staying at home: homesteading

for the second installment of my staying at home project, i documented another longtime friend of mine who is near and dear to my heart. she and i met in our “previous lives”- which is what i often call my time as a teacher before i had kiddos, left the workforce, and picked up photography. she was my assistant teacher, but the truth is, she helped me do so much more than teach. she helped me rediscover the goodness in myself and the people around me. she helped me turn my bad attitude around. she reignited my love for teaching that had slowly started to burn out.

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this lady, right here? she is a fountain of strength and grace and humility. she has walked through the fire for her son and her family, and still she wakes up and tackles each day with determination and a steady joy. Even on the hard days, the days when she feels like she could just give up, she finds ways to make those around her feel valued, listened to, and loved.

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pam, her husband, and her son live with her mother on a beautiful piece of land that has space for more animals than i could count, a garden, a sprawling yard, and lots (and lots) of bugs for her kiddo to catch. while pam and her mom often care for the animals together, on the day i was there, pam was tackling the morning chores on her own. i watched and documented in awe as she completed her tasks with a steady, familiar rhythm as her son wove himself in and out of the scene. if she ever felt overwhelmed with his boundless energy (as i often feel with my own children when i’m trying to accomplish something), she never once showed it. she never faltered in her work, but instead found simple ways to include him, to teach and share with him, and to acknowledge him as an important part of their life and home.

the best part of my time there, though, was seeing the subtle evidence of how their lifestyle and pam’s loving demeanor has influenced her son. as she worked outside, he played outside- never once did he ask to go in or complain about the bright sun or hot air. as she showed loving care towards their animals, he showed loving care towards their animals. he greeted each of them, helped feed them, showed me where they slept and what they ate, told me their names, and shared stories about them. she moved from one task to another, he offered to help. she got dirt on her hands and mud on her boots, he got dirt and mud pretty much everywhere.

i think that one of the most challenging parts of parenthood is meeting your kids where they are. to acknowledge their interests and strengths and find a way to nurture and encourage them requires us to set aside our own expectations and desires. it takes patience and commitment to keep ourselves calm and steady as we allow our children to wander, explore, and expand their own understanding of the world. but pam, this beautiful friend of mine, has done this for her son and more. she has allowed him a childhood in which he can get his hands dirty, roam free throughout their yard, keep a bucket full of crickets and grasshoppers, and learn about life in a way that is meaningful to him. she has fought for him, lifted him up, and loved him through good moments and bad moments, quiet and loud, tears and smiles. she has shown him that real love is deep and beautiful, in its own messy and imperfect way.


suburban homestead

one of my very favorite things about doing documentary sessions is that i get to witness the way other people live their lives. i get to observe some startling similarities to my own life and all of the universal truths about parenthood and young children and just being a person trying to make it through the day, but i also get to see people doing amazing things that i could only ever dream of accomplishing.

this family, for example, decided a few years ago that they wanted to try growing a fig tree in their backyard, and since then, they have turned their entire yard into this incredible homestead with fruit trees, vegetables, berry bushes, herbs, and more flowers than I could ever learn the names of.

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it was amazing to me to see how they gave a purpose to every bit of space available to them, making use of the sunlight and the shade, and cleverly fitting in plants, trees, and bushes in spots that most people would deem unusable.

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the best part of it all, though, was seeing how their entire family tends to the garden together. the kids led me around the entire house, showing me the sections they planted on their own, naming their favorite herbs, and teaching me how to harvest the flowers and berries that were ready for picking. They ate foods right off the plant that my own children wouldn’t look twice at even if they were dipped in chocolate, and over and over again i found myself wishing we lived next door so that they could share some of their incredible knowledge (and maybe a little of their harvest!) with us.

as i followed them throughout the evening, i was in awe of the subtle flow of their routine. while mom and dad moved from section to section of the garden harvesting, weeding, pruning, and tending, the kids wove their way in and out of the work. they would pick, eat, explore, play, run, laugh, pick more, eat more, ask a question or two, help out a bit, run off for a little while, and then return. back and forth, from the garden to the swing set to the patio to the flower beds as the light from the setting sun drenched the tops of their heads and their shadows lengthened.

even amid the normal chaos of raising two young children, there was a peace that settled across their garden as they poured their time and love into it. they have worked together to create this space that provides a unique sort of life to their family that goes beyond food and dried herbs made into teas and tinctures- it is time spent together, a way to learn about and connect with the world that sustains us, and an appreciation for the value of hard work and commitment.

this homestead of theirs, this life that they have built, the family they are raising- it is a beautiful thing that was inspiring to witness and a privilege to document. happy homesteading :)

conversation update

melissa and i have kept on talking to one another as our summers have unfolded, and we both have really stretched ourselves in ways i don’t think we ever expected. i even used a street shot for one of my images instead of my own kiddos. we’ve looked at composition, colors, layers, framing, gestures, lighting, shapes, and moment. there are so many elements to our photographs that we never considered, and so many different ways to connect to an image.

here’s my latest reply to her:

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and below is our conversation from the beginning- click right to see the progression!