The place I knew

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I’m sure everyone has heard this by now, but I am still shell-shocked to see the damage that is ongoing in Puerto Rico. I’ve been to the island many times – I was fortunate enough to go every year for a good stretch of time – and often considered making a second home there, or retiring in that region.

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As of now, those plans are on indefinite hold. I have no idea if Puerto Rico, and the towns of Isabella and Playa Jobos where I spent most of my time there, will ever be the places I knew again. Right now all I can see and hear are the terrible stories of suffering and uncertainty from good people who shared their island home with me.

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Is the Los Morillos Lighthouse still there? Are the Rangers who maintained the surrounding park safe? Did the nameless family that helped me when I got lost down a dead-end street in Isabella lose their home? Is Junior’s Pizza, always our first stop in Playa Jobos, even standing? People are telling stories of the long, winding route down 66, which used to wend through a dense tunnel of jungle foliage, now looking like a moonscape, with all the vegetation stripped away. Of El Yunque, the only rainforest that is part of the United States, scrubbed to bare rock.

I know everyone has compassion fatigue. There are so many horrible things right now. Houston. Miami. The Island of Barbuda completely uninhabitable. Earthquakes in Mexico. Volcanos in Indonesia. It feels like the earth is trying to shake humanity off, like a dog with a bad case of fleas. You feel – I feel – utterly helpless.

But please. If you have any ability, consider donating to one of these organizations to help the people of Puerto Rico, who so desperately need it.

OneAmericaAppeal.org  – led by five former presidents of the US

Unidos – run by the Hispanic Federation

GoFundMe – crowdsourced donations from individual groups. There is no good way to say this – the US government has fumbled this situation terribly and is causing active delays in aid. Small groups of concerned citizens – many with personal links on the island – are stepping into that space to try to make up for it.

All Hands Volunteers and PRVOAD are actively looking for volunteers to help. (The PRVOAD site is in Spanish, but can be translated through GoogleTranslate.)

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I’ve written before about the sickening feeling of watching a loved place descend into chaos, the gut wrenching knowledge that things will never be the same again. I also wrote about my immense relief when it turned out that I was wrong, and that people and places are more resilient than I had ever dared hope. I want so badly to be proven wrong again.

Be safe, and hold on to what you can.

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New Projects: The Palette Series, and Compact

I’ve just started a new photo project (because I don’t have enough half-finished projects laying around, including my documentary At The Edge Of The Sea, which is half-way thru post and may put me in my grave before it’s done). I did a shoot last week that involved photographing an art class doing oil paintings, and my friend Phillip (the actual photographer on this job) mentioned how cool the mixing pallets for each of the students were.

And BANG, just like that I’m obsessed and have a new project:

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I love them because they are sort of textural and abstract at the same time. And the colors! Meow.

In the interest of my sanity, I am going to abandon (har) my “Abandonded Buildings” project, largely because I can’t compete with the incredible stuff that’s being done in that area – really, go hit up Instagram and look up @abandoned_world and some of the other photographers doing stuff in that vein, it’ll blow your mind – and replace it with this new Palette series.

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Also on the new (sob) project front, I’m planning to start a web series called “Compact” which is all about small-space living – tiny houses (I’m obsessed with tiny houses), living on boats, RV living, cool studio conversions, you name it. I think it’ll be really fun. I’m constantly trying to downsize/simplify my own life so this gives me an outlet for that particular obsession.

Projects! I just listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast where he talked to musician/artist/all around cool babe Amanda Palmer, and at one point she talked about constantly having like 97 projects going at once, and I swear my reaction was, thank god it’s not just me. Hopefully you’ll enjoy some of my nonsense as it gets out there…

Photo of the Week: Les Invalides

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I had such, such high hopes about writing a comprehensive update on my film, At the Edge of the Sea, this week. Alas, I got pulled into a work trip that will cover 3200 miles in 11 days and currently has me in Lansing, Michigan for the next 12 hours before driving to Toronto, and then Toronto to Virginia on Monday. I forsee a trip to the chiropractor after this week from all the time locked in the driver’s seat.

I’ve been to Chicago, Madison, and now Lansing in the last three days, and as a (nearly) lifelong Southerner, I have to say: you people who live through the winter here, you are a strong, strong breed. My hat is off to you. But then back on again very quickly because it is so damned cold.

Don’t get me wrong, it gets down into the 20’s in Atlanta, but it does it for like 4 hours in the middle of the night. And when it snows it snows an inch and it lasts just long enough for everyone to go, “OOOOOH SNOW” and cancel school, and then poof! gone. How do y’all resist the urge to just eat macaroni and cheese for two weeks and then hibernate til spring? Because that is what I want to do and I’ve only been here since Tuesday.

Anyway, while I am lame and shivery, I will work on my movie update, and in the meantime enjoy this photo of sunset over Les Invalides in Paris. Ironically taken on a snowy day, but you can’t see that, so you’ll just have to imagine me shivering and complaining there.