Walking Lightly

Music has a tendency to find me when I need it. I can’t count the amount of times a song has come up on shuffle, and it was like sunlight unexpectedly bursting into a room. Or when a band I love puts out a new album and I rediscover a song on an older album. I find I am suddenly in exactly the right state to fall in love with it, and it becomes a new favorite that acts like a beacon to pull me past whatever I’m going through.

That was the case a few years ago when I mentioned José González‘s brilliant album Veneer on a date (seriously, don’t you want to lean your head on someone’s shoulder, look at the stars, and listen to him sing “Heartbeats“??). When I got home I excitedly listened to his band Junip‘s new album. The song “Walking Lightly” came on, and it was like an auditory cathexis – all other sound and experience dissolved into soft focus and there was just this intensely beautiful song opening my heart and filling it with light and a sense that everything would be okay. It was the soft blanket wrapped around me when I most needed it, and I listened to it around the clock, hoping my coworkers didn’t realize it was literally on repeat for hour-long stretches sometimes. I saw Junip perform at (le) poisson rouge about a week before my beautiful Smokey died, when I knew he was nearing the end but still couldn’t accept it. I think that concert and seeing that song get put together live is one of the only things that preserved my sanity during that time, and it gave me whatever it was I needed to keep functioning and get through losing my honey.

Not surprisingly, it broke my heart to listen to Junip for years afterwards, no matter how much I still loved their music. I think everyone goes through that with the songs that get them through a loss or break-up, and it’s a tremendous feeling to be able to listen to them again and see that enough time has passed to have healed some, where the hurt has turned from an acute stab to a dull ache; it reminds you that eventually it will fade back into pure love.

One of my absolute favorite things to do is walk around and think. I recently read a new-to-me article from 2014 discussing some of the health and psychological benefits of purposeless walking, and I thought about how important walking and running is for clearing my head, processing experiences, working out artistic ideas, and reconnecting with the present tense. When I really need to mull something over, I can only effectively do it in motion, even though I don’t completely follow the prescribed method in that article (or the countless others I’ve read about running). I tend to listen to music because New York can be relentlessly loud and full of conversations I don’t want to overhear. Also because I am obsessed with music, but you knew that part already.

The other day I was in a specific kind of terrible pain that precluded running, but I knew I would feel better if I walked a few miles in the sunshine. I went to the amazing track in my neighborhood that’s across the street from Yankee Stadium so I could just get lost in my head. I used to despise track running, feeling like I was on a 1/4-mile long hamster wheel, but there is enough general activity at this one (this time it was an excellent soccer tournament) that I don’t even mind routinely being mistaken for a high school or college student by guys eager to show off how much taller and fitter they are. I really like the Bronx.

Walking around and around, I started thinking about the non-linear shape of time, picturing the layered loops on the MapMyRun app as a metaphor for our daily routines and the repetitions we make over time. “Walking Lightly” came on my shuffle, and I started to think through some of the experiences I wish I’d handled more gracefully in the moment and the way those missteps reverberated forward through time, often irrevocably damaging friendships and relationships. I also thought about past hurts, and the way holding onto grudges kept hurting me every time I thought about them with anger. As Salman Rushdie put it in his latest book:

“In the end, rage, no matter how profoundly justified, destroys the enraged. Just as we are created anew by what we love, so we are reduced and unmade by what we hate.”

I’d read an article earlier that day that someone had posted about the health benefits of forgiveness (apologies if you’re the one who posted it and I’m not crediting you – I really can’t remember how I got to it). Like a lot of people, I have a pretty firm policy against dating people who speak badly about their exes or parents, and I am always uneasy when friends still carry anger toward former friends or acquaintances. And yet, I am weapons-grade stubborn about holding grudges and I know it takes me a problematically long time to forgive and move on, especially when I know the person who hurt me doesn’t feel any remorse. I did a little mental inventory and realized, yeah, I still have some stuff, and I don’t want to keep carrying it anymore.


© Dr. Joerg M. Harms, Riboworld

Time isn’t a neat spiral or coil moving cleanly upwards or directly toward something. It’s a blobby, amorphous tangle of experiences that are shaped and colored differently as we go back and forth through them. I picture it like a complex protein. We think we are just shuffling along with minimal baggage, and then our secondary alpha-helix loops back around on a moment from long ago. Memory is a creative process, and if the past emotions haven’t been resolved they stick out and radiate energy that demands attention each time we remember them, like repeatedly stubbing a hurt toe. If the experiences are ugly or upsetting enough, they act like intramolecular forces that keep us reattaching and tangling ourselves back up in the same emotion every time, grasping that hot coal and getting burned over and over.

