Sometimes it feels like I have spent my whole life trying to be someone that I am not. I'm not sure why, but I think it has to do with a few things.
First, when you are a female and your heart is made of fire, you are not in line with how others think you should be. So, instead of learning how to harness my fire like a proper warrior does, I've tried to be air because I'm afraid of being hated. So afraid. Air women look like they're always happy and having fun and wearing makeup to the gym. Air women feel so safe and loved. I want to be one so bad! (Not really, but honestly sometimes, really.)
Second, I have a deep fear of being alone. I fear that if I am truly who I am I will be left with no Thomas and no Braedon and no Lily.
Third, I am afraid that in order to make money, I have to act like someone else.
So I think three things are enough for now. Here is why I am sharing. I have spent the last few weeks crying around the clock. I am not depressed. I am not hopeless. I am none of those things.
I am waking up.
I am acknowledging how I was designed.
I am setting those fears to the side for a second because they are not the truth.
The way I explained it to Thomas this morning was like this. If I were a boat, it would seem obvious that I belong on water. But what if I was a boat who just really, really wished she could be a truck on a flat backcountry road instead. Just miles of smooth traveling, no waves, no storms, no unknown depths below filled with haunting scary things that can bite you. So I, a boat, spend my life dragging myself up and down this road like a ding dong, wearing myself down, making a mess, getting so. damn. angry. at the actual cars zooming by. I know it sounds so non-poetic but that's now I feel. Like for the first time in my life I'm like, "Wait a second. I need to learn how to sail the damn seas like a master captain instead of wasting my time over here trying to be something I will never be."
Today I am offering myself grace that it took me 38 years to arrive here. I am offering myself forgiveness for the mistakes I made along the way.
And I'm raising my sail.
I don’t remember what the life I once dreamed of tastes like. I know it vaguely smells of pine trees and smoke and the sweaty brow of a child who played outside all day, and sounds like the song of solitude rushing through the beds of rivers and creeks. I know it feels like sunrise drenched skin and mountain top lungs. But the taste is alluding me lately. Was it honey-thick and golden on the back of my throat? Was it raspberries off the vine? Did it include the spices of a thousand worlds laid out on my tongue like a woman arching her back to the rules? If only I could pause this life of living inside someone else’s bud vase to remember, just for a second, what it felt like to be planted in my own garden of soil and secrets and sovereignty. Maybe it was gold dust hitting the roof of my mouth like a cathedral collapsing, or maybe it was a tea made from the tears under the waters that flowed beneath all the bridges I’ve burned. It’s a strange thing to wake up one morning with too much gravity, forgetting what it used to be like to sip on stars and galaxies.
This is not a sad post. I am often so confused when I share honesty and it's met with an apology. No. Please. I hold many things at the same time. I hold grace and gratitude and grief in one grip. That, to me, is the art of Motherhood. I know how to dig under the surface of things to get to the sweet potatoes, just like my Grandmother showed me with her nails manicured only in toil and soil and root. I do not want anyone's sympathy because I am privileged beyond the boundaries of what I ever thought possible.
But I am a poet. I spin my truths on a wheel made from the spines of divine ancestors and they refuse to sit down and behave. Obedience was not in my inheritance and silence is not a language native to my tongue.
I haven't shared many photos in awhile because winter is a season of incubation for me. I burrow myself deep in the arms of unseen daydreams and let them have their way with me.
But this morning as I was in bed reading, I heard a voice tell me to share. I've chosen a mix of images from recent River Stories. I sat with their galleries and asked and then paid attention to how each image felt in my body. Maybe your soul was the one whispering that you need to see something below.
I have always listened to that call. So here we are.
When I close my eyes the soundtrack of my inner life is the tapping of typewriter keys, ocean tides smoothing over sand, and my children’s sighs after they’ve found sleep. This is in contrast to the sounds of my outer life. The city traffic, the electric buzz of digital technology, the clutter of clogged downtown gutters blocking the rains flow.
But I am not going anywhere. There is nothing here to fix. I sit in the mud and I embrace the teachings of my discomfort. And I create from that space.
I may not know what the dreams of my youth taste like, but I know nothing goes down smoother than looking fear in the face and sharing art with the world.
As long as I have my camera, I am free.
