Category Archives: photography

on healing, exercise and pottery

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It’s been six weeks since my surgery, and I feel back to normal. Well, as normal as you can feel with a newborn. Luckily, L. is a decent sleeper. Usually. OK, last night not so much, when he was up at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. But three nights ago my little 7 week-old gave me a 6-hour stretch, which had me dancing to “Foot Loose” around my living room. (Another exaggeration, I can’t help myself today.)

I’ve been walking and I tried to run a few days ago. That wasn’t happening. It’s hard enough to run after a pregnancy, but now I have a surgery to contend with, so it will take more time. I’m trying to be patient.

We took the boys rock climbing in the Jemez mountains yesterday and A. set an easy climb for them (and me), but I wasn’t feeling up to it. Rock climbing is harder when you’re carrying extra weight and I have 10 more pounds to go. But it was lovely being in nature — trees! Fresh air! Sunshine! I’ve missed day trips like this.

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In other news, I opened an Etsy shop to sell my pottery. I was simply investigating how to do it, and then suddenly it was done. I went with Erin Killian Pottery so it’s easy to find. My sister-in-law is a graphic designer (check out her stuff at Beth Killian Design) and she whipped up a logo for me.

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I haven’t formally announced the shop to family and friends yet — I want to tweak it a bit and maybe add a few more items. I’ve read it’s good to have 20-30 items to start and I have 16 up there. Who knows, that might be enough. On Saturday, I started to throw again for the first time in two months. I made four mugs and three small ring bowls and felt relaxed and in my element. I’m pretty sure I think better when I’m throwing clay. A. said, “Look at you, you’re filthy!” and I nodded and gave him the biggest grin. It feels good to be back to myself again.

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the california desert in full bloom

Since January, it’s rained a handful of times in the desert. I don’t know how many inches, but enough to make the mountains turn green and to feed the wildflowers so they blossom. It’s radiant here. The birds are singing, the owls are hooting, the lizards are basking in the sun, the flowers are open and full. The air is fresh and crisp. And I’m thankful that we’re experiencing this just as we’re getting ready to make some big life transitions.

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perspective. sometimes you have it. sometimes you don’t.

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It’s the dead of summer. Our swamp cooler went out yesterday, and I watched the thermometer tick up — 80 degrees in the house, hm. 85. 87. A drip of sweat on my back. Oh yes, time to call property management. CP was in his crib, crying, his hair matted to his head. I took him for a loop around the town with the car air conditioning blasting. A. opened the swamp cooler, and saw that the water pump wasn’t working. “Look,” he said, when I returned. “It’s really simple.”

The heating and cooling people didn’t call. A. drove to Home Depot and replaced the pump himself. “Twenty-eight dollars,” he said. “And the receipt flew out the window.”

We went on vacation to Michigan and North Carolina over the 4th and came back to the desert more exhausted than when we left. CP cried on the flights. CM had a few epic meltdowns. Schedules altered. A flight cancelled. Our car shined a warning light before we drove into Death Valley (false alarm). You know the drill. Travel, as much as I love it and seeing family, is draining.

At almost five months, CP is waking twice a night minimum. I’m running on empty.

We’ve been talking a lot about our next move when we leave the desert. It’s all up in the air, but even though it’s a year away, it increases our anxieties. Eventually we’ll end up back in the D.C. area.

“Let’s get a farm house,” I say. “Deep in Virginia.”

“Let’s build a tiny house,” A. says. I think he means it. “I don’t want a two-hour commute.”

D.C. friends came to visit last week. They’re journalists — one for National Geographic, the other for the Washington Post — and they have two girls who are the same ages as CM and CP. They rented a van for three weeks with a pull-down bed and a kitchen to tour around California. We made sweet potato and black bean tacos with an avocado pepita dip and the kids ran in the sprinklers.

“I’m really digging your life,” she said.

“We’re happy,” I said. “For now.”

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It was cloudy today, which put A. in a funk. It’s sunny 350 days of the year.

“I need a project,” he said.

We drove to Cottonwood Meadows this morning. The signs said it was bear country. We walked about 100 yards on the dusty trail before CM wanted to hang out on a log (“This used to be a tree, mama”). He didn’t want to hike anymore.

