Saturday, July 10, 2010


I know that, once again, it's been too long since I've updated my personal blog; please know that it's only because I am busy professionally and am about to share some wonderful news!

After a busy month of May, during which Brian and I were participants in the Emerging Leaders Dialogue in Sitka, Alaska followed by weeks thick with all kinds of articles and work, June arrived with the book publication and debut reading of the students to whom I taught poetry during the spring, followed by an amazing week in New York after which I am officially engaged to be married to Brian. (!) I am so happy, so excited, so inspired, and so, so in love.

I would love to say more, but, I am exhausted and waiting in an airport in Baltimore to return home after four wonderful days of photographing my dear friend's wedding and catching up with old friends, so I am just going to share photographs of the past few months and leave you with the promise that I will write (really, this time), very soon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hawaii, BA and Tim Easton

tim easton
Originally uploaded by brian_adams

Winter is finally giving way to spring, the appearance of pussy willow buds, hot dog stands and long days pushing aside the dark quiet nights into a kind of manic reemergence of life. The birds can be seen in the sky making their way back to us, the sounds of the city that have been muted beneath snow are now buzzing with energy.

I have so loved the winter, but I have never been more excited to toss aside the coat and walk through the streets freely beneath slim clothing.

After our adventures in Shishmaref, AK, BA and I boarded a plane to Kona, Hawaii, where we photographed our dear friends' M & A's wedding and made their wedding cake. When we landed in the airport, the humidity met us warm and shocking--we felt the comfort of t-shirts, jeans and tennis shoes, and it was wonderful. Throughout the week of our visit when we weren't assisting each other's artistic endeavors, BA and I spent afternoons wave-jumping in salt water, lying poolside with poetry and magazines, and skateboarding on soft, smooth pavement. We had a wonderful visit with friends old and new, and we left with sun-kissed skins and only good memories: traipsing together at the "edge of the world" with a herd of wild goats, picking wildflowers, and laughing on our air mattress late into the night.

It was my first trip to Hawaii, and although I found it far less photogenic than the mountains and ice of Alaska, I see why it is so beloved. There is something magical about the heat, about the green, verdant life sprouting up against an ever-blue sea cresting against a blackened shore.

Just two days after returning to Anchorage, I began teaching poetry classes to a group of brilliant "at-risk" youth ages 9 to 14, working with them to create a book of their poetry to premier at a May reading downtown. I am always so inspired by youth, especially those as talented and insightful as these children; they ask all the right questions, and their poems inspire my own. Among many things, working with this group of young people has me questioning why it is that so many adults lose the sense of wonder in the world around them with which we are all born. When is it that most adults stop asking questions about the world around them? When is it that we stop seeing?

This is what I love most about artists and about being an artist myself: art requires that we look, that we see, that we feel. It requires that we question, that we accept that most questions have no answers.

"We make our arts because we have to," Tim Easton said to me in a recent interview. "We make our art and we trust that our passions and our art will take care of us."

BA and I recently interviewed and photographed Easton while he was visiting and playing shows in Anchorage, and it was so enjoyable and inspiring that, like most stories we work on, it did not feel anything like work. We enjoyed coffee with Easton, drove to one of the most beautiful bluffs and beaches in Anchorage, spent a day being cold together and talking ("rapping" as Easton says), and then huddled together in the Taproot prior to his performance to enjoy a warm and satisfying meal. The next day, we were invited to an exclusive party and barbecue far up on the hillside, where the snow is still feet deep and spring feels months away. The sun glinted through light flakes as a group of musicians played music freestyle on a range of instruments inside; after filling up on some of the best barbecue I've had in my life, it was more than indulgent to enjoy their creative energy--it made me feel alive.

As BA and I pulled away from the party, our artistic souls and bellies satisfied, we looked at each other and smiled: summer is on its way.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

2010, Part One

shishmaref, ak
Originally uploaded by brian_adams

It has been months since I've updated this blog, so first, let me say that I am bad at this and that I am sorry.

