love affair

Have you ever been in love with someone? Someone that you had just met not very long ago and everything was still fresh? Your skin tingles when you see them and you find that you always have a smile on your face. And you never get bored with them because there is always something about them that intrigues you, inspires you, draws your interest more and more each day...

And then you find out that they are leaving.
Whether it's for a week, two weeks, or even a long term job assignment. Either way they are leaving and you find yourself wanting to be around them every chance you get. Almost as if the more time you spend with them is like gathering up all the "feel good" and putting it in a jar to open later and savor, little by little, over the duration of their absence.

This is how I feel. Except this time, I'm the one leaving. I don't know why but I'm already putting a lot of thought into leaving Missoula. I have another 5 weeks until school is even over, but I feel like the beginning of Advanced Intensive, is the beginning of a downhill slide. And I already know that those 5 weeks are going to go by way too fast. I waited 4 years to do this with my life. Four years! I waited for the money, I waited for things with my family to be better, and most of all I waited because I was afraid. And the ironic part is, I never got the money and my family life never came close to perfect, but I did stop being afraid. And I went anyway. If there's one thing I've learned from my experience this summer it's to look fear in the face and embrace the things that scare you.
  • learn to drive a stick shift.
  • float down a cold river.
  • take your clothes off and jump in the freezing lake. In your underwear.
  • tell people how you really feel.
  • always follow your gut, even if that seems like the most risky.
  • talk to people you don't know. Ask them if you can take their picture.
  • ride your bike on very busy streets, even if you're a terrible klutz on a bike. and ride it every day.
  • ask lots and lots of questions.
  • embrace the darkness of the woods. woods with bears.
  • humiliate yourself in order to get the picture you want. trust me, it's worth it.
  • take on assignments that you know are hard for you or you have no interest in.
  • bees.
  • Photoshop :)
And as I say this, I find myself fighting the fear of leaving Missoula. Not just because I'm in love with Montana, but because I don't know what lies ahead. Leaving means entering back into the real world. Getting a job and no longer being surrounded by my amazing family of photographers I have now.

I find myself making a list of all the things I want to make sure and visit, or re-visit before I go. As if to save them in my "jar" of favorite memories. As if that will help me hold onto this experience longer. But in reality that's silliness. Missoula will always be embedded into my heart now. And will be the foundation on which everything in my life to come builds itself upon. And I'll be back. I have to. This relationship I've established will never die. I just won't get to hike the "M" whenever I want. Go to the Good Food store or farmers market for my groceries. Or drive in any direction and have limitless outdoor exploration.
I'll miss the weather, the sunsets, the people, the ice cream, the lack of judgment, the hippies, the Obama bumper stickers :), the fairs, the restaurants, the bicyclists. This is an amazing place, and I have fallen in love. It's just like John Steinbeck wrote once:

"I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect and some affection. With Montana it is love. It seems to me that the frantic bustle of America was not in Montana... the calm of the mountains and the rolling grasslands had got into the inhabitants."

So school is going well. I was a little worried (well, very worried actually) when it started again, but so far it's been great and the schedule this week wasn't even very intense. (knock on wood) I've already learned so much more Photoshop in just 4 days that I can't wait to see what I'll learn in 5 more weeks. We also had the privilege of meeting Mary Virginia Swanson for two days of lectures. She was very knowledgeable and encouraging I'm actually thinking about buying her book.
I put down my camera and picked up my bike. I haven't taken a picture in a week, which is weird for me, but at the same time kind of nice. And instead I have been biking everywhere. I've biked all summer, but now that the weathers getting cooler, it's a lot more of a motivation. That, and I'm on a quest to get back in shape. :)

And what would a blog be without a few pictures? This is Slinky. He lives with me, licks me, and sleeps with me on most occasions. And I get this look a lot.

And, as my mom would tell me,
"When you get the chance to sit it out or dance... I hope you keep dancing."

And, keep Missoula weird. It's not rare to see a dancing man in a kilt around here. But I like that. :)