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So I wandered. And I found a tree with a hole in the trunk, covered in dried sap. And I snapped dozens of photos. Same square of the tree, different exposures, different angles. How each of us see the world. Some with golden hues, some black; some with smooth lines, some with dead bark.

When I returned to the log, it started to drizzle. CP was ready for his nap. CM had sand in his shoes. Two crying babies. Two parents, shaking their heads. Ready for the next laugh, sun and a bit of inspiration.

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the glorious mountains

We hiked into the glorious Eastern Sierras yesterday. Onion Valley, north of Mt. Whitney, is only about an hour and a half drive from us, but it was my first time in the mountains since the fall. The smell of pine, the fresh air, the snow, the birds singing, the rush of a waterfall: I felt alive and rejuvenated. Happy Monday, all.

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quiet moments and creative inspiration

On Friday after a Mexican dinner out — once C. was asleep in his crib — A. and I migrated to our bright yellow kitchen. A. stood and painted lettering on hand-held signs for our friends’ wedding in Soho in NYC in two weeks. I sat cross-legged on a chair and crocheted a hat for my niece. The table was full of paints and paper and water and yarn and we worked in the quiet, enjoying each others’ company and the warm night breeze through the window screens.

I find I work best in quiet, whether I’m writing or photographing or throwing pots. It’s in the quiet that I can really focus. It’s true for A., too, who never wants me to interrupt him while he’s wood-working.

Here are a few things we’ve made out of our recent quiet — plus a cool sewing project from my MIL. All of these things make me smile.

Purple flowers in our backyard. I love photographing flowers (and I need a better macro lens). On Friday, the after-sunset splash of color — like a painting — surprised me.

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A hat I crocheted a few weeks ago with yarn I bought in L.A. It gives me the urge to throw on a thick wool sweater and go to Nova Scotia and look out at fishing boats while sipping steaming hot cocoa. (I must be ready for a cold-weather vacation.)

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Wedding signs A. made for friends on request — he bought and cut the wood, painted the pieces pink, put on the dark gray border, sanded off spots to make it “shabby chic” and then wrote the script. I can’t wait to see the stunning bride (who’s marrying this guy) holding them. (Also, maybe A. can have a side business?)

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This photo that I took about a month or two ago of C. wearing a robe that his nonna sewed for him. It fits him so perfectly that it makes me consider pulling our sewing machine down off of a shelf in our closet. With zero shopping in our quiet desert town, maybe I should make myself a skirt or two. (Hmmmmm….)

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What has inspired you lately?

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the desert’s hidden beauties

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When A. told me he wanted to move to the desert, I’m pretty sure I laughed in his face.

“Have you seen my skin?” I said, pointing to the Irish white dotted with freckles.

He had spent several years in Pasadena, and had fallen in love with Joshua Tree National Park and this was very, very important to him.

I had just delivered a baby, loved my job and my friends and city-living and really, the desert was a place I never considered. I am drawn to the beach and to the mountains — the desert sounded lonely and inhospitable.

When we visited the first time, last April, I noticed the ravens. In the parking lots, in the streets, hopping around and staring at me with their beady eyes and opening their long beaks and croaking at me. I felt dread, then, and I found the only green swatch of public land in the dusty town and hunched on a park bench to nurse the then 4-month-old C. I called my best friend, exhausted, and pleaded with her to tell me it was going to be OK. And then, on the drive back to LA, I cried.

We’ve been here for five months. And what I’ve noticed about the desert is its hidden beauties. Small white and yellow wildflowers hiding in shrubs (the smallest we’ve ever seen) and hummingbirds zipping by and Joshua trees bending and twisting and blooming and red and green and striped rocks sparkling in the sun.

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Lately, we’ve been going on weekly hikes, sometimes more, and have explored Indian Wells Canyon and Short Canyon.

A. said last weekend, “It amazes me that I lived in LA for so long and never considered coming here for hikes.” Neither have the others, it seems, for we have the trails to ourselves and can enjoy the quiet and catch roadrunners sprinting by and birds swooping overhead and flowers ruffling in the wind.

It surprises me how much life is here, even though we’re less than an hour from one of the hottest places on Earth.