Thus far, 2010 has been a wonderfully exciting year of changes and travels, beginning with the birth of BA's nephew on January 28th. It was the first time that I've been very close to a birth--in the delivery room up until the final pushing--and although there are many things I could say regarding how I felt, the easiest is for me to say that it changed the way I view life. Witnessing the exhaustion of a woman during and after delivery, a father holding his son for the very first time, and a brand new life--veiny, and so very small--emerging into the world we so often take for granted, everything seemed simpler somehow. Why would we ever complicate our lives unnecessarily when it's amazing that we've made it at all? When we've already gone through so much?

During the month of March, BA and I embarked on the most exciting project I've worked on in a while--creating a multi-generational cookbook of Native Alaskan recipes in Shishmaref, AK. We traveled to Shishmaref for one week, during which we interviewed elders who contributed to a cookbook created in 1951 by the Shishmaref Day School (the receipt of which originally inspired the project), and then spent the rest of our time working with the school to gather new recipes from the current students or in the community visiting with families, discussing Native Alaskan foods and trying our fair share. The experience was exhilarating, both on a personal and professional level; Shishmaref is a beautiful place of welcoming people, breathtaking landscapes, and exciting foods. Read one of six published pieces of our trip here.

It's just another reason why I feel so blessed everyday to live in Alaska.

This being said, BA made a very big decision last week: we will be relocating to New York City in September where I will begin my MFA studies in poetry at the New School. We will return to Anchorage in the summer, and then again (for an indefinite/undisclosed time) to Anchorage after I've finished my degree and published my first book.

Right now, BA and I are working on the many post-production aspects for our book project, going to Hawaii to photograph a friend's wedding, and then, there will be more to write, I'm sure. (And, next time, I won't allow the months to pass without an update!)

Monday, January 25, 2010


Originally uploaded by brian_adams

Life is so strange and terrifyingly beautiful if only you take the time to look.

When I asked my sister, B, what her favorite thing about living in Alaska was, she said that it was "how quickly the seasons change." Now, as we're gaining 5 minutes of sunlight a day, I know what she means. Darkness is not the same as the lack of light, and light is not the same as the lack of darkness. I can't say that I would ever have understood this as fully had I not moved here. It is not the same thing to be "not unhappy" as it is to be truly joyfully alive.

Here, changes and polarities notch the spine of understanding.

Lately, BA and I have been up to all sorts of things, from snowshoeing in a quiet wood of freshly fallen snow to throwing a surprise birthday party for L and a baby shower for R to interviewing local tattoo artists and applying for grants for a book project established to bolster support for Native Alaskan communities. In a word, we are busy; if there is no work, we make some.

It is, of course, the wonderful people in my life like BA and B that keep me going even when the work runs dry (and, my friends, it has!).

It is indescribably affirming to wake and retire everyday with another artist; there are the times when the scream beneath the surface rages and frustrates before it creates, but BA and his love of his work is an endless source of inspiration to me. That we both harbor a deep interest in and love of this world is nothing if not an assurance that we will find ourselves all over the earth, always doing what we love.

Last week, BA and I had the privilege of briefly meeting acclaimed poet, essayist, and social activist Nikki Giovanni, a woman who, at 66, has been publishing poetry for over four decades while working to bring matters of social justice into the public eye through her prolific essays and lectures. Last week, Giovanni was on fire; I attended expecting a poetry reading but soon realized that she was prepared to lecture for the full 1 1/2 hours--without any notes--on current politics, social justice, and civil rights, while also paying a tribute to her friend and inspiration Rosa Parks, who, according to Giovanni, is the "most important person of the 20th century."

Rock. On.

Nikki Giovanni, as you might expect, is not a closeted, stuffy, silver-spoon professor of English; she is a woman who says what she means (and means what she says) and an artist who has constantly pushed herself creatively throughout her life, creating works that make the world question itself. On Thursday, she proclaimed her support for gay marriage, claiming that one day we will look at the current laws and this struggle the way we now view miscegenation laws--with a kind of What the hell were they thinking? scowl.

This struggle, of course, is key; the struggle is the point of departure.

In a word, Nikki Giovanni is powerful--powerfully validated by her experience, wise, and compassionate. She harbors the sort of quiet intellect--the kind that truly has seen it all--that I hope to earn throughout my life.

Happiness and understanding, of course, do not come easily; these are fruits of a constant and effortful response to that creative drive within that spurs us on everyday to learn and create. It is a toil that is undertaken with a deep kind of gratitude--the kind that's hard to find sometimes--and a desire to see and feel and leave as much as we can before we die.