Memory is a strange form of transportation, and I think your mind really does bring you back and forth through time. It’s like this Tweet that describes the surreality of reading a book as, “you stare at marked slices of tree for hours on end hallucinating vividly.” If the mind truly is traveling back to that time and place that hurt, why do we feel compelled to keep reliving the painful memories? Is the brief satisfaction of a hateful grudge more important than letting the mind move around in peace?

I started to picture an alternative, of smoothing over the rough edges in my past by seeking understanding and compassion (however much I’m inclined to say it’s undeserved), and I made the decision to really forgive and move on, for my own sake, and to hope the people that I have hurt can do the same. I realize the only way out is through, so I need to find another way of feeling.

I believe that if I am careful and walk lightly, my amorphous blob of experience can stop tripping me up and flattening down into a terse spiral. Instead I can start stretching out, looking up instead of back, and grow in previously unimaginable directions. It is completely up to me to fill my own conscious experiences with light, to let the music back in, and stop giving the bad stuff so much power, until eventually it loses its sharpness and fades.

From here forward, I intend to be created anew with what I love.

We are who we are

I was thinking about my Grandma Wanda yesterday (as I often do) while I was walking through City Hall Park admiring the bluebells. I heard her voice come out of my mouth, probably even in her accent, exclaiming, “Oh look at you!” as I crouched down to admire their delicate flowers more closely and snap a photo. They were such a lovely burst of spring, standing fresh and happy on an otherwise gray, uncharacteristically cold and drizzly day. It was utterly charming, and like always, my Gram was with me again.

My grandmother was an incredible person. She was highly educated and well-read, a lover of opera, classical music, art of all styles, a scholar in human development and child psychology, and she actually enjoyed talking about art history and cultural anthropology with my grandfather (who apparently used to talk her ear off about Roman mosaics just like I did). She had an abundant intellectual curiosity and was the owner of a truly remarkable, well-rounded, and uniquely fascinating mind. In spite of all this, she seemed constitutionally incapable of putting on airs or acting pretentious – she was, I think, universally appreciated as a genuine, kind, authentic person with a radiantly warm heart. She laughed unabashedly (everyone who knew her can probably hear that great laugh reading this), she spoke her mind, she was intensely observant and considered other people all the time, and she was just a joy to be with.

One of my favorite things about her, and the way she has inspired so much of my painting and my whole art history thesis, was her all-consuming love and wonder for nature, especially the way things grew. She was, at her core, an Ohio farm girl, an avid gardener who loved nurturing and watching living things flourish under her care.

(Wow, do I miss her.)

One year my family was brainstorming Christmas gifts for her, and we were so pleased with ourselves for landing on an elegantly potted bonsai tree. She loved gardening, but the state of her knees at the time and the overwhelming fertility of her yard in Hawai’i was making it too difficult to manage plants outside. They hired a gardener, and she often said how she missed puttering around with the plants, so we thought it would be brilliant to get her a mini tree indoors that she could nurture, tend to, and enjoy without it becoming unruly. At first she was charmed, as we expected, and amazed that a tree would come in such a tiny, delicate form.

A few months later on a phone call we asked how her bonsai was doing, expecting to hear how maybe she’d decided on a shape she’d like to trim it into or how she enjoyed talking to it. “Oh, it’s the cutest little thing. I love it,” she said cheerfully, then added, “And I’m happy to see it’s getting so big already!” We all fell apart laughing because, after all, when you grow up on a farm you nurture plants so they will grow. Of course it wouldn’t make sense to prune her bonsai back or fuss around with limiting growth, and as much as she could intellectually appreciate and enjoy the bonsai book we gave her and the beautiful philosophy behind it, she was always going to be the Ohio farm girl who liked to see things grow.

We are who we are.

I think a lot about personal development and growth, especially as I am switching gears in my career and making a lot of changes in the rest of my life and daily habits to best support it (also just, I am making my life better). I was always fascinated by the phases of child development, like my grandmother was, and the psychological theories of personality and existential philosophy that I studied in undergrad. Increasingly, I am inclined to believe that we do have core selves, sets of intuitions and instincts that we bring with us at birth, which make us the only iteration of ourselves that ever will be. These senses are either encouraged and nurtured, like my parents regularly asking me to draw things for them or buying me bigger paper when my drawings extended off the page, up the woodwork, and all over my bedroom walls; or they are suppressed and discouraged, like a parent cutting off a fugue of creativity if paint gets spilled or it makes a mess.

