Hi. Hello. How are you?

I sat down next to her in the sand and said “Hi.”

A soft foreign tongue replied “Hello.”

Smiling I said, “How are you?”

She offered a warm smile back and said, “I’m good. . .”

Camera in hand I asked, “May I photograph you?”

“Yes, but I don’t take good photos” was her bashful reply.

“Just keep doing what you are doing, and I’ll take care of the rest. . .”

 

It all started with the intent to rise from bed at the early morning hour of 5:30 AM to catch the sun as it peaked over the horizon. My camera was eager for an adventure and the sun-lit ocean surface would make an attractive background for the photos I was to present to my client. In theory this was going to be an amazing photoshoot. However, at that hour my body had other priorities; like sleep. Needless to say my agenda was altered when I missed my alarm clock’s wakeup call. This now meant that I had to catch the sunset if I was going to capture some stellar photos by the water’s edge for my client.

As I concluded my other duties for the day I watched for the perfect time to venture to the beach. I suppose it was around 6:30 in the evening that this prime time presented itself. With my gear in tow I made my way toward the coast and found an elegant area of sand to support my shoot. The sun was peaking in and out from behind the dark blue clouds in the sky. The wind was maturing to a point of being noticed. The ocean was having its typical conversation with the shoreline but today their connection was especially soothing and smooth. It was my camera’s favorite weather conditions and the products I was shooting looked great against this backdrop. Naturally as I concluded the product pictures my lens got curious about its surroundings. As I glanced up from where I was stationed my eyes were met with a delicate view. At some point while I was preoccupied with my original shoot the section of beach directly in front of me had been cleared of its inhabitants. In the void sat a lone soul. My lens was quick to act as I arose to my feet. I gently stepped forward as if approaching a rare bird in its natural habitat, but not wanting to spook it. In view, all alone with only her thoughts, a peaceful young woman sat in the sand penning her mind to paper.

The wind was ever so gently brushing her hair from her neck and face. Her sun-kissed skin made an attractive contrast against the bleached sand. She sat with her toes eagerly reaching toward the water’s edge. Disappointed in the water’s distance she let her toes play freely in the sand. Piled on her righthand side was a small collection of belongings. The only thing she seemed concerned with in the moment was embracing the free feeling provided by her surroundings and capturing her thoughts with pen and paper.

Approaching from behind I took a knee in the sand. Like a sniper preparing for his shot I made my camera adjustments and composed my photo. My index finger found home. Snap! What a beautiful picture. I smiled to myself and thought “This is my favorite type of photography. The world rushes to the beat of time and often misses the little details of life. However, for me, getting lost in time with my camera. . . seeing beyond the surface of life. . . and exposing a story with a photograph is true bliss. This is the future of Fourth Dimension Photography.”

 

Fly Like Eddie

I can speak French, which is really no big deal since a lot of people speak French. But I learned this beautiful language from 2nd graders at a private school in Portland, OR and I’m guessing not too many people can say that. I am fluent in French kids games and 2nd grader jokes.

During my homeschool high school years I wanted to learn French. No one in my family spoke the language. Since this was in a day and age when we did not have computers in our homes and the internet was not yet invented, I was limited to borrowing cassette tape language courses from the local library and reading a Berlitz book. Basically I was learning French on my own and had no idea whether I was getting it right or not. Some people told me I’d never been able to master the language unless I took a French class. It was the only way. The only problem was that, since I was homeschooled, I was considered truant from school and, hence, unable to participate in any classes at the local schools.

When I was 16 years old, I saw an article in the Oregonian about the French-American International School (Ecole Francaise). My mother suggested that I write a letter to the directrice of the school, asking if there were any volunteer positions to be had. If I could be in the French environment on a daily basis it would help with my language learning endeavors. So I wrote the letter, sealed it in an envelope, and mailed it off with the hope that my offer to volunteer my time would be accepted.

A few weeks later, I received a reply offering me a job! The school needed a teacher’s assistant and wondered if I would be available to work Monday through Friday during normal school hours. Being homeschooled, this was an option. I could work during the day and do my studies at night. I could hardly believe my good fortune!

During the next school year I worked each week assisting Martine, the second grade teacher. All of the teachers and students were French – like actually from France. (So much better than being in a class of Americans trying to learn French from their American teacher!) The children’s parents had brought their families to the Portland area for mostly job-related reasons and wanted their kids to continue with their French schooling while in America. This was the student body of Ecole Francaise. So Monday through Friday, between he hours of 7:30-3:30, I packed up a lunch and headed off to work in Paris in Portland. It was wonderful. The kids were fantastic teachers of French. The other teachers were very patient with me as I learned the correct way to roll the R and cut off the N. Once I received the nicest compliment: a parent of one of the students told me I spoke English very well! Ha! I even fooled a native French speaker!

