Fish, Skin and Sarah

Sometimes, right at the end of a session, with the moon rising bold in the sky, you listen to the primal creative calling that sings like a serpent up the spine.

These river story sessions were born from fishing trips I took with my father as a child. In adulthood, I've witnessed him struggle with addiction and cancer and devastating grief. The dead fish image really speaks to that truth, to our river story as father and daughter, and the human heart that breaks, and heals, endlessly, like a miracle each time. 

I am beyond grateful to beautiful Sarah for trusting me. Not many people would remain calm when they hear me ask my son to grab a dead fish from the water to place on their heart, but she was so radiant and centered and strong. Divine.

I love the silk piece she brought, and while I am certain this is not how she imagined it being used, she didn't even flinch when I told her it reminded me of human skin, and I wanted to explore this theme a bit more. I've been told I'm thin skinned my entire life, and I have come to know the beauty, and profound power, in that. I'd like to think these few images illuminate that personal story a bit. 

Sometimes I fantasize about being an art school student who gets to do all kinds of different things, and tonight was a gift. Sarah allowed me to be that unapologetic artist, and I'll never forget it. 

Anyhow, I am rambling. Tonight feels like magic and my heart feels soaked in the best kind of poetry. 

Me + Them

Yesterday we arrived to the river over an hour early so that Thomas and B could mountain bike together in the woods. We spent the day repairing flat tires and tuning up gears. But when we got to Salmon River, they realized they forgot their helmets. 

Thomas was so mad and it seriously broke my heart. They were SO excited and had been talking about this Father's Day ride for months. So, I grabbed my camera and said, "Well, I have a camera and we don't have enough photos of one another at the river, so let's go for a walk." 

We all hadn't showered in a few days. There was mustard on my face from the sandwich I ate for supper, and I wore a sweatshirt to hide my overgrown armpits. Lily's hair is tangled bedhead and she has mud on her lips because she kept pretending to put on makeup by dipping a stick in the water and rubbing it all over her face. 

And that is exactly why these images needed to be captured. This is us, camping. This is us at our absolute best. These are the days I never, ever, not even for one second want to forget. Skinned summer knees, and all. My mama heart is so grateful we had this time to make these pictures. I know I will treasure them as long as I live. 

Images by Thomas, Braedon and me. 

Melissa - A River Story - Same Night Preview

As I type this, Lily is cuddled against me, sound asleep. I'm often asked why I post previews on the same night, and it's because it's still so palpable to me. Lily's head is tucked into my neck and her curls smell like campfire and sunshine and s'mores. The ends of my sweatshirt are still wet from the river. It's all still right here.

I absolutely fell in love with this family tonight, head over heels, and I think I worked on these images a liiiittle slower than usual because I just don't want the night to end. I loved watching the way Melissa's family loves one another; from the crinkled up noses and belly laughs to the tight reassuring hugs to her husband's hilarious side comments. All of it. And we finished the night with Melissa all bundled up in a sweater her Gram gave her and I'm not sure it gets any better than that. 

I am grateful. 

 

 

Nicole - A River Story - Same Night Preview

Tonight was so chilly and windy that I wore two winter jackets the entire time, but sweet Nicole never complained once. Her energy is so incredibly kind and calm, and peaceful. It was such a gift spending this time with her. Tonight Nicole reminded me, that sure there are really painful and horrible things happening in the world, but look, goodness remains, and beautiful hearts can never really, actually be tarnished. 

I know I've mentioned this before, but my children come along to just about every single River Story. These woods are more their home than any other place, and tonight it really struck me just how incredible that really is. Braedon drags entire trees behind him to use for the walls of his fort in the forest like it's nothing. Lily brings along her fishing rod and casts clear across the center. Where Braedon once sat and played with Lego men, he now uses a hatchet to chop wood for the fire. Where Lily used to burry her binky in the sand, she now reads books. 

My children get to meet the bravest women in the world, week after week, and they witness vulnerability, creativity and sisterhood. Sure I backup all of my images on three different hard drives, but the truth is, Braedon and Lily are the true keepers of the River Stories. Each one, each courageous woman, is uniquely and gracefully etched in the fabric of their memories. Tonight Nicole showed them that even in the middle of global heartache, there is still, and always, love. 

I used to leave them out of the photos, but this year I have decided to capture at least a few. It's important, I think, for them to know they are never, not even for a second, invisible, and that these stories are their stories, too.