Like a lot of people (maybe everyone?) I spent most of my formative years being socialized to behave and seem normal, then most of my 20s moving away from the things that made me special. It is the child or young adult’s initial tendency to respond mistrustfully or negatively to things that are aberrant, even if they’re exciting and intriguing. We learn cynicism. If you get enough weird looks for speaking your mind or get ostracized enough for being unusual, you may eventually learn to keep some things to yourself for the sake of having friends and conforming to expectations, and unfortunately that often includes hiding some of the best and most interesting qualities people have to offer. Imagine if we could all just be weirdos from the start.

I think by the time I became an adult, I gave off a pervasive sense of not really liking myself, and it’s not surprising that I attracted so many people who were all too happy to talk down to me and put me in my place. I have never been normal, not even close, and I’ve always known that. It makes me even more grateful for the unusually kind, good-hearted people who have slipped through my defenses and treated me well in spite of myself, either because they are just that wonderful and evolved as humans or because they recognized I was stumbling around getting in my own way and found some of the good stuff I was so invested in hiding. I think we should remember to treasure the people who like us for who we are and return the kindness to others.

It’s frustrating that as adults we spend so much time talking about things that we aren’t truly passionate about or fascinated by because that’s the more polite, socially acceptable style of small talk that we’re all acculturated into. I’m not sure when we learn that we’re not supposed to have strong opinions or think critically in casual conversation, but I really enjoy talking with people who have gotten past the sort of corporate / professional reservation that permeates American society and just say what they’re thinking as they’re thinking about it in unguarded, spontaneous, and sometimes slightly high-wire-without-a-net open conversation. It takes a surprising amount of trust and courage to just be who you are, to risk the fear of having your true self rejected, but I think it’s the only way we can be happy at a soul-level.

Perhaps it’s a bit like unshackling oneself from a constricting pen. We spend all these years learning how to fit into the box, follow the rules, measure ourselves by other people’s standards (typically valuing consumerism and lifestyles that are profitable for corporations), and denying the things that make us who we are at our core. I think there is a critical choice, where we either believe the impression we’re doing of who we think we’re supposed to be, or we have a David Bynre flip, “This is not my beautiful wife!” and push the walls down. I think the denial of core self and inherent instincts is at the center of mid-life crises and general existential freak-outs. I know for sure it has always been at the heart of mine. So I am working on embracing my idiosyncrasy and trusting my instincts, accepting that I am who I am, and I am enjoying my version of my grandmother’s inner Ohio farm girl.

Last summer I posted an Instagram caption, “If I ever stop feeling enthralled by backlit leaves, I will know my heart’s gone dead.” There was actually a motherlode of self-knowledge and truth in that statement and a recognition of what matters to me. I’m so happy that more and more each day, I feel the same way I did when I was a toddler drawing in the sand or staring at light glinting in water. I know who I am and what I care about, just like everyone does if they look deeply and admit it to themselves, and it hasn’t really changed. The more I’ve experienced and learned about other people and the world, the more I’ve developed back into the person I’ve always been in my heart. We are who we are, and that’s what makes us beautiful. It feels like I am finally coming home.

So Be It

An invocation at the Greek society where I belonged in college (is that mysterious enough?) includes the phrase, “So be it,” purportedly in the Jean-Luc Picard sense of “Make it so.” As I’ve never been able to take simple phrases at face value (c.f. my double-reading of Jenny Holzer) nor, I suspect, was this one intended as a single-entendre, I always interpreted it as, “Go and be what you mean to be.”

I keep thinking about how remarkably simple an idea it is, to respond to desire with action, and yet that seems to be one of the biggest challenges many people face. I’m fond of overusing a saying that my friend Kevin had as his senior yearbook quote, “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” (I only just learned the source is Charles Kettering when I checked to make sure that Kevin was accurate and that I haven’t been vicariously quoting David Duke or Hitler or something all these years.) This idea is beautifully straightforward, in that most of the time when we express desires they contain intents, or at least the kernel of the solution in the initial expression.

Here is a fun (maybe?) game – see if you can state the immediate and obvious solution to the following wishes:

I wish I were better at communicating with my friends and family.
I wish I exercised more often.
I wish I spent more time in nature.
I wish I could speak French.
I wish I made time to meditate more regularly.
I wish I took more photos of my neighborhood.

Easy, right? It’s just, “So go…[blank].” Aren’t other people’s wishes simple?

