situations resolved themselves in the most favorable way possible. And I woke up on Friday morning feeling more whole than I’ve felt in a long time. The air was balmy, the wind was soft, and the brilliantly colored leaves made me smile wide. I got some pieces of my soul back. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
We all have a choice to make every morning—stay in bed and hope for a brighter tomorrow or make the most of the day we’re given. Sometimes it’s a harder choice than we’d like it to be, but I’ll tell you this: never once have I gotten up to chase a dream and regretted it at the end of the day, regardless of the outcome. Get out there and give it everything you’ve got. Time’s the one resource you can never recover.
Tonight I’m attending my first Instameet in D.C. at the Former Spanish Ambassador’s Residence in my plucky neighborhood of Columbia Heights. IGDC and FotoDC are sponsoring the special event that will showcase the residence’s exhibit before it opens to the public as part of FotoWeekDC. Over the course of the next week, I’ll be attending classes, workshops, and exhibitions that highlight all of the incredible photography that happens here in the D.C. area. I hope you’ll join me and take part in this wonderful celebration that captures life one frame at a time. Details on all of the FotoDC events can be found at http://www.fotodc.org/events-fotoweekdc-2015/.
I believe in the power of hard work, persistence, and determination. I think 99.9% of life’s circumstances can be fixed. I’m not saying it’s easy; I’m saying it’s possible. And you’ve got a choice to make: is what (or who) needs fixing worth your time to do the fixing? We’ve got a finite amount of time and energy, and that time and energy has to be put to good use. We have to find a way to be efficient and make as big a difference as we can. Some people and some circumstances just aren’t worth it.
I know it’s not always easy to let it go. I’ll even go so far as to say it’s never easy to let it go. But sometimes the best thing you can do, for yourself and for others, is to just walk away. Put your energy into what (and who) matters most. You have the right to make that choice. We all do. And don’t wait until you’re a certain age. You don’t know how much time or good health you have. Each moment you have is just as precious as any other moment, and they should all be treated like the gifts that they are.
I went to Sixth & I last night to see Linda Holmes interview Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the creators of the podcast and new novel, Welcome to Night Vale. Night Vale is a small southwestern town where every conspiracy theory is true. There’s much you can read about the podcast – how it was started by two theater artists in a Brooklyn apartment, that there were only 52 downloads in the first month, and that the creators are flat-out shocked by the success of this off-beat, quirky, and confounding story that’s filled with equal amounts of tenderness and weirdness.
What you haven’t heard, because it has to be experienced, is the overwhelming joy that the loyal fans feel toward this story, these characters, this town, and its creators. The cheers and applause never stopped at the event last night. The laughter literally rang through the rafters of Sixth & I, the warmth between the audience and the authors was palpable, and I’ll never forget it. This is what story told with authenticity and love can do. This is what happens when we build from the heart and not for the wallet. (Night Vale refuses to take money from advertising and instead relies on donations, merchandise sales, and revenue from live shows.) It’s an example of how art done right has a powerful impact on the soul. All of it makes me happy.
I’ve been in D.C. for 8 months now and people often ask me if I miss New York City. My answer: hell yes! I miss it every day. I miss the beat, the relentless creativity, and the constant push to reinvent. I came of age in New York City and my many years of living there got inside my bones. It will be with me always, everywhere I go. And once I realized that, I was free to go. I carry New York City with me, and that confidence allowed me to stretch my wings, take everything I learned there, and head out on a new adventure in a new city. I love going back to the motherland. I’ll always love going back there. The place is insane, and I accept it exactly as it is and exactly as it will be, flaws and glories and all. New York made me tough, and it also made me extraordinarily curious, empathic, and hopeful. Those are gifts that keep on giving.
I can close my eyes and go back to New York in an instant. I can sit down at my computer, drop a character into the middle of it all, and watch with rapture to see what unfolds in my writing. From my new home in D.C., I can be there in about 3 hours on a comfy Amtrak train. It’s not so far away, and it’s not going anywhere. Sure, it’s different every time I go back and each trip is filled with discovery and learning. That’s the point of New York. It’s meant to break you out of your routine. It means to throw you off-balance and help you understand that you’re strong and that you can recover from anything, literally anything. It’ll break you, and then show you that being broken has its benefits and rewards. Being broken, and broke, isn’t the worst thing in the world. Just keep looking up. There’s a will and a way and if you keep looking for it, you’ll find it. After all, you can find anything at any time in New York – and that includes healing, dreams, and a sense of purpose.
New York is a rabbit hole to the extreme, and I’m happy to tumble down it every chance I get. I don’t have to live in Wonderland to love it. I know I can pop in for my fix, let it go, and know that it will welcome me back any time that I want to be there. It’s a perpetual open door that doesn’t require an invitation. That’s what a home is and what a home does, and New York will always be home for me in the truest sense of the word.
El Dia de los Muertos, a significant holiday for Mexico, begins today. The Day of the Dead is a celebration steeped in history. People who celebrate it construct altars to make offerings to their loved ones who have passed on. (This photo was taken at a cemetery celebration in Mexico.) As someone who believes that death is a crossing over to the other side and not a permanent loss, this holiday has always resonated with me. One year I’d love to go to Mexico to see it in action. For now, I celebrate it from afar.
Today take some time to remember those who have started the next leg of their journey and will show us the way when our time arrives.