I'm going to be a writer, I just haven’t figured out how yet.

Cleaning out my apartment on a long weekend, was not my idea of a good time. Moving into a one bedroom/500 sq foot place that’s smaller than one floor of our previous prairie home, has taught me a lot of things. About how I hold onto too many things for “someday”, when they’d be better off gifted to someone who could use them today. About how I have a habit of mindlessly shopping to avoid dealing with the fact that my “real life” can make me feel numb. About how much more I could have gotten rid of before we moved and saved myself some space in the first place, while giving myself grace that sometimes the sentimentality needs to be held a few moments longer before you remember it’s just stuff.

Going through the last remaining boxes of extras, I came across an old journal. While most of mine have been ceremoniously burnt and let go (no one should be subjected to the non-sense that was 8 year old Jenna writing notes back and forth to her babysitter on the living room floor, or angsty 20 year old Jenna trying to figure out the world), I found one that I don’t recall ever using. It wasn’t one of the pretty ones I’d been gifted, or the far too many leather bound, string wrapped ones I hoard. Just a plain red book. The first page, in all caps, dated 2009 was written “I’m going to be a writer, I just haven’t figured out how yet”.

Looking back, I’m not even sure what 2009 held for me. I know I would have been working at my government job - the one that people told me was the sign I’d made it - work, collect pension and retire. I know I used to write rambling emails to my co-workers, about everything from the latest pop song I despised on the radio (see, angst) or my constant bafflement at humans. I’m not sure if I wanted to write short stories, poetry, biographies or articles for the news. But I knew I wanted to write.

I don’t recall having any creative outlet at that time, to be honest, I’m not sure I even knew I was creative then. It would be that job, and the constant “this is it? This is what I do for 30+ years?” combined with the gift of a camera and encouragement from my dad, that would lead me down the path of creativity. There would be wheel pottery courses, quilt making classes, 9 months of beading at the local Friendship Centre to make the tiniest of purses (and forever tell beaders to charge more for their work that I’d buy), crochet on night shifts, and photography courses. I can remember being a kid and writing stories, double spaced, hand written, complete with drawn covers and giving them to my grandparents as gifts. They were likely about horses and likely made very little sense.

Now, I sit here, 10 years after that journal entry was scratched, realizing those words were a prophesy I wasn’t aware I was chasing. This year I have seen my photos published in brochures for the health region and in various small business marketing campaigns. My words have shown up in blogs, turned into humbling art by people I’ve never met in real life, and in Bella Grace Magazine - a publication I had written down on my 2019 goals to approach for publication, but never got brave enough to reach out to.

When they asked me to summarize why I do what I do, I couldn’t make it concise. If you’ve ever had to sit through a meeting of any kind with me, you’ll know concise is not what I do. A story kept pouring out of me, about how I’d found myself here, what it means, and why I think documenting moments of being you are important. I attempted several edits, tried writing in different locations (weirdly: the bus is a place where stories pour out of me. Maybe it’s the mix of energies, maybe it’s not needing to focus on my commute, but if you’ve ever heard Elizabeth Gilbert talk about catching a tiger by the tail - that’s the only place that weird phenomena has ever happened for me), but the whole story kept asking to be told.

Frustrated, and maybe subconsciously hopeful it would be more than an Instagram feature, I sent off the entire story, advising the editors to “just pick and choose” which lines they were going to use to describe me as I wasn’t able to narrow it down. When I first starting getting messages about my article, I didn’t have my copy in hand - it’s a hard magazine to find where I am and shipping delays meant I impatiently waited - thanking people for their kind feedback on something I hadn’t seen yet. It was my best friend from several provinces over who finally alerted me that it wasn’t a 1/2 page feature like I had agreed to; rather a multiple page spread, complete with a story.

Seeing my words in print is still something I’m searching to accurately describe. As I packed up my copy of Bella Grace into the old steam trunk I keep old family photos, my degrees and other sentimental memorabilia in, I couldn’t help but smile thinking, “I hope that feels as wonderful to open the next time I pull this out of storage, as it did the first time”.

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There's nothing a good cardigan can't fix.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping" -Mr. Rogers

 

If you know me in real life, you know that I am an 80 year old trapped inside this body.  I like to crochet, I regularly fall asleep in my comfy chair reading, I sew, and somehow, my entire wardrobe basically consists of cardigans.  I might as well give in & get that Easter egg colored perm that's bound to be my future and just stop fighting fate.  Maybe that's my true connection to the above Mr. Rogers quote after all, but maybe, just maybe, it's that I am not one of those lucky ones who was born naturally upbeat and happy. 

