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  • Jan

    TOPIC: Personal.

    Hanging up my shingle

    …um, in reverse?

    I realized in the course of a self-Google (there’s just no good way to say that) that I haven’t been to this website in a while. I was alarmed to see that I had put my cell phone number basically all over the Internet, which may explain why I get so many unsolicited phone calls offering me a free vacation if I act now. So while tidying that up, I came across this site. This beautifully designed site for a dream that I wonder if I ever really had.

    My last entry on this blog is hard to read. I wrote it during the very short window of time that my mom was considered cancer-free. We took our trip to Paris–it was weird and wonderful; not at all what we expected but full of magic that I’ll never forget. And then a month later the cancer was back, and it was all over the place. My mom went through ten more months of agony, both physical and emotional (much of that thanks to a healthcare system that forces very ill people to advocate for themselves and slams dozens of doors in their faces before finally allowing them to give up hope). She underwent biopsies, scans, and an incredibly brutal round of radiation that the doctors told us should buy her the six months she’d need to qualify for a clinical trial. Instead, she lived another five weeks. The day I realized that she was never going to be “okay” again, not even for a minute, is one I can hardly think about.

    I didn’t really intend to come here and write about my mom. I’ve done so much of that in my Project 365, year six of which was basically all sickness and sadness, all the time. I still keep that up, even though I don’t post the results on this blog anymore. It’s actually been very therapeutic. I started posting almost every day, instead of at the end of the week, which meant the project became almost more about words than photos. Words have been what I’ve needed, because I struggle to express the depth of my emotions in conversation with anyone who hasn’t experienced this kind of loss. I still worry about ruining other people’s days if I’m honest with them. I still have to self-censor occasionally, mostly out of respect to my mom, but it’s been a good outlet. I’m glad I was in the habit for so long before all this happened; it kept me going, and it allowed me to occasionally skip a day and use an old photo without feeling guilty.

    Part of what I learned while my mom was dying was that I tend to attach a lot of importance to things that ultimately don’t matter at all. One of those things was my web presence. I had effectively shuttered my photography business in 2013, but I still blogged almost everything I shot in 2014. Why? I remember sitting in my mom’s hospital room, knocking out blogs for 13 sessions. If I wasn’t trying to get business, why was I spending tedious hours resizing photos into collages? So while I do still shoot sometimes, I haven’t felt compelled to share. I crave more time spent away from the computer screen. Blogging had to fall by the wayside.

    That meant I stopped writing my bug blog, too, although not for lack of engaging in Internet entomology. (I deliberately resisted the urge to make that a portmanteau.) I just felt like there must be a more useful thing to do with my nature photos than confine them to a nigh-totally-unread blog. Luckily, I attended a session at the Urban Parks Conference last year where someone evangelized iNaturalist, so I started uploading all my photos there. This way, should an actual scientist want to track the spread of the checkered setwing dragonfly, they can search on iNat and see that I found one straying well east of its range right here in Cordova. This enormous amount of uploading is what I did during my mom’s 2015 stint in the hospital while she was sleeping. At present, this seems more worthwhile than how I spent the 2014 hospital-thon. I’m still into it, at any rate. Look! Behold the pretty dragons.

    So that’s it. There wasn’t really a point to this post, other than to acknowledge that this place is full of cobwebs and likely to remain that way. I’d like to keep it here for a while, because it reminds me of Before. Not necessarily a good Before, because this site was designed during the first few months after my mom’s diagnosis, and those were not happy times by any stretch. But if there’s anything Project 365 has taught me, it’s that I need to remember. In my tough moments, I go back and look at other tough moments I wrote about, because I obviously survived those days. This little site is a reminder that I could find beauty in the darkness, and that’s not such a bad message for a world that can sometimes seem colorless in the aftermath of loss. Au revoir for now.

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