My friend Krista Cox and I spent the day together Saturday, wandering around trying to sniff out moments of meaning. Krista is a poet and an artist and a searcher, like me. We spent a little time on a creek in southern Indiana, where we were greeted almost immediately by two water snakes. Krista kindly held my dog Thomas back while I photographed the one snake that didn’t say “screw this” and immediately glide under a rock.

The day was typical Midwestern summer, which is to say, a steam bath, and we spent the day glazed with sweat. The rocks on the creek were maddeningly slick that morning, and we both lost our footing, Krista hitting her head and me almost plunging myself and my camera gear into the water. (I wouldn’t have minded but for the camera gear.) I wasn’t really keen on either of those things happening again, so I dragged her reluctantly back into the woods. Rain had been forecast, leading us to believe that we might have the place to ourselves, but it was not to be. We hiked to the main waterfall only to find it crowded with people indulging the universal human fascination with falling water.  We watched people climbing up the falls for a few minutes before heading into the small town of Spencer to grab lunch, and then drove the back roads to another waterfall called Cataract Falls. It was an aimless day, one where we sort of waited for things to happen, for nature to show up, or for the urge to draw or photograph something to strike.

The question women get asked all the time is how to balance work and family. But many of the women I know aren’t only balancing those two things; our question is “how do I balance work and family and the call of my soul?”

It’s interesting to me how many of my friends are creatives who are, to varying degrees, handling life — the raising and financial support of children, the maintenance of a home, and jobs — entirely on their own. There are longings that go with that, yearnings for moments to follow one’s own inclinations and calls without having to worry that any of the balls they keep constantly in the air will come crashing down. Most of these women I know have some support structure in place, whether it’s family, or a co-parent, or a partner; some have none at all. But those moments are very rare, and precious._DSC0314

Later in the day I was fortunate enough to catch my friend in complete engagement with her art, spinning out a drawing in front of Cataract Falls. She was tucked away in a solitary corner, absorbed in her work. She had no idea I was photographing her until she completed her drawing and looked up into the business end of my telephoto lens. _DSC0322

The only answer I’ve ever had to life is that yes, having it all — or even just enough — might be possible, but not all at once. And there may be times when we have very little. When you can’t shift your life as completely toward the meaningful as you might like, then the survival of your soul will depend on how well you are able to eke out meaningful moments of sustenance.


I love the artwork she created yesterday in front of the falls. It speaks to me of light, and freedom and, of course, the universal human fascination with falling water.




The drawing and the poem that goes along with it are here.


2 thoughts on “Portrait of an artist

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