Little moments in California

Sometimes I forget to tell the stories that are the most important to me.

Every year of my life seems to follow a similar pattern. January is a time for rebirth. I feel rested, inspired, refreshed, ready to take on the world. Then summer arrives and I work myself so hard I forget who I am. It continues into fall. As the weather becomes colder and the holidays approach, I retreat into a deep burnout. Inspiration ceases. I have to stop everything and remember who I am again. I take time off. I disappear. I set down my camera and pick up a pen and pencil and paintbrush. And after the time away, it starts again. Rebirth. A phoenix rising from her own ashes, year after year.

Why do you care? Why is this relevant?

These are photos I took during that dark period at the end of November. Yes, that sounds emo. And that’s okay to admit. I’m not a super emo person, but once a year it hits me pretty dang hard. I’m all for being vulnerable and transparent about it.

I took these pictures during a 3-day trip to the San Francisco Bay Area before my adventure in South Africa. I actually bought my South Africa flights through SFO, (using Scott’s Cheap Flights and they were only $580 roundtrip!) so I came down a few days early to hang with family.

California Roots

I honestly consider myself to be a true Oregonian at this stage of my life. I’ve lived in Portland (and Corvallis) for over 23 years. I went to 1st grade through college here. I know Oregon like the back of my hand. I love rain. I don’t use umbrellas. I became a vegetarian. You get it.

BUT, I can’t ignore the first six years of my life that I spent in the Bay Area. I was born in San Jose, California. My mom was raised in Los Altos Hills and most of my extended family still resides down there today. As such, I really, really love visiting. There’s something deeply nostalgic to me there. It’s in the smell of the plants (eucalyptus everywhere), and the way the light hits the green and golden hills. It’s the twisting oak and gnarled Cyprus trees. I can’t fully explain the feeling. It’s like home, except it’s not. A second home. Or maybe a first home? I’ll never understand. Memories work in funny ways.

Art Therapy

I’ve come to realize something important though. Every time I go to the Bay Area, I leave feeling refreshed, inspired, rejuvenated and full of creative ideas. This is largely due to two people: my aunt and uncle. They are both artists. Their home in Los Altos is brimming with modern art and they spend the majority of their time creating, talking about, and looking at art (okay, and watching the SF Giants). My aunt is a docent for the San Jose Museum of Art, as well as a successful painter. My uncle is retired from a long career at HP, and is now a well-known sculptor. Even spending just one or two days with them is like a total creative reset. We visit museums together, go to local art shows, hang with their art friends, paint together, talk about other artists I don’t know about, and visit the rest of our family together.

I know that the art world can seem stuffy from the outside. I know that it IS stuffy in a lot of ways. But being immersed in it helps me create new connections between old ideas. It helps me look at my life and business from new perspectives. It helps me literally SEE the world differently. Which has a huge impact on my own work as a photographer (and an artist).

As I said, I didn’t plan on taking pictures during this trip. I was burnt out. As such, I only brought my two Sony travel cameras with me, not my big DSLR. But something magical happened (like it always does) when I was there. I felt the desire to actually take pictures for myself. Not for clients. Not for my business. Not for Instagram. Just for me.

These are some of those moments I documented for myself.

Leaves on my aunt’s back deck. The city skyline as we drove through San Francisco. My cousin’s kids playing with their cat. My 102 year old grandfather talking to me about his orchids. Shadows and lines that inspired me even though they didn’t mean anything. A self-portrait in the dark while I was journaling. Little things that I would otherwise blanch at photographing for myself. But they are the stories that matter most in my own life. And that is valuable enough on its own.

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