The climb out of darkness is not easy. It is not graceful or clean or smooth to the touch. It is filled with rocky slopes and sharp edges that pierce and scrape at us. It is a journey set in mud and blood. But a worthwhile journey… for just on the other side of the ledge is a lighter place. A place where hope surrounds.
This week was the hardest yet in this series for me. My fiancé’s birthday is in just five days, and it’s hit me hard all week long. It is a special kind of heartbreak to not be able to celebrate with a loved one on the day of their birth. So understandably… I’ve been completely unmotivated to go out and take photos. By Thursday, I finally had to force myself outside with my camera. Reluctantly, and with limited time due to the fading light, I made a rushed attempt to capture an image. It wasn’t feeling right. I wasn’t connected to what I was doing. I felt rushed and frustrated. The resulting images were good, but they weren’t good enough. And they weren’t telling a piece of the story I was connecting to.
I went out Friday morning for a second attempt, only to have the weather decide not to cooperate. Returning home unsuccessful, I pretty much fell into a pit of grief for the rest of the day. I cried all day long. I sat in my misery and in my grief, alone. And just when I didn’t think it was going to get any better… I got an email about an art presentation at a local art center. It featured eight artists talking about their work in a new exhibit, and one of the artists was someone who’s solo exhibit I saw last year and loved deeply. I decided to get myself all dressed up and go, if only to meet this artist I so admired. And with that decision I began to climb. By the time I got to the show, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for even getting out. I got to chat with a dozen or so other artists, something I don’t get to do nearly enough. And then the presentations began, and that is the moment I felt myself hoisted out of the dark. Seeing all the different styles of work and hearing the personal stories behind it made my heart sing in a way that nothing else quite does.
And then something even cooler happened. I began to imagine myself up there, speaking about my own work to a crowd of people. Which was both the most terrifying thing I can imagine and also the most thrilling. And in that moment, I realized just how much I have grown since he died. Two years ago, this thought would have been a far away dream, something no were near my reality. And now, I am almost shocked to see that it is so close I can almost taste it. The best part? He is every bit responsible for this happening… an overwhelmingly beautiful feeling – he is still right here, right in the middle of me achieving my goals and my dreams – for it is our story that I tell in my work.
I returned home with a fire in my belly – the kind that I needed in order to get the shot. I also came home with a new vision of what to capture this week… that hard, dirty, triumphant journey out of the pit. And this time, shooting it was effortless and exciting and deeply connected. The flow I’d needed all week was there finally. This is I think – an image that I really needed to see. It will remind me the next time I fall, that I will not be in darkness forever. That I am strong enough to climb out again. And that there will be things along the way that help to pull me out of it. Inspiring things. Funny things. Beautiful things. Things that take me by surprise and remind me of what is still amazing about life, even after death.
About the Series: Through 40 weekly photos and accompanying essays, 'Still, Life' captures a deeply emotional and psychological journey of what it means to grieve, to heal, and to live on.