Today, I want to share a photo I took during an evening where I walked the beach in Gearhart, Oregon as the sun was setting. I walked the beach and put my camera on the ground and took self-portrait after self-portrait and found my way to see myself in the midst of one of the hardest times of my life.
self-portrait, august 2010
Recently, I was sharing the story of taking this series of photos with a friend. I explained how the experience was deeply sacred to me. And I talked about how the light was pure magic as I walked the beach alone as the sun headed toward the horizon and began to set. Even though I was in the midst of total uncertainty about my daughter's health (we had just learned that she would need open-heart surgery and at the time she was just two months old), this time alone walking slowing, noticing the beauty around me, noticing myself through my camera lens, pushed me to not feel invisible in the midst of my fear. And it deeply pushed me into my senses, which grounded me and reminded me to call on my guides and the wisdom within me so I felt less alone walking through this fear.
My friend said something about how it must have been so beautiful to have the beach all to myself during this gorgeous sunset and experience.
I remember pausing for a few long seconds and then shaking my head as I said, "It was a perfect summer day on the Oregon Coast, so I wasn't alone, just walking alone." In fact, there were lots of people. You can drive on the beach in Gearhart and somewhere between 20-30 (maybe more) SUVs were parked with people inside them watching the sunset. Families were playing. People were running through the water. I remember someone was feeding seagulls.
And in the midst of it all, I just kept walking. Then, I would pause to look out over the sea, put my camera on the ground, push the timer, and walk a few steps forward and take a deep breath while the camera clicked.
Did I think about the people who were probably watching me wondering what I was doing?
I had wandered off from my family and wondered a bit about what my dad and step-mom might be thinking if they could see me with my arms raised toward the heavens as my camera captured me.
But I gave myself the space to just notice any feelings that came up and greet them. (Truly greet them in a "hi there. i hear you uncertainty or embarrassment but I am just going to keep walking because this moment feels so much bigger than your questioning" sort of way.)
And I kept walking and noticing: the way the light shimmered on the water, my own shadow, the sounds of the birds and the people and the sand beneath my feet, the way my body began to relax into itself for the first time since Ellie's birth.
And when I stood there watching the sun dip into the sea, I was gifted with a glimpse of that magical does it really happen green flash and felt like a power greater than me was saying, "Yes. This."
Later, when I turned to walk back to our hotel, I felt like the light from the sun was now inside me in the space I create with each breath. There was literally a "light.ness" that walked with me at times through the next few days and weeks as life unfolded in ways I had no control over.
This is the power of inner excavation.
This is the beauty of turning your camera on yourself.
This is the practice of finding and using creative self-care every day so that when the hard stuff stacks up, you can lean into those tools and feel supported.
This is the gift of letting yourself deeply see yourself.
I hope you will turn your camera toward yourself and give yourself the gift of seeing you.
PS All the video footage of the sea in "The Gift of This Moment" trailer was taken during this sunset journey in Gearhart in 2010. It was so meaningful to me that Jen used it as I captured pieces of this evening experience in a new poem (illustrated with photos from this day) in my new poetry collection Five Days in April. I have been seeking the right "containers" to share the pieces of this experience and am so grateful that this year has provided a few different moments that feel just right.