ABLE | Peru

 

"ABLE is a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty by working with women who have often overcome extraordinary circumstances. We manufacture directly in the communities we wish to impact, both locally and globally, creating jobs and ending the cycle of charity dependency."

Last June, I traveled with the fashionABLE crew to meet their partners in Peru.  We choose leather from local tanneries for their 2018 shoes & handbags.  We also toured Lives Sac, a small batch factory operated by three sisters who are committed to ABLE's mission of breaking the cycle of poverty by creating jobs for women and paying a living wage.  ABLE's apparel is manufactured by Lives.

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.

Women's Backpacking Trip | Virgin Falls, TN

One of my most treasured moments from 2017 was a women's backpacking trip I lead in Tennessee's Virgin Falls State Natural Area.  There were 7 of us in total: some old friends, some new faces, some experienced campers, some first timers.  A few months prior, I sent an email out to a handful of female friends in the Nashville area, inquiring that if I put together a women's weekend backpacking trip, would they be interested, and what would they want to learn?  I was floored by the response- my email flooded with an overwhelming amount of "heck yes's" and "I've been wanting to do something like this, but didn't have the equipment".  Most of the responses expressed a basic desire to get outside, but a few things prevented them from going.

Since it was impossible to adhere to everyone's schedule, we decided to have an evening gathering for anyone interested, even if they couldn't attend the trip.  15 women sat in my living room, and we shared our experiences in the outdoors.  We discussed the basics of packing a backpack & made sure everyone was well equipped for a weekend outside. 

I headed to Virgin Falls a day early with two of my compadres, to solidify a camp spot and make sure the trail was manageable.  We had a beautiful, warm evening and were filled with anticipation for the rest of the group to join us.

The next morning, we woke up to snow & temperatures in the teens.  Anxiety swept through me, for camping in the snow can be quite unpleasant, especially for a beginner camper.  I texted an update, that we were staying and it seemed like it would clear up, but that I completely understood if people didn't want to join us.  All I got in response was, "WE ARE COMING."  I thought I would burst from joy.

We were gifted with the slowness of a snow day, with a fire burning from afternoon until bedtime.  The morning brought sunshine and a motivated hike out to reward ourselves with some good ole Mexican food.  

Cheers to getting outside despite inexperience or lack of equipment!   Endless thank you's to my camping buddies for trusting me to lead you outside, regardless of unideal weather. 

Who's up for a backpacking trip in 2018?

Small Business Saturday | Unison Made

I had the privilege of traveling to San Matias, Honduras last June with Considerthewldflwrs to document the women of Unison Made.  For the past six years, Emily has been teaching women in the local community how to make and sell jewelry.  For Small Business Saturday, Considerthewldflwrs is selling Unison Made necklaces, and I'm partnering with them to sell prints from our trip to Honduras.  All proceeds will go towards Unison Made.  

Buy necklaces here.

Buy prints here.

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