Here will commence the first part in a series of photographs that I have taken over the last few months, accompanied by short captions and stories of my adventures. Please enjoy!
I'll go in chronological order, for the story's sake....
After finishing my term of school this spring, Tommy and I took off with our new camper trailer for a road trip through Canada. Our first stop was in Canmore, Alberta at my family's house. We had been planning on going backpacking up to Mount Assiniboine with Leanne, Dustin, and Lindsay (Winnie) for a few months. After picking them all up from the airport, we made a (lengthy and pricey) stop at MEC (Canada's REI) for gear, and took off the next morning for 5 days in the woods and mountains.
It took two days (16 miles) to hike into the Mt. Assiniboine provincial park to our campsite at Lake Magog. We had reserved a few spots there, but were nervous about the amount of snow, as we approached in June which is normally fairly early. We ended up digging out our campsite pads, but the sun assisted to melt away the excess snow and we mostly enjoyed sun-filled days. The photo above was taken near the Mt. Assiniboine Lodge (which wasn't open yet when arrived). You can take a helicopter up and skip the 16 mile approach (which is actually fairly tedious and uneventful), but the hike in and out were some of the more exciting days we had....
On the first days, we were anticipating the views, the snow, and the uncertainties of what was ahead. Although the approach was uneventful, we were excited for the days of adventure ahead. We crossed over some rivers, and got a few glimpses of mountain peaks between the straight, forest-canopied sections of blindness. I brought a few rolls of Lomography colored films with me, and did a bit of experimenting with them. The photographs numbered 1, 4, and 9 were taken with Lomography Slide X-pro film. The photos numbered 3, 8, 10, 15, and 17 were taken with Lomo Purple film. Shots 5, 6, 7, and 13 were all taken with Lomo Redscale film. The numbers not mentioned were taken on any of the following color films: Kodak Ektar 120, Portra 400 or Lomo Color 400-800. All of the shots from the backpacking trip through Assiniboine were taken on my Lubitel 166 120-film camera.
The very first flowers were beginning to appear while we were wandering....
One of my favorite shots from the trip: Leanne and Dustin atop "the Nub" -- a side hike we did one day as the clouds rolled in...
Tommy, admiring Mount Assiniboine
Some more early bloomers atop a rock on The Nub.
This shot was taken on the Marvel Lake side of Wonder Pass, on our return to the Mt. Shark trailhead, where we parked.
Leaving our campsite at Lake Magog for a day hike up Wonder Pass.
The glory of the Canadian Rockies...it gets me every damn time.
I've been greatly enjoying double exposures of the same scene, from opposing angles
Friends! Enjoying the view...
Another one of my favorites from the trip -- this shot is so surreal and dreamy. It gives me such good memories :)
I love this boy and the things we get to do together.
Same aforementioned boy. Nearing Marvel Lake.
This was taken on the BC side of Assiniboine Pass as we ascended to the Park on Day 2. It was our first great view of Assiniboine, and one I'm sure none of us will forget.
That's it for now! I will be posting more film photos in this series, Pt. 2 soon...so stay tuned for more colors (and some Black and White's, too!). Thanks for looking!
It's always frustrated, intrigued and perplexed me: the selfie. Although the term "selfie" was only recently coined, self-portraiture has been around for thousands of years. I suppose it began with some of the first cave-inscriptions, but became more prominent in the early-Rennaisance era (mid-15th century-ish), when traditional artists such as painters and sculptors began depicting themselves in their work.
It was a new idea (it seems): the artist as the main subject in their own work. But it makes sense, doesn't it? You gain so much control, being your own subject/model. Position yourself exactly as you want, stand up a mirror, and get to work. You don't have to tell a model how to sit, what expression to make, where to put their left hand -- it is all within your control. The artist and model can take breaks simultaneously -- and, when photography came in the mix, self-portraiture became a whole new game. Not only could you use a photograph as the model for a traditional work, the photograph itself also became a work of art. Artists were expressing themselves through sculptures, paintings, and photographs of themselves.
But something funny happens when the work becomes about the artist themself. For one, the artist becomes judged as a subject -- finally seen! The figure behind the brush, the chisel, the camera. But the work is viewed differently, too. It is less about what makes the artist an artist and more about the human behind the art. Somehow, self-portraiture humanizes not only the art, but also the artist. In a way, it is liberating for the artist to be portrayed in their own work. But there is a delicate balance in the form of self-expression...
All of the artists at the beginning of the self-portrait era knew that their portrayals of themselves would be viewed and judged by everyone who saw their work. Access now is much easier and farther reaching than it was then, but the awareness of viewer perception has always been present in self-portraiture...how could it not? Despite the inevitable public judgement though, the self-portrait artist must first look at themself.
There is something about composing a work of oneself that forces the artist to look at themself differently. Regardless of whether you're creating a labour-intensive sculpture or simply snapping a "selfie" on your phone, you are seeing yourself. You may tuck in the double chin or omit the pubic hair, but those changes are conscious and, in the end, you present yourself to the world how you want to be seen. But between the onset of the idea and the final presentation, there is the journey of self-discovery. Are you changing the way you truly appear to meet the demands of your audience? Why, and with what intention? How does that affect your perception of yourself, or of who you think you are? Just because it's a self-portrait doesn't mean it has to be honest...but don't you think that dishonesty affects the artist/presenter in some way?
When I've done self-portraits in a few separate art classes (drawing, printmaking, photography), I have always been tempted to present the person I believe others want to see: scarless, skinny, flawless. But the works always came out much more true, and from this repetitive process I came to see myself in a different light. The girl I imagined myself being is actually quite boring. She hasn't been ran over by another skier or hit a plastic fence going 80 miles per hour. She hasn't laughed much...where are the lines to show that? She is perfect and beautiful and terrifyingly boring. And that's not me.
So maybe this self-portraiture process is a positive thing. Maybe it allows us to understand ourselves better, even improve ourselves. But, what about self-portraiture in Social Media?
For artists like Rembrandt and van Gogh, self-portraiture is (was?) highly respected...but what about for artists today?
I suppose it depends on how you define art. Does being Instagram famous make you an artist? It seems like an easy question to answer (no!), but...think about it a bit. Isn't Instagram just another form of self-expression? A new medium for visual artists to utilize in a variety of ways?
