Friends! I’m stoked to have some work hanging in my favorite SB coffee shop, Breakfast Culture Club. These pieces are from a project that formed while I was hiking the John Muir Trail. I encountered a few disappointed hikers who felt that much of the scenery we walked through was the exactly the same. Though I couldn’t agree with them, their comments inspired me to really pay attention to what was around me- for even in the slower pace of hiking life, it is easy to miss beauty if you’re not looking for it. So I started paying attention to the textures of tree bark, rocks, and plants that I passed on my daily commute. I couldn’t believe the differences in color and texture. I began taking macro photos of the textures followed by a slow shutter speed photo to capture the colors. Sometimes one person’s negativity can inspire positivity in another. Look up, my friends! This world has so much beauty to discover. I’ll be offering more photos & prints from this series soon! 
Printed by my photo family at Color Services.

2 years

Today I’m celebrating two years of healing from a spinal injury incurred while rock climbing in Tennessee.  Two years feels equally like a nanosecond and the entirety of my life- April 4th, 2016 was certainly a day that marked a tangible rift in my timeline.  

Although I existed for 25 years with a perfectly healthy back, I can't seem to recall what that felt like.  Backbends, flopping down on a couch, standing for long periods of time, and falling, from either clumsiness or playfulness, are things I took for granted until they became difficult or had heavier consequences.  On the days I’m in pain, I get scared that it won’t subside, and I worry about how bad it could be in the future.  A friend recently related the same thought to her experience with depression- in the moment it can feel like the pendulum will never swing the other way again, and joy has abandoned you forever.  I’m learning to trust that gravity will keep its promise and pull us back to center in due time.

Trauma brings perspective, which often brings pain, which certainly sharpens awareness. And maybe that’s the word I feel at the two year mark: Aware.  Aware of how different my life could be, aware of my own emotional pendulum, in awe of the resilience of our flesh, bones, and muscles.  I’m aware of the gift of simply living, which propels me to live more simply.  The process to loosen my grip around things beyond my control continues.

I continue to say: Thank you God, for this day.  Thank you God, for this body. Help me to steward it well.  

Last year I wrote a reflection on paying attention.  You can read that here.

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#strongertogether

Friends & businesses in the Santa Barbara/Montecito/Carpinteria/Ventura area! Aleia Design Co is selecting 1-2 clients to receive a branding package, and I’m stoked to offer a photo shoot as one of the options.

Other donated services include: 
01. one-on-one consultation + marketing brainstorming session
02. new brand design / logo refresh
03. brand collateral package (style guide, business cards, logo suite & more)
04. new website / site refresh
05. 1 hour photography session
06. 1 hour of professional copywriting
07. social media strategy

All other submissions will receive 30% off all design services through the end of 2018. 
The last day to submit is March 15, 2018. Here's to giving back and rebuilding! #strongertogether

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2017: a recap

2017 highlights:

bought Fran the Van & built her out with my grandfather

led a women's backpacking trip in TN

moved from Nashville

Austin -> Big Bend -> Tucson -> Moab -> Salt Lake

hiked 5 days in the Grand Canyon

joined some pals on the AT for 8 days

documented 7 days in Peru with fashionABLE

spent 2 months working at Voyageur Outward Bound in Ely, MN

snuck in a weekend to my favorite place in September

documented a 5 day backpacking trip in CO with SheisABLE

documented a 5 day whitewater canoeing trip with VOBS in Big Bend

moved to Santa Barbara

"I was not sure where I was going, and I could not see what I would do when I got [there].  But you saw further and clearer than I, and you opened the seas before my ship, whose track led me across the waters to a place I had never dreamed of, and which you were even then preparing to be my rescue and my shelter and my home."  - Thomas Merton

This life is a gift, and this year was no exception.  I am thankful.

happy franiversary

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I bought this little lady on this day last year.  It has been one of the most bold & unpredictable years of my life, and much of the credit goes to having the freedom to take an off-road turn when it presented itself (even if that meant occasionally taking a wrong turn and getting stuck in sand).  Cheers to another year of open hands & sharpened eyes to the world around me.  There are wonders everyday if we choose to see them.

1 year

Climbing — like running, owning a business, facing a fear, or being a human— at times asks us to suffer.

