This past week something really big happened for me. It was one of those things that originally came out of nowhere, yet will be something I will remember for the rest of my life. It all began almost a year ago, with an email. The woman writing to me was a poet, and she came across my photography online and wanted to use one of my images for the cover of her first poetry book. I was astounded. Somehow… in ALL OF THE INTERNET… this stranger from Utah found MY photos and fell in love with one of them for her cover. Was I dreaming?
And it wasn't just any photo, it was one of my favorite photos that I took in the year that took him. A simple, serene image of the soft slope of a horse's back just after a heavy rain… the sky still melancholy with a blanket of clouds. I can still remember the day. It was fall. I had moved down to central Texas from Dallas to live with his family on their ranch. It had poured all morning and the horses were covered in rain and dirt from running wildly through the pastures. Horses always know how to play in the rain, they never grow up in that respect - a lesson we could learn from.
It was just months after he died and the only thing in my world that made me still feel alive was to get behind my camera. There I could search out mysterious other worlds. Worlds where my reality didn't feel so heavy. Sometimes worlds where it didn't exist at all. Looking back, I am astounded at the photos that came out of me during this time. They were drastically different from anything I had shot before. Operating entirely by my broken heart - suddenly all of my photos were like portraits of my grief. This one in particular felt so very close to that sacred space inside me where my deepest grief lay. The quiet solitude of this image mirrors the feeling of my own solitude so precisely. I'm only now beginning to grasp that, two years later.
So by now you're wanting to know where this story goes. I've wandered enough. I first mentioned to you that something big happened this past week… and it was this: After almost a full year of patiently hoping that my photo would be the final one the author would choose. After sometimes months of not hearing anything and wondering. And then months more after my photo was chosen for the publishers and designers to complete everything and get it into print… after all of that… this past week, a package arrived in the mail. From Utah. I zipped open the brown packing and there it was. The image that says everything that was inside my soul after he died... singing gracefully and proudly from the cover of a book. And not just a book, but a book of poetry - another deep love of mine (And the poems inside are breathtaking, by the way. I've read a dozen or so this week and many have moved me to tears with their beauty).
I'm not certain I can put into words what this feels like for me. It isn't closure, I don't really believe in that concept. I think it is something like purpose or meaning or maybe understanding. For the author wrote to me this: "I really can't express this properly -- I had no idea how beautiful this book could be until it was realized with your photograph on the cover. I'm so proud of this book & the image reflects the exact kind of beauty & solitude & mourning & serendipitous joy that I hope it contains in its pages. Thank you, thank you, thank you." And there it is… yes, an understanding perhaps that I never had before. Something that I created when I was in the very darkest and most painful place in my life has somehow gone on to live its own new life. And it has its own entirely different purpose now too - to uplift the breathtaking work or another artist. And forevermore, this poet and I will be inextricably linked by the creations that we have both made out of our own lives and our own pains. It is an eerie and darkly gorgeous thing I could have never imagined would happen in my life.
I didn't expect to have some profound lesson come out of this venture. But there it is… this understanding that maybe that is what we're supposed to do with all of this pain in life. We're supposed to express it. And give it away so that it can become something that uplifts or supports the life of another. In this way, it can be transformed into something - transformed actually, back into love - which is what our pain was in the first place. That is one powerful healing cycle.
Maybe it's something we create - like this photo or a song or a painting - or maybe its as simple taking the time to talk about our pain openly, so that it can help another feel less alone. When we express it openly we are giving our pain a chance to grow wings and soar - and to give a gift to someone else's journey along the way.
It is precisely the kind of impact I have hoped for his life and his death to have since that dreadful day one. And slowly, as I begin to heal a little more, and as I keep expressing my pain in any and every way that feels right, I am starting to feel like he and I are building a legacy together… one in which he is teaching me the lessons I could not have learned any other way. Lessons that are vital in helping me to be a part of others lives in ways I never would have been able to before. And that part of this dreadful journey… I would not trade for anything.
I don't say it enough - but thank you all for allowing me space in your Sunday to give my pain. And thank you for writing back to me with yours so that we can keep this healing cycle going together. ~ Much Love