As much as I try to believe that taking selfies (or having others take photos of you for your Social Media feed) is an art form, I struggle deeply with that notion. Interestingly, I am contractually obliged by some companies to post photos of myself with their products visible. It is part of my job, and as natural or "organic" as these posts may seem, they are still contrived and planned. I don't want to be an advertisement but, let's face it, it's part of what I do. Although I try to be honest and true, advertising on my platforms affects me enormously, for many reasons...
Reason #1: Consumption is not the answer. The skis I use and the clothes I rep do not make me happy (re-read). I find joy in having nice things, but I don't need many things to be happy. Despite the fact that I look fulfilled by using these products, in truth I am just grateful that the sponsorships allow me to get outside in the mountains and do what I love. These companies are the reason that skiing is my job. And despite how torn up I am about my sport's excessive consumption and consequential environmental impacts, I know that what I am doing is making me happy, and I have to believe that this joy and this job are my catalysts for the change I believe I was ultimately meant to make. Though some of my posts may be for sponsorships, I can still believe in and encourage my audience to get outside. To stand up against climate change (seems ironic, I know). To be their best selves. I can still tell my story and hope to inspire others.
Reason #2: The dishonesty in Social Media is slightly repulsive. The perfect pictures on perfect days, with perfect hair and big smiles do not show the whole picture. They are glimpses of beautiful moments in seemingly beautiful lives when the truth is: life is messy. While these wonderful moments exist, they are interlaced with countless difficult ones: with suffering and tears, fear and uncertainty. So, don't be fooled. Those famous babes on Insta fart and pick their noses and have really, really bad days too. It's unfortunate that perfection is so ruthlessly perpetuated on Social Media... It gives viewers unrealistic expectations. In fact, many of these Social Media "Influencers" are probably unhappy and heartbroken. They are attached to their phones. They are attached to their "likes" -- their sense of self-satisfaction exists in a number below a selfie. When that number doesn't consistently grow or meet their high expectations, they are sadly impacted in ways their viewers cannot understand. I know, because I've felt it.
Which is why I did my final project in Photography this spring on self-portraiture (or, the "selfie"). Examining the concept of the selfie was necessary for me to come to terms with it, and here's what I found:
No matter how "modest" you think you are (or try to be), a selfie is still seen as an expression of vanity and self-absorption. Posting photos of yourself seems narcissistic (and sometimes is), and effects the way your viewers see you. It will even affect the way your friends and loved ones see you, so you must be prepared for the repercussions of that: the judgement and relentless criticism along with the adoration and support. Regardless of whether your selfies are intended to be sarcastic, people still take you too seriously. Even in self-depricating photos, photos depicting your dark sides, or ones blatantly intended to spark a conversation, the selfie-taker is still at the center of attention. Self-centered? On the surface, it appears so. No matter how you frame it, selfie portraits are seen by many as pointless, self-absorbed perpetuation.
And I get it. But there are many people who appreciate and respect self-portraiture, too. And I also understand that side.
Self-portraits are not just examinations of the self -- they are a way to tell a story. They are a way to relate to others, a way to connect and inspire. If people would rather see photos of ME than beautiful photographs of mountains, or artistic interpretations of my surroundings, so be it. If selfies are influential then, god damnit, I'm going to try and influence my viewers to be better: to be more confident, to be good neighbors, to be kind and compassionate. I'm not totally sure how to do that without seeming like just another self-proclaimed self-help guru, but I can try...try to be different, try to be honest. Try to connect to people and connect people to each other. Try to love myself as I am, and hopefully help others do the same. Try to tell my story in a way that relates to viewers, try to create positive change. After all, that's what I believe I'm meant to do, and I have to fulfill that purpose somehow... if it's through selfies, then fine. It's not exactly my dream method, but there will be time for that later. For now, Social Media selfies are my catalyst, whether I like it or not...
These are the self-portraits that I took for the final project in my Large Format film photography class that I took this spring. My intention was to examine how my art/self-portraits are influenced by endorsements and by my idea of self-representation to my audience. Regardless of how raw, natural or organic I try to be, I am inevitably influenced (and sometimes controlled) by exterior forces. This is an examination of that.
Each of these photographs took a minimum of 2 hours of work to render: from the extensive setup of a 4x5 inch film camera to the developing of the film and finally the digital processing and editing. Hence, a lot of thought and preparation went into each photograph: I not only learned so much about the intricate process of ancient self-portraiture, but I learned so much about myself. How am I seen? How do I see myself? A lot can be told from these self-portraits. You can see me holding a shutter-release in each photo: I wanted to make it clear that I was taking these pictures of myself, myself.
In no way am I trying to degrade the companies whose products I used in some of these shots: I am simply examining my relationship to those products/companies and am interested in how my image is affected by them. I am grateful for these sponsorships but am also aware of the need to be critical and educated about the impact the partnerships have on me and my followers. Critical thinking is healthy and I intend to perpetuate that model of awareness.
Thanks for looking! Please comment (and leave contact info if necessary) if you have questions, concerns, or just interesting thoughts!
The Olympics are an opportunity for the World to come together, in one place at one moment in time, and join hands in unity. The Games are extremely unique in the sense that EVERYONE is invited. You don't have to have a high GDP, a certain political stance, or even the best athletes in the World. There was an athlete in Pyeongchang from Tonga. I mean, they have never even seen snow in Tonga. Yet, they still sent an athlete to represent their country....no, he did not win a medal. But his courage to compete with the best (and go nearly naked to Opening and Closing Ceremonies) was acknowledged and respected. There were so many unique athletes with incredible stories. Pride and openness abounded. We all put our differences aside to come together and compete on the biggest stage.
The Olympics really are like a very important meeting of sorts. Except each country does not send politicians and businessmen -- they send their best athletes. It is kind of crazy, if you think about it: some of these athletes are very worldly, well-known and well-spoken, while other have never left their home country or been on T.V. And we all convene as equals, for a short period of time. We trade pins and jackets and hats and flags, we get to know one another and journey through some of the most stressful days of our lives together. That, in itself, is something truly special: suffering together. Your differences become irrelevant and similarities are exaggerated.
We are all good people. For some it is more outwardly apparent than for others...but, somewhere, deep-down, we all want the best for our selves, our brothers, our families and therefor humanity. We are all connected as a species. This is probably the most fundamental tie we have to one another, and a hugely important one at that.