I know it seems silly to say this because Austin cold is nothing like New England, but the cool Texas nights have me craving mugs of broth lately. I know I'm not alone, because last week I received three texts from three different people asking me to share my bone broth recipe.
I know some people say bone broth is a hipster trend, but I read the Nourishing Broth book many years ago, and I'm convinced it saved my life when I was riddled with daily migraines and auras. There are many, many variations of the recipe. Sometimes, when we've roasted chickens for dinner, we use those bones instead of raw chickens. It makes for a darker liquid and a more woodsy taste. Sometimes we also add squash, kale, or whatever we have sitting around the fridge. But most of the time, this is the go-to blend.
Here is my personal bone broth recipe. Sorry the measurements aren't precise. I really just eyeball everything! I'm also sorry there are no photos in this post. The truth is, I am writing this from a hotel room in Houston while on a photo assignment. I will add some images when I get back home, though.
We make this each week, and store ours in mason jars in a chest freezer in the garage. When we reheat it, we make sure it simmers for 10 minutes, adding a little bit of filtered water if needed.
There truly is nothing like a warm mug of bone broth on a chilly morning.
2 whole organic pasture raised chickens
1 large bag of organic carrots
1 large bag of organic celery
3 organic leeks
Organic apple cider vinegar
Himalayan sea salt
A really big stock pot
1. I put the pot on the stove, without turning on the heat. I scoop salt in, and I'd guess it's about 5-6 tablespoons.
2. Next, I add a splash of apple cider vinegar. I'd guess one tablespoon.
3. Next, I add the two whole raw chickens. I take all the organs out, because when I tried it with them, my broth tasted like a bloody nose. Lots of people love the organs, but it's just not my jam.
4. Now, with the heat still off, I add the filtered water. We have a filter thing on the side of our sink, and I fill up a mixing bowl and then walk it over to the pot. I do this until the chickens are totally covered. Once the chickens are underwater, I leave the chickens to soak in that liquid while I prep the veggies.
5. I have Braedon peel the carrots. We get a big bag from Whole Foods, and I'd say there are about 10-15 big carrots in there. Once they are peeled and washed we cut them up and drop them in the pot. I don't know why we cut the veggies, but for some reason I feel like cutting them lets their juices out more. I am totally making that up, so I'm sure you could leave them whole. In my brain, it helps the nutrients get out into the broth, though.
6. Lily washes and chops the celery. Leaves and all.
7. With the leeks, I know they say not to use the dark tops, but I honestly love leeks so much and I throw it all in. Obviously not the gross outer leaves that can be weird, but other than that, I chop them up and wash them well, and then throw it in the pot.
8. I add a sprinkle of pepper, put the lid on, and turn on the stove to high.
9. Once it starts boiling, I turn the heat down to a steady simmer. I check it a few times the first few hours, and skim any yucky stuff off the top. Truthfully, the Whole Foods chickens are so great, there is very rarely much foam or anything to skim off. Again, I'm not reallllllly sure if the Whole Foods chickens are the reason for our clean broth top, but I think so!
10. I set a timer for 2 hours. After that goes off, I use tongs and remove the chicken meat from the bones and put it in glass containers. We use this meat for soups, sandwiches and snacks. It can be a bit dry, and I bet it doesn't need to go for 2 hours, but better safe than sorry I guess.
11. 99% of the time we do all of this at night. We then let it simmer for at least 24 hours. We keep the heat as low as possible to keep the low simmer. You may need to add a few cups of water the next morning, but you shouldn't be losing too much water. If you are, your heat might be too high. People sometimes gasp that we leave the stove on overnight while we sleep and I don't know why this doesn't scare me. The things I am afraid of are not normal things, so maybe that's why. Like I'm afraid of going to Las Vegas because what if I trip and fall and land face-first in a pile of cocaine and then I'm a coke addict forever. But broth on the stove on a low boil doesn't phase me.
12. After 24 hours it's time to strain. This is a team effort in our home. Thomas lines a strainer with cheese cloth and then Braedon holds that over a giant mixing bowl. Thomas then puts on oven mitts and pours the liquid over the strainer. It can be kind of awkward and the reason Thomas does it now is because I have two scars on my inner arm from when I tried to do it. I just realized a great invention would be oven sleeves. Like super extra long oven mitts that go up to the armpits.
