We Are All Scared Babies

SB ChurchAfter writing in my journal this morning about how it seems as though the entire human race is freaking out, I opened my computer thinking I should write about this for my blog. As usual, I had about fifteen tabs open, but on the screen in front of me, I saw the following questions: “How will climate change affect different species?” and “Will organisms be able to adapt quickly enough in a rapidly changing environment?” (http://www.calacademy.org/library-of-life)

The dots between these questions and what I had been writing about earlier connected and formed a solid bridge. Aren’t these the big questions that human beings need to ask themselves right now? Take out the word climate in the first one and change species to people. “How will change affect different people?” and the second, “Will human beings be able to adapt quickly enough in a rapidly changing environment?”

It’s a known fact that human beings don’t like change. Some of us like it better than others and say that we like it… I’m in that camp, but what I mean really is that I like variety, because the truth is, I’m not capable of conceiving of my life as my own without its familiar context, like the color of my skin or that I am female and speak English as my native language and was born in North America… to say nothing of my education, age, religion (or lack thereof) or family.

I’m not referring to environment in the specific sense of the natural world here, but the environment as in the place we each spend our lives, whether its in high rise in a city or on a mountain in the middle of the wilderness. But the truth is, our environments are changing faster than we are comfortable adapting and so we’re all freaking out and blaming each other.

Maybe the only thing human beings are capable of doing to address this mess right now is to actually be honest about the fear that we are all feeling when we look around at the state of chaos on the planet and in the communities we call home.

Some of us only have to look as far as an empty shelf in the corner of a hut where there is nothing to feed our hungry children to know fear. Some feel threatened walking through their neighborhood because of the color of their skin. Some go to bed at night praying that they will wake up in the morning; that their home will be spared a direct hit by a flying exploding object because of their religion or ethnicity. Some hope that an unemployed spouse won’t come home drunk and beat them up yet again. Some watch incoming storms and wonder, will this one be the one that washes the land my hut has stood on for generations into the sea?

We think we need to stop the change. The urgency to “Do something about it!” seems to scream from every headline. And perhaps there are things we can do to actually slow down some of the changes. But I think the larger truth, that things are irrevocably changing, is demanding of us humans that we adapt.

What does it mean to adapt? To accept that the world is going to shit, buy a rifle and hole up in my house? Well, that’s one way to think about it, but really, doesn’t it mean that I have to change, and if I just go buy a rifle and hole up in my basement with my art supplies and books, I’m not changing. We humans simply don’t do this change thing very gracefully.

The strange thing is, that ever since the dawn of our species, we’ve had to change to survive. Whether you believe that we started out in the Garden of Eden wearing leaves and eating forbidden apples, or that we evolved from the great apes or chimpanzees somewhere in Africa, it doesn’t matter. In order to survive on Planet Earth, as the earth has changed, as the conditions in the environment have changed, humans have had to adapt. I’d like to think that we’re just having a giant collective temper tantrum because we are actually starting to recognize the imperative to live differently, like a baby does every time they are about to make one of those giant steps in growth, like sitting up, crawling, or walking. Each one of these is marked by a period of frustration involving, crying, thrashing, and all manner of unpleasant behavior that makes the parents think the child has suddenly become possessed. Then its over until the next developmental milestone approaches.

Perhaps we think we have more at stake this time; that we are mature and have created the greatest civilization in history and therefore only need to protect it. But that’s a pretty arrogant idea, and if we go back through history, we’ll quickly discover that there were other civilizations that thought they had achieved that status as well. Unfortunately, they’re not around to warn us that this arrogance only leads in one direction – the demise of said ultimate human civilization.

Unless we can, as a whole, develop a little cultural amnesia or humility, and simply look around and see what is asked of each of us today, right now, and what it will take to respond courageously to what is asked, it seems like we’re in for the ride of our lives. I do hope that somewhere along the way, we can begin to recognize each other as fellow travelers on a journey, not as white or black, Muslim, Christian or Pagan, man or woman, gay or straight, wealthy or impoverished, educated or not, just human.

How will we do this? Maybe the only way is through seeing each other’s suffering. We all suffer and we tend to be able to see each other’s suffering and respond to that. I’m getting over my head here, but perhaps if we can somehow come to understand that the collective fear of the human race is simply another form of suffering, we’ll survive this ride and come out better on the other side.

I have my opinions about certain elements of government and society that are making this whole mess worse right now, but behind those factions are bunch of scared babies, just like the rest of us. So ‘fess up scared babies… lets do it differently. I’m scared too.

This piece was inspired by a blog post written by Austin Kleon, the above referenced questions on the website of the California Academy of Sciences and a comment made by Theo Nestor in a writing class that we should write about the things that we spend a lot of time thinking about whether we believe we have the authority to do so or not.

