marion mountain.

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I haven’t been camping since I was a child, and I haven’t been camping in a tent since I was a toddler. My parents’ favorite story to tell is the time the five of us crammed into a too-tiny tent and five minutes after lights out I started gagging on a penny I had found and promptly eaten. I don’t think I was the type of kid with much of a mouth fetish, but I guess there was something about that penny. It is Scotch-taped to my baby book now, playfully labeled as a thing that might have killed me but didn’t.

I was too young to remember it. I do remember these other choking incidents:

Aged three or four, maybe, I went with my mother to the furniture store where she worked. One of her coworkers kept a crystal bowl of candy on his desk. He always offered me the thick, red, round pieces, even though I was too young to be trusted with them. I choked in the car, strapped into my carseat. I remember clearly the sensation of not being able to breathe, the sticky candy settling somewhere in the back of my throat. I don’t remember if my mother stopped the car or if I figured it out myself. She doesn’t remember the incident at all.

The second time I was older. Maybe nine or ten. I was at my friend Mary’s house and it was February. We were eating candy hearts, but the very big, thinner kind. I swallowed one whole, presumably by accident. Mary dragged me down the hallway to the kitchen and presented me to her father. I was turning blue and hadn’t had a breath in about thirty seconds. He called my parents and asked them what he should do. I ended up vomiting into the kitchen sink, overhearing my parents’ tiny voices through the phone receiver: I don’t know, do you know the Heimlich? 

Camping now, as an adult, is almost exactly how I remembered it. It is fun through dinner, through lighting a fire and making smores, through telling stories with family (now replaced by friends) and drinking soda (now replaced by beer), all the way up until it’s time to go to bed and forty degrees out. S and I brushed our teeth together by my car, spitting into the dirt. I saw a Jerusalem cricket and almost had a fucking heart attack. Our air mattress had holes in it and we woke up with our bones digging into the ground painfully. I slept maybe forty minutes and remember one dream: in which my ex-boyfriends all lined up to tell me they were lying, they never loved me anyway, they just thought I should know.

I thought the hardest thing in life was writing when you would rather watch Gilmore Girls, but it turns out the hardest thing in life is getting out of a sleeping bag in the morning, an eleven-mile hike looming in your immediate future, the mountain air a crisp almost-freezing, and your hiking clothes made from the type of material that is so slick and shiny it is like dressing yourself in ice.

But I managed it somehow, and afterward I sat so close to the fire that my face turned red and I loved every minute until it was time to go to bed again.

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photographs taken in Marion Mountain Campground

delicate.

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8171678461_d1298bcbf1_zS and I leave in a few hours for a camping trip in the Marion Mountains. We bought special socks for an eleven-mile hike in Mount San Jacinto. You have to take the Palm Springs aerial tramway to get there. I’ve been on it before and I took pictures the whole way up to distract myself from the feeling like the floor might open up underneath my feet.

We’ve been recording songs and last week had our first official practice for our first official show, November 1st in LA. I feel nervous in waves, the hardest hitting ones leave me wondering what exactly it is I think I’m doing.

I’ve been in a writing slump I’m not worried about. It’s easy to feel like the inspiration might never come back, but it’s also foolish. I’ve worked hard for months and months, I get burned out, and I’m allowed to play guitar for hours or edit photographs until midnight or listen to old Damien Rice albums in preparation for new Damien Rice albums. I remind myself of this when I feel like I’m not doing enough. I remind myself of this when I still can’t figure out what sort of career I want. Not everything has to be decided all at once. Some things are too delicate to rush into.

For now I’ll rush into the forest and work on forgiving myself for things that aren’t my fault. Work on saying sorry less and defending my actions more. Work on creating a sustainable aesthetic. Work on flushing out the negative to make room for the inevitable, eventual influx of positive. To voice things out loud, to write them down, is to make them real.

photographs taken in New York with a Yashica-D twin lens reflex. 

 

 

in alleys.

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In an attempt to find inspiration in a close and accessible place, I photographed Bridgett in the alleyways behind my apartment. The beauty of Los Angeles is not outward or obvious. You have to go out in search of it. But it’s somehow much more rewarding because of the hunt.

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photographs of Bridgett taken in Los Angeles, CA. 

sleepless.

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I haven’t been sleeping.

I’ve been away from Los Angeles for a week and a half now.

Five days ago my eye doctor told me I had astigmatism. You should have been wearing glasses for fifteen years, he said, before berating me for the amount of eyeliner I used. I picked out my first pair of glasses later that day while my mom had her nails done. I wear them for fifteen minutes at a time. The world doesn’t seem real through them. They’re like a portal to another, slightly clearer place. I’m getting used to turning my head from side to side and feeling the slightest bit nauseous.

Before that, I took a train from Vermont to Connecticut, editing photos of my newest niece, Alma Lucille, for the better part of five hours.