The competitions/race/games at the Olympics are an important opportunity for us all. The winners and medalists receive a lot of praise and attention, but every athlete is given the opportunity to be seen, heard, and to represent our countries. Some people want the best athlete to win but I, personally, want the best person to win. I hope for the most humble player, the one with the biggest heart, the one who wants to do good in this world, to win.
In order to make positive change, we must be heard. The stage at the Olympics gives us a fantastic opportunity to do just that: be seen, be heard, be respected and listened to. It opens doors for athletes to stand up for what they believe in. It allows us to represent the parts of our countries that we are proud of: for me, freedom, equality, hope, diversity, and kindness. These values differ greatly between athletes, but regardless of your personal ideals the Olympic Games are an opportunity to express yourself to the World. And that's pretty freaking neat.
While I'm walking away without a medal, I am not empty-handed. I am proud of what I have accomplished. I gave everything I had to these Games and did my best. That is all I could do, and all I can hope now is that my journey, my story, will inspire others to dream big, work hard, and become better people.
These Olympic Games have taught me so much and snowed me the potential of all that is possible to achieve through sport. This possibility is something I was unaware of before but am now humbled and inspired by. Now I am motivated to get back to the grind and become not only a better skier, but a better person. A better representative of my country, or...the country I dream it to be, and a better representative of the human race. I hope I can return in 4 years and join hands with the rest of the World again. I hope I can show what I have learned -- both on and off the hill -- and make an impact to create positive change and inspire others to do the same.
It all started when I was 2 years old and clicked into my first pair of skis. They were tiny little things, but I found they worked best with a bit of speed. One of my first memories I have of skiing is getting really upset with my dad for keeping me tied to a rope that he essentially used as a leash. I don’t blame him now for using this method; I was unruly, reckless and probably a danger to all skiers on the mountain (myself included). All I wanted to do was go straight, to go fast… I guess that’s why I ended up being a speed skier.
From a very young age I remember finding my freedom in the mountains: with the wind in my face, gravity pushing me to a higher state. In one of my first ski races (in Lake Louise, Alberta, around age 6) I recall speeding down the course, vaguely skiing past — perhaps not even through — the blue and red gates. I was noticing the falling snow flying by, the crystal-like blanket forming atop the tree branches. I don’t remember any specific thoughts, only the moment-to-moment thrill I felt and awe of my immediate surroundings. Everything was alight. This was perhaps the first moment in my life when I experienced flow, though I had no idea at the time. All I knew was that I wanted more.
When my family moved from Alberta to Oregon I had to make new friends and adjust to a new home in an unfamiliar place…but I got to bring my love of skiing along as I explored a whole new mountain. I connected to Mt. Bachelor with ease and continue to discover new pockets of delicious freedom there to this day. Everything fell into place and I continued to grow as a skier while discovering that my passion could take me even farther than I anticipated.
My first memory of the Olympics actually lies in gymnastics. In 1996 I was 7 years old and, through my love of gymnastics, was inspired by the gymnast Kerry Strug in the summer Olympics. Her determination and grit stuck with me when she competed in her final event — vault — with an injured ankle. She nailed the landing on one foot and won gold for team USA. I even cut my hair like hers, and was subsequently called a boy in school. But I didn’t care…I just wanted to be like Kerry.
When I had to make the difficult decision between gymnastics and skiing 6 years later, my desire to be outside persevered and I chose the mountains. I made the US Ski Team when I was 17 years old, towards the end of my senior year in high school. Despite my success in skiing, I never had an “aha” moment. My progress to the World Cup scene and eventually the 2014 Olympics in Sochi was a slow process. I didn’t really realize my Olympic dreams until they became a reality.
I suppose the Olympic spirit was always in my blood; my grandfather won the Olympic gold for team Canada in ice hockey in 1952 (his name was Al Purvis). But he never spoke about his medal — he was a quiet, modest winner, and I was both mystified and inspired by this. I always knew competing in the Olympics was a possibility for me, but I never set the objective goal. It wasn’t until I stood in the start gate of the Sochi Downhill that I understood the significance of the event. It hit me all at once: the magic, the meaning, the legacy. I could feel it so deeply, and will carry that sensational feeling with me forever.
Of course I was thrilled when I found out I had made the Olympic team in 2014. The hype around the Olympics was intriguing to me but also somewhat troubling: I didn’t know what to expect, there was a lot of pressure, and I was nervous about performing in front of the whole world. But the entirety of the experience is what captured me: the excitement of the opening ceremonies, the intrigue of being a representative for my country, part of a team, part of something bigger. I was wide-eyed and dazzled: hypnotized by the spirit.
Competing was unmistakably terrifying, and although I ended up taking 11th place in the Downhill, I walked away with a spark, a fire ignited in me, that meant so much more than my result.
Since 2014 I have experienced so much while competing in World Cup ski racing. I have had great results: a World Cup podium and multiple top-ten world rankings. And while I can’t contribute these improvements solely to my Olympic experience, I have a hard time believing that my skiing hasn’t been effected by that spark lit in Sochi.
To be part of the Olympic team this year in PyeongChang would mean so much to me. After experiencing a significant knee injury at the end of last season, I have worked so hard to get back on my skis for this winter racing season. The Olympics were always in the back of my mind, and although it is not my sole purpose, it would be an incredible accomplishment to make the Olympic team and another big step on my road to recovery. To prove to myself that all the effort was worth it: the countless hours spent in therapy, in the gym, endlessly working on my body and mentality. To be a part of that something bigger again would be such a great reward. To stand in the Olympic start gate again has been one of my goals ever since 2014: not necessarily to walk away with a medal, but to take away the magic and enjoy the incredible process. With that enjoyment, I have found, comes speed. And with that speed comes fulfillment and flow: the freedom I have found from the beginning. And, who knows, maybe I could have a really good day, a great run, and be one of the fastest racers down the mountain as I’ve always dreamed of…
Riding the chair with Jules in Sochi, 2014. Julia retired this past weekend of racing...she will be missed, but her spirit will live on -- especially in the Olympics.
