But There Were Always New Ways of Seeing Her

Red heart tree

I went on a retreat last weekend with two of my best friends…who happen to be in a relationship with one another for the past three years.  We ventured out of the city for a weekend away to stay in a Mongolian Yurt in the Sierra Foothills. I had thought this weekend would mainly be about laughter and connecting on a deeper level in our friendship.  Both of these were true in so many ways throughout this weekend,..so much laughter, so many great heartfelt conversations.  However, an unexpected gift that I did not see coming was that I felt privy to their innermost thoughts and feelings within their relationship.

We were playing music in our yurt on the last night and Christi was closing her eyes taking it all in.  I sat silently not listening to the melody, the lyrics, or even attached to the beautiful intricacies of the Mongolian yurt.  My eyes were purely on Dev…with a glimmer in his eye and a small smile on his lips, he could not take his eyes off of her.  It was as if he was experiencing the music through her and that it was the most beautiful site he had ever seen.  I thought to myself…that is what loves looks like in the flesh.

This week I went to a Wisdom 2.0 meetup called Relationships and Dating as a Spiritual Path. It was an interesting seminar to take part in after experiencing such kinship the weekend before and my own current struggle with deflating relationships.  I was exactly where I was meant to be. The common theme that kept coming up within the panel and breakout sessions was this need to find yourself, know your needs, and be able to explain them to your partner.  So many struggled with identifying core needs and expressing them to their loved ones.

A woman in my group who was in her mid 50’s explained how she had been divorced a couple times and had just left her partner of eight years.  She left everything behind…a beautiful home, car, friends, and the stability that she used to call her life. She explained how for years she was the “pleaser” and acted like a chameleon to all of her friends and partner, bowing to their every whim.  She was invisible in this home she built for him and eventually gave up everything…except herself.  Through her tears, her story brought me back to my own reflections of the need to just be seen. To be validated for what you feel deep inside and for that to be ok.  Can I breathe easily? Can I let you look at me through this angle? Is it safe?

One of the panelists spoke about a book he references often in his work called Eleanor by Harry Callahan. I will most surely be purchasing this book for my coffee table as a reminder to take each moment to see the detailed portraits in each of us.

For much of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, photographer Harry Callahan’s wife, Eleanor, was his most regular subject. She stares out of his acclaimed work, sometimes sharp and sometimes blurred, sometimes Classical and sometimes Modern, in public parks and city streets, at the beach, in a tent, in the studio and their home, nude and clothed, eventually pregnant and then mothering. The couple’s longstanding collaboration makes up an intimate visual diary of their relationship and of Callahan’s artistic exploration: these are seldom portraits in the traditional sense. More than studies of Eleanor, they are stages in Callahan’s lifelong exploration of photography as a creative medium, showing his embrace of an array of materials and techniques, including highly detailed large-format negatives, distortions of movement and focus, silhouettes and multiple exposures. The subject was always Eleanor, but there were always new ways of seeing her.

In the middle of nowhere in a Mongolian Yurt, I witnessed Dev truly seeing Christi through his favorite medium which is music. I witnessed her allowing herself to be seen. I long to find that person to explore every angle and artistic expression with. However, until that moment when I am ready to be fully explored and exposed, I will try my best to be my own muse and Eleanor…keeping a visual and mental diary of my relationship with self and my longstanding collaboration with others. I will try to reformat negatives and I’m sure will go through multiple exposures on this journey we call life.


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