Early this morning I woke up from a dream that the zombie apocalypse had started. I stole a car and drove somewhere foggy.

Today I will meet my agent and my new editor at HarperCollins. New York is cloudy and grey and just how I remember it.

I shop for socks on Amazon because my feet are cold. My sister-in-law’s cat rubs her face on my computer screen. She doesn’t care how many times I push her away. Last night she slept between my legs. She’s getting older and has had a sudden change of heart regarding how much human interactions she likes.

The first time I met my agent was over two years ago. It was the day after my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding. It was raining. I wore a brand new Kelly green dress (dry clean only) and dropped a hunk of cream cheese on the front right before I had to leave.

This morning I eat a bagel warily and hope it doesn’t rain.

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yosemite, pt. 1

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The drive to Yosemite takes almost five hours and my eleven-day old niece, Harper, sleeps the entire way. We get a late start made even later by a coffee shop that takes twenty minutes to fill our order. We drive across the new Bay Bridge and continue east for what seems like an eternity. The farther away we get from the coast, the browner everything gets. It becomes apparent just how dire the drought in California is. The Don Pedro Reservoir is so low that its sides are exposed and the result is the landscape of some alien planet, or how you might expect the earth to look in a few hundred years.

We stop and take pictures by the Yosemite sign. A threesome of tourists wait for their turn and comment on how small Harper is. They ask how old and they tell my brother and sister-in-law they’re brave.

Do you think we’re brave? my brother asks me. People keep saying that. 

We walk around the grounds of the Ahwahnee Hotel together while my sister-in-law feeds Harper in our hotel room. We come across a river no more than five inches deep. I wade out in the sandals I bought at the beginning of the summer, now so tattered and worn I don’t care if the water ruins them. The river is freezing cold and numbs my toes, but the air is stifling and warm. The forest fires blaze just on the other side of Half Dome and everything smells like burning wood.

We wake up the next morning and the car is covered in ash. Soot falls around us like a freak snowstorm. We can’t see the top of El Capitan. We strap the baby into her carseat and drive up and up and up to find some cleaner air. IMG_6457

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photographs taken in Yosemite National Park.

ojai.

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Ojai is too bright and hot to ever fully open my eyes, so the result is a trip a little fuzzy around the edges. We arrive in the early afternoon, irritable with hunger and the delays of Labor Day traffic. We walk slowly through the types of stores you can only find in towns like this, where big names aren’t allowed and the antique store stretches on for miles, crammed with one of everything you might ever want. We eat Mexican food and when we check into our hotel, the receptionist pours us two glasses of cabernet and tells us when we can see the pink moment. We drive the short distance up to Meditation Mount; I arrive at the top feeling motion sickness from filming too much of the bumpy ride up the hillside. Then: dinner at  the nicest place you’d ever want to eat—a table set against a miniature forest of bamboo and flanked on the other side by a sprawling herb garden.

Neither of us sleeps.

I don’t know why, but I wake up every hour, squinting into the darkness to see what time the cable box says it is. I’m relieved when it’s morning, when we finally pull ourself out of bed in search of coffee and scones, eating in the car as we head to our next destination: a popular, easy hike that takes us around the back of an orange grove. It is impossibly hot. My tee shirt is damp with sweat by the end of it; we turn the A/C on high and drive slowly, letting the car cool down.

We eat vegan wraps for lunch next to a very old cocker spaniel that keeps dipping its ears into the water bowl. We head home when the sun is at its hottest point. I take my boots off and toss them into the trunk. S puts his hat in the backseat.

Everything is burnt orange and bright green until we get back to the coast—and then it is only blue blue blue.

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photographs taken in Ojai, California. 

summer’s end.

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IMG_5916Lately I have been doing so much work there isn’t room for anything else. I wake up and make coffee with eyes still closed against the morning light. I work in bed with the pillows propped up behind my back and I don’t shower until three or four, when I’ve written or revised thousands of words and accidentally get a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

My first niece was born yesterday: Harper Arden. She is tiny and she yawns a lot and she keeps her eyes open. 

I’ve been dreaming of a small, quiet vacation. We’ve been recording music and I’ll listen to the songs as I drive up the coast or out into the desert, letting the heat swallow me up until I’m floating, boiling.

Yesterday I spent one hour outside photographing a beautiful girl who kept asking me how she looked. Afterward we ate fried avocado tacos and split an enormous piece of cake made with too much lemon. My scalp sweat under a wool hat but I haven’t done my hair in weeks. 

I feel like I have a better handle on myself than I’ve had in the whole past year. I still change my mind a hundred times a day but at least the decisions are closer together. They are no longer night and day. The variations are at least, now, related. 

photographs of Bridgett taken in my back alley, Los Angeles. 

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