It has been a lot, this recovery. From pain to fear to doubt to hope to thinking too much to letting it go, I have been through more than I could have imagined before it all happened. After finally completing my first race in St. Moritz, I am happy to say that I am back ski racing again. Although I have had mixed feelings about it over the past few months, I realized recently that this is what I worked so hard for. This is what I am supposed to be doing right now. This is another step on my path, and I want to walk it with certainty and grace.
Before my first race in St. Moritz I fought many battles with myself: why am I doing this? Is it worth it? Am I too scared now? Should I just move on? Is this were I am supposed to be?
But I switched the flip. I got sick of doubt and fear, and swimming in the thick of it all. I know it's there. I've walked with it. And I'm so much better with it by my side, but it is not all that is there. There is so much more. Here is my journal entry from the night before my first race:
Here I am, in St. Moritz, sitting at my desk in my room, prepping for bed the night before my first race back. My first race after that terrible accident and the proceeding terrible/wonderful months. Eight months and eleven days, to be exact....
I have gained and lost perspective, over and over again. And I am constantly working on fine-tuning, stepping back, having patience. I need to be aware of expectations. I can tell that, although I have not intentionally set them, they are there. I need to remember to be kind to myself, to be easy with expectations, stay aware and present and remember to enjoy the ride. Remember that there are so many other things out there that I am so passionate about, and look forward to exploring. Remember how small this world of skiing is, but remember that I am here. Now. Remember my breath. And remember the joy.
Though I haven't skied much at all over the last 8 months, my body remembers. My mind remembers, my muscles remember. My skiing is still there, my fundamentals are still there...my trust and flow is what I'm searching for now. I understand the risk that I am taking (I have thought endlessly about this), and now it is time to let that be. And ski. To be firm with myself: I know I am taking the risk. I am willing to suffer the (unknown) consequences. There is no need to dwell on that, to dwell on the future, to dwell on the fear. I have acknowledged it, have gotten to know it, have walked, breathed, and sat with it. Fear and me: we are pals, to say the least. Like sisters: we may not always get along harmoniously, but we love each other deeply. I know she is there and I respect her.
But it is time to do my job. The job that I love and enjoy so much. And the only way to return to that joy is to trust, let go, and let it fly. What happens happens. Let go of expectations, let go of control. You can only do what you can do. It's time to get back into this ski-racing thing, and to enjoy the shit out of it, no matter how fast or slow I am. I will commit to this decision, and although there will be moments of doubt and great struggle, I will commit to remembering how I want to move forward -- with intention, with ease, with joy. With a big heart. With deep breaths and with courage. With self-love and kindness, with an open mind and a strong will. With ferocity, hunger, patience and passion.
So tomorrow is the day when I begin. And it feels so good to know that I am going to take that step. Scary. Terrifying, even, but so good. Stepping up to the task, stepping up to the challenge. Facing it with trust and with courage. Facing it with the mindset of being present, bringing joy to it, bringing fire and passion and hunger....like I used to, but slightly different: I am older, wiser, more whole and more myself. Myself now -- which is a different self. One that I look forward to getting to know better, getting to express, getting to RACE with. I am certain that I want to do this, certain that I am exactly where I should be. And I am certain that I am okay with the unknown. Onward!
It was a beautifully terrible day. There's something about stormy days on the mountain -- you can't hear yourself speak, up against the wind. The snow is swirling around you madly, the surface of the slopes disappears with the blowing layer of wind and snow. Vertigo comes and goes, you can barely feel your fingers -- it's nicer when they go numb. All the noise actually creates this stillness, in which the only thing you can feel and hear is your own breathing. I love stormy days. They push me, challenge me to find my center.
This one was especially challenging. In the meeting the night before the U.S. Nationals GS race, the coaches said the race would basically run no matter what...so we knew it was going to be a crazy weather day. At the start, the first gates were blowing down hill in the tail wind. I was cold, down to the bone. The sleet had piled up overnight but was slipped off of the icy GS course. I was only there racing for the hell of it, for fun. It had been 2 years since my last race in GS, but I was excited to give it a shot again. After all, it used to be my best event. I remember taking off my outer layer and immediately freezing my buns off -- clicking into my skis and mentally preparing for a wild ride.
The first few gates were fast...very fast for a GS. The tail wind pushed me out of the start -- I barely had to pole at all. By the third gate, I was hauling; arcing some nice turns on the top flat. I think it was the sixth gate. I remember there being a roll preceding it, and when I pressured my skis for the right footer on the backside of the roll, they slipped out from underneath me on the ice. I was sliding on my left hip, thinking I could stand back up and still make the next gate -- a silly hip-check at high speeds...they can be fun to pull off. But, now, I know better. Before I was fully back on my feet (my weight was transferred, but I had yet to stand completely back upright) I hit a pile of new snow with my right outside edge. It twisted and jerked my knee out with incredible force.
I'm not even sure what the crash was like. All that remained was pain. Excruciating pain. And that is all that existed to me for the following hour. I don't even remember thinking about what was wrong, where my friends and family were, if I'd ever ski again. I only remember pain and the accompanying aspects: moving into a sled, wailing uninhibitedly, Micum (my physio) consoling me on my sled ride, shivering, shaking, pain. In a sense, it was probably the most present I have ever been for such a span of time -- I was forced to be with the pain, and although I was not "okay" with it (all I wanted was for it to be gone), I was at least with it. I could barely breathe -- I was choking on my sobs and violently shaking throughout my entire being. The pain penetrated to my very core. I have experienced many kinds of pain -- from dislocated shoulders to bone-deep lacerations, from a broken heart to a shattered pelvis -- but all have paled in comparison to this. It was awful, horrific, unbelievable...and it was terrifyingly real.
Eventually I was loaded up with fentanyl -- even a normally large dose didn't numb me enough. But I began to care about other aspects of my reality, and that's when I realized how all-encompassing the pain was. It was almost like, when I was living in the pain, I was in another world; a hell of sorts. A world where nothing good exists. How I wish I'll never have to return to that place...
The first rational thoughts I remember having were the appreciation for and comfort in having my best friends by my side: Leanne, Resi and Alice were the first ones whose presence provided me some solace. I felt their sympathy and love, and was so grateful for that. I spoke to my parents on the phone (which probably freaked them right out), and Tommy arrived somewhere in the midst of my transition from 'the pain hell' to my bad version of reality. I don't know what I'd have done, had I not had friends and loved ones around. Every pang was accompanied by assuagement. Leanne even rode in the back of the ambulance with me...it was a long, hazy ride of doubts and consolations.