Vows

At Robby's Game

The writing of this blog post tonight has been quite a journey. This is actually the last part of the writing, but since its most related to the photograph, I’m putting it here.

This evening I received a message from an old babysitter who writes a blog about her life as a stay-at-home mom to one little boy (so far!). She mentions in her blog, that she first started babysitting when Charlotte, now home from college for spring break, was two years old. She asked if she could quote my blog in hers. I was honored and flattered. I am also delighted to see the ease with which manages her role. I hope that more young women who have chosen this will find this ease, and I sincerely hope, even more, that they will never answer the question “What do you do?” with the statement, “I’m JUST a stay-at-home mom.” Continue reading

Familiar and Unfamiliar

Warm and Sunny

Slowing down and allowing myself to feel the fatigue that I have resisted for a long time has side effects I wouldn’t have foreseen. Opening the door to disavowed feelings and sensations means opening a can of worms. I can’t just choose what I’m willing to feel that’s inside. The last couple of days I’ve run up against an uncomfortable and unwelcome feeling of discouragement. Continue reading

Juice It!

Fresh Spring Greens at Juice It

So… how does this relate?

Actually, its the name of this place in the bottom of the Convention Center where I went with my brother for lunch. Brown rice, fresh raw veggies, yummy sauce… a perfect no-guilt way to fill up. We could have added some by finishing off our lunch with some fresh, warm chocolate chip cookies, which were part of the conversation, and might have, had the topic not taken a more serious turn. Continue reading

It started with an Omelette

Spinach and Feta Omelette

This was so beautiful that I actually couldn’t continue eating it without shooting a handful of photos beforehand. And yes, it tasted as good as it looked. Rarely do I go to the trouble of making an omelette.  My family knows that my stand-by, quick and easy meal, often eaten half-sitting, half-standing, and usually before I run out the door somewhere, is some mixture of leftover brown rice, leftover greens, eggs, and cheese. It looks like a big messy pile. It has passed as both lunch and dinner on many occasions. I actually can’t eat eggs for breakfast. I make exceptions to that rule when breakfast comes at noon, after going for a long walk with Cody and Sherlock. Today my mouth was already watering as I attempted to fold the barely browned, still soft egg over freshly cooked spinach and real sheep’s milk feta from bulgaria. There were little bubbles of olive oil sizzling at the edges, and I was so hungry that I almost didn’t run and get my camera. Then Gillian and I played with the light hitting the plate on the kitchen table for a moment, deciding which angle flattered the brilliant green, bright white, and golden yellow best. She’s allergic to eggs and has never eaten one. She thinks feta is gross, and doesn’t like spinach, yet she was captivated by how pretty the omelette looked. Maybe I should be a food photographer after all…

I was actually fortifying myself to go on a shoot this afternoon. I felt like I needed good solid food. Fortunately, I was going with another photographer because I was really nervous. I was going to shoot for Soulumination, an organization started by a local photographer who I’ve known for a long time.  The organization provides photographs for families with children facing life-threatening illnesses. Most of the photographers have businesses where they do a lot of portrait work and are used to working with families. When Lynette asked me if I would consider shooting for her organization, my first reaction was that I don’t do that kind of photography… I really didn’t even have the confidence to say that I could do that kind of work. Within a couple of days of that conversation, I discovered that I needed to prepare myself to say good-bye to my closest long-term friend. I wanted to be with her and couldn’t. I looked back through my old pictures from years gone by, and wished that I could shoot some more photos of her. I was deeply immersed in thinking about her and her family and already missing her. Later that week another friend reminded me about the conversation that I had had with Lynette. It had completely slipped my mind. I realized then that I was being asked to do something to which I could not say no. Lynette had asked me to step up, and it was only my insecurity that was holding me back. I know that I can do the portraits, I did a whole bunch of senior pictures of my daughter’s friends last spring. It was just such a scary idea to face the possibility of stepping into a family where the photographs I was about to shoot might be the last ones taken of a child. What if I screwed it up?  So today I was grateful to be the second photographer on a shoot for Soulumination. I know I will be nervous again when the time comes for me to go by myself, but at least I have done it once now and I know at least a little bit about what it could be like.

I said yes to Lynette because I had too. The timing made it very clear that I was actually being called to do something out of my comfort zone. Behind that yes was something that I reflected on again this afternoon driving home. Life is a fragile thing. I have three very healthy children. Theirs is a life full of the beauty and vitality of youth. This is the life we like to celebrate in our culture. The young, the strong and the beautiful… we all aspire to this, and have a hard time accepting that our bodies age and change, that some bodies aren’t whole and strong, that sometimes our bodies fail us. I have come to believe, and this blog is a part of that journey, that every moment in life has value and is worth celebrating. To photograph people in old age, illness, or physical decrepitude of any kind does for them what this blog is intended to do, to place value, to honor, and to mark that moment as equally valuable to the journey of being human as are the moments we more typically celebrate.