03 April 2020

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62//365

once

I took a walk in my old neighborhood in the city. realized everything was completely different yet exactly the same.

02 April 2020

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61//365

once

I stood at the corner of ponce, spied a bike perched above the power lines that genuinely looked as if it wanted to make a break for it. like it wanted to pedal itself backwards, right up into that wide open sky. thought, me too, buddy. me too.

01 April 2020

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60//365

once

we stood beneath the great angel oak in john's island, south carolina. ran our hands gently over ancient mammoth limbs that seemed to wind and curve outwards instead of upwards, as if pleading with something wholly unknown. I was not prepared for the way this made me feel.

31 March 2020

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once

I got lost in chinatown in san francisco. turned right when I should have turned left or left when I should have turned right, who knows. felt the edges of panic and ducked into a nearby stairwell to reassess, which is when I convinced myself it might be nice to just be lost for a little while. to use an entirely different compass, if only for a few minutes. to wander for an hour with nary a glance at google maps. 

30 March 2020

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58//365

once

while we were passing through palm springs, I made my entire family wait in the car while I ventured inside the parker hotel. I had to see the place for myself. and it had to be done without two kids and a husband in tow, which was totally the right call at the time. and of course, completely worth it. 

29 March 2020

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57//365

once

we showed up at the park for international pillow fight day. expected to find forty, maybe fifty people gathered but instead arrived to find at least a couple hundred. and so we made our way into the middle of that big, beautiful (strangely hopeful) pillowy mess and fought until we were covered with sweat, until we were so exhausted we could no longer dodge the swings, until our stomachs hurt from the laughing.

28 March 2020

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56//365

once

I wandered the streets of a small folly island neighborhood in south carolina. stumbled onto a fence draped with candy-colored fishing buoys and was instantly filled with a particular nostalgia I couldn't name. and then I remembered a picture book I loved when I was little, and the girl in it who wore a beaded necklace, one that looked just like those fishing buoys. I remembered how much I loved that necklace, how much I wanted to hold it in my hands and wear it around my own neck. and so I stood there and let myself slip down inside that lovely childhood rabbit hole for a few minutes. savored the memory of it like the last bit of candy on my tongue.

27 March 2020

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55//365

once

I made a portrait of a young man who wore his hair like a radiant, solar crown. like a magnificent amber cloud.

26 March 2020

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54//365

once

my friend kateri said you couldn't quarantine magic hour. and she was right.

25 March 2020

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once

we passed an old drive-in movie theatre on our way to a fleamarket in texas. my cousin, who'd driven this way countless times, flew past it with nary a mention. I, on the other hand, thought my eyes might pop out of my head. so beautiful my heart beat a little faster at the sight of it, so perfect it did not seem real. all I had time to do in the moment was point and gasp.

on the way back, I asked if we could stop. we were in a bit of a hurry but my cousin indulged me, pulled the car into what was left of the entrance. as I got out to take a closer look she mentioned she'd stopped once before for a yard sale and had talked with the owners, actually, who lived in the little brick house right next to the drive-in. as it turned out, it had been in their family for decades. they'd tried to keep the starlight alive as long as they could, they really tried, but finally had to let it go.

so, there it sits. a golden beacon of nostalgia set along a mostly forgettable stretch of texas highway. an american poem. the beginning of a song, maybe, or the end of one.

24 March 2020

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52//365

once

I spent a few days with friends in a skinny three-story flat on the back end of an ancient building in new orleans. when we first arrived, we ran our hands over the golden peacock wallpaper on the first floor, joked about who might fall while climbing the rickety red spiral staircase that led to the second floor and laughed when we saw the old wooden ladder that led up to the sliver of sleeping space above the tiny kitchenette. we spent most of our time on that second floor, though. eating brown butter drop donuts from the bakery down the street, talking about all the things we should be out doing instead of laying around eating brown butter drop donuts.

my own version of a barbie dream house is what it was. gently decayed, slightly oddball in all the right ways. as if my nine year-old self somehow combined powers with my forty-something self and magically conjured up the place and said, here. this is for you. 