That ambulance ride was the first time I began considering my future: what was actually wrong with my knee? I knew it was something awful, but I had no idea about the extent of my injury yet. Would I ski again? Would I walk again? What would I do if I couldn't get back to these physical capabilities? I thought about University, about my degree, grad school. I thought about whether, if I could ski again, I would even want to. To expose myself to the potential of experiencing it all again seemed out of the question. Thank god Leanne was there providing some rational insight: wait. See how you feel. Now is a terrible time to make decisions.
And she was right. Any time over the next 6 weeks would have been a terrible time to make any sort of life decisions. So I didn't let myself. I told myself: until you're completely out of the pain, no big decisions. And fuck. Those next 6 weeks were so hard.
When I learned, the night of my accident, the extent of my injury, I knew it was going to be a long, bumpy road. But I didn't REALLY know...you never really know until you're in it. Four days later I went under the knife in Vail. I woke up after surgery, back in the pain place: sobbing and restless. That first night was hell. I barely slept, which is pretty miraculous considering the amount of morphine being dripped into my veins all night. I had horrible visions of the pain lasting, for any time at all. And it certainly did. I vaguely remember writing about it in my journal, but mostly numbing myself with pain medication and not feeling like myself for what felt like a ridiculously long span of time.
I cried in every therapy session over those first 4 weeks. I would even cry in the car on the way to therapy, foreshadowing the pain it would cause. But I knew I had to do it to get back to skiing and living how I wanted. That first month I was burdened with intense anxiety -- fear of PT and the pain, fear of my future, fear, even, of the present. I got to know my darkest self and, although there were glimpses of light, I didn't enjoy much of anything at the time. I took so many Vicodin, Oxycontin, CBD this and Arnica that, attempting to soothe the discomfort. But I just had to ride it out...thankfully I didn't know that beforehand.
Aside from all the misery, there was love. So much love. Nothing felt like enough at the time, but now I can look back and see how lovingly I was cared for. Tommy flew with me from Maine to Vail and was there for the surgery. Both my mum and dad came out to Vail to help me during my surgery and first week of recovery (holy shit, I desperately needed their help). My friend Elle moved to Bend to help me for a few weeks. Kelly made me insanely delicious meals and brought me breakfast in bed literally every morning for the first 6 weeks. She rubbed my feet at night and slept with me on the bad nights. My mum and I slept in the same bed for the first time since I had meningitis, years ago. Kyle crafted bouquets for me and filled the house with spring colors and scents. My dad brought dinner over countless nights, and helped with my at-home therapy every single day. My therapist Ellie even came to my house on the weekends. Tommy drove me to Utah and committed to living there with me for 6 weeks in May/June, despite his desire to spend time at home in Oregon. Even Jar (Kelly's dog) would cuddle me sometimes -- a rarity for the peculiar pup. Looking back on it all, it was magic. I was surrounded by the most wonderful people, but I couldn't see that clearly at the time.
I was always freezing cold -- shivering under all the covers, obsessed with my heating mat and constantly taking scalding-hot baths. I lost 15 pounds over the first few weeks, mostly from my loss of appetite but partly due to the cold and anxiety as well. Thinking clearly was a luxury...it began happening more regularly about a month after surgery. I embraced these times to write or do homework; I took a few online classes to dedicate my mind to useful thinking. Eventually, I submerged from the cloud of drugged-up obscurity and came back to myself.
I got inspired by my classes -- to create, to dream, to keep moving. I adopted an "anti-inflammatory" diet (no gluten, dairy, alcohol, night-shade vegetables, fried food, or sugar) for a while and learned how to cook with fresh, whole foods. I spent countless hours in therapy (a regimen that has not come to an end), working on my knee while tending to the rest of my body as well. Everybody thinks you'll have all this extra time when you get injured, but so much time is spent doing the simple things: getting from place to place, doing physical therapy, taking a shower, trying to get enough sleep countering countless wakeful nights. There have been days over the past 6 months where I'll leave the COE in Park City and realize I spent 9 hours in the gym that day. Then I have to head home to rest, elevate, compress, ice. It is never ending...
But I have made the time to take a few classes, to do some drawing and lots of writing, to read books and magazines. My world seems to have expanded during this difficult phase of healing, despite shrinking down so small at times. I am seeing everything just a little bit differently -- the light peeking through the leaves, the old man on his bicycle, the scars that adorn my changing body. I understand things differently...mostly in the sense that I understand very little, and that's okay. I recognize and appreciate the small victories. I notice elements of the slow progression that accompanies any major injury -- the pain of descending stairs slowly dissipating over an 8-week span. Some things happen fast (not many) and these help me to understand my high expectations (when I rarely fulfill them) and how to keep them at bay.
I've learned how to be gentle with myself, how to be kind. And I know it will take effort to carry this into the winter, but I know, for my sanity and well-being, this is something incredibly necessary for me to continue to work on. I am currently starting to get back on my feet (skis!) down here in Coralco, Chile...and I am allowing myself to get excited, but am making sure I go back to skiing with no expectations. I have worked my ass off, have sacrificed so much, and have been through emotional hell for my sport, but even if it doesn't work out -- if I'm unable to race or ski fast ever again -- it will all have been worth it. Because I'm better from all of this. I am me, and I'm getting to know that person and am learning what really makes me happy and realizing that what it all comes down to, really, is love. So, if anything, out of this process I will take those lessons and begin with loving myself. And maybe out of that love will grow something wonderful.
I've been thinking a lot about composing some nature writings lately. When I was out backpacking last week in Yoho National Park, B.C., I was finally inspired and figured it was the perfect opportunity to sit and write. See below for Nature Writings: pt. I
As I sit at my picnic table at the edge of Lake Yoho, I am watching the sun rise over the mountains and, strangely, feeling like I am missing something. The wind is creeping through the pine trees and huckleberry bushes, the reflection on the lake's surface is barely rippled, my belly is full, I have coffee and family and the only plans we have for the day are to hike to Burgess Pass.... what could possibly be missing?
