Building from the Grief Up


Written Nov 8:
We took a trip to Pittsburgh yesterday. It was my first time to ever visit Pennsylvania. I’m not sure why, but I’ve wanted to visit this state since I was a kid. As we approached I was so surprised. The city itself was so beautiful… and the landscape was nothing like I’d expected – although I am not entirely sure what I expected it to be. The hills all around were steep and towering, the city itself built up within the twists and turns of the natural world. It felt inventive, and sturdy, and wonderfully adapted to the landscape. Tall, skinny houses on steep slopes. Narrow winding roads to accommodate the inclines and declines. A system of bridges to connect things amidst the two rivers that surround downtown and meet on one end.

I’m always fascinated by cities built up in areas like this. Even more impressive is that this city is 400 years old. You could feel the history of this place just driving through it. There was a certain feeling of grit and determination about it. A sense of the ingenuity and adaptability it took to create. I started to consider the idea of a place like this as a metaphor for human life and all it’s struggles…

Sometimes in life, we are born into a place with steep inclines and deep valleys. Other times, we are delivered to such a place somewhere along the way… by events like the death of a spouse, parent, child or other loved one. Or by some other catastrophic event.

The city was a reminder to me of our ability as humans to be adaptable. Despite the harshest of landscapes that life puts in our way, we can survive and create amazing lives. This city was also far more interesting and beautiful because of the hills and valleys that people had to work around to build it. And so I think it goes in life. Grief is the harshest landscape we will likely ever have to build the city of our hearts within. As we adapt though, we create something breathtaking. Every beautiful street in our hearts is influenced by the slopes of our grief. Each step took hard work, but work that was meaningful. We might start out in the bottom of the valley, where things feel overwhelming, but over time, we build up. We reach higher up the slopes. And eventually, we are looking down over the landscape of our grief and seeing a thing made beautiful – not in spite of the difficulties, but because of them.

Self Portrait Project Update: Month 1

A month ago I shared this post about a year-long photography project I have decided to start; weekly self portraits exploring my personal journey with grief. I’ve been sharing each week on my creative blog – each photo combined with some journaling and deeper exploration on the meaning behind the photo and the feelings associated with it.

You can hop over to my creative blog here (or click on each image to take you there) to read the full posts, but I wanted to do a monthly update here to share the photos. This project has been an incredible experience already. I never really shoot images with the human figure in them, so this has been a very different project for me in that respect. I’ve also never tried to create such specific stories using my own body, so that part has also been quite a learning experience – complete with plenty of sore feet and scraped-up legs from running around in the woods bare foot and nearly nekkid!

I’m really, deeply proud of these images. If you like them, please share, and drop me a comment below – I’d love to know what they make you feel, or what they say to you.

Week One: What is Leftportrait_Week1

Week Two: The Fallen

Week Three: Relics of Our Time

Week Four: The Gateway Portrait_Week3_new

I hope these mean something to you… and if they do, please leave me a comment and let me know! Don’t forget to visit my creative blog to read the full stories behind each image – and please share with others!