I recently listened to a podcast where they talked about genetics playing 50% of the role in your disposition - 50% of us are lucky to be upbeat, eternally optimistic and constantly looking on the bright side.  The other half of us?  Well, we have to work at it, like a muscle - through consistency, hard work and dedication.

As I learn more about what it means to be a true introvert and empath, I also realize that I easily can take on other people's energies.  A room can completely change my disposition if I'm not paying close attention to my own grounding.  Watching the nightly news has the ability to send me into a spiral of despair and stay up for hours wondering how we got to this point as humans.  Luckily, I have people in my life who know me well enough to know when I'm spiraling (and consistently call me out on my biased crap),  and an opportunity to look for the good all around me in the work I do.  There are, and always have been, people out there creating beautiful things, making things the slow way with their hands, and helping others and themselves through their hearts. 

I'm going to be talking more about this in the upcoming posts - the importance of knowing your personal "why".  Mine is heavily tied to my creativity - yours might be to your career, to your spiritual calling, to tiny humans you're dedicated to raising.  My personal why is my salvation - how I remind myself that the world is not all doom and gloom and my mantra for how I'd like to live this one wild life of mine - by looking for the creatives, the makers & the helpers who are making our communities/world a beautiful place.  When I get lost in the despair, I head out into a place like this, re-ground myself and breathe.  Where do you go to get clear on your personal why? 

This is where I go to remind myself of my personal why.  Barefoot, in the trees, sometimes alone, sometimes with others.  It's where I feel most at home in myself, where I feel like I can truly breathe & where I can be reminded why I am on this path. 

This is where I go to remind myself of my personal why.  Barefoot, in the trees, sometimes alone, sometimes with others.  It's where I feel most at home in myself, where I feel like I can truly breathe & where I can be reminded why I am on this path. 

The creatives, the makers + the helpers.

I've always been a reader, but lately my appetite for it seems to be voracious.  I've been reading 2-3 books per month, listening to podcasts as I walk around this new city of mine & have a stack of photography books waiting for me to give entire days to studying & getting lost in the street photography of the past.  Much in the same way I've been craving knowledge, I've been seeking connection.

There's something freeing about knowing 4 people out of 2.3 million in a new city.  While some may say its an opportunity to start over, reinvent yourself and start fresh, it feels more like an opportunity to be genuine.  To show up as myself, to bare my heart, to find my words and the people I want to create with and learn from.  Fear comes up a lot for me in all of this - in weird ways & the conventional - but asking myself "what's the worst that can happen?" has led me right back to jumping off the ledge, knowing my net will appear.  It always has.   

On January 1 of this year, I sent a few people I admire on instagram direct messages.  It's incredibly freeing to know the worst that can happen is an absolute stranger tells a friend "I got a message from some super weird chick from Saskatchewan..." and everyone goes on with their lives.  But the worst never happened.  I heard back from every person I reached out to.  

I showed up to these coffee dates and gave them my broken sentences, my partial ideas & laughed my way through the fact that I just wanted to get out and create with them about what they are doing.   I didn't have a fully formed plan, and truthfully, I still don't entirely know what I want to do with these pictures or how I'm going to tell the story. I'm still trying to piece together what this is all going to look like, but like everything around me, it seems to be connecting in ways that aren't 100% clear to me and yet, 100% aligned.  I see flashes of what its going to be, have weird deja-vu moments where I think "wait what? I just had this conversation yesterday with someone / I just read about that in one of my books ...." and patiently wait to get out of my own way. Every single one of these meetings has added to the idea and given it more life. Most importantly, every single one of these people I met with have been genuine in their connection & people I want to surround myself with.  

From a random email that started with "2018 has me feeling bold ...." a new passion (& tag line) was born: showcasing the creatives, the makers + the helpers who are making our communities + world a beautiful place. I need to remind myself that the world is full of good, connection is real and people are changing lives with their work, from their heart centers.  I want to celebrate the people who are living a life worth living, who show up everyday full of passion for what they're creating and despite all the turmoil, struggles and set backs that happen when you pursue something wholeheartedly, they rise.     

Looking back and having these moments makes me realize its all connected - where I've been, what I've done, what I've been reading, and the people I'm meeting.  Something is happening, the sparks are flying, and yet, all I can do is hold on.  I have no idea where its going, & I couldn't be more excited for the ride. 

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This One Wild (& Undocumented) Life

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I gravitate towards quotes - somewhere, someone has already said exactly what my heart is feeling, and said it so eloquently.  The words below stirred something within in me. 