Even out here, in the wild, I have inevitably given myself a to-do list: read, write, draw, get enough sleep, etc. Although the tasks are simple and mostly enjoyable, they still weigh on me lightly. There is always something on my mind -- a plan to organize the packs for the day, wanting to journal, trying to take care of my knee -- something to do. Always, always.
I've recently realized that this need to organize and plan is not necessarily a bad thing; I get things done. I know exactly where my things are, where I'll be in a month from today, what my workouts for the week are, what I'll cook for dinner. This can be overwhelming for others around me, it can even be overwhelming for myself. But as long as I remain aware of my thoughts and planning tendencies, I can manage to appreciate them and still enjoy the present.
This is why I come outside. Because, out here, the stimulations that are incessant in everyday life in the real world disappear. You realize, with the lack of external input (phones, emails, computers, Instagram, advertisements, news, to-do lists, etc), the only noise comes from within.
Sometimes it's noise that we don't want to hear. It's hard to sit still and be with your thoughts. At least it's hard for me... but the more I do it, and the longer I do it for, the more I start to be okay with them. The more I come to accept the messiness. The more I see through the bull shit, the more I understand myself. The more I like myself. Meditation has really helped me to see more clearly, and to accomplish the aforementioned. I sit every morning with my thoughts, for at least 20 minutes, before going about my day. But then -- I go about my day: making breakfast, listening to NPR, answering emails. I head to the gym, eat lunch, ride my bike around, attend appointments, work out again, do homework, answer more emails, intermittently browse through Instagram + Twitter, spend time with friends and family, eat dinner, check email, try to relax, read, and wind down for sleep. The days are packed full -- there's almost no time to step back and view my thoughts, much less try to understand them. The meditation certainly brings more presence to my daily activities, but living in that tiny open space of complete awareness is not feasible throughout the entirety of every day.
....Until I come outside. Then everything brings me back to where I am -- the sun rising over Yoho Lake, the clouds warping and sprinkling, my legs and lungs burning as I climb through the Rocky Mountain trails. With no distractions, I notice a swarm of questions, imaginations, wonders and worries running through my head. But...that's the best part: I notice. Constantly. I am ever-aware of my mental imperfections, I learn more about what makes up my mind's character. I think, sometimes, of how terrible I am at thinking nothing and staying present. But I come to appreciate that seemingly negative quality -- to understand that it makes me good at many of the things I love. How the searching pushes me -- creatively, ambitiously, daily. To tame and understand this noise is what allows the gratitude.
There are so many things I learn in the wilderness. I learn the names and shapes of many plants: pearly everlasting and false solomon seal, huckleberry bushes and larch trees. The names of peaks and glaciers: Mt. Ennis, Hanbury Glacier, Emerald Glacier, the President Range, Daly and Fairy Glaciers, Takakkaw Falls. I want to take pictures of them all, to document this time so I can look back and remember. And so that I can look back with loved ones and show them what I saw, share with them how it felt to be out here: the awe and grandeur, the lessons and the people I met: Gwyneth, who came to talk with me while I was soaking in Yoho Lake, the little fishies who gnawed at my legs, the obnoxious group of backpackers who hiked their speaker up to the camp site and incessantly played their music very loudly at the campground. I want to have something to hold on to, I want to capture the way it felt.
As I take photographs, I sometimes foresee myself posting them to Instagram, or some other social media outlet. I will be in the middle of snapping a picture, even with my film camera, and I'll realize I'm thinking about how great it would be to post that shot somewhere. Sometimes I'll adjust the frame specifically for posting purposes, though this is rare as I believe a photo framed for the photographers sake carries with it the most beauty, the most genuine feeling of that moment, the most truth. And you can feel this when looking at photos: whether they were taken with genuine presence or with an audience in mind (hence the reason advertising shots can rarely be connected to). Sometimes I even have to take shots specifically for social media purposes -- to fulfill contracts and promote my "personal brand" (icky). I hate this, even though I understand that it's part of my job. BUT...more on the photos not for Insta's sake:
When I realized I have someone else in mind (an audience) while shooting the photo, I tend to start to hate myself a little. This is not the person I want to be -- taking photos to promote myself or show off to others. But this trip has shed a bit of light on this tendency to want to show others: I am a social creature. I want to share my experiences and myself with other people. I want to connect. After all, I believe one of the most gratifying and meaningful pieces of life rests in love. And though I know I cannot make people love me through (excellently composed :P ) photographs, I do know that sharing myself opens up so many doors, establishes a platform for conversation, instills a sense of connection that can lead to meaningful relationships -- to more love in my life and in the lives of others.
The wilderness teaches me something illuminating each time I venture through it. Along with new lessons, nature teaches me the same thing over and over again, every time: how to be kind to myself. With all the distractions in the "real world" there is hardly any time to get to know your thoughts, your self. But, out here, you are forced to. You see things a bit differently, among the trees and mountain peaks. You can approach yourself with more patience, because you realize you have all the time in the world. I suppose the time isn't necessarily what allows the kindness...perhaps it's the stillness. Maybe it's the kindness embodied by nature, the inherent patient calm. Even when it's windy, raining, and you can barely hear yourself breathe, there is still a sense of calm, still space to find awareness and appreciation. And this is why I keep coming back.... It must be part of the reason we all keep coming back. There are many pleasures that I feel guilty about, but this is one pure pleasure that actually makes me feel the opposite of guilt -- it makes me feel whole again, happy, present. If only now I can take this natural self and bring it back to society with me. Maybe I'll bring a rock, to remember. I guess that's why I take the photos...to bring a piece of this stillness back.
You know those TV shows and movies and dreams you have that depict a perfect little island in the middle of the Pacific with the clearest waters, gorgeous sunsets, insane surf, and beautiful people? That's Tavarua. No seriously, it is. Or, at least it was for the week I went to celebrate Julia and Dylan's marriage.
waking up to views of the sun rising over the mainland
The sunsets were insane. The sunrises...even more beautiful. The food was yummy, the huts were homey, and the company was exquisite.