23 March 2020

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51//365

once

I wandered the streets of gjilan, kosovo wishing for albanian words to magically fall out anytime I opened my mouth.

22 March 2020

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50//365

once

we stood at the edge of everything. picked up smooth, oval rocks that fit perfectly in the palm of our hands, threw them into the pacific ocean. because we could.

21 March 2020

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once

while we were driving south down the 101 to los angeles, I fell hard for some plastic fruit crates in castroville, the artichoke capitol of the world.

20 March 2020

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48//365

once

our car broke down in tennessee. somewhere between nashville and chattanooga around midnight. just whimpered along the shoulder of the highway and sputtered to a stop. I swore the night never felt so deep and dark and ominous than in that particular moment. isn't that always the way? flying down the highway in the middle of the night feels like magic until your car dies and you suddenly come so close to the unknown you can practically feel it slide across your skin. 

a fireworks store as big as a warehouse with monster floodlights to match but of course, it was closed. in a pre-cell phone era, there was nothing else to do but walk. towards an exit we thought we remembered passing a few miles back, along the soft, narrow shoulder of a major highway in the middle of what will always be remembered as the most lightless night. 

three miles felt like three hundred years. every semi passed with a violence that nearly lifted me off my feet and for an hour we walked like this, wincing at every passing truck and shuffling and swearing and praying until we reached the exit and finally, our salvation: the old roy acuff country inn. 

I almost cried when I saw that giant neon cowboy boot.

19 March 2020

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47//365

once

I found a delightful way to burn through an entire roll of quarters.

18 March 2020

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46//365

once

I made a portrait of a stranger outside a coffee shop in portland, oregon. I was nervous about it, hemmed and hawed over whether or not I should approach him. eventually, I got out of my own way. we exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes while I fumbled with my camera. I was awkward, I am sure of it, but I did the thing, thanked him and walked away. 

seven years later, I received a message from this same stranger, who had somehow miraculously stumbled onto my work through a friend. he had since become a photographer himself and felt, in some small way, I had sparked the beginning of something in him that day. 

17 March 2020

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45//365

once

while wandering the streets of savannah on a tuesday afternoon, I saw a girl wearing floor-length prom gown the color of apricots, a man scream-singing rock the casbah out the window of a beat-up datsun and a woman in a starched calico bonnet so enormous it completely obscured her face. 

16 March 2020

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44//365

once

my brother, who was raising two young daughters at the time, said balloons were nothing but heartbreak on a string. in the most dramatic of scenarios, they disappear with a violence that is not soon forgotten. they pop quite suddently or float up into an infinite sky, if the holder loosens her grip for even a second, lost forever and ever, amen.

15 March 2020

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43//365

once

I found myself between buddha and the man in a louisiana junk shop.

14 March 2020

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42//365

once

we bribed our children with cherry slurpees so we could stop and marvel at all the old motels we saw along route 66. this will be the last one, we told them. really. promise. the last one. and they sat in the back seat, mouths stained cherry slurpee red and groaned in protest because they knew. this would not be the last one. 

13 March 2020

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41//365

once

I watched a couple in matching floral outfits dance while a zydeco band played. spinning and swinging and reaching for each other as if they'd been dancing together like this for a hundred years. and when they stopped for a few minutes, held each other as if they were the only ones in that tent, that park, that town, as if they were the only ones in the universe. 

12 March 2020

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40//365

once

I stood on pell street and waited for something to happen. something, anything. but it was already happening, everywhere, all around me.

11 March 2020

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39//365

once

I saw a kid arguing with his mother outside the photobooths at the carnival. he wanted pictures of himself shirtless, she did not. she held his shirt in her hands, balled it up and thrust it in his face. he kicked at the ground and yelled at her until finally, she gave in, put the token in the slot while her shirtless son slipped behind the curtain. 

10 March 2020

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38//365

once

I spent the night at howard finster's paradise garden

the little rental cottage across the street granted us full twenty-four hour access to the garden so of course we wandered the grounds during magic hour and then during blue hour and then late at night, simply because we could. twin tabby cats slipped in and out of shadows as we walked, string lights hung from the eaves like jewelry but the real prize was the garden by moonlight.

all we could see, could not see, maybe did not want to see, is what I woke up thinking about the next morning. 