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life? - Mary Oliver

What Instragram may not tell you, is that I'm a textbook introvert.  In all the classic ways, but most overtly in the sense of being a quiet observer and craving deep meaningful conversations. While I'm well trained in my response of  "good thanks, you?" when asked how I am in passing, what I'm really craving from my interactions is to know what makes you come alive, what makes your eyes sparkle with passion and what absolutely lights you up in your life. 

One of the main reasons I fell in love with photography was the ability to show people the magic of their everyday life, and to remind us all that you don't need a major milestone, event, or location in your life to document the magic that is being alive.  In trying to write out my personal why that fuels this creative passion, I had a realization - I'm a big ol' giant hypocrite.

Have you ever seen the episode of Friends, where Monica makes Chandler get engagement photos?  That's me, or at least how I feel on the inside in front of a camera.  I feel wildly uncomfortable being in them, I rarely document my life with me in the photo, and despite 12+ years of building a life together, I have never actually set up a shoot for my partner & I.  There's a variety of reasons why I've stayed out of the shot, but there's a million more why self-portraits have now made my list of creative goals for the coming year.  

While I'm sure this will make another post at another time, aligning my personal values with my every day life has never been more important to me.  Doing the hard soul-searching work to define my personal values has taken on-going effort, and I'm realizing it's going to take even more to ensure those align with my everyday actions.  So here I go, putting one foot in front of the other & practicing what I preach (while under a curtain, on my bed, with my camera propped on a book, laughing at the ridiculousness that is doing that in the fishbowl high rise apartment I live in).

So tell me, what do you do everyday to ensure you're working towards your values and pushing in the same direction?

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Details

As far back as I can remember, I have focused on details.  I loved writing short stories when I was a kid, and I'd spend hours in my room reading books, working on my spelling and perfecting the look of my cursive writing.  I don't ever remember thinking to myself "gawd I love me some details", I just remember getting lost in it. 

I remember being in awe at how someone could create a lifelike picture in my brain, just by carefully selecting words.  How words could be memorized, and how some of them could be combined together to make new meanings.  I can still see my grade school intern teacher's lovely bubbly cursive writing on the chalk board and thinking how gorgeous her written words looked.  What she was trying to teach us, I have no idea, but I can remember her writing and trying to copy each loop and angle & how meditative the process was. 

Details are still what captivate me.  Sometimes I hone in on them when I'm overwhelmed.  Sometimes it's because I'm underwhelmed.  Sometimes it's simply something you've said reminds me of something else and connects to another idea and mid-conversation, I've left.  It works much the same for me in photography.  Often times it's a pattern.  The way the light is moving in and out.  Or its a pop of colour that I see out of the corner of my eye. 

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There has always been something magical about B.C. for me that I've struggle to truly capture in words.  Maybe it's the fresh air, the intoxicating smell of cedar or simply how different everything has always looked to my prairie eyes.  This photo was taken in Deep Cove, B.C. - a place I've only ever seen in pictures (and maybe in a movie or two)- a place that's now only a 20 minute drive from my front door.  Moody mist rolled across mountains covered in trees that smelled of every B.C. memory I've ever collected.  Calm black waters seemed to drop instantly from the clear shallows. 

It was incredible.  And overwhelming.  So I did what I do best - focused on the details.  Naturally, these berries kept captivating my attention from the enormity of the scene in front of me.  Perhaps it was the irony that I spent more money than I care to admit buying them to put in flower arrangements in my prairie life, or the serendipitous omen that I am exactly where I was always meant to be, but this photo ended up being one of my favorites from a day of solo adventuring in a place I'd only ever dreamed of before. 

Putting it out there.

Leap and the net will appear              
                            - John Burroughs

Sharing my art publicly was a terrifying process for me.  While creating for myself has been something that brought immense happiness, it was private and safe.  It was something I could do at my leisure, at my own pace and matched only against my own expectations.  Putting it out there meant I was telling the world that I felt brave enough to know the technical aspect of photography & that I felt my work could compete with other photographers work that made me swoon.  My introversion screamed, but quietly, I put it out there.

One year later, looking at the small screen on the back of my Pentax still holds the same amount of suspense.  The difference is now I know enough to trust the magic.  That a simple moment between two people can be captured with a spark, a sideways glance at the lens can tell the same level of detail as an entire novel and the everyday moments deserve their moment to shine. 

Working with other creatives has awoken something in me I didn't know I was craving, and something I'm committed to doing more for myself.  2017 has already given me big promises of collaborations and adventures in new destinations for clients who believe in my art.

With arms wide open, soaring off another ledge, knowing that safety net will appear again, I can't wait to discover what else 2017 has in store for me creatively.