...and that's Cloud Break (photo credit: Shawna Korgan)
So in love
I spent a lot of time on boats: watching surfing, taking photographs of surfing, dreaming of surfing. But I also got to swim around a bit: snorkel and explore the reefs. Tommy and I paddle boarded around the island of Tavarua in the wind one day. The water was ridiculously clear, and the sea-life was vibrant. Very near the hotel beach were giant clams of iridescent color. I have no idea where those GoPro photos went (from underwater adventures), but I'm sure they couldn't portray the beauty anyway. So much beauty!
both Tommy and I were focused on water
party wave! (Stacey and Maile)
another party wave! (Tommy and Dougy)
out at Cloudbreak
Grant Korgan, absolutely crushing Cloudbreak on his Kayak
Stace-dawg, out hunting the perfect wave
...and finding it!
....and slaying it!
okay but for real, this wave looks so so fun (Cloudbreak)
I'm pretty sure that was Carissa Moore.... (badass surfer chick)
Tavarua boat out at Cloudbreak during sunset
Never have I been in the presence of so many diversely talented athletes (some disguised as normal people) at once as I was on Tavarua that week. Everywhere I looked there was someone surfing huge waves, back-flipping into the pool, paddle boarding on a rubber ducky, chasing after a beautifully speedy child, butt hanging out and looking gorgeous. I guess I should have expected it from the group of Julia's closest friends.
Stace-dawg getting her wedding on
Lauren Ross probably doesn't have many photos out there of herself, because she herself is a super talented photographer...check out her website: http://www.laurenandabby.com/
Sunrise color reflections on the water
Cloudbreak surfer (unknown)
awaiting a set
the shores of Tavarua
...and there was the wedding. It could not have been a more beautifully perfect yet easy-going celebration. The music was literally chosen at the last minute. But it turned out to be a dream wedding, of which I was so thankful to be a part.
the kiss (well, one of many)
the happy couple
Even the weather was perfect. Seriously -- I don't know how we got so lucky....
And the resort of Tavarua was insane! The photo above is of the boatmen's dock and the beach bar in the sunrise. Below are photos taken around the resort....
the pool deck
a bure (hut) -- the one I lived in for the week, with 3 others
the restaurant decked out (hah!) in wedding attire
restaurant deck from the beach below
Tavarua boats from the shore during sunrise
Tavarua from the water
I have so many more photos to share... I'll cut the words off here. But I'm pretty sure that week-long island vacation we had in Tavarua will not be beat. I'm both saddened and appreciative of that, but I mostly just can't wait to return and live in that dream world again :)
same view, different time of day
Tommy enjoying a ride
a very big (cute) fish
Sean, going for a post-ceremony ducky ride (caught on camera by Tommy)
a Tavarua boatman taking us to the sand bar for some snorkeling!
barrels for days
Mama Stace -- Cloudbreak on the ducky
Tora Bright slashing Numotu
can't get enuffffff
this wedding was just too easy to photograph...
....and the last sunset....
I need to write more. It always goes in spurts -- I'll write almost every day for a month, and then forget about it for 2 weeks, or yearn to write but don't seem to be capable of making time for it. Perhaps it needs to be higher up on my list.
Music hasn't even been part of my life for the last few months. When I was injured I didn't have the drive or body position potential to play. Maybe I should start playing more. But, for some reason, I don't really feel like it. There are other things going on.... But do I miss it? Of course.
Finding time to do the important little things is tough, no matter how much time you have. The truth is that I hold writing on a very high pedestal, and I have very high standards, as a reader, that I hold myself to -- even when I'm simply writing in my journal. I appreciate serious, but playful, writing. I want to read about issues, but I don't enjoy too much density. I love stories, but not (normally) love stories. I can't stand cheesy romance -- there's got to be some depth. I'm curious about what's going on in the economy and how physics works, I am intrigued my world history, but I'm bored of stats and stated-facts.
...I want imagination! Twists of randomness and relatable information hold my attention -- but I can't stand flamboyant adjectives or pointless wordiness. I want content to be challenging, yet engaging...intellectual, but not verbose. I love to read, and it fuels my passion to write. So, I guess maybe I should just read more...?
I've been infatuated by magazines lately. The diverse content, the aesthetics, the timely relevance. Literature magazines are great -- my current favorites and The Sun (no adds --so convincing for me!) and The New Yorker. But I love a bit of a lighter magazine as well -- Frankie, Kinfolk, Smith Journal. The self-help and informative publications are wonderful too: Mindfulness Magazine, Flow, Yoga Journal (I don't even do yoga)...and I haven, as of late, fallen in love with 'Apartamento,' a magazine based on interviews with folks who inhabit incredible spaces and have unique stories to accompany nice photographs. 'Womankind' I found in the LAX airport, and am impressed by it's diverse and thought-provoking content. Then, of course, there's always Time, Vanity Fair (more grounded and intellectual than one might think), and National Geographic. Wise Traditions and Taproot are wonderful, alternative, honest and more community-based publications, seemingly based around health and interconnectedness. Dwell and DAMN Magazines have architectural-based content that consider sustainability, community and inspires building, art, and DIY ideas. YES covers activism, global, domestic, and community issues, and the environment.
Many of these wonders are from foreign countries: Flow, Frankie, Smith Journal and Womankind are from Australia. Apartamento is based out of Barcelona. But they're all available SOMEWHERE in the U.S....I actually found many of these foreign magazines abroad: Frankie, Flow and Smith while traveling in New Zealand -- though I also encountered Frankie last year in Portugal, where I stumbled upon Apartamento. Taproot, a Vermont-based magazine, I found in New York (and subsequently in Portland, OR), and my first Dwell I found in Spain.
I enjoy reading words expressed from somewhere within the cultures I travel to and through. It's interesting to discover the similarities in writing styles (trends and perspectives) across cultures on opposite sides of the globe. The differences are captivating as well -- Aussie publications seem to be a little more sarcastic, American ones generally more trendy and commercial.
If I can pick up a magazine and learn something new or be intrigued by imagery without being bombarded by ads, I consider it a success -- at least temporarily. Some of the magazines that intrigued me in the past I feel have lost their connection to their readers and become more corporate (FOAM, and Nylon, for example). But, in general, I'm pretty open to any magazine...you can generally find something to relate to or dream about within any publication.
Writing and reading have always been important aspects of my life, and when they slink into the background I always feel there is something missing. So I'm going to pull my journal out of my backpack, bust out the scissors and glue, grab a magazine, find inspiration somewhere, and get creating. Cause it's that time again.
(I am going to try this thing where I don't post any photos with my words. Like it? Don't like it? Comment below (please!) and let me know so I can improve my posts in the future. Thanks!)