09 March 2020

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37//365

once

we got up early on a saturday morning in july, packed the car with suitcases and coolers, floats and and cheap beach chairs, drove ten hours south, down through the state of georgia, through the middle of the state of florida, past billboards advertising gun shops and shooting ranges, end times and alligator souvenir spots, drove until we were nothing but a car full of tired. drove until we hit that little stretch of beach that is not ours but feels like it is.

we drove until we saw the signs for the place with the condo that belongs to the friend of a friend who is kind enough to let two families squeeze into it for one week, free of charge. we pulled in, scrambled to unload things, shimmied into suits, made a beeline.

by sunset, we were in the ocean. warm as bath water, soft lavender sky. another continent, really-- an altogether different planet. 

08 March 2020

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36//365

once

we took to the streets of atlanta, we marched for women. for all of us, everywhere.

07 March 2020

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35//365

once

I stumbled onto the magical final resting place of all the old rotary phones that have ever existed in this world.

06 March 2020

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34//365

once

I met a man in washington square park holding a small cardboard sign that read: IF YOU WANT, I WILL BE YOUR FIRST MARIJUANA MAYOR. we talked about the possibility of this for a few minutes before he slowly flipped the sign over to show me what he'd written in block letters on the back: WHY NOT REPLACE TRUMP WITH ME?

05 March 2020

33//365

33//365

once

during a heat wave at a fleamarket in texas, I pulled myself up and into the cab of a monster truck, just to sit and feel the blast of the air conditioner on my face for a couple of minutes.

04 March 2020

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32//365

once

I pleaded with the internet to send me all over the world to photograph hanging laundry. I did not actually expect the internet to comply. still, I hoped.

03 March 2020

31//365

31//365

once

I lied to my son. when he asked if it would take more than three days to drive across the country, I said no. though I did finally admit that maybe --maybe-- it might take a little bit longer. I kept my answers vague because three days was his scary number. three days was the answer he had hoped against all hope he would not hear. to a ten year-old, three days on the road to a is a lifetime but fourteen days on the road is, well, unfathomable. so I did what I had to do, I lied. I'm not proud of it, but I lied.

but after three days of driving, he stopped asking 'how much longer' and started asking 'what next'-- what city, what park, what mountain, what highway, what adventure, what next? what next?

I came to love the sound of those two words: what next.

02 March 2020

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30//365

once

I took the kids to an orchard to pick peaches a couple hours outside the city. we filled our baskets in no time but kept working our way deeper and deeper into that fragrant thicket of fruit, as if maybe there was something else waiting for us in what felt like the very center of the peach universe. 

01 March 2020

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29//365

once

we stumbled onto a group of young native american dancers downtown santa fe in new mexico. I crossed the street to the plaza in a flash, clumsy with enthusiasm. I snaked my way to the front, fished out what few dollar bills I could find to drop into the donation bucket and then kneeled to watch, wide-eyed. as if I were back in elementary school at assembly, fourth grade all over again.

hours later, I saw them loading drums and costumes into the back of a burgundy minivan, the dancers dressed in street clothes. baggy nylon shorts, neon pokemon shirts. freshly scrubbed faces with the ghost remains of charcoal face paint. they chased each other across the sidewalk while the adults worked, drank mountain dew from cans, laughed, kick rocks. fourth grade all over again. 

29 February 2020

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28//365

once

I saw the city of san francisco through a soupy fog and immediately wanted to sit down and write a love letter to it.

28 February 2020

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27//365

once

I spent a few days in an old victorian house in new orleans where I did not want for hot sauce.

27 February 2020

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26//365

once

I photobombed a field of sunflowers on 1-5 south in california.

26 February 2020

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25//365

once

I took a trio of middle school kids to shoot polaroids at a local doughnut shop.

in another life, I taught for an after school program in portland, oregon. while my digital photography class was wildly popular, my instant photography class was not. three girls signed up (one of which, admittedly, was my own daughter), as opposed to the fifteen that enrolled for the digital. I think I can now openly admit just how much I favored this little polaroid group, impromptu doughnut shop photo shoot merely exhibit A in a long line of damning evidence. 

we went through at least five boxes of pack film that day, consumed at least a dozen doughnuts. when we finally finished, our table was a spectacular mess of peel-apart photographs and empty milk cartons.