I’ll save the story of my accident for another day, as right now my mind is flooded with memories of my recovery.

I fell 15 ft while lead climbing on this day last year, suffering a three-column compound burst fracture of my L1 vertebrae, retropulsed bone fragments 8mm into my spinal canal, and a triangular fracture of my T12 vertebrae.  In non-medical terms, this is code for “hurts like hell.”  I should have experienced nerve and neurological damage, if not death.

Instead, I was told I could recover.  After an invasive spinal fusion surgery and six brutal days in the hospital, the medical staff sent me home with one simple command: walk.

So, every day I pushed myself up out of my geriatric recliner and gave thanks that I hadn’t lost feeling in my legs, that I could still feebly get myself out the door, to stand in the sun and remember that I was alive.  I was given another day.

I cruised the sidewalks around my neighborhood, slow at first and then swiftly.  Paired with my methodical, step-and-breathe routine came a newfound awareness of my body and surroundings.  I began to intimately pay attention to the neighborhood I had called home for over a year, yet barely known.

Every day, I walked by the “weave on Marie street” — a sad, abandoned clump of hair that once resided on someone’s head.  I passed the shirtless, overweight man at the top of the hill who routinely yelled in a monotone voice, “beautiful day”.  I frequently passed a sharply-dressed elderly man who was always chasing a family of kittens around his yard.  I anticipated waving to the two women who sat in rocking chairs on their porch every afternoon.  I winced at the effects of gentrification weighing on my fellow neighbors.

I noticed a familiar determination in the young boy who practiced basketball in his front yard, shooting on an invisible hoop.  Neither of us had the immediate gratification of a scored goal, yet we labored on.

On one particularly rough morning, I turned a corner to stare at the face of Jesus on a pillow in the middle of the sidewalk.  I took the encounter as a divinely comedic reminder that healing also requires rest.

I routinely smiled at the shy, awkward neighbor who religiously tended his garden.  He was the proud owner of an albino turkey that squawked every 30 minutes.  I learned to walk-sprint by the man who always, without fail, let his damn dog chase me a block before he called it home.

Over the span of a year, I counted 15 abandoned diapers, watched the construction of an entire row of new houses, and developed a deep admiration for the guy who built out three Volkswagon camper vans two blocks from my house.  And as I grew more aware of the world around me, what was broken within me healed, a little stiffer & a little stronger.

I watched spring shift to summer, day-by-day.  This is not a sudden process.  It happens gradually, patiently, faithfully — and most of us feel sideswiped by the change because we are too busy being busy.

I walked and I walked and I walked.  My neck brace was removed, and my wobbly, tentative stride took a more purposeful pace.  My lungs regained their strength, and I learned about balance.  I relearned how to trust.  Eventually, I could bend and touch my toes.  Then I ran, over and over again, arguably faster than I’d even been before my accident.  

I can’t help but think: what if I paid this much attention for longer than a span of a few months?  What would I see? What have I already missed?

To my friends & family: you were my backbone when I was broken.  Thank you for the meals, the walking buddies, the hugs, the listening, the truth-telling.

A year later, I stand a little straighter, stretch longer, breathe deeper.  A year later, I continue to say: Thank you God, for this day.  Thank you God, for this body.  Help me to steward it well.

Climbing also compels us to reach.  It demands that we stretch beyond our limits and muster the strength to pull ourselves up, crack-by-crack, finger-by-finger, breath-by-breath.  

May we all look back, bless how far we’ve come, and never stop reaching.

Half Hidden

Honored to have some photos & words featured on Rock Meets Soil.  Full feature on their blog!

Each of these photos has a silhouetted theme—
it's difficult to see the faces of the subjects. To me,
they represent the vulnerability and mystery of human
relationships. Often we only display curated parts of
ourselves deemed worthy of revealing. 

Most of us are half hidden—we're
anthropomorphic glaciers gliding through the world,
carrying most of our burdens beneath the surface. 
Photography feeds my curiosity, allows me to evoke
emotion, and every so often, grants me a glimpse into who
someone truly is. May we continue to welcome life's
mysteries, keep asking questions, and have
the courage to show our scars.

Mysteries, Yes


Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.


Mary Oliver