Before us, there was life. After us, what will there be?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A New Year

New Year's Weekend.
Originally uploaded by skinny.jeans

Hoar frost, which until now I had never seen, has begun to stick thickly to the branches of trees, icicles on houses, and even my eyelashes, so that the world looks strange and newly beautiful, coated in crystal. The cold arrives and wanes, the winter sky remains always in a brilliantly dosey state of twilight, and the sun runs along beside us but never overhead.

And so the new year begins in a place truly new to me.

The holidays were lovely and almost overly eventful, packed with new families, new friends, and new traditions; BA and I bought and decorated our first tree, MF and I shared our first meals, B and L and BA and I shared our first Christmas Eve, and I had not one but two first Christmas stockings, both appropriately stuffed. I deeply missed my holidays with my family (though I'm happy that we were able to skype and talk on the phone!), but I was so welcomed by BA's family and L's family, that I felt anything but lonely. And, of course, MF is a beautiful, genuine, and interesting creature, as I knew that she would be. In all, the holidays were a time of opportunities to learn and love. (I often wonder how people who weren't deprived of these fundamental needs their whole lives see them--could they possibly appreciate them in the way B and I do?)

I realize that most of these opportunities were available to me because I've entered into BA's life, and were I not here, these would have still happened, just without me. This is what it is to move often: in this place where I am always the newcomer, I feel that I could just disappear and life would move on, unaffected by my absence. (It is a comfort, usually.)

In this crystalline winter, I am the visitor.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Brian, NYC
Originally uploaded by skinny.jeans

Disclaimer: This post is going to be a bit more bloggy than is my usual style, but this is only because I want to record an amazing trip and there is just too much to say as it is. My fellow writers, my readers, please forgive me and enjoy the ride.

Last week, I enjoyed one of the best vacations I've ever had in New York City with BA. It's been several months since I've felt the rush and motion of the city, and it's been a year since I've basked in the big lights of New York, where it feels rightfully like the center of the universe. (It may as well be, after all.)

Our first two days were spent traipsing through Central Park as lovers do while also indulging, as lovers do, in Tiffany's, Louis Vuitton, and favorite restaurants, including mine, Prune, where we savored my favorite and most memorable meal of my life: roasted bone marrow. Watching BA enjoy a dish that is so close to my heart in a place so special to me was exquisitely intimate and perfect. To dine at Prune and to enjoy the personal favorites of its owner, Gabrielle Hamilton, is to understand why we, as humans, have the connections we do to food, and to share this deeply primal and limbic desire with another person felt like sharing a piece of myself. (I can only imagine how Hamilton must feel every night.)

The next day, we met my dear friend M at MTV and took a train an hour up the Hudson river to his new home and my other dear friend, A, and their new baby, DC. It was inspiring and at the same moment terrifying to witness the transitions of a new life; I've only ever known M and A as M and A, not M and A and DC, and it was sometimes even a little stressful to witness the redirection of their thoughts and passions to this new little person. I am, as I have always been, amazed by the enormous sacrifice of oneself in the act of parenting. As is their nature, M and A were wonderful hosts and it was lovely to see the new shape of their family and home.

After our short visit up north, BA and I made our way down to Brooklyn to stay with our friend B, a fellow photographer and film artist who took us in and to whom I feel wonderfully closer after just our short stay. Later that evening, BA and I headed back into Manhattan to meander about NYU and then over to the opening of a show at the Alaska House Gallery, "Dry Ice," in which he had four pieces. All night I beamed with pride as we mingled and we drank, and then we hopped back on the subway to Brooklyn, grabbed a few good beers and some pizza, and headed back to B's for some late night R&R.

We woke early and, although it was an incredibly cold day in the city (-6 F windchill), BA and I decided to walk from Brooklyn to Soho, crossing the Brooklyn bridge and heading up Broadway, taking moments of shelter in coffee houses and the galleries along the way. It was fun to be cold and hurried together, rushing through the streets carefree and invigorated by our own warm energy. We dined in the evening at Tom's Restaurant, one of the more touristy ventures of our trip, and found that it actually was not at all overrun with tourists but just a quaint, drab local eggs-and-bacon haunt. (BA had the grilled cheese with bacon, I had a poached egg and toast.) We returned to Brooklyn and B and spent a delightfully exhausting evening at a loft party, returning to talk about art until the wee hours of the morning.