I was in love with the idea of a future that included a few kids with a heart for the past.

25 February 2020

24//365

24//365

once

I found a package of bologna in the lamp section at walmart. sitting on the shelf there, nestled between chunky ceramic bases and a stack of shades  in the middle of a sea of cheap lamps, nestled between a few chunky ceramic bases and a stack of shades as fleshy pink as the lunch meat itself. as if the potential buyer took one look at the sea of lamps and thought, I've got to make some changes. as if they suddenly surveyed the items in their cart and thought, what am I doing with this bologna. what. am I doing. 

24 February 2020

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23//365

once

I stopped to look up at an old launderette sign but looked down and found the sky in a puddle instead.

23 February 2020

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22//365

once

I stood in a south atlanta parking lot in the middle of april. watched a gaggle of kids pop wheelies as they rode past, watched as they looked in my direction for some sort of reaction. listened to the shriek of the marta train every ten minutes, felt the high sun hot on my neck at three in the afternoon. felt that for once I was in the right place at the right time. 

22 February 2020

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once

I read that saul leiter said that a window covered with raindrops interested him more than a photograph of a famous person. I wholeheartedly agree.

21 February 2020

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20//365

once

I fell in love with a laundromat because someone thought to collect a rainbow of empty laundry detergent screw caps and place them next to the change machine so that people could use them to hold their many quarters while they went about the business of washing and drying clothes.

20 February 2020

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19//365

once

I drove to a stretch of the pacific ocean I'd never been to before. on the way there, I stopped whenever I felt like it. for roadside cherry stands, for strange flowers, junk shops, lone phone booths. I drove until I hit limantour beach and my hands itched from the steady hum of the steering wheel, until I was dizzy from both the constant curves of the road and the thrill of the great alone. until the ocean was all I could see, hear, smell, feel.

19 February 2020

18//365

18//365

once

I spent an entire saturday afternoon at an accordion festival.

accordions, everywhere. stacked lovingly on tables where the light seemed to hit them just right, with names as exotic and melodic as the sounds that came wheezing out of them all afternoon. big, beautiful accordions in the hands of women, men and children, all ages, all backgrounds, strolling and playing, and then some up on stages scattered throughout the park and then the rest of us dancing, or at the very least swaying, and smiling so much our cheeks hurt. 

18 February 2020

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17//365

once

I insisted we ride the elevator from the basement level to the top floor because it made me feel a little bit like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

17 February 2020

16//365

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once

while we were driving across the country, we stumbled onto a fence full of shoes in the middle of nowhere. or, what felt like the middle of nowhere. we'd been on the road nine days and were somewhere in the state of california on highway 67. but also, in the ether of the great in between. in between portland, oregon and atlanta, georgia. in between old city and new city. old home, new home. old life, new life. here, there. invariably, nowhere and everywhere.

16 February 2020

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15//365

once

we drove in pouring rain all the way to the end of sanibel island for orange crunch cake. on the drive back, we rounded a corner and found the sky on fire. we did not hem, we did not haw, we promptly pulled over and got out of the car.

I stood there, face full of pink fire and thought, this is what we live for. 

15 February 2020

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once

I spotted a man in a lemon yellow jester's hat at the local library. just walking around, armful of books, head full of jester. on a weekday morning, no less. he was not there with children, he did not lead the story hour. he was just a man, checking out books. in a lemon yellow jester's hat.

I got no work done that morning. I had no right but I wanted answers. 

14 February 2020

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13//365

once

while we were sitting at the table in the backyard, ava told me that blowing bubbles calmed her. like maybe the same way smoking does for some people. 

I couldn't help but think of a world where people step outside to take a break and blow bubbles every couple of hours to calm their nerves. or hold small plastic bubble wands between their fingers while they knock back a few drinks at the pub down on the corner.