13. We let the broth cool a little while and then use a ladle to pour it from the big bowl to the mason jars.
I hope I didn't leave anything out! When I get back home I will totally take photos to help. But after the third text tonight I realized it's better to share it imperfectly, than wait for it to be pretty.
If you try this, and love it, let me know! Happy Holidays!
What seems like a million years ago I had a baby boy. I was in college and poor and completely clueless. I dropped out of school and moved into my parent's basement. I remember rocking him one night, whispering plans for all the adventures I wanted us to go on together. I was young, and he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and in that moment, tucked deep down in the Earth like a seed in wintertime, everything felt possible.
I've always loved books, my favorites being true stories of female resilience. Growing up poor, I learned very quickly that library books are free, and that is where I found my liberation, my faith, my fire. I've hung onto the words of others so tight I'd swear my fingerprints would be visible on their own real life hands. I once met Maya Angelou in person and for a full five minutes I did nothing but trace her face for evidence of my own. In the pages of books I found my dreams carved out in the shape of other people's impossible realities. Especially the mothers. The true stories of Mothers who make their way in the world have always been my oxygen.
If she did it, so can I.
I believed that with all of my heart. I still do.
But today when we began the unit on the photo essay in my high school photo class, and after we watched the Dorothea Lange documentary, and the students were struck by the fact that she sent her own children away so that she could pursue her art, I asked them, "Do you think it is possible to be a Mother and an artist?"
And at first they were all silent and then they shared about how she didn't really have a choice back then, because women's rights were so backwards, and birth control was impossible, and it was just the way it was in those days. And then they started thinking about their own Mothers and if their own Mothers have reached their full potential and dreams.
And then one of them turned to me, and she said without blinking, "Of course it's possible because, you."
As I type this my cheeks are wet with tears. Of course that moment meant the world to me, but my emotional reaction is rooted in the fact that my very first thought when she said that was to reply, "Well, no, because I'm not really living my full potential at all."
"Look at me, " I wanted to tell her. "I am only a tiny fraction of what I once dreamed I could become."
And maybe it's just the curse of being someone who never feels like she's accomplished enough, done enough, helped enough. And maybe it's the universal plight of being a woman in the world. But. That basement. My baby in my arms. We were going to move mountains together. I was going to go back to school and finish my PhD and publish brilliant books and lecture in the finest educational institutions in the whole wide world. I'd have a small cabin on the water, and write write write and be the mysterious old lady who disappeared into the sunset, happy and fulfilled, like J.D. Salinger.
I dropped out of college after my first month of being pregnant because it was too embarrassing to constantly keep throwing up in the classroom trashcans in front of everyone. One time, in Geography, the teacher actually told me to leave and not come back and I do not blame her at all. It was fine, I reassured myself back then, because I'd just go right back after he was born. I'd breastfeed in the back row, I'd hire a sitter when I needed to study. There was no stopping me.
And look. I've published a photography book that sold out. I've been named Top-30 Photographers in the world. My work has been on the cover of hundreds of national magazines. I created a small business with healthy six-figure profits for years and years and I've met some of the most incredible human beings. I've lived an incredible and rich professional life. Because I had to. Because I had to get off of food stamps. Because I had to offer my children a life I never knew.
But, and here is where I can physically feel my heart cracking in half right in the middle of my own chest, I haven't finished that PhD. I haven't published books of my best and truest writing. I don't have any invitations to any brilliant colleges. And I'm approaching 40 and let's be honest, all of those things don't favor old wrinkly ladies.
I need to pause here to make something very clear. I promise you, I cross my heart, I am acutely aware that what I do have is infinitely greater than what I do not.
Last night I fell asleep on the couch in the light of Monday Night Football on the TV. I was curled up next to a sleeping Lily with my feet rested on Thomas' lap. Braedon was on the floor curled up in a pile of blankets. We have a beautiful home in a beautiful place. We have health. We know what it is to feel love and be loved. It's more beautiful than I can ever begin to put into words.
And yet there is a tiny tapping, a whisper, a calling. She is persistent and patient and penetrating. And she is telling me not to give up. I hold my favorite books in my hands and I hear her crystal clear:
If she can do it, so can you.
I still believe that with all of my heart.
And I'm sharing this because maybe you need permission to keep believing, too.