Over time, and with the help of several art and chemistry professors who taught me to ask better questions, I’ve gotten pretty good at phrasing my problems so I can jump straight to the, “So go…” phase of taking action. Instead of making lists of wishes, I now have the habit of making prescriptive to-do lists. And as long as my wishes are reasonable, it’s just a question of focusing time and energy on the changes I want to make or the new habits I want to develop.

Where it is slightly more complex are those amorphous wishes like, “I wish I supported myself fully as an artist” (in progress, more on that soon) or the particularly troubling, “I wish I could meet my soulmate and start a family.”

The HR consultant at my last job was a big proponent of “Strategic Attraction,” sometimes phrased as “The Science of Positive Attraction,” and which I think is related to Law of Attraction meditation. The idea is that by focusing your energy and visualizing the specifics of who or what you’d like to attract, the Universe draws you toward it. I’m paraphrasing, but the example she gave me was when I was looking for a new apartment. She suggested I write out all the specifics of what I wanted in terms of location, size, light, noise level, neighborhood, and so on, and then move beyond the basics and non-negotiables to how I wanted my life to be in this new apartment, “I am looking for a home where I sleep peacefully,” or “I’d like a home where I enjoy being creative in my free time.” The more detailed my description, the better prepared I would be in apartment-hunting and the more clearly I could find exactly the right apartment to match what I’d envisioned. Not surprisingly, she was totally right, and I found the absolutely ideal home in the Bronx, which only continues to get better now that I’m making my life closer to how I want it.

When I think about the soulmate thing, it’s not as easy as making a list of “must enjoy hiking,” “preferably likes Italian food,” or “ideally willing to go sailing and loves it.” I may be muddling the sentiment with too many drinks, but at dinner with my beloved cousin, she shared her husband’s belief that love is about three factors coming together just so: the right person, the right place, and the right time. You can compromise on it a little, but there is a sweet spot of those three for both people that makes for a lifetime of happiness together.

At times I think I may have found the right person at the wrong time, or been in the right place with the wrong person, but if only through tautology, it can’t have been the love of my life if we didn’t, in fact, fall in love for life. Another double reading, which may be part of the “time” factor, is that you have to be the right person yourself, in a place in your life when you are open and ready for your love as you are. I don’t know how many genuinely good-hearted, awesome people I’ve met over the years when I was so across-the-board miserable that I didn’t truly consider happiness an option. I wouldn’t even want my soulmate to have been attracted to the person I’ve been, and in some ways I’m relieved I didn’t have someone to cheer me up most of the time because it allowed me to be honest about the big things in my life I needed to change. So I am focusing on becoming the person I mean to be, making my life the way I want it, and I’ll leave it to the Universe to blindside me with the right person when I’m ready, if that’s in the cards. Of course if someone kind and outdoorsy with soulful eyes wants to fall in love with me now, I suppose that’s okay too.

The biggest of the things I’ve been focused on is switching from working for other people to working for myself. I promise I will have a lot more to say about all that soon, but I had been treating it as a mysterious, secret process, like the Underpants Gnomes from South Park:



(By the way, I think I have sung the Underpants Gnomes song in my head pretty much every day I’ve ever left my home to go to work, and I sing it out loud now whenever I walk into my studio. This is but one of my many attractive qualities.)

So the project is:

  1. Be an artist. Make art and make it available for sale.
  2. ???
  3. Profit / happy life

I suspect the secret is that there is no secret. You state the thing you want to do, and then you keep doing it. You treat yourself kindly, with a generosity of spirit and gratitude, but also with perseverance. You don’t give up or stop trying until you’ve achieved the first thing you mean to, but you don’t beat yourself up if it takes a long time or makes you stretch beyond what you thought you were capable of doing. You take Anaïs Nin’s line to heart, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” and you unfurl your petals.

Or more succinctly, you know what you want to be, “so be it.”

When you’re ready to change your life, it can happen anywhere

Two weeks ago I accepted a spontaneous invitation to meet a friend for a long weekend in Chicago. Whether intentionally or not (I don’t want to accuse him of anything) the invitation as communicated was quite different from the situation I found when I arrived. On the first night I was texting a friend back home about the weirdness, and I felt myself falling into the same negative thought traps I usually do.

This is all my fault – I am so stupid and naïve for believing a guy would just want to spend time with me as a friend.
– I always do this kind of thing, where I only see the best in people and then end up in super awkward and potentially dangerous situations.
– Way to go, Bridget, you’ve gotten yourself into an after-school special at age 34, have you honestly learned nothing about life?!

