I remember this time last year. I’d just made the heart-wrenching decision to move my mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, to a nursing home. In deep grief and denial, my younger sisters did not agree with this plan. I feared the loss of their love, worried I would destroy a lifetime of sweet kinship.
The struggle to keep my mother safe and well-cared for was set against the background of another battle, with the same goal, for my youngest son. His transition to college released the powerful demons of anxiety and depression and the spiral of all kinds of ways to escape.
I felt my life unraveling. There was no way to keep everyone happy and safe, no way to make everything right. No matter how hard I tried, I was never enough.
I needed something positive to focus both my eye and mind on. So I came up with an idea. Inspired by the deeply moving photographs of Rebecca Lily and her 365 Project, I set out to establish a personal practice of my own. I’d take one picture, every day, for an entire year. The project would push me to become a more proficient photographer and to develop my own style. And hopefully, heal myself in the process. So I jumped in on March 1, 2016.
I started with pictures around my home, staying close to my comfort zone of still life photography. Gradually I moved to include landscapes and scenes around town and even people. I began to work up the courage to ask all kinds of people if I could take their photograph. And I loved it!
I kept a running list of quotes and poems from some of my favorite writers – and these quotes came to life with my photographs. I found that I loved writing, and the combination of words and photos proved to be magical for me, a way to express my innermost feelings and aspirations.
This has been an extraordinary experience, and in many ways the project took on a life of its own. I didn’t expect the project to shift and change and grow along the way. I didn’t expect an audience, except for a few close friends and family. I didn’t expect my words and experiences to touch so many people. I didn’t expect the friendships that developed.
Day-by-day I changed, so little at a time that at first, I hardly noticed. But now I see the total effect of this practice. I’ve learned that kindness is not complete until I expand its boundaries to include myself. I carried in my hands the tool for healing, my camera, and every press of the shutter acted like medicine for me.
"And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home."
-Wendell Berry, The Unforeseen Wilderness: Kentucky's Red River Gorge
I am thankful to Rebecca, my kindred spirit, for her abiding support and friendship and to the many kind readers who are so much more than followers. To my letter-writing friend, Polly, who kept me going with a steady stream of encouragement and good things to read, I reach out across the miles to share a hug. And to my husband, Dave, who kept me company every day and waited while I took just one more picture ... l love you forever and always.
These 365 pictures are the story of my healing.