There is no shame in knowing and seeing yourself. There is no shame in facing yourself and loving the human the looks back. There is no shame in documenting your existence in the moments that you love yourself, or need to remind yourself that your physicality is powerful, or in vanity and the striving to feel whole. In fact, seeing yourself in brokenness and the reality of your situation can be incredibly grounding. Hard, terribly hard, but important. I would maybe argue that it's essential.

Let us not strive for purity; let us strive for liveliness and fullness and the gasp of air after a season of drowning. Let us celebrate one another instead of degrading each other for our accomplishments and successes. Let us not settle for molds of who we are expected to be. Take up space. Take selfies. Take, and give.

When you document your own existence, you remind others that they can too. There is no embarrassment in rejoicing in yourself. The fact that we have become conditioned to shame each other for using technology as a tool of self expression is proof of our fear of self love and the power of grace, rejuvenation. We have learned to settle. We have let boxes win, once again.

This morning I photographed a number of different adults in a corporate headshot session. The stress and tension that most of my clients exhibited in front of the camera struck me. It's the same fear I witness during family photos at weddings. Generations before ours have learned to fear having their photo taken, whereas we see cameras as a way to bear witness to ourselves. Of course, we are still saturated with images of "perfection" and impossible beauty standards, but I also believe that selfie culture is creating an undercurrent that promotes self love and deconstructs the tension that many people experience with images of themselves.

I think I have come to a place where I believe that selflessness begins with fully loving the self, and in loving the self, being willing and able to give up the self. When we realize our importance and worth, we simultaneously awaken to our insignificance. And we are moved.

Purity is empty. Purity is nonexistent in this life. To be pure is to not be marked by the tides of this life, and none of us can avoid the inevitable push and pull. Why do we teach our kin to strive for purity and not for self love? Why do we teach abstinence before we teach grace and tenderness and consent? What is actually our priority - control, or joy? For the expansion of human consciousness, or the restriction of the heart?

I am learning to love paradox. That I sit in my body and love my thighs that seem to get a little plumper every week as I age and ruffle my hair that is finding its curl again and watch my freckles appear once again in the early summer sun. But that I also exist in a chemical imbalance that causes me to tear the skin on my fingers and pull my eyelashes and eyebrows out when I'm stressed and pick at my toes until they bleed. 

I have visions of sunlight and refractions in salt water and womxn whose hair whips around their faces and eagle feathers brush their arms as they lift their hands towards a light they always knew existed. Womxn whose seal skins allow them to be in the sea and whose human bodies allow them to feel grass between their toes, these womxn who can exist in two places at once, womxn who are not forced to choose but can exist in their complicated, simple, duality. The legends of trees whispering to humanity, telling us to come home. I am learning to open. Trying to bloom, one petal at a time. Allowing dolphins to swim through my neurons and bluejays to make nests at my cuticles.  

Maybe I'm another dumb millennial. But I'm listening, and this is what I am beginning to hear.



He died unexpectedly. I do not have much experience with death; I have not watched any of my  grandparents' passings yet. I have never had any close friends vanish without warning. My immediate family is healthy and happy and very alive, as crazy as we all might be. Although my close circles have remained intact, there have been two shocking deaths in my life: that of my mother's little sister's husband in February 2012, and that of James Graham, in April of 2012. April 14th, 2012. Five years ago.

Jim and my father grew up together in Napa, CA. They eventually attended Seattle Pacific University together in the early 1980's. From the stories I've been told throughout my life, the two of them caused a ruckus wherever they went. My father, who I feel blossoming within myself more and more as I grow, was seen by Jim. They were soul friends. My dad tells a story of living in SPU's on campus apartments and his senior year, him, Jim, and a few of their other best friends spent a spring afternoon drinking beer, dancing, and blasting music as a big middle finger to Seattle Pacific's ridiculous lifestyle expectations. There's a story of Jim and my dad running around golf courses in the middle of the night and getting stuck in a pond. I can't quite remember how that one ends - you'll have to ask my father.

Jim wrote my mom letters. She still has all of them.