When BA and I finally said our good-byes to B the next day after a walk across the Manhattan bridge and lunch at Katz's on the lower east side, we were thoroughly tired and packed up our things to our final staying place in Brooklyn, our friend C's apartment (C was not there). We huddled close through the dark streets, picked up some bread, eggs, pop tarts and beer, and enjoyed an evening of low-expense relaxation and indoor laughing.

On our final day in the city, it poured, but we carried on, undaunted, through the Manhattan streets beneath a 6-dollar black umbrella. We enjoyed a simple and delicious breakfast at the very green (there is a chalkboard on the wall that screams "don't panic, it's organic" ) Le Pain Quotidian, walked for about an hour in spite of the downpour to central park, then decided on enjoying a beautiful photography exhibit at the Moma touting all of the greats--from Avedon and Arbus to a mass of unknowns. We left, our artistic souls satisfied, and enjoyed a beer at the Heartland Brewery to take some shelter from the rain before heading back down to Soho for one last time. We ended our evening with a second late-night visit to Prune before heading back down to Brooklyn to say good-bye to C and catch a cab to the airport at 4am.

After we arrived home, BA and I were both two exhausted Alaskans, but this is what it is to be young and alive. And this, of course, it what I love most about New York; it always makes me feel alive.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I to the Sea

Originally uploaded by skinny.jeans

And so, November has come and gone without so much as a word. (Sorry.)

It is a very peculiar thing when one moves very far away; everything has changed, and so one changes with it. (I am here now, so I may not be there. )

I honestly have not been anywhere but here since I've moved, and last night, looking at BA as we stood on the steps of our house (yes, I have indeed moved again, already), it occurred to me that just six months ago, I was somewhere else entirely-- in my own apartment, circling Golden Gate Park or sitting in the Sutro Bath ruins as the fog rushed in.

I do not mourn it at all. I do not miss the complacent, agreeable weather, even now in this time of winter.

Yes, in Anchorage, we are currently in the dark season; the sun remains always at a distance, never rising up overhead but traveling alongside like a parent teaching her child how to ride a bike. The city is chilled, and I have experienced sub-zero temperatures already, yet it is not harsh as I imagined. The cold makes one feel alive--a flushed face in a white and blue world. A warm place in a dark one.

The past six weeks have been busy, exciting, and so wonderful, watching this change of season that's faster than any I've ever experienced. Between BA, R, my sister, L and the host of other friends I've made here, I've been surrounded by truly good people, and I've done and seen a lot of fun things; a few scattered shows, a weekend trip to Talkeetna, long walks in the waning light of winter, nights with BA, days writing in the kitchen, dinner parties, Thanksgiving with BA's family and L's family with a short skyping to mine--I am nothing but excited for the coming months.

Next week, BA and I will be in New York for the opening of his show in Soho, a conference of mine, and a lot of visits with friends.

It's amazing to me always how much life can change in a year, in a month.

I to the Sea

This is where everything comes back to:
a reflection,
an echo housed in not so safe a place.

as the sea is blue
as the sky,
sponging dry and wet again
as rote lessons of waves.

This is you, buried in my skin,

or my grandmother,
cradling me
in the pool at the Y,
lips the cerulean of crayons,
rivered veins.

Tap on my chest and I'll sing you these blues—
the cornflowers, the aquas, the skies,
clinging to thin skins as tread ponds
or mountain air;

I'll sing to you of shallow water,
the only place we see it all at once:

clouds atop packed earth,

a stillborn,
seal-slick, blue-grey, and heavier than you'd think.

This is you, this part of me weighted as damp denim.

Your cloudy visage plumes
across my surface, colors my depths.

Show me the angry indigo of a flame,
and I'll sing to you of
a coming and going,
a sea mirroring a sky
that holds it all:

my breath, my baby, and
my grandmother's hands,
pink in suds of dish water,
steam curling up in her white hair.

This, after all, is what we're made of:
pulsing crests and ebbing gusts,
bobbing up and down
in a pool
made just for us.

Photo © Ashley Skabar, The port in Anchorage; a special place from which to see the world. Taken with my new Rollei 35, a birthday present.