And it amazes me I was so narrow-minded to never consider the desert: It’s no coincidence that writers and artists find their muse in its subtle magic.

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in search of wildflowers

On Sunday, we drove to the Panamint Valley in search of large yellow daisies that you can only find on that small section of the earth. We drove through the mountain pass, stopped to take in the vast, open view, and on into Death Valley to see charcoal kilns built by Chinese laborers in the late 1800s.

While there, C. took A. on a mini hike — this little 16-month-old is getting more adventurous. “Hand,” he says, wanting to hold hands while he navigates his unsteady feet over rocks.

There were no daisies — it was a dry winter and the wildflowers will be hard to spot this year. But it was the type of drive that makes you suck in your breath with wonder.

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a plum (or apricot?) tree

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On Saturday afternoon, I was enjoying the quiet on our patio while C. napped — reading “Bringing Up Bébé,” drinking espresso, legs reclined — when I noticed flowers blooming on one of five trees in our backyard. Curious, I got up to inspect further. And I saw a piece of old (rotting) fruit. A fig tree! I thought, excited. (I knew we had two pomegranate trees, but those don’t bloom till the fall.)

I plucked the fruit off the tree and waited till A. got home to show him.

“You have to see this,” I said.

He looked, and said, “A date tree?”

We looked at each other.

“Wait, I think dates grow on palm trees,” A. said.

(We’re clearly not well-versed in our fruit trees.)

A. snapped his fingers and pointed at me: “A plum tree!”

“You think?” I said. “I’ll go look up the flower.”

I did a Google image search, and the plum tree flower looked closest to the flower we had.

When I returned, our neighbor, who was working in his backyard filled with old canoes and a tipped-over wheel barrow, peeked his head over the wood picket fence. Just like the neighbor on Home Improvement, I could only see his mustache and thick round glasses.

“That’s an apricot tree,” he said. “That tree bears a lot of fruit.”

I guess he would know since he’s lived next door for more than 20 years. A. still thinks it’s a plum tree. (Do any readers out there know?) I guess we’ll find out when the fruit appears this spring. Regardless of plums or apricots, I’m excited to discover another tree that C. can help us pick.

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crazy for hummingbirds

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“You have a hummingbird feeder!” said S. as she looked out our kitchen window to the backyard.

“We do?” I thought. (Yes, I am that clueless). This was in January. The first week in February, my mom and I were sitting at the kitchen table, and a hummingbird hovered above a bush and peeked in at us, spying on our conversation. It suspended in air, as hummingbirds do, flap flap flapping. “Look!” we said. “Wow!”

So, last Tuesday, I decided to make use of the red feeder. I boiled one part sugar with four parts water, let it cool and about an hour later went to fill up the feeder. I didn’t know I had to put the lid on to pressurize the water and the concoction disappeared down the kitchen sink. So I patiently made another batch, filled up the feeder and hung it back on the tree.

The next day, there were no hummingbirds. Nada. The water must have frozen overnight, I thought. Another day passed, no hummingbirds. I looked up the migration patterns. Some species should be in the Mojave desert, I thought.

And then, Friday evening, I saw a hummingbird at the feeder. I practically knocked everything in my way in my excitement to get my camera. I flung the patio door open, ran outside, and, completely forgetting that hummingbirds are timid, ran to the tree like a goon and scared the little guy away.

I’ve never been that interested in birds, but I vividly remember a third grade book report I did on hummingbirds and how amazed I was that they fly backwards. They are beautiful creatures. And now I’ve turned into that crazy bird lady, looking for my two “friends” — the green and magenta hummingbirds who visit regularly.

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dark desert clouds

Yesterday C. and I spent the late afternoon in the backyard. He barked at the two dogs at the house behind us, while I took photos of pink flowers blooming on a bush.

Just before sunset, dark clouds rolled in. It’s the first time I’ve seen ominous rain clouds since we moved west. The clouds quickly passed and we didn’t feel a drop, but for 20 minutes the light in the sky reminded me of the aftermath of a Michigan summer thunderstorm.

And as I walked around in flip-flops, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky we are to be in the California desert in February. The nights are cold, so we huddle under blankets and light fires in the fireplace. By the next day, we are confident we’ll see bright blue skies and clear views of the mountains.

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