And so on. My friend back home talked me off the ledge (thank God for true friends), and we reviewed some of the discussions and precautions I’d taken before leaving. I was incredibly relieved that in what little last-minute planning I did the night I was packing to leave, I connected with a few friends on Facebook, whom I’d forgotten or never knew lived in Chicago. Everyone gave great suggestions for things to see and do, and a few friends said they’d be in town. It immediately became clear that I would need to plan another trip soon, and I was intent to salvage this one.

I met up with a very dear friend whom I’ve known since I was in high school (who happens to have dated my brother for several years when they were kids). We had lunch and drinks, and she very generously showed me around downtown Chicago. I joked with her, as she repeated the offer of a safe place to stay if things kept getting weirder with my host, that I was genuinely glad I made such a foolish and impulsive trip because it gave me the chance to catch up with her. There aren’t many people in the world who have known both my grandmothers and my aunt Elise, who knows the goofy guys I sometimes ate lunch with in high school (when my boyfriend and I were on-again) on a first-name basis, or who has been a friend to me and my brother for so long. She’s also just an all-around awesome, good-hearted person and great company, so it was a real treat.

I was incredibly grateful to get to know such a wonderful new city because it turns out, I seriously love Chicago. The architecture and art is amazing, the way the city is laid out is extraordinarily pedestrian-friendly with loads of things to see and do, I finally experienced true Midwestern manners and kindness, the food was delightful, I fell head over heels in love with Lake Michigan (seriously, I am certain the color will haunt my dreams all my life), and I discovered a lot about myself on this trip (more on that in a moment). I met up with a friend from college whom I haven’t seen in 15 years and his spectacularly lovely fiancée for deep dish pizza and sundaes on my last night, and I admitted that I felt like I was babbling about a new crush with how much I loved Chicago and my time with them. From what I understand, it’s pretty common to fall in love with Chicago, even – or especially – if you’re a New Yorker.

One of the most profound things that happened for me was at the Art Institute of Chicago, which is one of the loveliest museums I’ve ever visited and the place I most wanted to see besides Lake Michigan. I have a sometimes embarrassing tendency to burst into tears when I see works of art that are particularly meaningful to me (Michelangelo’s David, the Monets at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses etc.). Sometimes I’m able to keep it together in an academic sense, as in the Sistine Chapel, when I was able to take a step back and really look at the imagery that I’d written about for a semester in a Michelangelo seminar, but as an artist who has been in love with painting as long as I can remember, my heart usually takes over.

This little painting by Georgia O’Keeffe called Blue and Green Music has been one of my favorites my whole life. It is one of the pivotal works that opened my eyes to abstraction as a child thumbing through books, and it has remained a touchstone in my mind for the power of what simple painting can do emotionally. Seeing it in person was more intense than I even would have predicted (a real tear-sprayer, honestly) and it was deeply significant to me because I saw, yet again, there was not any particular wizardry going on, even in what I consider one of the most magical paintings in the world. O’Keeffe is one of my all-time favorite artists because she captures the elegance and simplicity of nature in her painting without gimmickry, pretense, or affectation. It is her own style, but it is faithful to nature’s style, and it may be the most perfect organic abstraction yet achieved. I also saw this painting was not made through any esoteric inaccessible technical skill or method beyond my grasp – it was her clarity of thought and vision made tangible, and that’s exactly why it was so beautiful and powerful.

Later that afternoon, walking along the lakefront in intermittent rain, I realized that all my life, whether I wanted it or not, I’ve been an artist and I can’t stop being one. I can paint with the same clarity and emotions as O’Keeffe, and maybe if I handle my career the right way, my work can have the same genuine, emotional impact on other people that this painting made on me. I also had this rush of exhilaration that finally, I am pursuing art for real, setting up my business full-time instead of wishing that someday I could get it going, and I am putting my whole heart into it. I truly believe it is the right time, and my experience in Chicago showed me that repeatedly.

A few years ago, I would have succumbed to the part of myself that apologizes too much, allows myself to be mistreated and literally shoved around for my lack of assertiveness, lets my time get wasted, watches people try to manipulate me and stays silent, and generally, acts as my own worst enemy. On this trip, I found myself able to speak up, assert myself while remaining pleasant and keeping things friendly, change plans when they were not okay, and make sure that I got to have the experience I wanted out of Chicago. I saw so many incredible things, spent so much time walking around the city and being outside in alternating sunshine and sideways snow, proved Frank Sinatra correct that the El is a piece of cake after NYC subways, saw species of birds I’ve never seen in person before, and reconnected with beautiful, kind people in wonderful ways. In the past, I probably would have been too shy to accept their invitations or felt obliged to stay with my host when he kept turning his nose up at plans. I’m so happy I’m not that person anymore, and that I trusted myself enough to be myself instead.