So. What have I been doing, other than thinking about what I might be doing next (after skiing)?
I normally move my body in many ways, including, but not limited to: up and down mountains, through woods and between countries, up cliff faces, up trees, across suspended lines and through ocean waters, lifting heavy objects and putting them back down, jumping on boxes and jumping off bridges. Not being able to do these movements has been emotionally disabling. Well, that, and the pain. But now that the pain has mostly subsided, I want to be free of the weight that is unfulfilling idleness.
Before I got injured, I began reading this book called Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. She talks about the creative process and how to reach your potential. The book's motto is 'Creative Living Beyond Fear.' (more on that throughout this post....)
Things have been confusing and dark for me, as of late. Figuring out how to satisfy my deep, internal craving is not as easy without a physical outlet. Is that why I am pushing through this injury? To return to something that quiets the internal hungry beast? I'm not sure. I love skiing, and that's my reason. For now. I want to see where else it can take me. And if it just so happens that it's time for the next pursuit? So be it. But I'm not quite ready to be done trying. Gilbert, in Big Magic, says, "Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon...'don't rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.'
Don't let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding.
Because that moment?
That's the moment when interesting begins."
...When I think about it like that, my current situation transforms from being confusing and dark to being interesting.
There is so much to be learned, so much to be gained from every difficulty and challenge. It is truly incredible how I can go from this perspective to one of disabling fear and doubt -- back and forth, back and forth. Through the weeks, days, hours and moments. Sometimes I wonder, 'am I doing this right?' Am I doing everything I can to ensure that when I get back on my skis, succeed or fail, I have no regrets?
I'm not sure. I go back and forth about this, too, among many other things. I spend, on average, 5-6 hours a day working on my knee, my body. I also go out to dinner, go out with friends, forego the icing and rest to make connections and have some wine. Should I be fully focused, 100% committed to rehabbing my knee? Say no to social invitations and give up drinking, only eat at home and surrender the extracurricular activities?
Since I became capable of leaving my house with no pain I have been so much happier. Even a trip to the grocery store was thrilling at first (I still cherish these!). The first time I went out to eat, my knee became so hot and swollen that I had to go home after 45 minutes of being upright. But it was glorious. To smell the baking in the pizza oven (Jackson's Corner!), to see new faces, to sit on someone else's bench was even tactually blissful. I was out in the world again, and I could feel the life and creativity stirring within me.
So I started doing more things for myself, regardless of the discomfort some of them caused. I sat down at my piano. I picked up my guitar, my colored pencils. I meditated, I wrote, I collaged, I did homework and created things that were actually fulfilling. I colored, I socialized, I cooked and blogged and took photos. And, again, I was addicted. Yet again, there was so much to do, and, again, I had to start making choices.
Skiing, right now, is my top priority. Beneath that time-exhaustive, mentally-draining, all-consuming endeavor lies a whole boat-load of my other interests and fascinations on a long list. Although I am spending a lot more time than I thought I'd be on recovering from this injury, I'm left with a little spare time (or, am I creating it...?) to play and pursue other activities. For my class titled, "Exploring Design Careers," I was assigned to approach a personal problem from a design-thinking perspective. So I wrote down a list of things I love to do for myself (personal pursuits, if you will) and chose to not try to do them all, all the time. Instead, I opted for two activities per day -- for instance: ten minutes of drawing, journaling, playing guitar -- and was decidedly fulfilled by those two simple things. Sounds easy, right? Well, actually, it kind of was, and still is.
The weight is lifted ever-so-slightly from my chest, knowing that every day I fulfill the requirement of doing two things for myself every day. And, I actually do them! Instead of being overwhelmed by too many options and hence incapable of actually doing anything meaningful for fear of being incomplete, I just choose from my list. You have to laugh at the straight-forward simplicity of this tactic...how did I not figure this out earlier? I am, after-all, an avid list-maker.
All is not solved, however. I still worry about my knee. I still procrastinate homework until Sundays, when my weekly assignments are due. Some days I forget, or simply neglect, to meditate. I worry that I'm not doing rehab perfectly, that I'm walking too much or eating the wrong foods. I'm attempting to eat an anti-inflammatory diet: no gluten, no dairy, no potatoes, no fried food, no processed sugars....the list goes on. I am not incredibly strict about it, and I try to forgive myself for occasionally eating potato chips or Gouda cheese.
But I am still hard on myself. I am a perfectionist, and I'm not that proud of it. I pay scrupulous attention to detail, and I can't function on too little sleep, or when I'm surrounded by clutter and disorganization. I want to do everything, and do it all very well. This is impossible -- of that I am aware -- but the drive, the undying curiosity is in my blood. Sometimes I wish I could relax: sleep in, daydream, watch a movie without having to knit. But I'm also indebted to and thankful for my hunger. I need to be aware of my ego and my need for approval and reward, but my curiosity teaches me so many invaluable lessons. It shows me so many beautiful, unforgettable things: mountaintop views, the power of the ocean, new languages and new perspectives.
Right now I am learning about how to make a decent living as an artist, how to be a better listener (forever a work in progress), how to make gluten-free, sugar-free (delicious!) pancakes. I'm learning about sustainable design, Oregon's indigenous flowers, how important it is for me to read and write, how to improve my online personal brand.
This strive to be perfectly multi-faceted drives me insane yet holds me together. It will inevitably continue when I retire from ski-racing...although I may say it, I don't really think things will slow down. And I'm okay with that. As long as I'm living with intention and creativity, I will forever be happily unsatisfied. Inspired. Dreaming. Pushing. Creating. I can't sit at home and ice and do glute-exercises all day. Because I want so much more.
Elizabeth Gilbert put it nicely when she said, "If you can't do what you long to do, go do something else.
Go walk the dog, go pick up every piece of trash on the street outside your home, go walk the dog again, go bake a peach cobbler, go paint some pebbles with brightly colored nail polish and put them in a pile. You might think it's procrastination, but -- with the right intention -- it isn't; it's motion. And any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion.
So wave your arms around. Make something Do something. Do anything.
Call attention to yourself with some sort of creative action, and -- most of all -- trust that if you make enough of a glorious commotion, eventually inspiration will find its way home to you again."
adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind