A New Chapter

I’ve tried to start this blog so many times. I write a few lines, I erase them all. I step away and say I’ll do it next week. Next week rolls around and I make more excuses for myself.

The last few months have been exciting, difficult, turbulent and wonderful. In February, I finally made the decision to move to a city I’ve talked about every day since I left a year and a half ago. I emptied out my childhood bedroom, packed up everything that would fit into the back of my small sedan, and drove up to Portland, Ore., to start a new chapter in life.

Two days before I left, I went to visit an old friend in Southern Arizona. Dennis Moroney welcomed me to his ranch two years ago when I was a senior at Arizona State working on an in-depth reporting project about the lives of those who live along the US borders. I spent several weekends with him and his family, talking to them about their experiences running their cattle ranch only 20 miles north of the US-Mexico border fence. Dennis is intelligent, articulate and wildly interesting. He is also incredibly warm and welcoming, and I have wanted to return to the ranch many times in the two years since my last visit. I finally got my chance just before I left for Oregon, and I couldn’t have picked a better weekend.

Turns out that Dennis’ wife, Deb, and some of their friends were finishing up shearing the last of their 118 sheep. I got to the ranch just in time for the most beautiful late afternoon light, with a golden glow and a pastel sunset.

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I cannot begin to explain how lucky and thankful I felt. To make images just for myself, to be surrounded by some of the most kind and welcoming people I’ve ever met, to see all of these beautiful things bathed in this beautiful light… I was drunk on the wonder of life and my fortune to be where I was at that exact moment. It was exactly what I needed before jumping into the crazy adventure of moving.

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I’ve tried to hold on to the way that afternoon made me feel. How in love with life I felt and how lucky I knew I was to be doing something I loved just for the sheer joy of it. That’s when my images are the best: when I have a camera in my hand and I can’t stop repeating in my head, “you get to do this for a living.” That’s a feeling worth chasing.

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I haven’t shared these images because that high fades. Because many times when I looked at these frames I was reminded that I hadn’t photographed anything like that since I got to Oregon, and so I’d broken a promise to myself that I would keep pushing myself and pursuing this way of life. Every time I sat down to edit these frames and write this blog, I still felt like I was in this hole that I couldn’t get out of and that I wasn’t about to share with anyone.

That I’m sharing these now doesn’t mean I’m out of that hole. There are days where I still wonder what I’m doing and where I’m going. But I’ve learned to accept that, and to accept that I can’t have a plan for everything. Which is a very good lesson to keep in mind as in just a week I’m headed to Australia for two months to work as a photographer for Rustic Pathways, the company that I worked for in Southeast Asia last year. A summer with Rustic means a summer of unpredictability, of last-minute plans and adaptations and flying by the seat of your pants and making it look easy.

I’m very much looking forward to getting back to making images for a living. I am looking forward to getting that feeling back. And I am determined to bring it back with me, to remind myself every day that I am lucky to do this. I am lucky to see the beauty of this world and to meet people like Dennis and Deb and Penny and Vanessa, who made me feel at home the moment I walked into that barn. At the end of the day, it’s the people that make this the best job I’ve ever had.

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