By the time my early-morning flight home got cancelled and I accidentally bought a ticket out of Milwaukee, I wasn’t even flustered. The gate agent assured me that I had time to take a bus and check in for my flight, and I trusted her, even though it meant running at a full-sprint through the Chicago airport because I misheard the departure time as 6:25 instead of 6:45 (whoops). The Milwaukee airport was unbelievably pleasant (it’s a toss-up for most charming details: the sign after security for the Recombobulation Area or the dishes of candy at the gates), I had the incomparable pleasure of hearing a TSA agent say in a thick Midwestern accent, “Hey look, there’s a piece of pizza in this bag!” about my Lou Malnati’s leftovers, and I took the sign from the universe that I was supposed to use the opportunity to buy a wheel of Wisconsin Cheddar as a souvenir.

I was intent on getting back in time to meet with my beloved cousin Desireé for dinner and drinks on her last night in New York, and we stayed out talking and laughing late enough to shut down a speakeasy on a Monday night. I kept thinking how much more accurately this version of my life fit with what I truly care about and value than previous times when I had to cut things short to get home to fret about work, or when I’d say I loved my job (because I thought I did) and friends knew I was just putting a good face on a situation that was making me deeply unhappy. I am done with regrets now, I am spending my time with kind people who have beautiful hearts, and I am already planning my next trip(s).

The wonderful thing about travel is that beyond experiencing a new place, it lets us see our daily lives through a fresh lens. I stepped out of my patterns and tendencies and acted spontaneously and flexibly instead. I stopped making decisions out of fear or insecurity and just did what I wanted to do. I remembered the joy of living life the way I mean to, instead of the way I think I’m supposed to, and I came back to New York refreshed, empowered, and excited for all the big things coming up this spring. I didn’t need to go all the way back to India for another life-changing experience, just a few hours away in my own country. For a long weekend, that’s quite a lot to be thankful for.

Chicago

My photos are in my Chicago album on Flickr and art pics are in My Museum Habit.

Love is understanding

The other day (two weeks ago now) my father was picking me up at the train station the night before our family’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party. As we were chatting and catching up, he excitedly said, “Oh! I was thinking of you yesterday morning!”


(I will always be my daddy’s little girl)

He started to describe what he saw looking off a small bridge as he was driving to work just before sunrise in a light fog. A silver light glowed behind a single cloud perfectly reflected in the river, which was as still and smooth as a mirror. The horizon disappeared into a shining, seamless vision of twin clouds framed by the faint shape of the shores.

His description was so beautiful and vivid that I could see exactly what he saw, and I told him how touched I was that such a lovely little moment made him think of me.

“I think of you every time I see something like that,” he said warmly, “because I know that’s what you love most.”

I felt so profoundly understood, and in turn, truly loved.

When I shared that story with a friend at the party the next day, he laughed and said the same incredulous thing I’d been thinking, “How come guys your age don’t know how to say that kind of thing to you?” We agreed that guys just don’t seem to be made like my dad anymore (but I’ll keep looking).

I’ve been taking photographs of the sky and little moments in nature since I first got my hands on a Fisher-Price 120 film camera as a little girl, and Tumblr informs me I’ve been posting some of them to The Sky Where I Am for three years now. My dad isn’t big into blogs or social media, so usually when I visit I show him all the photos I’ve taken since the last time I saw him, and he tells me about all the things he’s seen. I cherish his descriptions full of wonder at a kestrel landing in his lap or the prompt reappearance of ospreys on March 15th (“Fish Hawk Day”) like nothing else.

I owe so much of my love of nature and the outdoors to my dad and the generosity with which he’s shared his passion for life with me. I am delighted that I got to visit my family two weekends in a row, which included hiking, neighborhood walks, and two long bicycle rides. We checked up on the birds, ducks, geese, and deer around town on a route very similar to the one we used to take on rides together my whole childhood, and we both giggled when we saw dabbling ducks on the Navesink.

I got all mushy and thanked him yet again for always including me on those afternoons. He smiled that understanding dad smile as he said, “I’m so glad it means as much to you as it does to me.”