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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Wild-out Wednesdays: Windows and Doors

I have an odd affinity for pictures of windows and doorways.

doorway with bougainvillia, Tangier, Morocco
doorway with bougainvillia, Tangier, Morocco

I have huge collection of them – in fact I once did an entire photo project on doorways, and how they symbolize that spot where you shift from your “home” self, to your more reserved, protected “public” self. It’s sort an odd reversal of what with think doors are for – to keep the outside world out – and what they actually do, which is allow us back in.

I think I have doorways on my mind because I’ve been chained to my desk doing paperwork for a week, after a week of being outside and at the beach in Puerto Rico, and I am really chafing at the bit. Sometimes you can get a little too locked in your own head and forget what the real goals are – in my case, photography and storytelling – and you need to nudge yourself back onto the proper path. Is that too woo-woo mystical? Maybe. Maybe I just need a kick in the pants to get me out the door and outside.

These two windows are from a trip to Spain a couple of years ago, where I spent a day wandering the famous Alhambra palace, which is seriously eye-popping as a whole, but also filled with small vingnettes of such intricate detail that I could have – and did – spend hours falling into elaborate patterns of carved plaster and interlocking tile. The gardens around the palace were lush and green, and the reflected light filled the rooms with a soft, verdant illumination, like aquarium light, or the light you see when you look up towards the sky when you are below the surface whlle swimming. Odd to be in such a desert-like place, and yet be so enveloped by the coolness of water.

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In a further attempt to get out of my own head, I think I’m going to start to post once a week or so about stuff that’s come across my radar that I happen to like – other photographers, music, books, whatever. Prepare for randomness.

Music I’m listening to: This Song by Gotan Project has been one of my faves for, like, ever. I even had it on one of my phones as the ringtone, so I could feel sultry and tango-ish whenever the phone rang. Listen to it while chilling, or while strutting about with a rose in your teeth. Queremos Paz by Gotan Project

On the other hand, I just heard this song at a trivia game last night (we lost. AGAIN) and it cracked me up. Apparently it’s what all the kids are listening to, now that the Ne Ne has had it’s moment. I could swear this is a Sly and the Family Stone hook that they’re sampling, but I can’t quite place it… I love Myself by Kendrick Lamar

Instagram awesomeness: I am probably biased because of my recent trip, but check out @backpackpr on instagram for amazing pictures of an island I’ve come to love. Especially if all you know of Puerto Rico is San Juan, and maybe Rincon if you’re a surfer, this stream will show you a whole other side of the island – literally, in some cases, as it tends to focus on the Island’s wilder south coast and mountainous interior. https://instagram.com/backpackingpr/

Fave filmmaker: Everyone loves Andy Brandy Casagrande, but for my money Kina Scollay is the wild man to watch on Shark week, if only for his calm, wise face and crazy head o’ dreads. Follow his Instagram, or check out Big Blue Backyard, which was a New Zealand nature program that he provided a lot of the imagery for (only avail on Youtube, if you’re not in NZ, for some reason), or just go by his heart-stoppingly awesome website. Please, god, let me be as cool as Kina when I grow up…

Current reading: I realize I am totally late to the party with this, but I came into Born to Run, the great epic of UltraRunning by Christopher McDougall, thru the back door; I read his newest book, Natural Born Heroes, first, and then went looking for everything else I could find by him. Both are in heavy rotation on the nightstand as my “a-few-pages-before-bed-to-get-inspired” reading. I read these and came away convinced anyone could become a superhero.

Ummm…think that’s it for now, everyone have a good Wednesday….

Indie Candy Store at The Kitchn!

I have been completely disorganised around here this week– er, month – but I did get one thing accomplished, besides a big cycling event that was, literally hell on wheels (more on that later…)

photo by Amy Herr
photo by Amy Herr

I got another article published on The Kitchn!  My amazingly talented photographer friend, Amy Herr, did all the photographs, and I wrote the text. We drove over to Birmingham and spent a morning with the equally amazing Hanson Watkins, of Indie Candy, and she told us all about her business and shared delicious snacks with us.

photo by Amy Herr
photo by Amy Herr

Hop on over to www.thekitchn.com to read the whole story (there’s actually three), but while you’re here let me suggest giving Hanson’s website a gander if you have any sort of dietary limitations, or even if you don’t – her products are fantastic and you’re supporting a small business with a giant heart.

photo by Amy Herr
photo by Amy Herr

New article on “The Kitchn”

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Photo by Amy Herr

If you read the fun blog “The Kitchn” (www.thekitchn.com) head over there today, because my friend Amy Herr and I just had an article posted there! It’s a kitchen tour like the one we did for Erin Bennet a few months ago, with Amy’s photos and my writing. Check it out! 

http://www.thekitchn.com/julias-antique-industrial-atlanta-kitchen-kitchen-tour-203246?fb_action_ids=10152092069577011&fb_action_types=og.likes