I don't remember much about Jim, but I remember his laugh. Not even necessarily the sound, but the feeling. Jim loved to laugh, and he taught others how to rejoice in humor alongside him. Jim wasn't afraid to make a joyful noise. I was young when I spent most of my time with Jim, no older than three, maybe four, but I remember his unapologetic laughter. It rattled your ribs. Its energy made you giddy. You could end up laughing and not be entirely sure why, but you were, and that alone was enough to steady your sorrow and transform teardrops into prisms. And he had a tattoo of an armadillo on his ankle.

I didn't see Jim for 14 years. At some point in my early childhood, he disconnected from my parents, for reasons nobody could fully wrap their heads around. From my understanding, I don't think Jim even really knew. But my adolescence and teenagehood were spent completely Jim-less. Occasionally he would come up in storytelling or dinner conversation, there would be a moment of reminiscing, and then we would move on, with a damp sense of remorse surrounding the table for five minutes.

It was when I visited Seattle Pacific University for my own college pursuits in January 2012 that I saw Jim for the first time since I was a small girl. Although my dad moved back to California after college, Jim stayed in the Pacific Northwest. And after years of silence, my dad took a breath of courage and asked if Jim were free to meet up with my family for lunch while we were all briefly in Seattle. He said yes.

We met at a Greek restaurant near the University of Washington on a dismal January afternoon. There was a bookstore connected to the restaurant - very Jim. He met my little sister for the first time. He hugged my parents with nostalgia. I think we ate pita bread and lamb or something similar and he asked my sister and I about our lives, and even though I didn't realize it at the time, that lunch was one of the most holy meals I've every participated in.

After lunch, we all hugged Jim, and there was hope, and the beginning glimmers of reconciliation.

Jim and my dad texted for the following months, trading jokes and stories from the last 14 years. My dad finally asked for clarification about why Jim disappeared from his life. Jim apologized and gave whatever bits of explanation he could. From my interpretation of the whole thing, they had a connection and understanding of one another that transcended written communication. So whatever was said was enough to begin the process of healing. Jim and I became friends on Facebook. We exchanged a couple of messages between the two of us. The sun was rising after a long, dark winter.

I committed to Seattle Pacific at the beginning of April 2012. My family found an old box of film photos, including the two photographs in this blog post. I scanned them into my computer with the intention of posting them to Jim's Facebook wall and telling him I would be moving to Seattle in the fall. We could know each other. We could have a relationship. Finally, after a week or so of constantly forgetting to share them with Jim, I posted them around 8 PM on April 13th, 2012.

The next morning, a Sunday, I woke up at 7:30 to my mother's sobs. Jim had been struck by a car on Alaska Way in Downtown Seattle. He died that night.

I don't know if he ever saw the photos I posted to him, my excitement to know him, the hope I had felt only 12 hours previously.

My mom, sister, and I went to church in a daze. My dad, being the worship leader, had left for church at 5:30. He didn't know. I remember watching my mom walk up to him at the front of the sanctuary once the service was done, telling him she needed to talk to him at home as soon as he was packed up. I remember feeling numb. I don't really remember the rest of the day.

There's more to this story, familial intricacies and connections that led to my dad conducting Jim's memorial service a couple weeks later. Paul and Sheila trusting my dad, loving Jim, knowing that my father would make something beautiful. I wasn't there, but I have heard of the marvel, the spiritual presences, that danced through the room as people read quotes from children's novels, and a slideshow of illustrated pages from children's books played behind the readers.

Jim loved stories. So here is one of Jim's stories. I can't do it justice, but it's enough for now. 

We miss you.

"There is a room in the Department of Mysteries... that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than forces of nature. It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that resides there. It is the power held within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all. That power took you to save Sirius tonight. That power saved you from possession by Voldemort, because he could not bear to reside in a body so full for the force he detests. In the end, it mattered not that you could close your mind. It was your heart that saved you."


good morning. went to bed at 10:30 last night, woke up at 7:50. stretched and praised the morning glimmers. the sun poured through my balcony window. i peeled and placed a temporary tattoo on my chest. it feels very right there.