After that school year ended, I worked as a nanny for two precious little French girls living in Portland for the summer while their mother visited family and did some professional photography work. The following fall, I left for Europe with my friend Wayne, spending quite a bit of time in France as well as the French-speaking part of Switzerland. By that time, I was fairly fluent and could have conversations as well as accurately navigate Wayne and I around Europe with a bit of Franglais thrown in when visiting other Latin-based language parts of the world.

I often think back to those years, how a simple desire to do something turned into so much more. It taught me that really anything is possible. I had aimed too low initially when I asked for the volunteer position. I should have aimed higher. I’ve been reminded of this over the years with the building of the cat empire. A simple desire turned into something so huge, so beyond the scope of what was first imagined. Even things that others say are impossible

This past week my husband took me to a preview of “Eddie the Eagle,” a movie set to open at the end of February. The movie depicts the true story of Eddie Edwards, an Olympic ski jumper from Great Britain. When Eddie was a kid he dreamed of being an Olympian. Only Eddie was not athletic and Eddie had problems with his legs that caused him to have extended stays in the hospital and wear leg braces for much of his childhood. Still, though, despite all the impossibilities, Eddie was determined to be an Olympian. The movie shows Eddie’s amazing journey to the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. It is a truly remarkable story. Totally unbelievable really. Insane almost. Eddie was more determined that anyone else I’ve ever known. His story is so incredibly inspiring. I recommend that everyone go see “Eddie the Eagle” when it opens. Watch it twice and then #flylikeEddie.

This brings me around to #6 on my list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about me: I love to prove people wrong. It’s an amazing thing to do that which other people tell you can’t be done. It’s even better when the outcome helps people all over the world. Go see the movie….. you’ll see what I mean.

 

Outrun the Police

When I was 18 years old I found out I could run faster than the police. At least in Italy. It’s a good thing, too, because I’ve heard it’s nearly impossible to get out of the Italian prison system once you’re in it.

In 1987 I spent three months backpacking around Europe with a good friend of mine. Wayne, my traveling companion for those months, was more like a brother to me while we were growing up. It only made sense when I decided to take a few months between high school graduation and wedding day to galavant around Europe that Wayne would make a great choice for some added braun to keep me safe. We were both engaged at the time, only not to each other.

With passports, Eurail passes, and youth hostel memberships in hand, we slung bags over our youthful shoulders and headed off to see the world. We had many wonderful adventures along the way, stopping wherever and whenever our hearts desired. I remember one occasion stopping off in a small town in Holland (now the Netherlands) simply because it smelled like chocolate when the train rolled into the station. As it turned out, there was a chocolate factory nearby, and we were able to get a cheap room for the night, the delicious scent of chocolate wafting in through the open window.

I still have the pair of purple Converse hightops I wore most days during our 3-month excursion. I put many kilometers on those treads! Maybe that’s why I’ve kept the shoes after all these years…..the memories in the soles.

I distinctly remember we were in Huemoz, Switzerland near Villars on my 19th birthday. I remember that because I got lost in the Alps that day. The kind of lost that leaves one completely alone in the dark on the side of a mountain, wondering if they will make it through the night or ever see their loved ones again. Just as the search party was gathering to head off to my last known whereabouts, I limped into town, down the one road that ran through the quaint village of Huemoz, and into the chalet where we were staying. It turns out I have survival skills. At least when it’s not terribly cold out and freezing to death is an unlikely possibility.

I also distinctly remember the day Wayne and I were in Brindisi, Italy and decided to hop a boat to Greece. A misunderstanding that, to this day, I still don’t understand. left us running for our lives when an angry Italian man called the police on us. I swear we did nothing wrong. Fortunately for us, Wayne and I were fast and strong and extremely motivated to NOT be arrested. Friends had jokingly (or maybe not so jokingly) told us to be sure not to get caught up with the PoPo in Italy because once you are locked up in an Italian jail you might never get out. I have no idea why these warnings were given to us. But, I can tell you, the unsolicited advise provided that extra bit of motivation needed to get our legs pumping, our hearts racing, and our minds determined to outrun the police that day. Just as we jumped onto a bus pulling away from the curb, our assailant grabbed Wayne by the backpack and nearly succeeded in stopping our getaway. Wayne prevailed, the bus pulled away in the nick of time, and we spent the next several hours awaiting the ship departure from port looking over our shoulders and fearing for our lives.  When the ship finally pulled away from the land of all things Italian, we breathed out sighs of relief, letting the wind whip them away into the night out over the Adriatic Sea. We never looked back. Instead we went on to Greece and had a marvelous time taking in the sights, sampling the foods, and visiting an island with no cars on it.

So #5 on my list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about me: I can outrun the police if need be. And I don’t like Italy. It’s amazing how a bad experience can leave an unsavory taste in your mouth decades later. I know we saw many lovely things during our time in Venice, Florence, and southward toward Brindisi, but for me most of it is overshadowed by the angry Italian dude screaming at us and then running for our lives, certain we were going to end up like Jason Bourne (whom we hadn’t yet heard of…but you get the idea).